Mini-Courses and Programs, Spring / Fall, 2020

During the Spring 2020 semester, the Center for Early Music Studies will offer mini courses by Renaissance plucked-string specialist Crawford Young, Baroque cellist Sarah Freiberg, and male soprano Robert Crowe.

During the Fall 2020 semester, we welcome back Donald Greig of the Orlando Consort for a course on Guillaume de Machaut, whose complete repertory of chansons is currently being recorded by the group for Hyperion, and musicologist/harpsichordist David Schulenberg, the author of numerous books about Bach’s keyboard music, as well as the best selling textbook Music of the Baroque (Oxford). Students wishing to register for the mini-courses, which carry one elective Musicology credit, should enroll in MH 629 Early Music Studies. Auditors are welcome; please email for more details.


MINI COURSES, Spring, 2020

Feb. 8, 9, 15, 10am-4pm all three days:
MH 629 B1: “Performing Bach’s Cello Suites,” with Sarah Freiberg, Baroque cello

**note schedule change**
Feb. 28, 2:30-5:30pm; Feb. 29, 10am-5pm; Mar. 1, 10am-1pm
MH 629 C1: “Perfecting Nature: Creating a Solo scena, recitativo ed aria in Late Baroque Style,” with Robert Crowe, soprano

Baroque opera is rapidly becoming a staple for larger opera companies around the world. It is primarily younger singers who are called upon to fill the roles, especially in the German theatrical system of fest singers, but also more generally. This is mostly practical; baroque orchestras are generally considerably smaller, thus more affordable, and the singers’ voices need not be as loud as is necessary in Verdi, Puccini, or, certainly, Wagner. For many young professionals, the first time they ever have to put a baroque solo scena together is in the midst of a professional production. They will generally have very little help from the overworked harpsichordist (if there is one), or from the often non-specialist accompanying staff.This mini-course aims to help a limited number of singers create a major solo scene, including introductory recitativo, from the late baroque (Handel, Vivaldi, Vinci, Lotti, etc.). These can not only serve as audition pieces, but as a learning ground where they may attain the skills they will probably need at some point in their early performing careers: ornamentation and melodic alteration (they are not the same thing), poetic structure, cadenza composition, dramatic development of the ABA da capo form, vocal coloration for effect, etc.

March 28-29, 2020, 10-5 both days
MH 629 A1: “Performing the Renaissance Fakebook” with Crawford Young, lute

“Fakebook” is not a late-night-comedy joke about social media platforms; it refers to an anthology of songs, specifically, to an illegally-printed, black- market collection of 20th-c. popular songs used to learn tunes and/or make ad hoc arrangements within the context of jazz music. If we made a collection of popular songs from the ‘Golden Age of Polyphony’ c. 1492 for the same musical purpose (and breaking no copyright laws), which works would it contain? Which were in the ‘Top Twenty’ of the day, and what kinds of arrangements-improvisations did these generate? What were singers and instrumentalists expected to do with these ‘hit songs’ in performance?


Fall, 2020

September 26-27, 2020, 10-5 pm both days
MH 629 A1: “Performing Bach’s Adagios: Understanding, Singing, and Playing Bach’s Written-Out Embellishments” (David Schulenberg, Wagner College / Juilliard)

In the eighteenth century, the word adagio referred to a type of slow movement that most composers wrote in a plain style, allowing performers to improvise their own embellishments. But the slow movements in Bach’s sonatas, suites, concertos, and arias—even his choruses and motets—often require one or more soloists to interpret embellishments written out by the composer. These embellishments were evidently meant to sound as if improvised, yet understanding how to give them the freedom, spontaneity, and expressiveness apparently intended by the composer can be difficult, due to the intricacy of Bach’s notation and the complexity of the underlying musical structure.

Using examples from Bach’s arias, preludes and fugues, sonatas for unaccompanied string instruments, and other recital repertoire, this mini-course (1) examines models for Bach’s embellishments provided by Corelli and other composers; (2) introduces ways of analyzing Bach’s written-out melodic decoration; (3) provides suggestions for relating analysis to performance; and (4) offers opportunities for students to perform (or discuss performances of) music by Bach with his own written-out embellishments. As a final project, students either present a performance of a decorated adagio by Bach, with aural commentary, or give an aural comparison of two or more recorded performances of the same.October 31 – November 1 2020, 9:30-4:30 pm both days


October 31 – November 1, 2020, 10-5 pm both days
MH 629 B1: Performing the Music of Guillaume de Machaut (Donald Greig, Orlando Consort)

Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) is the most important poet-composer of the fourteenth century and also one of the most influential, shaping the poetic and musical forms of the era and refining its musical language. He was also the first composer to set the complete ordinary of the Mass, his Messe de Nostre Dame, which is in many ways the prototypical model for later generation of fifteenth-century composers, a large-scale musical form with which they tested themselves and were judged. Unsurprisingly, given the sparseness of the notation and the lack of historical evidence, Machaut’s music has been interpreted in many ways and performed with varying forces. In the latter half of the twentieth century it became the battleground for debates about instrumentation of medieval music more generally, and the arguments still resonate today.

The course will investigate this fascinating composer and his music, setting him in his cultural and musical context, considering the original manuscripts and modern recordings, and engaging with the practical issues that confront the modern performer and listener.