The day began with pieces from the Odhecaton, a musical anthology of 1501, collected by Petrucci in Venice. Many of the pieces chosen had been “re-worked” by Henry 8th, who was a keen recorder player. Alan spent some time on a very interesting comparison of the styles and forms of the originals and the Henry versions. In most cases the originals were complex polyphonic works by accomplished composers, whereas the king’s version was much simpler, shorter and largely homophonic. This may have reflected either the king’s tastes or his talents.
We spent quite a bit of time on stylistic aspects of the music, including alternative fingerings to improve tuning of cadential chords, and we were also provided with a useful list of performance realizations (ornaments) suitable for this period. Some music was in original (mensural) notation, with diamond-shaped notes, strange rest symbols, no bar lines, and unusual clefs. With this we struggled with some degree of success.
The last session was on parallel musical developments in other parts of Europe, focusing on music from the Glogauer Liederbuch. This German anthology published in 1480 was the first ever publication produced with part books. Many of the pieces seemed to have been specifically written as instrumental pieces, rather than adaptations of choral works.
Overall the general feedback from participants was that the workshop was a great success, combining the enjoyment of wonderful music with useful educational aspects that should help improve our play of renaissance music over the long run. Our instructors were well organized and informed, and gave friendly and positive encouragement to all. I thought the general level of play was good, and people were reasonably at home with the complex rhythms and speeds. It was a pleasure to play through a programme that had clearly been well thought out for both entertainment and self-improvement. Congratulations to our teachers for their time and dedication. We hope they will return in the not too distant future.