Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, speaks about Thomas Tallis’s 40-part Spem in alium.
Carnegie Hall brings together a month-long focus on the exciting music written before 1685. Whether it is the divine purity and amusing bawdiness of Renaissance madrigals or the dramatic urgency of early Baroque opera, the music speaks to modern listeners who love great music and relish the joy of discovery. Learn more about Before Bach.
In this video, keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout traces the keyboard influences in the 18th century.
In this video, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, founder of the English Baroque Soloists, speaks about “authentic” and “historically informed practice,” and the evolution of the period instrument movement.
Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, explains its origins and its approach to sound.
Percussionist Cyro Baptista is an eclectic musician; a master of myriad styles who has performed with a vast range of artists around the world. Baptista eloquently shared some thoughts about music-making and his band as prelude to their upcoming Neighborhood Concert.
"This band is a musical manifestation of the process of eating, swallowing, and digesting all the tendencies that are part of the sonic landscape. The music is a product of the sounds these players have collectively consumed over the years; some of them they have digested and others they have rejected. Through this process it has been difficult to identify what belongs to what country, culture, or religion."
We all have the anthropofagic nature within us
We devour each other seeking transformation
The mouth is sacred because of all the things that come in and go out
We eat, we speak, we kiss, we smile and sing
The mouth is the portal to our brain, stomach and heart
The mouth is the system connecting our intellect, emotion and spirit
And it digests everybody and everything in its path
All is gloriously regurgitated
We choose the essentials
And eat again
— Cyro Baptista
Joyce DiDonato concluded her Perspectives residency with a celebration of music from the bel canto era. She was joined by the Philadelphia Orchestra along with well-known bel canto stars tenor Lawrence Brownlee and soprano Laura Claycomb.
Carnegie Hall Live:The Philadelphia OrchestraWednesday, March 18 at 8 PM (EST)
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Maurizio Benini, Conductor
Laura Claycomb, Soprano
Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano
Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor
Follow along with highlights from the live that that took place on Twitter using #CHLive.
The Carnegie Hall Live series is produced by WQXR and Carnegie Hall in collaboration with the WFMT Radio Network.
In the Weill Music Institute’s training programs for young artists, participants have the opportunity to learn from world-class exponents of the chosen repertoire who have established themselves on the Carnegie Hall stages. In April, that experience will be taken to a new level for 30 choral singers invited to take part in The Tallis Scholars: Renaissance Masterworks workshop. The participants will be coached by The Tallis Scholars’ director Peter Phillips and singers from the famed a cappella ensemble, then will join forces with the group for a concert as part of Carnegie Hall’s Before Bach artistic focus. That program, to be presented on April 17 at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan, will feature two of the most extraordinary works of the Renaissance: Thomas Tallis’s 40-part motet “Spem in alium” and Antoine Brumel’s 12-part Missa Et ecce terrae motus. In advance of the workshop, Peter Phillips discussed the project and his four decades as leader of The Tallis Scholars.
How did you set out on your chosen musical path?
The Tallis Scholars started just over 40 years ago, when the idea of doing a whole concert of Renaissance music was highly unusual. I had an ideal sound in my head that was inspired by hearing many of the choirs at Oxford (where I was a student) and at Cambridge, and I wanted to find that sound and apply it to Renaissance polyphony. By some miracle, right on the first concert in 1973, I hit the formula that we stuck with: not only an all-Renaissance program, but also the way we arrange ourselves on the stage in a semicircle with me at the front so that everyone can see each other. It’s a kind of chamber music—we can react to each other’s looks and how the others are singing.
What is it about this music that captivates you?
I personally love the slightly recessed emotion that Renaissance polyphony creates because you have to look for it a bit. With opera, for instance, it’s thrown at you. But with this style, you have to delve beneath the surface to find the emotion, which comes out of the extraordinary calm and beauty of the music.
Tell us about “Spem in alium.”
Tallis’s “Spem in alium” is just the most astonishing creation of a single mind. I don’t know how he did it—it’s just so extraordinarily complicated and effective at the same time. Tallis wrote counterpoint for 40 independent voices at once, and the problem that poses for us now is that it’s very difficult to sing. In the 1970s, performances of “Spem in alium” were extremely rare, once every five years or something like that. People would literally come from all over
the world to hear it. The public’s awareness of Renaissance music has changed dramatically since then.
What about the other large piece on the program, the mass by Antoine Brumel?
The Brumel mass is for 12 voices and dates from the first half of the 16th century, when using 12 voices was really going for it. In it, Brumel sets an excerpt from the plainchant “Et ecce terrae motus” (“And behold, the earth moved”). The phrase describes the moment of Jesus’s death on the cross, when the massive curtain in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple was “rent in twain,” as the Bible says, which is reckoned to have been the result of an earthquake. When we recorded the work some years ago, I coined the nickname “Earthquake” Mass. Brumel’s 12 voices are deployed in a style very different from Tallis’s 40. Brumel has a genius for little motifs—it’s like a massive jigsaw puzzle.
How does one learn to sing Renaissance music?
If you want to sing Renaissance music well, it stands to reason that you don’t start with later singing styles and practices and try to apply those things backward into the Renaissance. What you need to do instead is begin before the Renaissance with chant singing and understand how it built up into polyphony. If you’re singing polyphonic lines as if you’re delivering an operatic aria, you’re in terrible trouble. There’s also the misconception that Renaissance music needs a small, sort of white sound. We’ve learned to sing very strongly but not to blur the lines by doing so—to keep the essential discipline, but project strongly into big halls. This music was all the musicians of the time knew, and they put everything they had into it: all their religious sense, all their expression, all their personalities.
Tune in and join us on the evening of Wednesday, March 18—live from Carnegie Hall—as perspectives artist Joyce DiDonato curates a celebration of music from the bel canto era with the Philadelphia Orchestra and other well-known bel canto stars.
A highlight of Joyce DiDonato’s Perspectives series is this celebration of music from the bel canto era. Curated by the mezzo-soprano, this evening of arias, ensembles, and orchestral selections ranges from Rossini and Bellini to surprising gems by lesser-known composers of the time. Joining The Philadelphia Orchestra is a lineup of well-known bel canto stars: soprano Laura Claycomb, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and conductor Maurizio Benini.
During tonight's audio broadcast, share your thoughts about the music you're hearing with other listeners in the live webchat, as well as on Twitter using #CHLive. Get the program notes here.
The Philadelphia OrchestraWednesday, March 18 at 8 PM (EST)
ROSSINI Overture to Aureliano in Palmira
CARAFA "L'amica ancor non torna ... Oh, di sorte crudel" from Le nozze di Lammermoor
DONIZETTI "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore
DONIZETTI "Prendi, per me sei libero" from L'elisir d'amore
PACINI "Ove t'aggiri, o barbaro" from Stella di Napoli
BELLINI "Oh! quante volte" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi
BELLINI "Ah! mia Giulietta" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi
DONIZETTI "La maîtresse du roi... Ange si pur" from La favorite
ROSSINI "Reidi al soglio" from Zelmira
We sat down with three members of Ensemble ACJW—violinist Elizabeth Fayette, cellist Andrea Casarrubios, and percussionist Garrett Arney—to talk about the thought process behind the programming of Ensemble ACJW’s upcoming concert on March 26 at SubCulture.
Andrea Casarrubios: Earlier in the year, we decided to unify our SubCulture concerts for this season with a specific theme: the various “subdivisions” of our ensemble. All of the members of our group proposed a number of works that they were passionate about and based on those suggestions we created a coherent program that we are extremely excited to present.
Elizabeth Fayette: We want to play music that we are excited about! We draw almost all our pieces for our SubCulture programs from fellow requests—everyone submits repertoire to a master list. Since everyone can see the works requested, other fellows can “support” a submission, and the number of fellows that want to play a certain piece is definitely taken into account.
Garrett Arney: With the theme of “subdivisions,” our goal was to choose pieces for medium-size ensembles (groups of 3–5). We wanted to mix things with interactivity, and more classical music. The chamber settings are very unique.
Elizabeth Fayette: It is incredibly exciting to create one’s own program—while I generally don’t mind being told what to play, the opportunity to create one’s own narrative is something that I really enjoy. Each piece of music tells a story, and seeing how each piece fits together—either in a very specific or more abstract way—is like the world’s most engrossing 3-D jigsaw puzzle: The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts!
Garrett Arney: It’s a lot of fun to think about how to put together a cohesive yet varied program. We had to think of clever ways to mix and match genres, instruments, composers, and general interaction on stage; as well as strategically plan how the audience perceives each piece and work on keeping the engagement level throughout.
Andrea Casarrubios: Our first concert at SubCulture in January was all about the most intimate form of chamber music: the duet. The concert on March 26 is focused on how interactions between the musicians are transformed when expanded into trios, quartets, and quintets. The name plays with the idea of this breakdown of the ensemble, and what we can achieve while performing in different formations at SubCulture.
Garrett Arney: The intent is to show all the different kinds of interaction and chamber music we are capable of on stage. As the medium-size ensemble is featured in varied numbers, we thought “Subdivisions” was an appropriate title.
Elizabeth Fayette: In this program, we come together in more flexible ways in hopes of giving recognition to both the individual and collective statements that we simultaneously create as members of Ensemble ACJW.
Garrett Arney: I’m particularly excited about Musique de Table by Thierry De Mey. The piece is a “ballet for hands” and mixes micro-choreography with rhythm. Working with two cellists on this piece has also been a lot of fun.
Andrea Casarrubios: I’m also excited to perform Musique de Table. I have heard performances of the piece throughout the last few years, and I’ve always found the work fun, hilarious, and smart. I am finally playing it now along with two colleagues who are coincidentally also fun, hilarious, and smart. The learning process has been both challenging and amusing since, to me, the score resembles hieroglyphics. Fortunately, Garrett has played this piece before and he has certainly been a tremendous help!
Elizabeth Fayette: I am playing three works on this program—Bartók’s Contrasts, Andy Akiho’s the rAy’s end, and Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music—and am excited to perform each one of them! The only thing that they have in common is that they were all written within 100 years of each other; otherwise, they could not be more different. What I am so excited about is that each piece gives me a chance to explore styles outside of my normal realm of purview.
Listen to the archived audio broadcast of pianist Sir András Schiff's recital, in which he plays the final sonatas of four masters of keyboard composition: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert.
Sir András Schiff
Tuesday, March 10 at 8 PM (EST)
Sir András Schiff, Piano
HAYDN Piano Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI: 50
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
MOZART Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 545
SCHUBERT Piano Sonata in C Minor, D. 958
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