Bryan, John (2004) Madame d’Amours – Songs, Dances & Consort Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII. [Composition]

The CD documents recordings that demonstrate research into the application of a hypothetical set of early viols constructed
from late 15th-century Italian iconography to music from the early Tudor period.

Musica Antiqua of London has given two performances of this repertoire, at Trinity College, Cambridge and the Greenwich
International Festival of Early Music, Old Royal Naval College Chapel, London. The latter performance was broadcast on BBC
Radio 3.

This CD records the second stage of research into the earliest viols, as represented in Lorenzo Costa’s painting Madonna and
Child enthroned with SS. Augustine, Posidonius, John & Francis, dated 1497, in San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna.
The research investigated to what extent such early Italian viols might be successfully applied to the repertory surviving from the
early Tudor court. In particular, combining these early viols with other instruments known to have been in Henry VIII’s
possession (recorders, crumhorns, cornett and sackbut, as well as the softer sounding lute, voice and virginal) led to a new
understanding of the capabilities of the instruments. Applying them to a wide repertory originating from Spain, Flanders and
France, as well as to native compositions, also revealed new perceptions of the nature of such music through performance. The
programme deliberately moves from the shawm-based style associated with the bassa danza of the period of Catherine of
Aragon, to the mid-16th-century equal-voiced, composed polyphony of the dances from British Library MS R. App.74 and
Ashton’s complex Maske. In this way a connection is made between the early imported Italian viol consort and its native Tudor
successor. The CD also incorporates innovative improvisatory techniques, especially where pieces appear to be incomplete, or
where harmonic progressions in composed pieces invite spontaneous embellishment.

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