Friday, 9 January 2015

Twelfth Night 10/11 January

Our Twelfth Night programme, from January, 2012, is a seasonal blend of merry-making and solemnity - "Or What You Will"!   

CB Twelfth Night

Intro:  A Childhood Memory, John Barry

Today’s programme was researched and written by Mike Burrows and is inspired by Twelfth Night.  You’ve just heard A Childhood Memory, by the film-composer, John Barry, from his album, The Beyondness Of Things.  Whatever the childhood memory described, and he himself gives no clue, it seems a confrontation between infant wishes and a hardening of reality in one’s surroundings, tailing off in fragments of Nick-nack Paddywhack...  Six days into a hardening New Year, where are our Christmas hopes?  Money has moved on, we follow.  Who throws whom the bone, how many care?

The Beyondness of Things purports to be music of journeying, of seeking, perhaps finding.  In the Church Calendar, the last day of Christmas is the first day of Epiphany: an epiphany is a glimpse of the holy that was beyond one’s view. The Three Kings, the magi or Wise Men, traditionally Caspar, Melchior and Baltazar, journeyed to meet the Christ-Child, following a star. 

The Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi, a great, late romantic orchestrator, wrote his Trittico Boticelliano for small orchestra - with an important part for piano - in 1927.  He intended these tone-poems to be a rendition in music of masterpieces by the Florentine artist, Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510); a triptych is a group of three paintings.  Two of the subjects of the paintings cited are pagan-classical, Spring and The Birth of Venus respectively; they flank a slower, central piece of great beauty and solemn process, The Adoration of The Magi.  Its growth from the pifferaro-, that is, fife- or bagpipe-like, sounds of the opening is extraordinarily patient and smooth.  Amongst the thematic material, you will recognize the tune of the old carol O Come O Come Immanuel in modal form, and chant-like moments whose origin was in Respighi’s love - and intense study - of Roman liturgical music.  

Track Two:  The Adoration of The Magi, Respighi

Amid solemn observances and mental pilgrimage, if not the real thing, this was a time for revelry, spectacle, for courts and kings as for peoples.  Tielman Susato’s Danserye, first printed in 1551, contains many kinds of dance of the time and earlier that might add to the splendid effect of royal or affluent celebrations, masques, fancy-dress dances...  Here are the Fool’s Dance and Morisque - morris-dance – in which we hear quaint fool’s licence, an essential distorting mirror to lordly brashness - and licence of another kind.  Besides good tunes, the essence of a good Danserye was the suitability of the music for either chaste or ‘extreme’ arrangements.

Tracks Three and Four:  Fool’s Dance and La Morisque, Susato

Next, a solemn Padouana - a slow and stately dance that originated in Padua - here performed by a quartet of trombones - from the Musical Banquet (1617) of Johann Hermann Schein.  Trombones - developed from the smaller-bore sackbutt - have been traditionally associated with musicians of the angelic orders - and are often called upon to mimic solemn priestly voices.  Here, the dance and that tendency meet consonantly.

Track Five:  Padouana, Schein   

Anciently, Twelfth Night was not the night of the Twelfth Day, but the night of the eleventh day of Christmas, thanks to a different manner of keeping time that saw sunset as the beginning of the day...  To confuse further, the Twelfth Day was once celebrated as Christmas Day.  Our hard-and-fast customs are perhaps less stable than our faith in their unchangeability...  Christianity appropriated unto itself a group of days and a pagan festival, and even then, the ground shifted.  At one time or another, most of the forms our rejoicing takes have been banned - carols, mincemeat-pies (unless imported), seasonal church services..., dirty dancing...dare one say it, unofficial assembly...even live music - unless licenced  or circumscribed by money-makers.  Like spontaneous eating, relations between the sexes and music, small beer, gin, tobacco and leisure-time have all felt the hot breath of ancient and modern disapproval ...  To this day, how many days of Christmas are there for most?

Some things remain hard to ban or unbannable, such as a quiet duet.  Here is The Seven Joys of Mary a Somerset folksong and kind of creed.

Track Six:  Seven Joys of Mary, Trad  

Throughout the British Isles, Twelfth Night was riotous before the Age of Queen Victoria (an Age that was long and seemed longer).  Once, it was surely the great festive binge of the season of Christmas:  a drunken, promiscuous rout, a time for fancy-dress and mumming in at least two senses of the word.  A popular item was the Twelfth Night cake, eithera large sweet pastry with marzipan filling or a  rich plum duff  - that contained in addition two beans - one bean to each half.  Half the cake went to the men, the other half to the women.  Whoever found the bean in his or her slice was crowned King or Queen of the party.  A pleasant way to bring sweethearts together, perhaps, or to enjoy the great amusement of bringing together an eccentric or outright-antagonistic couple.  Queen Victoria disapproved of rowdiness, and so Twelfth Night in Britain was subdued, partly to improve the morals and efficiency of the work-force, and Twelfth Night cake was altered to become that extra instrument of gustatory torture for us on Christmas day, as though anything in this line had ever been needful - Christmas cake.  To soothe us, here is The Gouty Carol, in which a pilgrim suffering from the complaint, “My leg is aching worse,” imagines that meeting Christ in Bethlehem, his gout will be gone in a trice.
Track Seven: Gouty Carol Trad, arr Bowyer

Twelfth Night is also an occasion for Wassailing:  a semi-pagan rite seeking blessing of the orchards, in which cakes and libations are returned to the earth from which they came in tribute to the year ahead; songs are sung and - sometimes - guns loosed off.  Let’s hear Vaughan Williams’ a cappella arrangement of the famous Gloucestershire Wassail Song - Wassail, Wassail, All Over The Town.

Track Eight:  Wassail Song Arr VW

Next, Somerset’s Wassail.

Track Nine:  Somerset Wassail

“Dost thou think that because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Shakespeare’s romantic comedy with asides for philosophical foolery, derision of Puritanism and two fine specimens of elderly roisterer in Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Twelfth Night - Or What You Will, has attracted many settings of its songs, O Mistress Mine, Farewell Dear Heart, Come Away, Death and When That I was.

Here is a collection of these songs, beginning with O Mistress Mine, a setting by Shakespeare’s contemporary, and for a time near-neighbour, the Chapel Royal musician, Thomas Morley.

Track Ten:   O Mistress Mine, Thomas Morley

Now, a setting of Farewell, Dear Heart by another of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Robert Jones.

Track Eleven:  Farewell, Dear Heart, Jones

Roger Quilter, a member of the so-called Frankfurt Gang - students at the Frankfurt Conservatory, who included Percy Grainger in their number – was primarily a song-composer.  His group of Three Shakespeare Songs, Opus Six, opens with a melancholy but beautifully touching Come Away, Death.

Track Twelve:  Come Away, Death, Quilter

When That I was And A Little Tiny Boy forms the transient afterword of Twelfth Night - Or What You Will, sung - or spoken - by Touchstone, the clown. With considerable skill and imagination, the jazz-performer and  composer, Johnny Dankworth, who died recently, set these lines in a clock-like swing-idiom that is both distinctive and effective.  Here is the song, performed by Cleo Laine, the composer - who was a great saxophonist and clarinettist - and associates.  

Track Thirteen:  When That I Was, Johnny Dankworth

Of Jewish blood, the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895--1968) was a friend of most of the foremost composers of Respighi’s generation.  He was forced to  emigrate to the United States by the Fascist regime’s Racial Laws which sought to purge Jews from responsible positions throughout the New Roman Empire after the Pact of Steel with Nazi Germany had been signed.

He wrote 11 full--scale Overtures to plays by Shakespeare, including Twelfth Night.  The overture to Twelfth Night was written in 1933, along with another to The Merchant of Venice...

The score is headed by quotations from speeches of the chief male interest, Duke Orsino:  “If music be the food of love, play on...”  and “Now, good Cesario, but that piece of song,/That old and Antique song we heard last night...”  The page Cesario is in fact Viola, the chief female interest, though the Duke is in love with melancholy, music and another lady as the play opens.

The overture begins with a long tune on cor anglais, associated with Orsino.  The household’s affected puritan major domo is Malvolio, whose theme is marked vivo burlesco - bassoons crabbily underscore this marking.  There is a percussive, trumpet--theme to represent Sir Toby Belch,  the soused nemesis of Malvolio.  The Belch-theme sounds Bavarian as imagined By an Italian...  The working-out is colourful, and concludes with the Orsino theme played in the major now, and involved with Malvolio’s.  In the play Malvolio - bad-will - is forced to accept his humiliation at the hands of his mistress’ maid, Belch and the Duke’s clown:  he has been made to believe that his mistress is in love with him, then locked up as a madman, the Clown posing as a doctor...  His last words however are, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you...”  The play’s one puritan is - of course - a hypocrite.  A galliard-element represents the song When I was, and the coda suggests an ironic pay-off.

This was Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  Today’s programme was researched and written by Mike Burrows.  We hope that you enjoyed it and will join us again soon.  Goodbye!

 Track Fourteen:  Twelfth Night, Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Owing to time, the Fool's Dance from Susato's Danserye and the Padouana of Schein had sadly to be omitted from the broadcast.