Two programmes based on Fieri’s second album, featuring both new and early music which has travelled across borders.
Musica Transalpina is an anthology of Italian madrigals published in 1588, which were ‘Englished’ by an unknown gentleman for the English public to enjoy. The programme features Italian and Franco-Flemish masters alongside some lesser known composers and one of England’s finest, William Byrd. The concept of meaning ‘emerging’ via translation of texts from something unintelligible to something understandable became the basis for a new commission by Ben Rowarth, ‘Short Walk of a Madman’.
Fieri prides itself in presenting a union of individual soloistic voices, all equally artistically and musically responsible, and Ben Rowarth’s writing particularly showcases this sound. Recent refugee crises have sparked much debate surrounding the nature of national borders, identity, and the inhumane treatment many immigrants experience. Rowarth’s composition reflects the narrative and human emotions involved in the journey of an individual attempting to escape from a place of hardship only to be disappointed at what they find on arrival at their destination, loneliness. The third movement can be heard in this video put together by our collaborator Oliver Payne.
In the same year as the publication of Musica Transalpina, a different sort of invasion would make its mark in history, the Spanish Armada. Between 1554-58 King Philip II of Spain was married to Queen Mary I. Following the death of Mary, Elizabeth I resumed the reformations begun by her half brother prior to the Catholic rule of Philip and Mary. Unhappy with her establishment of Protestantism in England and her interference in the Spanish Netherlands, Philip sent a fleet of one hundred and thirty ships to invade England. During his lifetime, Philip established two chapel choirs, one comprised of Flemish musicians and the other by Spanish. The Spanish music we present today features two giants of the Spanish golden age, Victoria and Lobo. Fieri continues to explore musical journeys with fascinating examples of cultural exchange and influence.
Philippe de Monte was a much featured composer in Musica Transalpina and one of the most prolific madrigal composers of his time. During his time in England Monte may have become acquainted with William Byrd’s father Thomas, then a member of the English Chapel Royal, and through him, his young son. The two composers must have maintained a friendship as in 1583, Monte sent Byrd a manuscript for a motet for eight voices, Super Flumina Babylonis. Byrd responded by setting the second part of the psalm Quomodo Cantabimus also for eight voices which was sent across the seas to Monte in 1584.