Saturday, 31 August 2013


“Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Andersen

For Music Saturday, dances from “Terpsichore” by Praetorius. The ancient Greeks believed that Terpsichore and her eight other sister muses were the tutelary deities of the arts and sciences. Terpsichore was the muse of the dance.

Michael Praetorius ([Schultze, in German] born probably February 15, 1571; died February 15, 1621) was a German composer, organist, and music theorist. He was one of the most versatile composers of his age, being particularly significant in the development of musical forms based on Protestant hymns, many of which reflect an effort to improve the relationship between Protestants and Catholics.

Praetorius was a prolific composer; his compositions show the influence of Italian composers and his younger contemporary Heinrich Schütz. His works include the nine volume “Musae Sioniae” (1605–10), a collection of more than twelve hundred (ca. 1244) chorale and song arrangements; many other works for the Lutheran church; and “Terpsichore” (1612), a compendium of more than 300 instrumental dances, which is both his most widely known work, and his sole surviving secular work.

Praetorius was the greatest musical academic of his day and the Germanic writer of music best known to other 17th-century musicians. Although his original theoretical contributions were relatively few, with nowhere near the long-range impact of other 17th-century German writers, like Johannes Lippius, Christoph Bernhard or Joachim Burmeister, he compiled an encyclopaedic record of contemporary musical practices.

While Praetorius made some refinements to figured-bass practice and to tuning practice, his importance to scholars of the 17th century derives from his discussions of the normal use of instruments and voices in ensembles, the standard pitch of the time, and the state of modal, metrical, and fugal theory. His meticulous documentation of 17th-century practice was of inestimable value to the early-music revival of the 20th century.

This recording of dances from “Terpsichore” are played by Ensemble La Fenice and the Ricercar Consort. It is a rather lush baroque orchestral version, using several old interesting instruments such as viols, theorbos, cornets and sackbuts together with the more recognisable flutes, bassoons, recorders, organ and harpsichord.