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The elegant, keyless, cylindrical flute of the sixteenth century had a reedy, penetrating sound, closer to the cornetto than to any other wind instrument of the day. It had an impressive range of two and a half octaves and an evenness of tone quality that would not be matched again until the nineteenth century. Its dynamic flexibility and responsiveness to subtleties of articulation endowed it with a vocal quality. And, for all its outward simplicity, it was capable of a startling virtuosity. Together with its bass and descant variants, it played a full part in that distinctive sixteenth-century musical phenomenon: the instrumental consort. The very idea of such a consort swept across Europe like a scented breeze intimating the coming of spring. It brought the promise of new possibilities of expression and participation in music making. It is hard not to see in the consort principle, with all its various implications for communal music-making, both a product and an instrument of humanist influence. In the eyes of humanists, human endeavour attained a new, enhanced status. In music, secular forms moved into a new relationship with sacred ones to which they had formally been considered subordinate. A basic education in music and private music making for devotional or recreational purposes were considered to be good for individual morality.
This recording is focussed on repertoire for the renaissance flute consort, almost all of which was originally vocal music. Among the most-favoured secular genres in the sixteenth century, the chanson occupies a distinguished place by virtue of its enormous and international popularity, and its profuse representation in manuscript and early printed collections of instrumental music. The most plausible explanation (though it has not been an uncontested one) for the wide-spread transmission of secular polyphony in textless versions, from the second half of the fifteenth century onwards, is that it was increasingly often played and enjoyed in instrumental versions. For in this repertoire, the renaissance flute seems to encounter no obstacles whatever in expressing everything the music calls for: the ranges of the parts, the tonalities in which chansons were most commonly written, the sentiments expressed in their poetry, and even the French language itself, seem perfectly suited to this instrument's natural capacities.
The ATTAIGNANT CONSORT was co-founded in 1998 by Kate Clark (Australia), Frédérique Chauvet (France), Marion Moonen (the Netherlands) and Marcello Gatti (Italy). Four fellow graduates of the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague, they had all come to the Netherlands to specialise in the performance of historical flutes under either Wilbert Hazelzet or Barthold Kuijken. Each of the members is active in chamber ensembles and orchestras of international standing such as Les Musiciens du Louvre, Freiburger Barockorchester, Rheinische Kantorei, Musica Antiqua Köln, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Musica ad Rhenum, Concerto Köln and Cantus Cölln. Drawn together by a fascination with the renaissance flute, they have collaborated over many years with the Italian flute-maker Giovanni Tardino, exploring the sound world of this, until now, little-known instrument.
The musicians aspire to the highest ideal of sixteenth-century consort playing, namely to imitate human speech and song by means of such refined articulation, expressivity of sound and subtlety of dynamic nuance, that »only the form of the human body is missing« (Silvestro Ganassi, Opera Intitulata Fontegara, 1535).
ATTAIGNANT CONSORT works from facsimile editions of original part-books rather than scores, and performs as often as possible from memory, mindful of the aural tradition of learning in which many sixteenth-century instrumentalists were educated. The consort performs alone, or with lute or harp and sometimes with a singer. It has been acclaimed for concerts in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Kate Clark, direction, flute
Frédérique Chauvet, flute
Marion Moonen, flute
Marcello Gatti, flute
Mathieu Langlois, flute
Marta Graziolino, harp
Nigel North, lute
Born in Sydney, KATE CLARK graduated from the University of Sydney on modern and baroque flutes in 1985. In the same year she was a finalist in the Australian National Flute Competition and guest principal flute with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
From 1986-1990 she studied baroque and classical flutes with Barthold Kuijken at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague gaining her Soloist's Diploma »cum laude«, and from 1990-1992 renaissance flute at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland under the guidance of Anne Smith. In 1993 she won the first prize in the Brugge International Early Music Competition.
Since 1988 Kate Clark has performed and recorded throughout Europe as a soloist and with chamber ensembles (Musica Ad Rhenum, Amphion Ensemble, Cantus Cölln), and orchestras (Freiburger Barockorchester, Concerto Köln, Deutsche Händel-Solisten, Rheinische Kantorei, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Le Concert Spirituel). She makes regular appearances in Australia as soloist with The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, or as artist in residence at the University of Western Australia.
Kate Clark gives lectures and courses in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Israel and Australia and teaches baroque and renaissance flutes at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague.