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"Taffel Consort - Instrumental Works of William Brade & Thomas Simpson"

Weser-Renaissance Bremen
Dir: Manfred Cordes

rec: March 11 - 13, 2011, Schloss Brake (near Lemgo), Schlosskapelle
CPO - 999 952-2 ( 2013) (72'00")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

William BRADE (1560-1630): Allmand 5 in G [1]; Allmand & Coranta 5 in d minor [5]; Ballett 5 in d minor [5]; Coral; Paduana & Allmandi 6 in G [3]; Paduana & Galliard 6 in G [3]; Paduana & Galliard 6 in G [3]; Paduana & Galliard 6 in g minor [3]; Paduana, Galliard & Coranta 5 in a minor [1]; Thomas SIMPSON (1582-1628?): Almande 4 in C [6]; Ballett 'La mia Salome' 5 in D [4]; Ballet & Volta 5 in D [4]; Canzon 4 in G [6]; Canzon 5 in C [4]; Courante & Volta 5 in d minor [2]; Intrada 5 in d minor [4]; Mascarada 5 in G [4]; Pavan & Galliard 5 in d minor [2]; Pavan 'Sachedevil's dolorosi' & Galliard 5 in a minor [2]

Sources: [1] William Brade, Newe ausserlesene Paduanen, Galliarden, Canzonen, Allmand und Coranten auff allen musicalischen Instrumenten lieblich zu gebrauchen, 1609; [2] Thomas Simpson, Opusculum neuwer Pavanen, Galliarden, Couranten unnd Volten, 1610; [3] William Brade, Newe ausserlesene Paduanen und Galliarden auff allen musicalischen Instrumenten und insonderheit auff Fiolen lieblich zu gebrauchen, 1614; [4] Thomas Simpson, Opus newer Paduanen, Galliarden, Intraden, Canzonen, Ricercaren, 16172; [5] William Brade, Newe lustige Volten, Couranten, Balletten, Padoanen, Galliarden, Masqueraden, auch allerley arth newer frantzsischer Tntze, 1621; [6] Thomas Simpson, Taffel-Consort, 1621

Sarah Mller, transverse flute; Veronika Skuplik, Irina Kisselova, violin; Hille Perl, Frauke Hess, Juliane Laake, Marthe Perl, viola da gamba; Lee Santana, lute; Mark Wheeler, cister; Johannes Gontarski, bandora; Manfred Cordes, organ

Two English names and a German title - one may wonder what that is about. That is not so hard to explain: William Brade and Thomas Simpson were two of various musicians/composers who went to Germany to look for employment. Whereas others, for instance John Dowland, returned to England after some years but these two remained in Germany. Brade died in Hamburg, Simpson in Copenhagen, where he spent the last years of his career.

It is useful to read the liner-notes as they give a good insight into the political and cultural situation in northern Germany around 1600. The many aristocratic courts guaranteed that there were plenty of opportunities for performing musicians and composers to demonstrate their skills. Musical establishments were not only responsible for performances of sacred and secular music, they also reflected the status of their owner. Aristocrats competed with each other to attract the best musicians available. At the same time musicians had to live with a great amount of insecurity. When an aristocratic ruler died and had no successor, his property could come into the hands of another ruler who then might disband the chapel. If that happened its members had to pack their things and move to another place to look for a new job.

The central figure of the present disc is Ernst III, Count of Holstein-Schaumburg (1569-1622) who had his residence in Bckeburg. It was only in 1601 that he became ruler of his properties and he immediately started to establish a chapel of his own. This comprised singers and instrumentalists. Among the latter English musicians had a special place and often performed together as a group. Both Brade and Simpson were also part of this chapel for various years. Brade entered the service of Count Ernst in 1610. However, as much as the Count loved music and must have recognized Brade's qualities, he didn't want to be exploited. When Brade asked for a higher salary and threatened to go to Hamburg if he didn't get it Ernst advised the Hamburg authorities not to tolerate this "mischievous, wanton fellow". Even so, Brade left for Hamburg where he found employment. Simpson became a member of the Count's chapel in 1615 and stayed there until the death of his employer in 1622. He then went to Copenhagen where he entered the service of the Danish court.

Obviously sacred music played a central role in the musical life of this time. The repertoire which was performed at German courts is well documented on disc. In comparison music which was written for entertainment is given less attention. Dances such as those recorded here by Weser-Renaissance are often associated with 'popular' music, and played with a large variety of instruments, including percussion. However, this repertoire was first and foremost composed and published to be played in aristocratic circles. The two composers who are represented here grew up with music for viol consort. In Germany they adapted to the local conventions which favoured the use of violins in the upper parts. Apart from an ensemble of violins and viols music like this was often also played with a 'broken' consort, comprising strings and/or a transverse flute and plucked instruments. Sometimes a dialogue is created between two instruments, for instance in Allmand & Coranta 5 in d minor by Brade, where the two upper parts are played by violin and flute. In Brade's Allmand 5 in G we hear a combination of plucked instruments: lute, cister and bandora.

The character of these dances is different. Some have clear aristocratic traits, but some include popular elements. In his Ballett 'La mia Salome' Simpson makes use of the echo technique - much liked in North-German organ music - but also incorporates imitations of the bagpipe. The ensuing piece on the programme is completely different: the Pavan 'Sachevil's dolorosi' includes daring harmonies and strong dissonances. This is more than just entertainment.

The title of this disc refers to a collection which was published by Simpson and included not only pieces of his own but also compositions by others. Only two pieces on this disc are taken from this source. The others come from two other collections by Simpson and from three by Brade. For those who would like to hear more I recommend a recording by Hesprion XX (deutsche harmonia mundi, 1981) which is entirely devoted to music from three collections by Brade. The Parley of Instruments devoted a disc to Thomas Simpson in Hyperion's series "The English Orpheus", under the suitable title "An Englishman Abroad" (1991).

Weser-Renaissance comprises transverse flute, two violins, four viols, lute, cister, bandora and organ. They deliver lively and engaging performances, technically flawless and with a very good sense of the rhythms of these pieces. It is unlikely that they were meant for dancing, but they should be played as if they were, and that is the case here. This is musical entertainment of the highest order.

Johan van Veen ( 2014)

Relevant links:

Weser-Renaissance Bremen


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