A new record by the Musica Nova Ensemble to come out in Autumn 2017 !
Jacob Handl -Motets
CD, Le palais des dégustateurs
Towards the end of the Renaissance, the motet genre experienced a kind of golden age. Since the 1550s, works dedicated to this genre came about steadily one after another, with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina composing nearly 300 and his contemporary Roland de Lassus more than 700. That is without taking into account the printed anthologies associated with this genre, which were circulated around big music publishing cities such as Venice, Nuremberg, Paris and Antwerp, and spread throughout all of Europe.
In Prague, at the centre of the Empire, music publishing also experienced a remarkable growth. This was enhanced by the establishment of the Habsburg residence in the capital Bohemia in 1583. Whilst Philippe de Monte, the appointed composer of Rudolf II’s imperial chapel, published around 250 of his motets primarily in Venice, evolving somewhat on the sidelines was the work of a more discreet author. Jacobus Handl succeeded at one the most ambitious projects devoted to this genre, in publishing 374 motets in close collaboration with the main publisher in Prague at the time, Jiří Nigrin.
Plainly entitled Opus musicum (Work of Music), this collection is exceptional in many respects. Made in a very short time (its four volumes were published between 1586 and 1591), its distinctive feature is that it is designed to follow the process of a liturgical year. This type of order had already been followed in some previous anthologies, particularly by Heinrich Isaac, the composer of Maximilian I, at the beginning of the century. However this was the first time that such achievement came from close collaboration between a composer and a publisher.
Handel was in fact a cantor in a small Romanesque church in Prague’s old town, just a few steps away from the Nigrin workshop where his brother George Handel worked as a publisher too, acting as an intermediary between the Church and the workshop press. Nigrin, who printed all kinds of books, from extemporary information sheets to major works on astronomy and botany, was fully aware of the importance of this publication. Within his catalogue of musical publishing, mostly provided from Bohemia, the Opus musicum is considered a masterpiece.
Marc Desmet, musicologist
“Echoes of Babel” : Musica Nova’s new programme
with a documentary by Yves Bénitah & Patrice Pegeault, produced by Acte Public Compagnie
documentary screening on October 20th at 6.30 pm at the Médiathèque de Vaise
The Musica Nova Ensemble presents an original program blending Early and Contemporary Music by way of Mediterranean depth of thought. Reflecting an impressive linguistic and cultural richness, the sounds of Southern Europe, of the Maghreb, of the Middle East, and those of the Byzantium are brought together in a single encounter. The work commissioned to Saed Haddad, a Jordanian-born composer, brings to light the harmonies between the polyphonies of the Middle Ages and the monodies sung by the Moroccan Anass Habib, accompanied by Aurélie Tissot’s qanun.
The myth of Babel, reflecting both fear and defiance towards the Hereafter, has generated a profound fascination in the minds of men. Surpassing one’s own limits and earthly condition, building higher and ascending spiritually, this may be the substance that all mortals share. The Gothic cathedrals of the Middle-Ages testify to this day to this incessant quest of reaching the peaks of existence, but music also yields to the desire of producing works of inordinate proportions. It is this desire that has led the people in Babel to align their forces in all their diversity. It is also the reason why they became subjects of Divine punishment, a penance which gave rise to a diversity of languages, bringing chaos and incomprehension on Earth. “Rewriting Babel” could allow us to consider the dissimilarity of languages not as a source of dissension, but as a reason to search for harmony. For lack of a tower, this program
proposes to build a musical architecture, while laying down a possibly even greater defiance.
Languages in their diversity show and preserve identity, but they may also enrich one’s voice with strange sounds, while their knowledge may amend one’s world-view. For singers, exploring languages is an everyday work, a voyage deep within the human heart, a barrier always pushed further, feeding the imaginary. Musica Nova’s instinct was to open its musical field to Mediterranean traditional sacred music. Be they Byzantine, Aramaic, Lebanese, Algerian,…these songs may recall the monophonic origins of Mediaeval polyphonies. The meeting with Moroccan singer Anass Habib has been crucial for this project, partly because of his anchorage in traditional Moroccan culture, but also due to his desire to explore all Mediterranean music regardless of religious beliefs.
The work thus created stems from a desire to build, beyond all linguistic and musical differences, an edifice respectful of diversity.