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Release: Nov. 19, 1999

Early music group to revisit ends of centuries from 1599 back to 999

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Collegium Musicum will honor the imminent turn of the century with "Fins des siecles" ("Ends of centuries"), a program of music taken from the ‘99-numbered years of seven centuries, starting with 1599 and working back to 999, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert, under the direction of Elizabeth Aubrey, will be free and open to the public.

The Collegium Musicum is the ensemble at the UI School of Music devoted to the study and performance of music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque. The members are music students and faculty of the UI and members of the local community.

Aubrey says the programming of music from previous "ends of centuries" is more than a gimmick. "It is striking that the ends of centuries have often seen experimentation by composers and performers that stretched the bounds of tradition," she explains. "Significant changes in musical style often coincided with the turn of a century, and theorists described these changes as the replacement of the ‘old’ with the ‘new’."

The performance will open with music taken from music books published in 1599 in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. These will include simple settings of Psalms and other sacred texts for home devotional use, from Richard Alison’s "Psalter"; Thomas Morley’s "First Booke of Consort Lessons" for mixed instruments; and Italian composer Luca Marenzio’s ninth book of madrigals. Also included are late works by Spanish composer Francesco Guerrero, who died of the plague in 1599.

The pieces representing 1499 are taken from music books and manuscripts from the early 1500s, a time when the Venetian printer Ottavio Petrucci was producing some of the very first books of printed music. Many of the pieces in Petrucci’s books represent music of the late 15th century, including works by Heinrich Isaac and Josquin des Prez, the leading composers of the day.

Aubrey admits that as the program proceeds back in time, it becomes more difficult to establish precise date for pieces of music. For 1399, the Collegium will perform music by Johannes Ciconia, who was one of the most important composers at the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th.

The end of the 13th century was a time of exploration, when composers challenged musical forms, styles, and procedures that had prevailed for a century. The Collegium Musicum will represent the year 1299 with a motet -- a piece in which different texts are combined atop a melody from liturgical chant -- by Petrus de Cruce, an obscure figure about whom almost nothing is known, as well as several anonymous pieces.

For 1199, the Collegium will perform music of the "ars antiqua"("old art") of the late 11th and early 12th centuries, pieces by two choirmasters at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris known as Leoninus and Perotinus. Since an ordinance from 1198 decrees the use of certain specific pieces during the Feast of the Circumcision, those pieces will be included on the program.

The renowned abbess Hildegard of Bingen died in 1098, but her chants and treatises were carefully preserved by her nuns. The unusual music and texts that she composed continued to be sung at her convents long after her death.

Finally, the program will conclude with music from one of the earliest medieval manuscripts that contains music, a liturgical book for the daily round of services celebrated by monks and nuns. Known as the Hartker Antiphoner, it was copied around the year 1000 and probably represents music that would have been sung in 999.

Aubrey has directed the Collegium Musicum since 1982. A faculty member in the musicology area in the UI School of Music, she is known internationally as a scholar of medieval music and literature. She has published articles and reviews in scholarly journals including Early Music History, The Journal of Musicology, Acta Musicologica and Historical Performance. She is a contributor to the forthcoming revised edition of "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians" and to the new edition of the German music reference work "Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart" (Music in history and the present).

Her first book, "The Music of the Troubadours," was published in 1996 to enthusiastic reviews. The Times (London) Literary Supplement wrote that it is "a down-to-earth treatment which should ensure that (the book) remains of value for many years to come," and the Music Library Association journal Notes called the book "a monument in musicology, one no music library should be without." A second book, an anthology of songs by medieval women musicians, will be published next year by Yale University Press.

Aubrey is also widely known as a performer of early music and is regularly consulted by musicians and scholars for her expertise in performance practice. She has presented solo recitals in medieval songs in the United States, Canada and Europe. Besides singing she also plays recorder, lute, viola da gamba and harp. Before becoming director of the UI Collegium Musicum, she was music director of A Newe Jewell, an early-music ensemble in Washington, D.C.

Aubrey has served on the Council of the American Musicological Society, the Board of Directors of the International Machaut Society, the editorial board of the journal Historical Performance, and a term as president of the Midwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society. She has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Aubrey received her bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College, and both master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland. She has been on the faculty of the UI since 1982.

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