Musica Transpyrenaica: song journeys across European borders

10 March 2020 – 1:15pm

MIC Chapel, Foundation Building, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Eamon Sweeney, guitars

Wolodymyr “Vlad” Smishkewych, tenor

Featuring songs by John and Robert Dowland, tonos by José Marín, airs de cour by Etienne Moulinié and Spanish airs from French collections as well as styles from the Spanish period in Naples, in a programme that is a veritable grand tour of solo song during the 1600s.

Part of the Borderlines Project

The 16th century saw the art of the madrigal take flight across Europe. From its origins in the so-called Burgundian School, it was carried forward through the Renaissance by multiple generations of Franco-Flemish composers, until it found a happy home in Italy with composers such as Cipriano de Rore, Giaches de Wert, Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Luca Marenzio. This last composer’s name would fly back over the Alps, crossing the Continent and the Channel so that in 1588 a certain Nicholas Yonge collected several of Marenzio’s madrigals, setting them to texts in English by poet Thomas Watson. Yonge ordered publisher Thomas East—William Byrd’s assignee—to print them in an anthology titled Musica Transalpina. The success of this collection led Yonge to create two more anthologies in the decade to come and firmly embedded the madrigal style into the Anglophone world of the Renaissance.

The wonderful—and closely related—genre of solo song during the 17th century has an equally interesting and no less travelled story. In their programme ‘Musica Transpyrenaica: song journeys across European borders’, tenor Vlad Smishkewych and guitarist Eamon Sweeney journey across the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, and the Alps too, flying upon wings of song to discover the many paths by which poetry was set to music during the cusp of the 16th to 17th centuries.