There follows the preamble to my Innsbruck performance, explained in more detail in the piece linked below:
Did anyone by any chance come to this soiree primarily to hear me sing a silly song? Good, because on this occasion I’m going to perform a serious piece, for the first time since I was at school.
- Heinrich Isaac was a Netherlandish (Flemish) Renaissance composer who died 500 years ago this year;
- Prolific composer of beautiful sacred music, but by far his best-known work is a secular song, Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen – Innsbruck I must leave you.
- If there had been Euro pop charts back in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Innsbruck would probably have been number one in the charts for decades. Greensleeves probably originated more than 50 years later, but in mainland Europe, Innsbruck was probably still number one for decades even after Greensleeves turned up. Many hymns, cantatas and songs are based on the Innsbruck tune, not least several Bach works;
- the first document mentioning Isaac’s name dates back to September 1484, placing him in Innsbruck as a singer for Duke Sigismund of Austria;
- documents show that by July 1485 Isaac had relocated to Florence, employed as a singer at the church Santa Maria del Fiore…
- so it is likely that Isaac wrote his Innsbruck song c1485;
- c1485 is an interesting year. Not least, c1485 is the exact circa year of Sir Richard Gresham’s birth;
- 1485 is also the year when Richard III failed to trade his kingdom for a horse, ending up interred in a Leicester car park, marking the start of Tudor England;
- so it seems right to perform Innsbruck for The Gresham Society in this lovely Tudor Hall;
- To try and give the song an authentic early Tudor sound, I found a delightful expert on early music Ian Pittaway, who wrote the tablature arrangement I’m going to play you and has coached me to play my instrument better, not least the Tudor-stylee I shall try today;
- The difference between messing about with comedy music (my usual thing) and having a genuine go at performing in a Renaissance style, in German, is enormous. I have learnt a lot about early music and also about myself by attempting this;
- You’ll hear three verses. The first laments having to leave Innsbruck. The second laments having to leave a true love behind. The third verse professes faithfulness and virtue ahead of an intended return to Innsbruck;
- It is a beautiful song and I hope I can do it justice for you tonight.
- Much of his working life in Florence; a close associate of Lorenzo de’ Medici. A contemporary of Josquin des Prez – agent’s letter to the court of Este comparing Josquin with Isaac – “[Isaac] is of a better disposition among his companions, and he will compose new works more often. It is true that Josquin composes better, but he composes when he wants to and not when one wants him to.” Isaac got the job;
- Lutheran chorale, “O Welt, ich muß dich lassen”, the 17th century hymn “In allen meinen Taten” by Paul Fleming and later still Bach’s chorale cantata In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97 and also elements of the St Matthew’s Passion.