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Norbert Rodenkirchen, medieval transverse flute
Norbert Rodenkirchen, best known to Vancouver audiences for his work with Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval music, performs a contemplative mixed recital including sequences of Notker Balbulus (a musician, poet and Benedictine monk), anonymous lais, early minstrel tunes, and instrumental versions of vocal music by Guillaume de Machaut.
Throughout the programme, some of the original medieval melodies will be extended and improvised upon by Norbert using both Oriental influences as well as material taken from impressionistic “fin de siècle” piano arrangements of medieval compositions. By design, this recital is a mix of highly speculative artistic fantasy, with a rigorously well-researched and historically informed performance practice.
This concert is generously supported by Agnes Hohn.
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Resoundings of St Gall, Notkeriana
Symphonia (Notker Balbulus, 9th Century)
The poet Notker Balbulus used pre-existing melodies of an outstanding quality and beauty for his sequences. These tunes most certainly echo a secular melodic tradition of a much earlier period. It is likely that they were also performed as solo instrumental works as some sources give Notker´s melodies subtitles with instrument names like “Cithara”, “Fistula”, “Symphonia” etc.
The early goliards´ tune at Winchester
Tractus iocularis (Anonymus, 11th Century)
This unique melody was written exactly 1000 years ago. It has a mysterious title, “Tractus Iocularis” (the tract of the minstrel), which is placed above the sequence “Consona caterva” in the Winchester Tropers. It is scribbled down in early neums and might well be the first written minstrel tune in history.
Lai: Cantus Aaliz – Flur de virginite (Anonymus, 13th Century)
Lai – fragment: En ceste note dirai (Colin Muset, 13th Century )
Dansse real (Anonymus, 13th Century)
During the search for the instrumental practice of the Middle Ages there is an interesting line of development from the early medieval textless sequences in St Gall, with its typical double versicle form, to the much later lais, estampies and dances of the 12th and 13th centuries that share the same echo-like repetition. The earliest notated examples of instrumental “dances” in the “Chansonnier du Roi” with its eight Estampies and one Dansse Real, are, in fact, textless sequences with no hint of being linked to a specific dance. Johannes Grocheo’s important treatise of the 13th Century confirm this conclusion by stating that these pieces were written not as dances, but as contemplative exercises to distract students from bad thoughts.
Reverdie medievale I
Amour, que vous ai je meffait (Jehan de Lescurel) /
harmonisation from “Chants de vieux France”, printed 1920
Paris at the turn of the 20th Century was the musical era of Fauré, Debussy and Satie, who had their very own poetic projections of how music of the medieval period should sound. By using medieval melodies and modal phrases, and adding to them rich, late romantic harmonies, these great composers created inspirational echoes, that though far from historically accurate, were powerfully evocative.
Oriental repercussion I
The only surviving fragment of notated Persian early music – called “Persikon” – can be found in a 15th Century manuscript on Mount Athos and is written down in Byzantine neum notation. The Byzantine system of notation was usually only used to capture vocal music because instrumental music of this period was normally improvised or played by heart “ex tempore”. In the Greek/Byzantine source, the neums to the composition called “Persian piece” were underlaid with nonsense syllables to sing on a kind of “la la la” text suggesting that this could very well have been an instrumental tune that the transcriber must have felt was still important to document. This practice of writing down instrumental music using Byzantine neum notation is called “tererism”. Here, with this small fragment, it provides us with the opportunity to experience the echo of a glorious musical epoch whose splendour has nearly been completely lost over the centuries.
Guillaume de Machaut and the new sounds of his time
Lai de la Flour (Guillaume de Machaut 14th Century)
Istanpitta: Ghaetta (Anonymus)
Lai: En dementant et lamentant (Guillaume de Machaut 14th Century)
Plainte: Tels rit au main au soir pleure (Guillaume de Machaut 14th Century)
Chanson roial: Joie, plaisence et douce nourriture (Guillaume de Machaut 14th Century)
Machaut was a master of refined melancholy, both as a poet and as composer. His works of monody were expressive with or without texts, and he encouraged musicians to perform them as instrumental solos if they so desired. His music – written in the 14th Century – can be seen as both as the height of medieval musical invention and as the first revolutionary steps of the Renaissance. Machaut´s development of the Lai brought this form to its artistic climax and its glorious end. Interpolated into this little suite of Machaut works is the mysterious Northern Italian Istanpitta Ghaetta, which, with some of its unusual melodic phrases, hints strongly to an oriental connection.
Oriental repercussion II
Elci pesrev ( traditional, Turkey, 16th Century)
This Makam based dance tune, tracing back to Iraqi influences, was fortunately written down in the 16th Century in Western notation. “Elci pesrev” has a striking similarity in its form and melodic patterns to the repertoire of the early Estampies. This may be an echo of Orientally flavoured medieval music – but it may also just be exotically written.
Reverdie medievale II
Douce dame (Anonymus, 13th Century) /
harmonisation from “Chanteries du Moyen Age”, printed 1926
The final work of the recital leads once again to a Parisian salon of the late romantic, impressionistic period. During this period, medieval melodies sometimes appeared in evocative new arrangements featuring “modern” harmonic accompaniment. This improvised flute version of “Douce dame” is by Norbert Rodenkirchen and is based on a song from Yvette Guilbert´s printed collection “Chanteries du Moyen age”. It is an hommage to the impressionistic composers in Paris who opened a completely new gateway to the poetic art of solo flute playing – a gateway that is still open today.
Programme notes by Norbert Rodenkirchen
Norbert Rodenkirchen, medieval transverse flute
Norbert Rodenkirchen studied flute at the Staatliche Musikhochschule Köln with Hans Martin Mueller and Günther Höller. He has been the regular flute player of the internationally renowned medieval ensemble Sequentia since 1996, and also works regularly with the French-Croatian ensemble Dialogos directed by Katarina Livljanic. With both ensembles he has been invited to numerous international festivals. Norbert Rodenkirchen additionally collaborates intensively in a medieval duo project with the acclaimed singer Sabine Lutzenberger.
He is also much in demand as a composer of music for theater and film, as well as a producer for CD projects. His main partner in modern music is the violinist and composer Albrecht Maurer. Norbert Rodenkirchen as served as artistic director of the concert series “Schnuetgen Konzerte – Musik des Mittelalters” in the medieval museum of Cologne. Additionally he has given workshops on medieval instrumental improvisation at renowned academies like Mozarteum Salzburg, Musikhochschule Koeln (Cologne), Schola Cantorum Basiliensis or Conservatory of Lyon, a.o.. In 2012 he released his third solo CD Hameln Anno 1284 / Medieval flute music / On the trail of the Pied Piper and was invited with that program to many outstanding festivals and early music series in Boston, Vancouver, Oslo, Paradyz, Copenhagen, Moscow, nd elsewhere.
In 2016 Norbert Rodenkirchen celebrated two personally important anniversaries: 20 years as a member of Sequentia, and 15 years of the solo programme Tibia ex Tempore.