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We'll spend time:

• January - Medieval & Renaissance music
• February - Baroque
• March - Baroque
• April - Classical
• May - Classical
• June - Classical
• July - Early-Romantic
• August - Mid and Late Romantic
• September - Late and Post-Romantic
• October - Modern
• November - Modern
• December - Contemporary
I could not spend one day listening to music from the Classical period, much less three months. I won't be joining you on this journey.
 

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My favorite work from the Medieval period is the Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut.

My comments about this work can be found in an article I posted on my blog, Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame : an overview, which despite having been written in 2015 is still fairly current. However, for some reason I did not include what is my favorite recording of it, this one:

Taverner Consort & Taverner Choir - Andrew Parrott, dir.
Angel S 38 044 [LP]; EMI (also VSM & HMV) Reflexe 1C 067 (also ASD) 1 43576-1 (or -4) [LP or Cassette]
Rec.: 1983



At the bottom of the article there is a link to a complete discography, at least complete at the time I posted the article.
 

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Join me on a years journey through classical music from medieval to contemporary.

You may be a beginner who, like me a year ago, wants to discover and listen to music that is highly recommended in each period. You might be a fan of one composer, or a lover of one period, and be interested to discover more of other composers or other music. You might be an experienced listener who is interested to share your knowledge with others in an accessible way. Whatever your motivation, I hope you'll find this thread tio be of value.

We'll spend time:

• January - Medieval & Renaissance music
• February - Baroque
• March - Baroque
• April - Classical
• May - Classical
• June - Classical
• July - Early-Romantic
• August - Mid and Late Romantic
• September - Late and Post-Romantic
• October - Modern
• November - Modern
• December - Contemporary

For composers who are known for both standard works and opera, we'll cover their recommended operas as we go. For composers who are almost exlusively known for opera only, we'll group them into weeks 13, 26, 39 and 52.

The journey begins on 1st January 2022. Join me for the full journey or link in when it suits your listening. I hope there'll be plenty of discussion, and only ask that whatever you share remains positive and helpful to those with perhaps less experience and knowledge than you.
I do not intend any offense, but I am truly confused. May I ask, "what is the purpose of this thread?"

When I read your OP I was under the impression that we could offer our ideas about composers and recordings from the period under discussion. But what I've noticed since the beginning of the actual discussion, you seem to be working from some list of composers. And free recommendations appear to be unwelcome, since when I offered the Machaut Messe, you posted something about he Ars Nova to be discussed in the next week. A comment which confused me, since there had been no weekly list of topics.

Also, concerning the troubadours, I was about to post about my favorite collection fo recordings, which contain most, if not all, of the existing music available. But stopped when I saw your post talking about levels, and specific composers.

Where did these levels come from? And why are they important? These posts have cased me to wonder "what is the purpose for this thread?" IOW, do you have some end result in mind you are trying to achieve?
 

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You're right. The thread is suffering as result of my lack of time on Saturday and the consequent rushed start to proceedings. My apologies. Let me clarify.

The prime purpose of this thread is to guide beginners to the best classical music to listen to. The thread is about the listener, no so much about the music - there are plenty of threads and resources for that and we can link to them. The thread may have a number of side-benefits. For example, there's a thread started today titled, "Where to start with Sibelius' symphonies?" As we cover each time period, this thread may help to answer that type of question.

You input is most welcome. I had neglected to clarify specifically that this week we're looking at early medieval and Ars Antiqua. Ars Nova comes next week. I smiled at your otherwise very helpful recommendation since I'd originally planned to cover both in one week, so it would have been the 'Work of the Week', but separated them at Mandryka 'suggestion' that we should spend a little more time in Medieval and Renaissance. I'm sorry if you thought I felt your suggestion was unwelcome. It was not.

So, where does the list come from and what are the, "Levels"? In researching for myself last year, I identified nearly forty sources of recommendations for classical listening. They include classical radio stations in the US, UK and Australia, publications like the Guardian and WSJ, academic resources, books and internet content including our own Talk Classical listings. I made a judgement on the quality and provenance of the recommendations, excluding those that I felt were not adequate.

My judgement is that the more reccommendations any individual work received, the more likely it is that it should be recommended to a beginner. In collating the data, I happened to group the works into seven categories or levels:

Level 1 - works that received 22 recommendations or more
Level 2 - works that received between 16 and 21 recommendations
Level 3 - 11-15 recommendations
Level 4 - 7-10 recommendations
Level 5 - 4-6 recommendations
Level 6 - 2-3 recommendations
Level 7 - 1 recommendation

There's no specific logic behind the seven levels. They just happened.

Each week I plan to share the list. In an ideal world were there a works at each level, that will be one post per day sharing each level as we progress through the week. After that we can do what we want with it. Let it just sit here. Discuss the works. Answer any questions someone asks. The thread will flourish or wither based on the interaction. I hope it flourishes.

Next week we'll cover Ars Nova and composers born before 1400. After that there'll be a week of Josquin and his contemporaries, then Byrd/Tallis/Lassus, then Monteverdi ....
Thanks for clarifying, I seem to remember you did post those levels, but it confused me since I didn't know what they meant.

Anyway, good luck with the journey, it seems like a worthwhile effort, although a bit too structured for my normal approach. I will chime in when I have something that might fit the weekly topic/period/level.
 

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My preferred version is the same as SanAntone:



While the mass is very good, it's not my favourite element of Machaut's music by a long chalk. That would have to be the motets or the songs
I can understand that. While I think the Messe is a masterpiece, I too also enjoy the long narrative poems/songs, like Le Remedie de Fortune - and this recording of it:



Marc Mauillon, Angelique Mauillon, Vivabiancaluna Biffi, Pierre Hamon
 

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Fyi to OP and anyone else trying to get a handle on changes in western music through history - I became very interested in this topic and scoured the internet (i.e. published academic research available on the internet) for information -

All of these recordings NEED to be understood as 'creative reinterpretation' at best, regardless of what the liner notes may imply... there are HUGE largely-unanswerable questions about fundamental aspects of performance - singers' tone production (this means, the difference between opera voice, European folk voice, 'middle eastern singing' voice, Chinese opera voice, etc. - these norms are subjective and change dramatically over time), ornamentation (adding all kinds of extra notes, sliding between notes, etc.), use of instruments, tempo, rhythmic emphasis, etc...

Even today's performance style for Mozart is drastically different from the performance style that you hear on really old recordings from like 1910-20, so imagine hundreds more years of changing tastes (and without the impact of widely-available recordings keeping everybody more on the same page!).

Western notation started as a memory aid to help preserve a more complex oral tradition, nobody would've been expected to learn how to sing a piece just from looking at the notes.

Also, if you know the famous history of polyphony evolving out of monophony at Notre-Dame - it's actually becoming clear now that there was already an established tradition of improvised polyphony, which the Notre-Dame composers drew on. That's just one example of a little detail that suddenly upends the established image of the past on which many of these recordings are built.

Suffice to say it is MORE THAN LIKELY that the music of Perotinus or Leoninus etc. sounded, in its day, almost nothing like you hear on record, and, as a related point, it is an illusion that western music 'started simple and became more complex over time' - what IS true is that NOTATION became more complex and more important over time, and complexity was redistributed into forms visible in the notation (i.e. structural/'architectural' complexity gradually became more prominent)...

I would be happy to provide recommendations of the relatively few records which actually DO try to explore genuine variety of approaches to performance.

EDIT: to avoid getting into 'well, what is complexity, how do you measure it' - what I really mean is, it is an illusion that western music NECESSARILY 'started simple and became more complex over time' just because of increases in notational complexity - notation is not evidence enough. Also want to acknowledge that obviously 'almost nothing like you hear on record' is totally subjective, I don't want anyone saying 'well they got the notes right' (even there we have questions - look up 'musica ficta' - even into the 1500s it was standard for performers to add sharps and flats to the score DURING performance!)
I appreciate what you y in this post, and the subject has been covered in depth by Richard Taruskin. But, the Early Music movement is well established and has many exponents all of whom do not share the same philosophy concerning authenticity.

For myself I think the idea of authenticity is a red herring.

I am happy for the plethora of recordings of music from earlier epochs and have my favored groups and recordings, and that is enough. In my own mind I have found the kind of "authentic" performances I think are supported by good scholarship and sound stylistic footing, and go with those.
 

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Skipping straight to Dunstable past the Ars Subtilior?
Right. Johannes Ciconia (c. 1370 - between 10 June and 13 July 1412) was an important Flemish composer and music theorist of trecento music during the late Medieval era. He was born in Liège, but worked most of his adult life in Italy, particularly in the service of the papal chapels in Rome and later and most importantly at Padua Cathedral.

 

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Another important composer that was left out by OP - Philippe de Vitry (31 October 1291 - 9 June 1361) was a French composer, music theorist and poet. He was an accomplished, innovative, and influential composer, and may also have been the author of the Ars Nova treatise. He was widely acknowledged as the greatest musician of his day, with Petrarch writing a glowing tribute, calling him: "... the keenest and most ardent seeker of truth, so great a philosopher of our age."

 

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The context of this discussion is whether Perotin drew on an established polyphonic tradition. I mean obviously he did because he was extremely familiar with two part polyphony, but the idea is that the sort of complexity of three part music was already familiar, maybe not notated.

I'm sure Perotin was aware of polyphony by the way. Everyone who's taken a walk in the woods in Spring and bothered to listen to the birds is aware of polyphony. The question is whether he already understood three part polyphony as music before writing down some of it himself, and in doing so making some church hit songs.
It is a natural evolution from two part polyphony to adding third and fourth parts. I wouldn't read too much into it. It has been assumed that Pérotin pioneered the styles of organum triplum and organum quadruplum - since his are the only surviving examples. But it does not stand to reason that he was alone in this.

And it need not have been improvised, although it makes no difference even if it was - the style was eventually codified in the Magnus Liber Organi which Pérotin officially revised.

Much of this work was making more concise, shortening sections, in the wake of Leonin's duplum. This second part had to be sung fast, consisting sometimes in as many as 40 notes to a single syllable of text caused the meaning to become lost. Pérotin often added a third voice to these revised pieces. (Roesner, Edward (2001a). "Perotinus [Perrotinus, Perotinus Magnus, Magister Perotinus, Pérotin]". Grove Music Online)

"Two styles emerged from the organum duplum, the "florid" and "discant" (discantus). The former was more typical of Léonin, the latter of Pérotin, though this indirect attribution has been challenged. Anonymous IV described Léonin as optimus organista (the best composer of organa) but Pérotin, who revised the former's Magnus Liber Organi (Great Organum Book), as optimus discantor referring to his discant composition. In the original discant organum duplum, the second voice follows the cantus firmus, note on note but at an interval, usually a fourth above. By contrast, in the florid organum, the upper or vox organalis voice wove shorter notes around the longer notes of the lower tenor chant." (Berger, Anna Maria Busse (2005). Medieval Music and the Art of Memory; Vellard, Dominique (1986). Ecole de Notre-Dame de Paris 1163-1245: Monodies et polyphones vocales (Liner notes) (CD); Planchart, Alejandro Enrique (2000). Organum. pp. 23-51.)
 

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So can we all agree that there was no three part polyphonic music in Europe before Perotin, as far as we know?
We can't know for sure, there's no way to prove a negative - but it is hard to believe Pérotin was alone. I don't think anything survives (even anonymous) other than Pérotin's works - so I suppose we have to be satisfied with that answer.
 

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But how would we know? 3-part polyphony over a drone like Perotin's Viderunt Omnes can be found in folk music in Georgia and the Balkans, and scholars view this as predating the fourth century introduction of Christianity. We have no idea what pre-Christian German music sounded like.
But that is beside the point since Pérotin and others would not have heard or known of it. What we know of music prior to the Notre Dame School is chant, is Jewish synagogue tropes - pre-Christian, but this is also where the early Christian prayer service originated.

When this Jewish chanting made it way to Italy and France, it became Gregorian chant, which then led directly to the organum of Leonin and Perotin. I think the traditions of Western Europe and the East you mention are distinct and one did not influence the other.

This is my objection to much of what Marcel Peres does, bringing in singing styles from Eastern styles in the performance of Western chant. I think he does it because he likes the sound of it, not based on sound scholarship. I could be wrong, but that is my gut feeling.
 

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Certainly. But it seems to me implicit in, for example, any narrative of medieval music which takes Leonin and Perotin as the forefathers of the great polyphonic tradition, instead of something like, 'we know these two guys existed and at one time and one place were held in high esteem, but we don't know all these other things that plausibly could've been true that would totally reorient our understanding of their importance'.

I feel like this is Schmelzer's whole thing, which I used to see as a bit of schtick but now am totally in sympathy with - the idea that the only non-absurd response to the scraps of information we think we have, in the field of early music performance, is to just freely spin off into what might appear to be fantasy, because the results are genuinely just as 'historically informed' as the most straight-laced research-synthesizing people.
I don't have any issue with Schmelzer or Peres performing these ancient works with stylistic interpretations coming from anywhere. But Peres, especially, tries to make a scholarly case that he is correct. This is my problem, what I see as propaganda parading as musicology.

Taruskin made the point decades ago that the HIP movement is really a manifestation of post-modernism, i.e. using whatever argumentation we wish to create a whiff of authenticity but really it is an expression of personal taste draped in the clothes of period performance.

That said, I vastly prefer HIP/PI performances/recordings over modern ones which incorporate no aspect of historical accuracy.

There have been some horrid performances of Early Music, Machaut e.g., in which over large choirs, brass instruments, and other inappropriate things are used, or people like Lucien Kandel and his group Ensemble Musica Nova abusing musica ficta to transform Machaut into a composer writing diatonic music.

Schmelzer and Peres are a breath of fresh air even if they err on the opposite end of the spectrum, i.e. trying to conjure an even more exotic sound from music for which we don't have enough information to know exactly how it really sounded.
 

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There is a thread called For Love of Early Music which is a general thread for discussing this long period of music. There are similar threads for each period of music history.

I gather this thread has a specific purpose something like a monthly survey of the entire history of music by considering some works as representing each period as decided by one person.

Okay.
 

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I think I linked to that excellent thread earlier. The idea is not to replace or compete with that or other great threads, but to serve as a resource for new listeners.

The music wasn't decided by one person. Yes, I decided which sources to use, but not the works themselves. The works shown in this thread are the result of surveying nearly forty sources of recommendations including classical radio stations in the US, UK and Australia, books by Swafford and others, academic sources, publications from the US and UK, and internet sources such as our own Talk Classical listings.

For clarity, works listed at:

Level 1 received more than 22 recommendations
Level 2 between 16 and 21 recommendations
Level 3 between 10 and 15 recommendations
Level 4 between 7 and 10 recommendations
Level 5 between 4 and 6 recommendations
Level 6 either 2 or 3 recommendations
Level 7 only 1 recommendation
Noted. ;)

As one of my professors used to say, "proceed with confidence." I always thought he still had doubts, though.
 

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Nothing I can do about that. He's the most recommended composer of the period. There're more composers coming over the weekend.

Not much I can do about that either. I'm already going more slowly through this period than the volume of recommended listening dictates.
The problem is the "recommended listening." There are many composers/works that are worth listening to outside of your list.
 

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Prior to the mass by Machaut, and all those following, are mass sections from two major manuscripts: the Ivrea Codex and the Apt Codex. These manuscripts include most of the Ordinary sections that were used to collate a complete mass. Another important anonymous complete mass is the Tournai Mass, but there are others I can't recall at the moment.

Much of this music has been recorded and is available.

Important composers that I don't think made in onto your list include: Philippe de Vitry, Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht, Gilles de Binchois - and I'm sure others if I were refresh my memory.

Did you include the music of the troubadours? There are over 350 songs that have survived with music, and at least 2500 song texts without music. Probably 200 known troubadours, touveres including even a few female singers/composers.
 

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I quoted you in post #111 to provide the music of de Vitry. Ockeghem is coming tomorrow, Obrecxht on Sunday. de Binchois was in post #121. Troubadours, Trouveres and Minnesangers in post #60.
Looks like I haven't been paying close attention, but this kind of organized listening runs contrary to my instincts. Sorry for any offense my ignorance caused.
 
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