The Power of Time and the Magnificence of Music: From Ludford to Vecchi

The Power of Time and the Magnificence of Music: From Ludford to Vecchi

admin / December 27, 2018

Introduction

The music of the Middle Ages is the church music, solemn and religious. However, that does not mean that the musical pieces before the Reformation and in the post-Tridentine period were completely the same. Due to the differences between the Catholic and the Lutheran branches of Christianity, the music changed greatly as well.

However, each piece depended on the personal background of composers. Despite the change, some of them still performed in the traditional pre-Reformation way, whereas some switched to another way of composing. A good example of pre-Reformation music was a composer named Nicholas Ludford. His Lady Masses were filled with the air of the Catholic ideas.

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To contrast him to the new, post-Tridentine epoch, one can pick Orazio Vecchi as an example of post-Tridentine music. Each of the composers created the pieces that reprinted their epochs, with the specifics and the peculiarities of each period.

Pre-Reformation: Ludford’s Lady Masses

Nicholas Ludford was known as the composer of the pre-Reformation period. Though he created music in 1550ies as well, Ludford belonged to good old Catholic composers. With his impressive talent, he made the pieces which struck people’s imagination. One of the most well-known pieces of his is the incredible Lady Masses.

It is curious that no one can date these pieces precisely. All what the contemporary musical experts can say is that these compositions belong to the pre-Reformation era.

Sunday Lady Mass is a good example of pre-Reformation music. In this piece, Ludford expressed the Catholic pre-Reformation ideas most brightly. Each chord is ringing with the truly Catholic delight and magnificence.

Perhaps, Ludford’s background influenced his manner of composing music. Together with his talent, the education that he got made him so great and his music so perfect. Knowing more about his early years, one can see the origins of his musical ideas.

Like the history of his compositions, most of Nicholas’s life is a mystery. Despite his popularity in the Catholic Church and his great fame, his life is a closed book.

No one knows for sure why the great composer preferred to hide the details of his life, but the fact is that he never told much to biographers. Thus, there was a time when people believed that he belonged to the Royal Chapel. This could explain his brilliance and his music talents. Moreover, this signified his noble origins. Further explorations prove this fact wrong:

An examination of the Calendar, however, revealed the fact that although the accounts of the Dean of the Chapel are given for March 1520, Ludford’s name does not appear in them; yet his name does occur in the succeeding entry recording.[1]

This means that Ludford was perhaps not of quote noble origin. However, this only emphasizes his great talent – his genius, to be precise. The very first chords of his compositions speak of his incredible genius.

There is no doubt that Ludford had great support from the local authorities until he grew old: “he was granted an exemption ‘from serving on juries and from being made escheator, coroner, collector of taxes, constable, or other officer”[2]. However, as time passed, he lost this influence:

[…] it may be assumed that the exemption arose from Ludford’s connexion with the Court, and was probably due to some serious accident or illness, for it could scarcely be on the score of old age, as the composer was then on the sunny side of sixty.[3]

This must have influenced Ludford greatly, and he stopped composing music. As he lost his privileges, eh lost the will to compose – his desire to create faded away. However, he would have many followers who would develop his music. Although the great composer enjoyed his fame for quite short time, the next generations appreciated his compositions and worshipped his genius.

Nicholas Ludford was the child of the pre-Reformation period, which means that his compositions were rich and powerful chords of organ music. Listening to Sunday Lady Mass, one can hear Catholicism itself in it. His creations were powerful cadence of sound, floating like a river. Music experts compare him to Fayrfax and his pre-Reformation music:

The counterpoint is at least as fluent and facile as that of Fayrfax, and is also of a rather more advanced character, the parts often entering one after another with points of imitation, showing a transition to a later style.[4]

Sunday Lady Mass bore the features of the pre-Reformation period; it was filled with grandeur and power. The magnificent sounds created an impression of something great and almost incredible. Each emotion is exaggerated in Ludford’s compositions. His music evokes the loftiest feelings.

Ludford was heart and soul of the pre-Reformation music and the Catholic Church music. His pieces were spiritual and impressive. Like any pre-Reformation composer, he filled his music with real spirituality.

Post-Tridentine: Orazio Vecchi

A genius of the post-Tridentine period, Orazio Vecchi deserves great attention. His manner reflects the religious and the political changes which happened to the church in the post-Tridentine period. As the Lutheran Church appeared, the religious music underwent great changes. Although the music rhythm remained the same, the character of the melody changed completely. As the post-Tridentine period began, the music became less ceremonious and solemn. Vecchi’s pieces reflect the epoch perfectly well.

Compared to Nicholas Ludford, Orazio Vecchi and his life are much more well-known. A post-Tridentine Italian composer, he was a genius himself.

Vecchi wrote the music much more emotional in his music. The author of madrigals[5] and other uprising melodies, he suited the post-Tridentine epoch best. He featured the essence of the epoch in his works and contributed to the church music greatly.

One of the most incredible things about Vecchi was the influence of the South Italian music – Vecchi was the North Italian composer[6]. Mixing the two styles, he found the golden mean and turned it into a triumph of Catholic music. He created a fusion of the styles, which was rather unexpected for a post-Tridentine composer.

Comparing Orazio to Ludford, one can say that Vecchi’s music was less stiff. Mostrau’en Ciel was more vivacious compared to Sunday Lady Mass. While Nicholas Ludford preserved the traditional ceremonious tone, Vecchi stuck to the new, less conservative style. However, that does not make Orazios’ music less significant.

Orazio had a perfect, truly unstained reputation among the Catholics. Through all the years of writing music for the Catholic Church, he was considered the most brilliant musician, and the most respected person. Such attitudes can be explained by the great piety of the musician.

In addition, the chapel-master of Padua, Orazio wrote madrigals for solo voice and basso continuo[7]. Writing his scripts in quasi-notation style, he stood at the beginning of the music devised for guitar[8].

Although this can sound strange, the excessive stiffness of the Catholic music led to the guitar-style melodies. Orazio Vecchi was also known as the first composer who wrote music in ballet style[9].

This was not considered as something unnatural and outrageous, though. Vecchi did not abandon the old manner of composing – he merely added new features to the old music. He did not break the old traditions, but simply added new ideas to the traditional music.

Thus, Orazio was another genius of the post-Tridentine epoch. A decent follower of the pre-Reformation music style, he opened a new page of church music. With his genius, the Italian music became well-known all over the world.

His education and lifestyle influenced his manner of composing greatly. Though he was not of noble origin, he climbed to the top of the then aristocracy.

As Pike says, his life was always connected with church and music somehow: “Vecchi, a poet and composer, was lowly born, took holy orders, and became a canon, then archdeacon, at Correggio Cathedral”[10]. With such experience, he had all chances to become a prominent music composer.

His talent led him to the top and made him a famous composer of the post-Tridentine period: “Nevertheless he was highly enough thought of as musicians to be entrusted – along with Balbi and Giovanni Gabrielli”[11].

Works Cited

Flood, William Henry Grattan. Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555. Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1968. Print.

Pike, Lionel. Pills to Purge Melancholy: The evolution of the English Ballet. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2004. Print.

Roden, Timothy, Crag Wright and Bryan Simms. Anthology for Music in Western Civilization. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Tyler, James and Paul Sparks. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Flood, William Henry Grattan. Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1968), 73
Flood, William Henry Grattan. Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1968), 74
Flood, William Henry Grattan. Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1968), 74-75
Flood, William Henry Grattan. Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1968), 75
Roden, Timothy, Crag Wright and Bryan Simms. Anthology for Music in Western Civilization. Vol. 1 (Thousand Oaks, CA: Cengage Learning, 2009), 194
Tyler, James and Paul Sparks. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007)
Tyler, James and Paul Sparks. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007) 39
Tyler, James and Paul Sparks. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007) 39
Pike, Lionel. Pills to Purge Melancholy: The evolution of the English Ballet (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2004) 9
Pike, Lionel. Pills to Purge Melancholy: The evolution of the English Ballet (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2004), 9
Pike, Lionel. Pills to Purge Melancholy: The evolution of the English Ballet (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2004), 9

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Hi!
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