Emilia in her Garden. From the novella by Boccacio. Österreichise Nationalbibliothek. Source: Wikipedia

Gardens of Music

RECORDINGS: Medieval Music was both inspired by gardens and inspiring for gardeners. Two recordings are exceptionally delicious in their sound and delicacy and embalm the soul at this season.

The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry

the rose the lily the wortleberry

The first one – The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry – is a recording of a collection of medieval songs ranging from 1300 to 1550 and geographically stemming from France, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. The music was composed by a series of different composers: Guillaume de Machaut, Walter Frye, Leonel Power, Alexander Agricola, Juan Vasquez, Francisco Guerrero, Claudin de Sermisy, Antoine Brumel and Cipriano de Rore.

This collection of songs was performed by the all-male chamber music ensemble, Orlando Consort and originally recorded in 2006 by Harmonia Mundi. It has recently been reissued.

The choice of music was – as is apparent from the title – inspired by gardens and flowers. In the collection they open with an alluring chanson by Marchaut and gradually move on to both motets and madrigals. Often referring to the Virgin Mary the music oozes peace and tranquility. Tempi and textures vary and the listener may be lulled; falling a-sleep though is not an option. The CD comeswith a bonus, a grandly illustrated booklet, filled with reproductions in brilliant color of Medieval and Renaissance art. As a special bonus, Christopher Bradley-Hole, one of the world’s top garden designers has contributed a medieval garden plan with a contemporary twist.

GARDEN OF MUSIC

a garden of music

The second one – A Garden of Music – is performed by the Oxford Girl’s Choir as well as Serendipity, Lisette Wesseling, Michelene Wandor, Jon Banks, Richard Vendome, David Skinner, Magdala, Martin Souter & Saint Frideswide Monks and Novices. The recording from 2005 holds a rich collection of simple songs of love and devotion, abundantly lyrical in tone as well as texts. From the sounds of girls’ voices to quiet instrumental moments and male plain chant, this mix of songs of devotion and spirituality fills the album with the atmosphere of the medieval world and its exotic gardens. First, the coming of summer and the warmth of the sun are praised in the happy sounds of ‘Sumer is icumen in’, a song traditionally sung after the late Easter frosts have been banished. Following this is a a cheerful Scottish song and more gentle music for a beautiful convent garden follows. Finally, we end up in the cultivated grounds of a vast abbey, with only the sounds of the choir and the warm tones of the organ to break the stillness of the night.

Oxford Girls’ Choir was formed by Richard Vendome in 1984, who is also conducting the choir on this recording. It was the first choir of its kind in England to develop girls’ singing as a musical medium in its own right, and not just as a substitute for the adult or the boy’s voice. Several former members have gone on to become professional singers or instrumentalists. OGC performs a wide range of music, including jazz, opera and most areas of choral music, with regular workshops given by visiting specialists.

Music for a Great Garden

Another fine recording of Garden Music by The oxford Girls’ Choir is their Music for a Great Garden. This is an album filled with fragrant music from an age of elegance and refinement. Titles include ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Where the bee sucks’, ‘Summer is icumen in’ and ‘Roses in bloom’, in a delightful evocation of a great English garden. Also, the recording celebrates the life of one of the most famous landscape and garden designers, whose legacy is visible throughout England: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The music, however, is not from the 18th century, but composed by Late Medieval and Tudor composers, like William Byrd, Robert Johnson, Henry VIII, William Lawes, John Dowland, et al. Performers are Members of the Oxford Girls Choir Orchestra, Martin Souter on Harpsichord, Elinor Bennett on Harp, Matthew Spring on Lute, Sarah Hill on Violin, with Sara Stowe singing Soprano. Just the kind of music to listen to while finding the couch after a long day digging in the rose-garden.

 

 

 

Sur La Terre Comme Au Ciel. Un Jardin Au Moyén-âge

In 2002 the medieval museum in Paris – Musee de Cluny – in Paris organised an exhibiton focusing on the garden in the Middle Ages – Jardins d’Occident à la fin du Moyen Âge. In connection with this event several concerts were held. One of these was recorded: Sur La Terre Comme Au Ciel. Un Jardin Au Moyén-âge. Peformers were Discantus and Alla Francesca,

Discantus is an exclusively women’s a cappella vocal ensemble composed of six to ten voices.  It brings alive the vocal repertoire, primarily sacred, of the Middle Ages from the first Western musical notation of the 9th century up to the 15th century. Founded in 1989 under the direction of Brigitte Lesne, it brings together singers from diverse backgrounds capable of adopting a vocal style appropriate to the medieval repertoire, uniting unique individual timbres to form a coherent ensemble sound.

The group is also responsible for the creation of The Centre for Medieval music of Paris. This was created by artists and for artists as a place of experiment and transmission of knowledge on the interpretation and the performance of Middle Ages musics. Regular workshops and punctual training courses are proposed all year round for both professional training and for the practice of the amateurs.

Alla Francesca and Discantus ensembles are produced by the Centre for Medieval music of Paris since their inception, in the early nineties. They are now among the essential references for the quality and originality of their interpretations. Together with Alta trio, they cover more than six centuries of music, from sacred to secular, vocal to instrumental, monophonic or polyphonic, as a soloist or small ensemble.

LISTEN:

The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry. Medieval Gardens in Music
Performer: Orlando Consort
Composer: Guillaume de Machaut, Walter Frye, Leonel Power, Alexander Agricola, Juan Vasquez, et al.
Audio CD 2006 (2012)
Label: Harmonia Mundi

A Garden of Music
Performers: The Oxford Girls’ Choir, Serendipity, Lisette Wesseling, Michelene Wandor, Jon Banks, Richard Vendome, David Skinner, Magdala, Martin Souter & Saint Frideswide Monks and Novices.
Composers: Various
Audio CD 2005
Label: The Gift of Music

Music for a Great Garden
Performers: Martin Souter on Harpsichord, Elinor Bennett on Harp, Matthew Spring on Lute, Sarah Hill on Violin, with Sara Stowe singing Soprano
Composers: Various
Audio CD 2004
Label: The Gift of Music

Sur La Terre Comme Au Ciel. Un Jardin Au Moyén-âge
Ensembles Discantus & Alla Francesca
Audio CD 2002
Label: Jade/Milan Records

FEATURED PHOTO:

Emilia in her Garden. From the novella by Boccacio. Österreichise Nationalbibliothek. Source: Wikipedia

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