L’arte da Vinci
500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci’s work and ideas as a painter, sculptor, architect, anatomist, mechanic, engineer and natural philosopher are still forward-looking, and still allow him to be regarded as a superstar of the universal scholars of Reniassance. In Milan, Florence and Rome he worked in the most important music centers of the Renaissance. He left great works of art until he died in France in 1519.
The Playfords have created a program with texts by Leonardo da Vinci and compositions by Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Vincenzo Galilei, Francesco di Milano and Josquin Desprez, as well as well-known hits of the time.
Garlic & Onions
Songs and Tunes from John Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651)
With this new program, The Playfords are returning to their roots. And once again draw from the infinite pool of the English Dancing Master by John and Henry Playford. From the cheerful, carefree, dreamy or even melancholic “Country Dance Tunes” the musicians have selected pieces of music that are related to the topic of onions. A topic that the ensemble feels particularly committed to, not least because it was founded in Weimar, where the famous onion market takes place every year. And so a musical menu with garlic and onions is created. Of course, not all ingredients can be revealed, but they include, among other things: recipes set to music, texts about dishes where garlic & onions are essential, plus music by the English Dancing Masters with pieces such as: Nutmigg and Ginger, Gathering Peascods, All in a Garden Green , Pepper’s Black and other compositions and hits of the 17th century related to culinary and botany. The whole thing is served with a dash of improvisation, the main stylistic device of the ensemble.
Es geht ein dunkle Wolk herein
Songs from the time of the Thirty Years’ War
The 30 year war, a trauma in history. In 1617 the 100th anniversary of the Reformation was celebrated with pride and defiance. Already a year later the structure shook, which had covered the peace between the quarreling confessions for the last decade. A war broke out, which left nothing to think of cruelty, which was ended several times with treaties and peace ceremonies, only to start again.
There were ballads, folk songs, hymns on war heroes such as Tilly and Gustav Adolf, impressive songs of the Landsknechte, melancholy complaints and (in spite of all) exuberant dances, hopelessly framed Friedenslieder and impressive chorales from the time of the Thirty Years War. Traced, arranged and presented with historically informed wit and depth through “The Playfords”.
All in a garden green
Songs about flowers and thorns
Songs from the Reformation and their Secular Roots
Martin Luther was as deeply defined by his emotions as he was by his learnedness; when convinced, he was convinced unreservedly. This can help to explain how the fun-loving student in Erfurt was transformed into an deeply ascetic monk who, outraged by the hypocrisy of the Church of his time, ended up inadvertently giving rise to the Reformation. It explains, too, how he then came to toss asceticism aside to draw upon all of the senses – and especially the power of music – to spread religious tenets amongst the population. In contrast to many of his fellow reformers, he did not make use of Germanised Gregorian chants, but instead put new lyrics to popular melodies, both well-known and novel. Thus “popular songs, riders’ songs, and mountain tunes made more Christian and moral” were put to use in serving the Reformation. It certainly helped that Luther was a talented lute player and well versed in the art of counterpoint. His close relationships with Ludwig Senfl and Johann Walter were equally beneficial. He served as a model for countless writers of songs and shaped Protestantism’s demotic choral tradition.
By rescuing once well-known hymns from the murky waters of the past, The Playfords reveal the cheerful, dance-like character of these church songs, an aspect far too often neglected. In doing so, they bring back to life those “wicked and vexing ways in which those unprofitable and shameful little ditties of the streets, fields, homes and elsewhere are sung”.
THE HUNT IS UP
Shakespeare’s Song Book – Tunes and Ballads from the Plays of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Shakespeare’s works resound with musical allusions and references. These are often meant to provide the audience with background information, but at other times, they serve simply to provoke a smile or even laughter. But this only works, of course, if the viewer is already quite familiar with the material being referenced. Thus we can also use Shakespeare’s plays to piece together a list of the most popular songs of the time, a project that has been undertaken by the American musicologist Ross W. Duffin. The Playfords have adopted his Shakespeare’s Songbook as a type of ‘real book’ which inspires and gives rise to their own improvisational play. Just as Shakespeare’s Globe theatre brought all of London’s social classes together, this work gathers everything from the knee-slapping bawdiness beloved by simpler folk to more artfully wrought aural allusions aimed at a more distinguished and discerning audience. The result is a musical panorama of late Renaissance English society in its entirety.
Fa una Canzone
Italian Dance Music and Love Songs of the Renaissance
With “Fa una canzone”, The Playfords deliver all the greatest hits from 16th and 17th-century Italy! The villanelles, frottole, and balletti written by stars such as Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi, Orazio Vecchi, and Claudio Monteverdi were all the rage throughout Europe. Just as with popular music nowadays, performers then sang about love, too, and the dances’ rhythms were meant to be boisterous celebrations of life. Arranged by the musicians themselves to underscore their cheerfulness and passion, these songs are played with masterful technique and with a healthy dose of Mediterranean charm.
Christmas Carols from Europe (14th-18th Century)
At the heart of the meaning of Christmas is that continual human yearning for a future brighter than the present day. For the Christian world, the birth of Jesus was the moment of renewal that they had long been awaiting, and the momentousness of that occasion has found expression in various artistic forms, especially in music, over the centuries.
With their fittingly titled CD project “Nova! Nova!” (“Newness! Newness!”), The Playfords turn to Christmas music from the 14th through the 18th century. A core of well-known German melodies are joined by songs and dances from England, France, and Spain.
An ensemble composed of early music specialists, The Playfords seek to revive the nearly lost tradition of the improvisational musician of the Renaissance and Baroque period. With their playful but authentic approach, they confer an entire palette of Christmastime emotions, from still reverence to exuberant joy, on music from an age long since disappeared – all with a few knowing nods to our contemporary world too.
Guest: Claudia Mende – Boroque violin
La Flor de la Canela
A journey to common roots of Spanish baroque grounds and South American folklore
When Christopher Columbus discovered the “New World” in 1492, a new epoch of humanity began – and a very special kind of cultural transfer. European compositional techniques fused with music of the indigenous peoples of South America and powerful rhythms of the music of African slaves. From Mexico to Argentina, new dances are forming explosively. They have exciting names: Sarabanda, Chacona, Zamacueca, Pasacalle, Folia. These dances return to Europe and took European baroque music by storm. This program combines Peruvian, Mexican, Venezuelan and Argentine music with improvisations on Spanish baroque grounds. The ensemble THE PLAYFORDS is extended by the fabulous Chilean-born vocalist Luciana Mancini and the enthralling dancer Luz Zenaida Hualpa García.
THE PLAYFORDS and guests:
LUCIANA MANCINI – vocals
LUZ ZENAIDA HUALPA GARCÌA – dance
Si ce n’est amour…
Chansons and dances of the French Renaissance
“And if it isn’t love…”, then what could it be? What could fluster you so, make you take leave of your senses, pick you up off your feet to dance or throw you in a melancholy mood? With their collection of French dance music from the 16th century, The Playfords breathe new life into chansons and dances dating back to the early Renaissance whilst also artfully crafting a bridge into our own modern age: French elegance, Parisian tango, hints of the Orient, intoxicating dance music. The collection includes the group’s own arrangements and original historical arrangements of compositions by Pierre Sandrin, Pierre Attaingnant, Jacques Arcadelt, Claudin de Sermisy and Thoinot Arbeau.
Oranges & Lemons
English Dancing Master” (1651) – Dance music from England from around 1700
In “Oranges & Lemons”, The Playfords draw especially on the collection of songs entitled English Dancing Master (1651), which was published by John Playford. The Dancing Master met with great success; eighteen new editions had appeared by 1728. The Playfords have skilfully and imaginatively arranged the “Country Dance Tunes”, which are cheerful, jaunty, dreamy, and sometimes melancholy in turn. With the help of contemporaneous English ballads, they also relate the varied forms that love may take and the political circumstances that shaped the 17th century.