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THE BEGINNINGS OF PIANO MUSIC

From Cabezón to Frescobaldi to William Byrd

Uplifting, that's how I want the new year to be after the challenges of 2020. Today sees the release of my new single, a piano arrangement of Handel's aria Ombra mai fu. King Xerxes' Ode to the Shady Sycamore is a baroque masterpiece that still touches us today - graceful and uplifting, a soulful start to the new year.

I'd like to take you a little further back in music history with this blog post. A new recording of the first edition of my series of works Living sound world will be released on January 22. Much better recording quality has motivated me to re-release the series. Look forward to High-Resolution Audio.

The musical journey leads into the 16th and 17th century. Lively Sound World Vol. 1 includes great names of European masters who, however, are hardly known outside the sworn classical music audience. Antonio de Cabezón, Girolamo Frescobaldi, William Byrd and others are rarities of early music. Compositionally, a great deal developed during this period, from musical notation to instrument construction to composition. These developments are what we will be discussing here today.

Masters of polyphony: Cabezón and Frescobaldi

My exploration of classical piano music could not but begin where the first reliable notations for keyboard instruments originated: in the age of the Renaissance. Notation systems used until then relied on oral traditions, were imprecise and open to interpretation. The Spanish composer Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566) was one of the first to publish his compositions in this new type of tablature. In an unspectacular way wonderfully calm and flowing sounds Diferencias Sobre el Canto Llano del Caballero from Cabezón's compilation published in 1578 Obras de música...that I've been working on for... Living sound worldI chose.

About 50 years later, in 1635, the Fiori musicali by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643). Admired by his contemporaries as a "giant among organists", Frescobaldi played at St. Peter's Basilica at the time. Frescobaldi cultivated virtuoso playing, the improvised embellishment of an expressive performance - a predilection that continued to develop throughout the Baroque period. Three outstanding pieces of Frescobaldi's musical blossoms can now be found on Living Sound World Vol 1. again: Toccata Avanti la Messa della Domenica, Kyrie della Domenica and the Toccata cromatica per l'Elevatione.

Cabezón and Frescobaldi are two masters of polyphonic music. Their style of composition was influenced by the ideal of human voices and was oriented towards choral singing. In the polyphonic movement all voices are rhythmically and melodically independent - and from this polyphony a musical fabric emerges to which all voices contribute their part more or less equally.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book: A Milestone with William Byrd u. v. a.

The second half of the compilation includes various pieces taken from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book originate. As one of the most important historical collections for keyboard instruments par excellence, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book around 300 compositions for the virginal, a smaller type of harpsichord. The pieces date from late 16th to early 17th century England. Among them are works by William Byrd, the most important composer of the Tudor period.

The question of the originator of the manuscript remains controversial to this day. One candidate discussed in research is the English composer Francis Tregian the Younger. The latter was condemned for refusing to attend Anglican services because of his Catholic faith. It is suspected that he wrote the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book during the long years of his imprisonment.

Pianist Köln Marcus Sukiennik

Breakthrough of homophony

Dancingly the compositions are, like the piece Alman XC by Martin Peerson or
Muscadine XIX of anonymous originator. They are clear, catchier melodies than those of their predecessors, characterized by the homophonic movement. One voice leads melodically and is accompanied by chords. Homophony in instrumental music experienced its breakthrough in baroque music - and is now the common tonal movement in pop music.

Album Cover Ombra mai fu
New designed album cover Lebendige Tonwelt | Vol 1

New releases in January 2021

Ombra mai fu will be released as a single track on 01.01., the compilation Living Sound World Vol. 1 01/22/21.

The tracks can be heard on all popular streaming platforms, Ombra mai fu here and the album Living Sound World at this place. To go with this, I will also be posting tutorial videos that give a view of the fingers. More about this later.

A good start into the new year wishes you

Marcus Sukiennik

Release overview

  • OmbraMay fu single track and the album Lebendige Tonwelt Vol 1 with nine tracks on streaming portals or for downloading
  • Video New Releases January 2021
  • Learning video (on the hands view) of the album Lebendige Tonwelt Vol 1