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Release: Immediate

UI Collegium Musicum will perform music of early modern Germany

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Collegium Musicum -- the early music performance group of the School of Music -- will present music of early modern Germany in a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The performance will be directed by Elizabeth Aubrey, a specialist in early music performance and the head of the musicology area of the School of Music. A flexible ensemble whose membership changes with the music being performed, the Collegium Musicum will have 13 singers and an overlapping group of up to 13 instrumentalists, including harpsichord, harp, recorders, krummhorns and other early instruments.

Composers on the program are well known to music historians and early music enthusiasts, although they are not familiar names to the general concert-going public. They include Heinrich Isaac, Ludwig Senfl, Hans Leo Hassler, Orlande de Lassus,Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schuetz and Dietrich Buxtehude. The time period represented on the concert extends from the late 15th to the end of the 17th centuries.

This was a period of great change and upheaval in German-speaking countries. In the 15th century the political system was a holdover of the medieval feudal system, under which music for the church flourished and many secular songs and instrumental pieces were preserved in great collections known as songbooks.

But the early 16th century saw the beginning of great upheavals in religion, politics and social life. The Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517, was at first a religious phenomenon but it soon became political and affected all aspects of life. The rest of the century was characterized by bitter wars of words and armies. Composers, like everyone else, had to take sides, and church music from this period is necessarily classified as Catholic or Lutheran.

In the 17th century the ongoing religious conflicts erupted anew in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which disrupted life throughout central Europe. Because the courts and churches lost much of their financial resources, much of the music from this period was written for soloists or small groups of performers. At the same time composers began exploring new harmonic and contrapuntal devices, and the new early Baroque style from Italy was grafted onto the traditional German idiom.

Among the composers on the program, Heinrich Isaac, who died in 1517, was one of the most famous musicians in his day. A composer at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, he wrote in virtually all the sacred and secular forms of the day.

Orlande de Lassus was a Fleming who spent much of his career at the Bavarian court in Munich composing music for the Catholic services. His "Officium Natalis Christi," music for the Christmas Mass, was published in Munich in 1574.

Praetorius was an organist and composer at the Protestant court of Wolfenbuettel, where he wrote on music theory and composed an enormous amount of music. His 1612 collection of dances, named "Terpsichore" after the Greek muse of dancing, is one of the largest collections of instrumental music from the period.

One of the most important composers of the 17th century, Heinrich Schuetz studied in Italy but spent most of his career as music director for the Elector of Saxony. A composer of dazzling diversity, he wrote in a wide variety of styles and media, although most of his surviving music was written for the Lutheran service.

The latest composer on the program, Dietrich Buxtehude was one of the most important composers of cantatas and organ music in Germany before J.S. Bach. He composed a number of sonatas, most of which featured the viola da gamba, one of the most important solo instruments of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The UI Collegium Musicum is an ensemble devoted to the study and performance of music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque. The members of the group are primarily music students and faculty of the UI. They learn singing techniques appropriate to early music as well as how to play reproductions of historical instruments.

Elizabeth Aubrey has directed the ensemble since 1982. Head of the Musicology Area in the UI School of Music, she is known internationally as an expert in the performance of early music and as a scholar specializing in the music of the medieval troubadours and trouveres. Her book "The Music of the Troubadours," has recently been published by Indiana University Press and was given an enthusiastic review in the London, England, Times Literary Supplement.

Before coming to the UI in 1982, she taught at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she was music director of the early music group "A Newe Jewell."