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More Renaissance Polyphony on Anglo concertina


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I wanted to try out a 5-part piece and managed to record Josquin's beautiful chanson Plusieurs Regretz a couple of weeks ago. There are several problems playing this sort of thing on an Anglo, the first of which is that the same note is often simultaneously played in more than one of the parts - as a held note in one and as part of a run in another. Sorting this out on an instrument where you have to decide when precisely to stop each note is quite difficult - on a lute or harpsichord, this is not such an issue due to the natural decay of the note. Perhaps I should take a few lessons with an organist, though at least they have 2 keyboards to manage this. A second problem is to reduce the dynamic surges that come with every change of bellows direction. Partly this is the downside of having such a wonderfully responsive instrument, but I would be interested to hear from duet players how they deal with this. (I'm playing the Anglo in a very duet-like way, only making  bellows reversals at the end of phrases, or where I have specific notes in only one direction.)

 

Adrian

 

 

 

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Thanks! It's played on my Dipper Baritone Anglo, an instrument that Colin and Rosalie made for me 3 years ago. It has the Jeffries 38 layout with an extra RH button on the right side for the high d#/eb. That means I have the full chromatic range over the middle two octaves in both bellows directions and I can therefore decide whether to play in the normal bouncy in/out Anglo fashion, or more like a duet as is the case with this piece. It has aluminium reed frames to keep the weight down and the most amazing dynamic range of any concertina I've yet played. It's also extremely air efficient and uses very little air even when playing loud. It very rapidly became my weapon of choice for any new piece and 3 years on, I feel I am still learning heaps from it and hopefully I'm starting to do it some justice!

 

Cheers,

 

Adrian.

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Thanks a lot! Are there any duet players out there who may have some tips for me? Unlike them, I am sometimes forced to make bellows changes at what could be an inappropriate moment within a phrase. I have several strategies for dealing with this, some involving the air button to limit the "pressure front" of the change, but I would like to know how they deal with say a long phrase with many notes, that is too long for a single bellows run?

 

Thanks again,

 

Adrian

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Adrian,

I'm always surprised to see all what it is possible to play with an anglo, apart from the great ITM of course. The classical music that I've heard untill now on anglo was mostly melodic, so I guess that it's even much more difficult to play this kind of 5 parts polyphonic music. But the musical rendition here is wonderful and the sound of the instrument very nice too!

I've just started to play 2 voices baroque music on my duet, so I don't have any tips to give and much more to learn, but I noticed sometimes the same difficulty to find the good place for the bellows changes. For example the minuets from the Notebook for Anna Magadalena Bach are all organized with 2 bars musical phrases, but sometimes a phrase finish on the first beat of the third bar while the other voice begin. So you don't have other choice than to cut a note in one of the 2 phrases, or to rewrite the music for the concertina... In melodic or harmonic music I try to think like if I were playing a wind instrument to find the best moment to breathe, but in polyphonic music the problem is that we just have one bellow and it's impossible to make each voice breathe separately.

Maybe I'd like to try to play this piece somedays to see what is possible with the duet...

Didie 

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Thanks Didie,

 

That's exactly the sort of problem I have and on the Anglo, a lot of the bass notes are only available in one direction, so when a held chord contains one, then another only available in the opposite direction, I need to make a bellows change as unobtrusively as I can. I always try to make the bellows changes as 'quiet' as I can in this music, but there is always a little sort of "presssure front' that is audible and that often goes against what I want to do musically. Perhaps with practice I will manage to hide it as much as possible, at least that is what I am hoping :-)

 

Thanks again,

 

Adrian

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As a former Anglo player who made the switch over to (Hayden) duet a few years ago, I'm happy that I no longer encounter situations where a note that's only available in one direction forces an inopportune bellows direction change. That said, your recording here almost makes me wonder if I should have stayed the course! Amazing playing. I really enjoyed it. As a listener, I was not distracted by bellows-change issues; just enjoyed the musicality of the performance. :)

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  • 9 months later...

Since we moved out to the sticks last year, I’ve not had a lot of time for the concertina, somehow there was always a paintbrush in the way or a shelf that needed to be put up. But we now have space and specifically a designated rehearsal “studio” and the last couple of months have given me time to record a few pieces I’d been fumbling around with for a while, including these two 16th-century Franco-Flemish chansons.

 

Both start with the same chord sequence and both are written in a more vertical harmonic style which is particularly suited to the Anglo.

The first is Dont vient cela, a poem of lost love written by Clément Marot (1496 – 1544) and set to music by Claudin de Sermisy (c. 1490 – 13 October 1562), a composer working at the French court. The bellows reversal in the middle of the B section was forced on me by the succession of a low Bb and an Eb, which are in opposite directions on my layout. It took a lot of practice to try to make it as smooth as possible and I hope it doesn’t disturb the flow too much (blame the person who designed the tuning layout - wait, that was me…).

 

 

The other is Susanne un jour by the composer Didier Lupi Second (c.1520-after 1559) which appeared in his book of Protestant songs, Chansons Spirituelles in 1559. The text tells the Apocryphal story of Susanna and the Elders and the theme was used by several later composers, most notably Orlando di Lasso who’s 5 part setting was a real 16th century hit.

 

 

Instrumental versions of chansons and motets are standard repertoire for the recorder consort or other renaissance families of instruments, where typically the players would be expected to extemporise diminutions. The advantage of separate instruments for each voice is that the melodic lines come out of the chordal structure much better - playing all the lines, I find this hard, but it’s something to work on in the future.  

 

Adrian

 

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4 hours ago, adrian brown said:

Instrumental versions of chansons and motets are standard repertoire for the recorder consort or other renaissance families of instruments, where typically the players would be expected to extemporise diminutions. The advantage of separate instruments for each voice is that the melodic lines come out of the chordal structure much better - playing all the lines, I find this hard, but it’s something to work on in the future.

Adrian,

Thank you. Wonderful performance of wonderful music. Your exploration of this music is an inspiration.

I performed music from these periods back in college on lute, viols, and recorders, and singing in the university's collegium musicum. That was almost 50 years ago, but you brought me right back to it.

Jim

P.S. Adrien, I know you know all about this, but for those who haven't experienced it, playing in an early music consort can be a very rewarding experience. You only have the responsibility of a single melodic line, but you are enveloped in the sound of one, two, three, or four others performing their lines, and the overall sound is very rich.

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Thanks Jim, I ran a workshop for "Early Music on concertinas" at the Witney Supersqueeze weekend a couple of years ago and I think it was one of my favourite teaching experiences. We did pieces in several different styles and even added diminutions for those who could manage - I'll see if I can did out a recording of one of them.

 

Adrian

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have to say that I've always loved 16th century music as well as the Concertina, so finding these videos and recordings is truly a gift. I have a standard 30 key Anglo so seeing you do this on an Anglo, albeit a "souped up" one, is very inspirational. Thanks for taking the time to record and share this.

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I can thoroughly recommend Adrian's book 'A Garden of Dainty Delights' which has arrangements for some splendid tunes for both Jeffries and Wheatstone layouts, and for which he has also recorded YouTube versions.

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  • 7 months later...

 

 

One might be forgiven for thinking a homophonic piece like this would be a bit of a doddle after some of the more complex polyphony I’ve previously posted in this thread. However, it has taken me a long time to get this to the point that I was happy with it and could find the calm that it cries out for.

40 years ago my music history teacher had us playing all the versions of this song from Isaac to Bach on a motley collection of recorders, crumhorns and viols and declared that it was perhaps the most important piece in the Western classical canon. While I don’t share all his enthusiasm, it is a poignant anthem to leaving home for pastures new, and has become my own personal lament to Brexit.

I'm playing once again on the amazing Dipper baritone, an instrument that just seems to get better the more I learn how to control it’s enormous dynamic potential.

 
Adrian
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Thank you Kathryn, that's very kind of you to say:-)
 
My latest lockdown effort is another fantasia by Philip van Wilder (1500 - 1554) performed in two different versions. It is a piece that was written as a musical puzzle in that you can play it as written, or you can remove all the whole and half bar rests from each voice and magically the four voices line up in different places to each other to give you a different, more compact (and shorter) piece. It’s quite amazing how it’s possible to write something like this, where certain sections are almost the same in both versions, but the voices then separate and come back together as different harmonies, without it all becoming gibberish! 
 
For an ensemble of melody instruments you can simply leave the rests out on the fly and as long as nobody forgets and falls out of sync, you can normally get to the end at the same time 🙂 On a keyboard instrument however, it requires writing the piece out again to get the 4 parts to line up correctly, so the fun aspect is a little more planned and the piece consequently, a bit more secure!
 
If anyone would like to download the sheet music to see how it’s put together, there are .pdf files of both versions on the IMSLP website at: https://imslp.org/wiki/Fantasia_con_pause%2C_et_senza_pause_(Wilder%2C_Philip_van)
 
Here’s my video of the ‘original’ version with rests:
 
And here’s the version with all the whole and half bar rests removed:
 
Van Wilder is probably my favourite Renaissance composer and this is his only extant work originally composed for instrumental ensemble, most of his output being vocal chansons and motets, as well as a few instrumental pieces written for lute. In the future, I'd like to have a go at one of his 5-part chansons, as they contain some of the most beautiful music I think I have ever heard.
 
Adrian 
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