Released in December 2020!
|Joy to the person of my love
|In a Garden so green
|Wo worth the time
|Like as the Lark
|When chyle cold age
|Satan, my foe, full of iniquity
|Begone, sweet night
|Your minor beauties of the night
|John Dowland (1563–1626)
|Awake, sweet love
|Thomas Campion (1567–1620)
|What if a day, or a month
|Now, Oo now, I needs must part
#1 Joy to the person of my love, fragment, 2 min 27 sec, mp3, 320 Kbps
#7 Satan, my foe, full of iniquiti, fragment, 4 min 3 sec, mp3, 320 Kbps
Performed by: Maria Valdmaa (soprano) and Mikko Perkola (viola da gamba)
Recorded: January 5th–7th, 2020, in Arvo Pärt Centre, Estonia
Vocal consultant – Vitali Rozynko
Recording, editing and mastering – Tanel Klesment / AudioMaja
Liner notes by David Lee
Booklet compiled by Meeta Morozov
Photos by Toomas Volkmann
Design – Kaire van der Toorn-Guthan
Artistic producer – Peeter Vähi
Liner notes in Estonian and English
Total time 56:09
℗ + © 2020 Maria Valdmaa, ERP
In mainstream histories of seventeenth-century European music, Scotland rarely (if ever) features. While radical musical developments were taking place across the continent – in Italy, France, Germany, and just south of the border in England – music in Scotland is generally regarded as having languished during the 104 years between the Union of the Crowns (1603) and the Treaty of Union (1707).
Despite seventeenth-century Scots being comparatively well educated and literate, there are a number of reasons why music played a less prominent role in the nation’s history. First, after the Reformation in 1560, the Calvinist Church of Scotland became increasingly disdainful toward elaborate church music. It successively dissolved and downgraded the ecclesiastical institutions that had traditionally trained and employed professional singers and musicians. Second, after James VI of Scotland became James I of England and moved his court from Edinburgh to London (finding the English church more in line with his increasingly absolutist leanings), many of the foremost musicians also departed. Third, despite a small amount of evidence that high-quality music-making took place in some centres, with only a limited market, music publishing never really took off in Scotland – and the surviving manuscript sources construct a confusing and somewhat patchy picture of the country’s historical musical practices.
One of the most important surviving sources is the [Cantus], Songs and Fancies (1662), a book of songs published in Aberdeen by John Forbes and son, printer to both the university and town. Forbes’s collection was the first – and, in fact, only – collection of secular music to be printed in Scotland during the seventeenth century. Revised editions were issued in 1666 and 1682. Confusingly, it is not clear which John Forbes was responsible for the book’s initial publication; both father and son were named John. In 1662, the town council made a payment of “one hundred Merks Scots” to the elder Forbes; however, in the dedication prefacing the 1682 edition, the younger Forbes stated that he had enjoyed “the Good Opportunity some Years ago, at two several Occasions” to present copies of the book.
In any case, the print’s existence is best understood against the cultural backdrop of the city in which it was published. Better known in recent times as the hub of the UK’s oil and gas industry, Aberdeen has a colourful history, as an important centre of scholarship and musical activity. With a relatively small population of around 10,000 at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was home to two universities, King’s College and Marischal College, which later merged to become the University of Aberdeen. Situated in the north-east of Scotland, far from the other urban centres and ancient universities concentrated in the central belt, Aberdeen was slow to accept the tenets of the Reformation. Indeed, there is much to suggest that Catholicism persisted in the city well into the seventeenth century, and that a number of its churches upheld some of the musical traditions of the old faith. While most seventeenth-century Presbyterian congregations in Scotland were limited to singing metrical psalms to the twelve so-called “Common Tunes”, there is clear evidence that higher levels of musical practice continued in Aberdeen into the latter decades of the century.
Although the collection has come to be most commonly associated with the name of its printer, the title page of the 1662 edition states that the print contains “Songs and Fancies… As is taught in the Musick Schole of ABERDENE by T. D. Mr. of Musick”. This suggests its contents were actually compiled by Thomas Davidson (whose name was included in full in the revised 1666 edition). From 1640 until 1675, Davidson was Master of Music at the music school (or “Sang Schule” in Scots) that was attached to New Aberdeen’s St Nicholas Kirk.
During the sixteenth century, the school was led by a number of eminent musicians, notably including John Fethy, who apparently spent time studying and working abroad (though it is not entirely clear precisely where). Despite music’s precarious position following the Scottish Reformation, Aberdeen somehow maintained its Sang Schule for the duration. Indeed, from the early part of the seventeenth century onward, the city supported two music schools: the Old Machar School in the burgh of Old Aberdeen, and the Musick Schole in New Aberdeen referred to in Forbes’s print. The ethos of the school, as decreed by the burgh council, was “music, manners and virtue”, and the curriculum centred on reading, writing and arithmetic, which were taught to boys separately from music.
Although the title page declares that the collection contains songs in “Thre[e], Foure, or Five Partes”, only the so-called cantus book was ever published, providing just a single musical line. It seems likely the print was intended partly as a teaching aid, to improve the boys’ sight-reading and/or as a means of learning the top parts for popular pieces that were known to also be circulating in manuscript at the time. Preceding the songs themselves is a highly condensed introduction to music theory and notation, overtly based on Thomas Morley’s A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Music (1597).
The repertory of the Songs and Fancies is diverse, if somewhat backward-looking. The books juxtapose the top parts of elaborate polyphonic songs of the late-fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, which set texts by leading Scottish Renaissance poets including Robert Aytoun, Alexander Montgomerie and Alexander Scott, alongside simple strophic ballads. It also includes songs by the pre-eminent English composers of the late-Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, such as Thomas Morley, Thomas Campion and John Dowland – with several of them adapted to fit new texts. An additional purpose of the print seems to have been conserving older repertoire predating the United Kingdom’s civil wars, perhaps further demonstrating the conservative culture that prevailed in Aberdeen during the seventeenth century. However, in the 1682 edition, the compiler (thought to be Louis de France, who succeeded Thomas Davidson as Master of the music school) also elected to include six Italian songs by Gastoldi, as well as a further seven English airs.
All the pieces (with the exception of the improvisations and the final vocal work) on this recording are included in Forbes’s first edition, of which only one copy survives, now in the Huntington Library, California. However, several – such as the haunting Joy to the person of my love – feature in all three editions. This song in particular must have been popular during the seventeenth century, judging from its presence in several other Scottish sources. Despite the ostensibly secular nature of the print, many of the texts adopt a distinctly moral tone. Satan, my foe is a reworking of the well-known ballad Fortune, my foe, known to have been sung at public executions in England (though the tune is believed to have originated in Ireland).
One of the remarkable features of the Songs and Fancies is in the way it blends, without comment, two languages, with songs in both Scots and English. Though the two tongues became increasingly close from the early eighteenth century onward, in the mid-seventeenth century they would have been regarded as two recognisably different languages (in fact, Aberdeenshire maintained a distinctive dialect well into the twentieth century known as Doric, which can still occasionally be heard today). Forbes’s print – which was presumably aimed at the emergent middle-class market and reflective of the repertory of the music school rather than the nobility – thus additionally gives some insight into the coexistence of two vernaculars. Compared with the anonymous Scottish ballads, the English songs reflect their composers’ experience with more refined and established poetic forms, popularised by the burgeoning commercial market in London for printed collections of lute songs. John Dowland’s exquisite Awake, sweet love is based on the courtly galliard, with the gently descending melodic profile of each successive verse conveying the lover’s increasing sense of hopefulness. Likewise, the sequential phrases of Thomas Campion’s What if a day, or a month show the composer consciously rendering the temporal relativism of the poetic text, with the creation an instantly memorable melody.
Curiously, although Forbes’s title refers to both songs and “fancies”, there are no obviously instrumental pieces within any of the three books’ contents (although, of course, the songs could easily be played instrumentally). The most common instruments taught in Scottish schools at the time were the viol, lute and harpsichord. Consequently, on this recording, as well as providing an accompaniment to the songs, Mikko provides a series of instrumental improvisations meditating on the collection’s musical language from a twenty-first-century perspective.
Though the music on this recording provides only a relatively small snapshot of the Songs and Fancies, it nonetheless provides a fascinating insight into one of the murkier areas of European musical history. And in offering possible answers to the questions posed by the sources, it seeks to restore some sense of what Forbes hailed as the “famous Ornament of Vocall and Instrumentall Musick” that characterised Aberdeen as it endured the turmoils of the mid-seventeenth century.
Soprano Maria Valdmaa has received international acclaim as a performer of both early and contemporary music. She appears regularly with some of Europe’s foremost ensembles, as well as in the USA and Asia. Maria began her vocal studies at the Georg Ots Music School in Tallinn, and continued at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with Rita Dams and Barbara Pearson. She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Early Music and Historical Performance Practice there, under the supervision of Jill Feldman, Michael Chance and
Peter Kooji. Maria has also participated in several masterclasses and deepened her knowledge of sixteenth and seventeenth-century repertoire with Andrés Locatelli and Fabio Bonizzoni. Maria has won prizes at several Baroque singing competitions, including second prize at the Premia Fatima Terzo competition in Italy (2013) and the second prize and audience prize at the Handel Singing Competition in London (2014).
Maria is frequently engaged as a soloist for the large-scale works of the Baroque era, including Bach’s St John Passion, St Matthew Passion and several cantatas; Mozart’s Requiem, Monteverdi’s Vespers, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Semele, Alexander’s Feast and others. In the field of contemporary music, Maria is particularly noted
as an interpreter of the music of Arvo Pärt, most recently performing as a soloist in Adam’s Passion at Berlin’s Konzerthaus with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tõnu Kaljuste, with whom she enjoys a close collaboration. Maria has also worked with distinguished conductors including John Butt, Kaspars Putniņš, Thomas Zehetmair, Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Andres Mustonen. Maria has performed as a soloist with many leading orchestras and choirs, including the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonietta Riga, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Concerto Copenhagen and Dutch Radio Choir. As a consort singer, she has worked with with ensembles including Il Gardellino, Dunedin Consort, Vox
Luminis, Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Collegium 1704 and Huelgas Ensemble.
Mikko Perkola – finnish viola da gamba player and singer – studied at the Päijät-Häme Conservatory, the Sibelius Academy, and the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He has performed and recorded as a chamber musician across the world, and his recordings of Bach’s three viola da gamba sonatas (2008) and François Couperin’s suites (2011) have been highly praised.
Perkola also performs in many genres beyond Early Music and collaborates with jazz musicians, dancers, visual and contemporary music artists. His current projects include duo work with saxophonist Jukka Perko and concerts as a member of Quartet Ajaton. He also tours with his solo programme Without the Name You Are Light, in which he performs poetry of Tomi Kontio. Mikko’s solo performances and touring appearances with Finnish National Theatre and Lahti City Theatre have taken him to centres for refugees and asylum seekers. He has also performed in Finnish prisons, creating theatre with prisoners in several projects.