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Songs of love and devotion

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”
– Alphonse de Lamartine

Music has been, in the long, murmuring flow of tide and time, a way in which we express that what is felt but to which words alone give scant meaning. From the first psalms of David until the protest songs of today, words and harmony have combined to give hope, vent anger, express our deepest emotions and record the thoughts of time. In the 16th and 17th centuries, after the awakening of unhindered thought through the Renaissance, music and song became much more personal. This new dawn ushered in a great flowering of prose and music which shone a light on aspects of human existence which had for many years been repressed or marginalized. Poetic subjects like love and loss, which had been in use among the highest classes of society in the Middle Ages, came to the fore in all of music. These new strands of expression intertwined with the existing ideas of unwavering devotion to form some of the most powerful and true music of the age.

Our program “Songs of Love, Loss and Devotion” brings together the many disparate means of personal expression which were cultivated during the 16th and 17th centuries. From the desolate anguish of Barbara Strozzi’s Che si può fare to the vibrant amorousness of Tarquinio Merula’s Aria sopra la ciaccona, the vast range of emotions which blossomed in the nourishing light of the Renaissance are harmoniously woven together. The idea of personal suffering as a way to redemption, so forcefully brought to the fore by the Reformation, are clearly woven into the English lute songs of John Dowland. The French preoccupation with amorous love are seen in striking relief in the airs de cour of François Richard. The veneration of the earliest texts of devotion in the Psalms of David are given a new and serene fluidity in the settings of Nicolas Vallet. And the myriad expressions of despair, rapturous grief and enveloping love shine through in the songs of Claudio Monteverdi, Giovani Battista Alveri and Giacomo Carissimi. By combining these disparate threads of 17th century perspectives on the melding of faith and emotion, our program offers a peek into the glory which flowered in the humanistic glow of the Renaissance.