Flanders Recorder Quartet (BE)

When: 27. 8. 2015 at 20:30

Ticket order:

Ticket price: 5 / 20 / 25 EUR

Festibus: 18:30 - Ljubljana - Žalec - Ljubljana (10,00 EUR)

Flanders Recorder Quartet

Tom Beets
Bart Spanhove
Joris Van Goethem
Paul Van Loey

Circa 1600
Variety at the turn of the century

Circa 1600: one of the most intriguing periods in the history of music. Throughout Europe, polyphony holds sway. In Italy, with Florence and Venice as the nuclei, a new style emerges. The baroque era has commenced. Composers aim to arouse feelings in listeners primarily with virtuosic diminutions, harmonically supported melodies and expressive intervals. This rediscovery of pure instrumental music and its emancipation from vocal music was expounded by Monteverdi, Gabrieli and many others.


Artist message

Around 1600. Variety at the turn of the century.

In this programme we would like to show the versatility of the recorder and the duality and melting-pot allure of the European music culture in Europe around 1600.


Flanders Recorder Quartet (BE)

Since it was founded in 1987, the Flanders Recorder Quartet has evolved into one of the world’s top ensembles. The ensemble’s success in 1990 at the prestigious Musica Antiqua Competition in Brugge, which is sponsored by the Flanders Festival, meant the start of an extensive concert career. After more than 1800 concerts on five continents, including some in world-famous concert halls in Tokyo, New York and Salzburg, the ensemble has attained a prominent position in the world of early music.

Concert programme

The term ‘baroque’ is used for the many different musical displays from the end of the sixteenth century up to the middle of the eighteenth century: from Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The unifying principle that allows us to place this period of 150 years in a single drawer ‘baroque’ is initially an expressive ideal, the awakening of affects, a principle which was born circa 1600.

The basis of the baroque is the belief that music is capable of, and has the duty to encourage the affects of the body. These affects are the result of changes within the human physique. Specific external stimulants, including sounds and music, can change the condition of our body fluids (humores), body vapours (vapores) and other components of our being such as the life spirits (spiritus animales), the brain and the soul. These sensations from outside interfere with the normal condition of the body by arousing and stirring the affects. The equilibrium gets altered and the body becomes actively ‘affected’ whilst the mind undergoes such a disturbance only in a passive manner. The ensemble has read some famous treatises about the subject, such as René Descartes, Traité des passions de l’âme 1649, Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis 1650 which specifically describes music and Johann Mattheson, Der volkommene Kapelmeister 1739.

Strikingly Sir Thomas More was already writing about the passions in music, as early as 1516 in his Utopia,: ...whether it bee a prayer, or els a dytty of gladnes, of patience, of trouble, of mournynge, or of anger: the fassion of the melodye doethe so represente the meaning of the thing, that it doth wonderfully move, stirre, pearce, and enflame the hearers myndes.

The most diverse musical tools and compositional textures can be employed to activate the mechanism of affecting the body and mind: modi, tonality, tempo, rhythm, intervals, consonance, dissonance, rising and descending movement, dynamics, change of register or tessitura, instrumentation etc. By using these weapons rhetorically to stir the mind and body, a style that Kircher calls ‘musica pathetica’ came into existence – music being of such a nature ut ad datum quemcunque anime affectum auditorem concitet (trans. that she encourages the listener to any given affect of the soul). In this way the affect of grief can be evoked by a descending melodic movement, preferably in small intervals (semitones, chromatics), by an accumulation of dissonances, syncopation, slow movement, use of the lowest register etc. On the contrary the affect ‘joy’ can be caused by wide intervals, limited use of dissonance, swift movement, and triple meter.

This theory of the affects and passions expounds the relationship between music and rhetoric. The orators from antiquity used rhetorical means to stir the emotions of their audience, to control them and guide them in a specific direction; a composer also has the capability di muovere l’affetto dell’animo (to move the affects of the soul) of the listener (Guilio Caccini, Le nuove musiche 1601/02).

At the start of the seventeenth century instrumental music became the equal of vocal music in quality and quantity. The forms used were not yet standardised and exhibited many facets but later developed into idiomatic works, often exhibiting virtuosic features and ornamentation.

Initially the compositional features of the renaissance stayed in existence, keeping faithful to vocal counterpoint and imitation. The canzona is in quantity the most important instrumental genre. It has an interesting history, which is demonstrated in this concert programme by combining the imitative and typically instrumental two-part Canzon La Spiritata by Giovanni Gabrieli, with the rather old-fashioned, but brilliantly vocally decorated Canzon deta Suzanne un iour by Andrea, Giovanni’s uncle. The two other examples of the canzona presented are by Tarquinio Merula, a well-trained organist and violin virtuoso, who worked as bandmaster and director of church music in Cremona, Bergamo and Venice. In his late canzone (1637), he adhered to the early advocates of the sonata di camera and di chiesa and was one of the most advanced composers of the time. Merula’s works are to be found in numerous instrumental prints during the seventeenth century. La Marcha and La Livia are taken from the first book of canzonas and are striking examples of the new instrumental style, which was released from any vocal associations. The preface of this 1615 edition adds the text per sonare conogni sorti de strumenti musicale, recorders allowed!

The new way of writing (das Generallbasszeitalter, as Hugo Riemann put it) found its way into instrumental music, resulting in the first independent idiomatic instrumental works for instrumentalists and basso continuo.

As all instrumentalists were expected to master the métier of improvisation and diminution, consequently new extemporised genres emerged (ricercata, toccata, fantasia, preludio). The development of these forms was closely related to the emancipation of instrumental music. Composers focused on free individual creativity, independent of existing models or inspiration based on a text.

And when the musician takes the liberty to emply all that comes to mind without expressing the passion of a single word, then this composition is called Fantaisie, or Recherche.

(Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle, 1636)

The fanciful forms of the ricercata, toccata, fantasia and preludio were put into practice extensively by the keyboard virtuoso Giralomo Frescobaldi in an unpredictable and creative style now slowly, now quickly, and even held in the air, to match the expressive effect, or the sense of the words... for it is left to the fine judgement of the performer to regulate the tempo (Frescobaldi, toccate e partite, 1615, preface). A more conventional, but also highly virtuosic improvisation practice was notated by Jacob van Eyck in his Der Fluyten Lust-Hof (1644-64) for the handfluyt. The technique of diminution is also clearly present in the many variations on ostinato bass patterns. An early example of virtuosity upon a fixed bass is the Maske by Hugh Ashton, originally for three voices with a highly complex and sometimes awkwardly shaped fourth voice added later by one Mr. Whytbroke. Circa 1600, the most influential keyboard composers in Europe were Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Frescobaldi, especially on organ playing. Sweelinck’s compositional style is strongly based on the contrapuntal and melodic traits of the English virginalists. He writes in a strict and severe way, very different from Frescobaldi, as can be heard in his variations upon the themes Ballo del granduca and Pavana Lacrimae. Although these pieces were originally conceived for organ they fit a recorder consort like a glove (an organ is only a chest of flutes?!)

The late sixteenth century Ballo del granduca originated in central Italy, where Grand Duke Ferdinando De Medici distinguished himself as a lover of the arts. Ferdinando was patron to Giulio Caccini, Jacopo Corsi, and other musicians of the Camerata group, whose work marked the birth of opera in Florence. The title refers to an Italian dance first performed at the marriage of Ferdinando De Medici to Christina of Lorraine in 1589. It consists of a series of short musical phrases with chordal texture, imploring embellishment and cadencing on various pitches. The Amsterdam-based organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was inspired by this simple tune. In his Ballo, the original dance is the model for five original and energetic variations. In the same period, Sweelinck composed organ variations upon Dowland’s most famous melody, the Lacrimae Pavana. This pavana, in all probability originally composed as a lute solo, certainly before 1595, became Dowland’s signature song, literally as well as metaphorically: he would occasionally sign his name "Jo. Dolandi de Lachrimae”. Many interpretations of Lachrimae (or Lachrymae, literally ‘tears’) were penned for solo and ensembles with the lyrics being added later, the text probably contributed by Dowland himself.

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled for ever, let me mourn. Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live forlorn…

Another popular form was the variation upon a cantus firmus, where the composer weaves polyphonic textures around a given melody, as in the magnificent Fantasia sopra Io son ferito. This chef-d’oeuvre comes from Scheidt’s Tabulatura Nova, a varied collection of keyboard music published in Hamburg in 1624. Palestrina’s madrigal, on which it is nominally based, was popular with Italian musicians around 1600 and was used as a starting point for improvisation. Only the first of the four themes, used in this fantasia, comes directly from Palestrina, although the second is achieved by reversing the first. The third and fourth themes are chromatic. The work terminates with a richly-worked section in which all four themes appear together. Similar ideas are found in several substantial works by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, who was Scheidt’s teacher.

Dance music for instrumental ensemble became a highly popular genre in early baroque, with German composers being influenced by the English instrumentalists who worked there (e.g. William Brade in Hamburg 1560-1630). Excellent examples are to be found in Johann Herman Schein’s Banchetto Musicale (1617) and Samuel Scheidt’s Ludi Musici (1621-1627). The most popular were settings for five voices of the pavane, gaillarde and allemande. Thomas Simpson’s Taffel Consort, published in Hamburg in 1621 was an exception to this. This immensely popular ensemble tune book contains no less than fifty four part dances, mostly with English origin. For this concert programme the Flanders Recorder Quartet have selected two Jacobean tunes, Satyr’s Dance and Volta, the latter in combination with a typically jig-like rhythmic Capricio. The mass production of dance music was abruptly terminated during the Thirty Years’ War, a European civil war fought mostly in Germany between 1618 and 1648.


Žalec, Novo Celje Mansion

The baroque mansion Novo Celje is considered to be one of the best baroque secular monuments in Slovenia due to the architectural design, the preserved entrance hall, the representative staircase, the renovated chapel, the solemn hall and other architectural elements.



The price of coach provided for all concerts from Ljubljana and Zagreb is 10€. Departure from Hala Tivoli and Lisinski Hall.