MON 23 OCT 2017

Newsflash autumn 2017 - Cipriano de Rore

WED 18 OCT 2017

Good news for our English fans!
We just finished a new recording for next year: English Florid style and motets of Eton choirbook by John Browne...after Brexit we keep English patrimony alive on the continent!

TUE 3 OCT 2017

The upcoming CD arrived today in the office!
And...of course it’s more than just a CD...

Very proud of the result...a daring approach to the equally daring madrigals of Cipriano de Rore, renaissance Hungerkünstler...

Release for the end of this month!

WED 13 SEP 2017

Check out this new bootleg with live performance of Stabat Mater by Josquin, two weeks ago in Brussels Kapellekerk…. Enjoy!

WED 30 AUG 2017

At 8 pm start of Brussels concert at Kapellekerk:
first collaboration with fantastic organist Léon Berben and Belgian première of Leopolita mass and motets!
With Anne-Kathryn Olsen, Albert Riera, Razek-Francois Bitar, Andrés Miravete, Marius Peterson, Arnout Malfliet and Björn Schmelzer (dir.) Léon Berben (organ)

MON 28 AUG 2017

We are ready to perform 'Florid Style' at 5 pm at Utrecht Dom,
a place we love and know well..
Only very few tickets left..

SUN 27 AUG 2017

Concert tomorrow at Domchurch Utrecht at 5 o'clock!
Don't miss it!

THU 24 AUG 2017

Listen to a small part of our Krakow concert. If you want more:
we bring the program on Monday 28th in Utrecht !

FRI 18 AUG 2017

Some pictures of yesterday's Krakow concert!

photos by Katarzyna Klimek

WED 16 AUG 2017

Preparing the Krakow première of our new program Florid Style...
Concert tomorrow at 8.30 pm at the Dominican church.

Festiwal Muzyki Niezwykłej

Who can't be there, join the program later in Utrecht or Royaumont !

SUN 13 AUG 2017

And this one:

FRI 11 AUG 2017

There appeared new bootlegs on youtube…
Discover for example this one from the Du Fay concert in Zuccharo…enjoy!

WED 9 AUG 2017

"Goede raad is duur” as a nice Dutch proverb goes. For the non-Dutch speakers: guys, do the effort to put this review of Luister August 2017 in google translate:
“…never boring, absolutely exciting. What does critic Vis want to prove?”

SAT 5 AUG 2017

Fijne review van een geweldige tweedaagse bij TAZ in Oostende!

"Je kan geen flauw idee hebben wie Beckett was, lak hebben aan oude en polyfonische muziek, een hekel hebben aan kerken en gebeden en toch diep geraakt en bewogen worden door Graindelavoix."

Lees meer

SAT 5 AUG 2017

Vanavond laatste keer op TAZ (Theater Aan Zee)!
Om 22u in de Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk! Be there!

THU 3 AUG 2017

Join us tonight (or tomorrow) in Oostende for Beckett and polyphony ! Performance at 10 pm at Sint Petrus en Pauluskerk!

WED 2 AUG 2017

At the same time on the Northern front.
Last check-up in Oude Kerk of Delft . Join the concert at 9 pm!

WED 2 AUG 2017

Preparing for tomorrow's first performance at TAZ (Theater Aan Zee) of AND UNDERNEATH THE EVERLASTING ARMS!
At 10 pm at the Petrus and Pauluschurch.

FRI 28 JUL 2017

Discover the new bootleg: 30 minutes cut of lamentations by Pedro Ruimonte, live sung in april in Brno.

THU 27 JUL 2017

There we go again: BBC-Magazine shares other cliché-critics on Vecchi CD: the "unconventional performances" are “posturing”, “rasping and gravelly vocal timbres” “oriental-style ornaments”(?), “shocking results” and of course the confirmation that this is nothing new (rather a copy of Organum; on the other side of the river everything looks the same of course…) strangely enough the end judgment of the recording is rather positive, be it experimental: “an interesting an ultimately quite mesmerising experiment - the aural equivalent to Rubens’s swirling movement and dramatic sfumato." Not easy to be different in early-music-land…

FR 30 JUN 2017

Alex and Björn finished today the edit of upcoming CD with work by Cipriano de Rore! We are really excited by the result! Pioneering madrigals as you never heard them before! Release in october, of course with

MON 26 JUN 2017

Thank you Jitka, David and the people of Boskovice for your warm hospitality: a great experience for us!

SUN 25 JUN 2017

Local publicity with the church in the back...

SAT 24 JUN 2017

Tonight Björn Schmelzer's lecture in Brno, more than welcome!

7 pm - Praha / Forum for architecture and media
Husova 18, 602 00 Brno

SUN 18 JUN 2017

In 30 minutes concert in Zuccaro!
The church still breathes the spirit of Du Fay...

SAT 17 JUN 2017

Concert in this wonderful abbey church of Silvacane in 30 minutes, hurry up!

WED 14 JUN 2017

Did you see the new bootleg recording?
A live-performance of Machaut's hypnotizing motet Inviolata Genitrix...

FRI 9 JUN 2017

Another nice nice review (at least after you get used of the "swooping between the notes")!

Orazio Vecchi’s name pops up from time to time, but he is by no means as well-known as other Italian contemporaries such as Giovanni Gabrieli. Björn Schmelzer’s extensive notes for this release go into some detail on the subject of funerary traditions in Antwerp of the period, suggesting Vecchi’s Requiem as a likely contender for performance at the funeral of Peter Paul Rubens in 1640. The cover image, in fact an early 20th century funeral procession in Wieringen, North Holland, shows a late continuation of the tradition for the wearing of a ‘huik’ or ‘huyck’, something that would have been a familiar sight in Antwerp in the Baroque period.
This is a fascinating subject, further illustrated in the booklet with some church interiors of the time. Vecchi’s music represents a pre-iconoclastic style of opulent polyphony and exuberant settings of the text comparable with those of the likes of Tallis and Palestrina. The requiem text is printed in the booklet both in Latin and English translation. So involved do we become in the mysteries of Baroque concealment and disguise that there is something of a shortage of information on the music in this recording, though the concept appears to be the recreation of the music for Rubens’ elaborate funeral service.
In any case, this is a rich feast of a capella religious church music at a high order of quality. The voices of Graindelavoix create a marvellous tapestry of sound, from gorgeous low basses to nicely balanced trebles. There is a certain amount of swooping between the notes, and while I initially found this off-putting I can also hear how this might be an artistic decision, giving a heightened doloroso effect to the music. Listeners will have to decide for themselves if they can get past this aspect of the performance, and for myself I would be intrigued to hear an alternative with cleaner leaps, just to see if my impression of this as emotive expression is misplaced. Whatever the subjective quibbles, there are plenty of special moments in this sequence, and with beautiful sonorities and some striking contrasts of colour there is plenty of genuine lamentation going on here. I love the harmonic scrunches that occur from time to time. Antiphonal effects are a feature, with double choirs playing against each other and captured nicely in the stereo of the recording. Vecchi’s Requiem is supplemented by some remarkable music by George de La Hèle. Taken from his Missa Praeter rerum serium, this is a further example of “incredible polyphony in the midst of the Calvinist Republic in Antwerp that demonstrates the tremendous talent of a forgotten master.” With stunning rarities such as these this release has to come with a warm recommendation.
Dominy Clements

FRI 2 JUN 2017

Great Friday news!
Our Beckett/polyphony program AND UNDERNEATH THE EVERLASTING ARMS will be two times at TAZ#2017 in Ostend, August3th and 4th, please arrange your holiday plans accordingly...
More details on from June 7th on!

photo Camille Blake

TUE 30 MAY 2017

Small film about graindelavoix's intervention in Katowice....

MON 22 MAY 2017

Splendid review in Pizzicato Magazine by Remy Franck of our Lamentations concert in Katowice ...

Stupende vokale Reinheit
Nach der Opulenz symphonischen Klanges die Reinheit von acht Stimmen: Das in Antwerpen beheimatete, aber sehr international besetzte Vokalensemble ‘Graindelavoix’ sang unter seinem künstlerischen Leiter Björn Schmelzer die ‘Lamentationes Hieremiae Prophetae’ von Carl Luython (1557-1620), einem franko-flämischen Komponisten und Organisten der späten Renaissance sowie von Pedro Ruimonte (1565-1627), einem spanischen Komponisten, der einen großen Teil seines Lebens in Belgien verbrachte. ‘Graindelavoix’ bewies einmal mehr, dass es ein wirklich einmaliges Ensemble ist, dessen Interpretationen durch eine ungemein stark entwickelte Verzierungskunst und ein gestalterisches Raffinement erkennbar werden. Fast mehr noch erstaunen die Substanz und der harmonische Reichtum der acht Stimmen sowie die gleichzeitig erzielte absolute Reinheit. Im riesigen Raum des NOSPR-Konzertsaals schwangen sich diese Klänge eines klagendem Gesangs mit beeindruckend kreativer Kraft in die Lüfte und hüllten den Zuhörer damit ein.

Read more

photos by Izabela Lechowicz

SAT 20 MAY 2017

Leaving Katowice, direct flight to Brasschaat!
Concert tonight: join us!

FRI 19 MAY 2017

Some snapshots...

FRI 19 MAY 2017

Rehearsing Luython in Katowice concert hall...
Concert tonight at 19.30!

NOSPR concert hall
plac Wojciecha Kilara 1
40-202 Katowice, Poland

THU 18 MAY 2017

Tomorrow Antwerp lamentations (Luython and Ruimonte) in Katowice!

NOSPR concert hall, 19.30
plac Wojciecha Kilara 1
40-202 Katowice, Poland

With Alice Kamenezky, Anne-Kathryn Olsen, Razek-François Bitar, Albert Riera, Andrés Miravete, Marius Peterson, Arnout Malfliet, Tomas Maxé and Björn Schmelzer (dir.)

MON 15 MAY 2017

Deze zaterdag in de H. Hartkerk van Brasschaat:
graindelavoix met confréries!
Voor wie het programma nog niet heeft meegemaakt is dit de kans...

H. Hartkerk, 20u30
Sint Huibrechtlei 5
2930 Brasschaat

Photo Koen Broos

WED 10 MAY 2017

Vandaag in De Standaard:
Annemarie Peeters enthousiast over Vecchi cd!

TUE 9 MAY 2017

Do you like polyphony?

Begeef u naar Kortrijk!
Beckett hoor je haast nooit, polyfonie nog minder!
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, 21u

MON 8 MAY 2017

Starting rehearsals AND UNDERNEATH THE EVERLASTING ARMS (Beckett/polyphony). Tomorrow concert in the splendid acoustics of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Kortrijk!

Festival van Vlaanderen Kortrijk
9 mei 2017, 21u

FRI 5 MAY 2017

Did you notice that in the meantime we released also our expo-book-album "Music for an Antwerp Church" as a separate digital release with Glossa? Here you can find more never recorded pieces by Ruimonte, Lobo, Antwerp cathedral master Matthias Pottier and Plantin printed Alard du Gaucquier! And, cherry on the cake, a nice bonus: the addition of 10 minutes motet Salve Antverpia by Tielman Susato in an unheard graindelavoix performance!
Check it asap!

Available via iTunes, Quobuz, Napster, Amazon and others.

Read more

THU 4 MAY 2017

An enthusiast review from Ireland by Michael Dervan!

Italian composer Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605) is remembered for his madrigal comedies. Forget that background when you approach this new CD. Tune in instead to the Gothick imagery of the black-shrouded figures on the disc’s cover. Björn Schmelzer believes that Vecchi’s Requiem, representing “austerity, emptiness, darkness” and a face of the baroque that is black, was used in the Antwerp funeral service of the painter Rubens along with shorter selections by George de La Hèle, Pedro Ruimonte and Duarte Lobo. The performing style is intense and personal, The singing embraces wide-ranging vocal timbres and features freedoms in embellishment and ensemble that are as far from the conventions of vocal purity as you care to imagine.

Read more

WED 3 MAY 2017

Björn Schmelzer spreekt vanavond met de doden. Benieuwd?
Kom vanavond naar Kulak in Kortrijk!

19u30, KU Leuven Campus Kulak
E. Sabbelaan 53, 8500 Kortrijk

(c) Koen Broos

FRI 28 APR 2017

Volgende week woensdag, 3 mei allen naar Kortrijk voor de Demonen van de Oude Muziek. Björn Schmelzer legt dan uit hoe je de stemmen van de doden evoceert.
Opgelet, niet voor bangeriken!

Lees meer!

TUE 25 APR 2017

Weldra Belgische première AND UNDERNEATH THE EVERLASTING ARMS, het Beckett polyfonie project van graindelavoix in Kortrijk !

9 mei 2017, 21u
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Kortrijk
Get your tickets now!

MON 24 APR 2017

Nice exhaustive article on Björn Schmelzer and graindelavoix in Süddeutsche Zeitung by Helmut Mauró!

Ton und Trance
Sein Antrieb ist die Überzeugung: So langweilig kann das nicht geklungen haben. Wie der Belgier Björn Schmelzer das sonnige, bunte Mittelalter musikalisch wiederbelebt, dass es eine Freude ist.

Musik aus dem Mittelalter, das verspricht öde Klänge und staubige Rhythmen, eine hüpfende Flöte und blöde dreinblickende Menschen in Kartoffelsackhosen. Ganz anders der belgische Volkskundler Björn Schmelzer, der sich genauer mit den alten Handschriften und ihrer Verlebendigung beschäftigt hat und diese Musik mit seinem Gesangsensemble "Graindelavoix" so aufführt, als sei sie heute oder zumindest für heute komponiert. Auf einmal begegnet man einer faszinierenden Klangwelt, wie sie sonst nirgends in der klassischen Musik zu finden ist, und im Pop schon gar nicht.
Nach dem Auftritt im Berliner "Kraftwerk" sitzt er auf einer Bierbank in einem Sichtbetonraum gleich neben der Bühne, wo seit beinahe einer Stunde ein paar Blechbläser auf- und abschwellende, sich verdichtende und wieder verdünnende Klangmuster in den dunklen Raum zaubern. Eine Veranstaltung des Märzmusik-Festivals im Berliner "Kraftwerk". In der Nacht zuvor war Schmelzer mit seiner Alte-Musik-Gruppe aus Antwerpen hier aufgetreten. Dabei musste er nicht nur gegen zwei handelsübliche Klanginstallationen im Erdgeschoß ankämpfen, sondern auch gegen harte Beats und rumpelnde Bässe aus dem Club "Tresor" im gleichen Gebäude, vor dem die Jugendlichen Schlange standen; der Eintritt dort war viel günstiger als beim staatlichen Märzmusik-Festival. Auch andere Widrigkeiten arbeiteten in dieser Nacht gegen Schmelzer und sein Gesangsensemble. In Berlin stellt sich immer die Frage: Wie viel Drogen braucht der Mensch, zum Beispiel Marihuana, und der unbedarfte Besucher musste an diesem Abend denken, so viel nun auch wieder nicht, bevor ihm schlecht wurde. "Wir haben es überlebt", sagt Schmelzer. Letzte Woche sangen sie in einer Berliner Kirche, aber solche Festivals mit etwas anders gearteter Kundschaft sind ihm genauso lieb, sagt er, da erreiche er ein anderes Publikum. Das liegt dann auf Feldbetten, aus dem Erdgeschoß heraufgeschleppt, und lauscht dem fremdartigen Gesang mit mildem Lächeln und glasigen Augen, als sei es eine etwas andere Art von Trance-Music.
"And Underneath the Everlasting Arms - Polyphony for a Better Sleep" heißt das Programm mit gesprochenen Texten von Samuel Beckett und Musik von Agricola, Desprez, Senfl, Coppini, Obrecht, Divitis, Gombert, Sheppard und Lasso. Der Name "Graindelavoix" heißt soviel wie "Kern der Stimme" und man kann dies sowohl auf den Klang und die Art ihrer Einsetzung, beziehen, als auch auf die Essenz des Vorgetragenen. Schmelzer will die ganze Musik, den rein musikalischen Klang, den Wortklang, den Textinhalt und darüber hinaus das Eigentliche: die klingende Seele. Musik als Medium von Mensch zu Mensch. Der musikalische Kern ist kein klangästhetischer, sondern ein spiritueller.

Der Antrieb des Musikers ist die Überzeugung: So langweilig kann das nicht geklungen haben
Schmelzer sagt das nicht so direkt, aber die Art, wie er um das herumredet, was man so direkt nicht benennen kann, weist immer wieder in eine Richtung: nach innen. Das neue Album "Requiem" mit einer Trauermusik des Renaissance-Meisters Orazio Vecchi - die nach Schmelzers Nachforschungen wahrscheinlich bei der Beerdigung von Peter Paul Rubens gesungen wurde - ist nach den elf bereits erschienenen noch einmal eine Steigerung an Ausdruckskraft und leidenschaftlicher Spiritualität. Die Art des Singens hat mehr mit den Klageweibern von Kreta zu tun oder mit sardischen Hirtenliedern als mit der höfischen Kunst des nördlichen Europa. Für Alte-Musik-Akademiker ist das sicherlich ein Schock. Aber für alle, die nicht wissen, wer Orazio Vecchi ist oder Duarte Lobo und wann die ungefähr gelebt haben, ist es eine überraschende Erweiterung der Hörgewohnheiten, und für jeden neugierig gebliebenen Musiker eine Offenbarung.
Schmelzer zieht die praktische Konsequenz aus der Überzeugung, die wohl jeder gewinnen muss, der sich Aufnahmen mittelalterlicher Musik anhört: So langweilig kann das nicht geklungen haben! Die Leute hatten doch auch ihren Spaß und eine ziemlich ausgefeilte Musikkultur. In der Tat geht es immer auch um die großen Fragen musikalischer Ästhetik, ja des Kunstdiskurses generell. Schmelzer reflektiert das sehr genau, die praktische Umsetzung seiner Ideen ist durchaus theoretisch unterfüttert. Aber nicht die üblichen Verdächtigen der Musikphilosophie sind für ihn dabei zuerst relevant, sondern Kollegen aus Nachbardisziplinen, besonders der deutschen und französischen Kunstgeschichtsschreibung. Aby Warburg mit seiner "Pathosformel" und der Kategorie "Nachleben" sind für ihn wichtig, Bruno Latour und Gilles Deleuze, Alfred Gell und immer wieder Wilhelm Worringer mit seiner Dialektik aus "Abstraktion und Einfühlung". In diesem Spannungsfeld sieht sich auch Schmelzer mit seiner Herangehensweise an die alten Musikhandschriften. "Performative Exegese" nennt er das, also eine deutende Gestaltung durch den Akt der Aufführung. Das ist nichts weniger als "eine Rehabilitation der empathischen Annäherung".
Dass er mit den alten Meistern einmal ein jüngeres Publikum erreichen würde, hätte er nicht gedacht. Dass er überhaupt als Musiker reüssieren würde, wäre ihm nicht in den Sinn gekommen. Aber als Schmelzer noch ein Vorschul-Steppke war und ihn die Mutter zum Musikunterricht anmeldete, da hatte der Lehrer schon eine gewisse Vorahnung. "Du bist mit Johann Heinrich Schmelzer verwandt", sagte der Lehrer und zeigte den Lexikoneintrag des großen Renaissance-Komponisten, Kapellmeisters und Violinisten.
Ob an der vermuteten Verwandtschaft etwas dran ist? "Das Gegenteil lässt sich ebensowenig beweisen", sagt Jörg Schmelzer, "ich denke, die Behauptung hat mich unbewusst ein bisschen geprägt". Er studierte zunächst Anthropologie und strebte keinerlei Musikkarriere an. Genau dies scheint nun der Schlüssel für den Erfolg als Gründer und Leiter des Ensembles "Graindelavoix" zu sein, das sich alter und sehr alter Musik widmet, zurück ins 16., 15., 14., sogar 13. Jahrhundert. Musik aus Gesangbüchern mit Pergamentpapier, jedes Blatt kunstvoll bemalt mit prächtigen Textinitialen und oft auch inhaltlicher Bebilderung. Schmelzer glaubt, dass auch diese Initialen noch ein paar Geheimnisse bergen für den musikalischen Vortrag.
"Die einen beschäftigen sich mit den Noten", sagt er, "die anderen mit dem Text. Aber es gibt da noch eine Ebene dazwischen." Er ist selbst Forscher, sein Studium der Anthropologie, der durch die Jahrhunderte in den unterschiedlichen gesellschaftlichen Schichten gelebten Kunst und Kultur, hat ihn tief geprägt und weit herum gebracht im südlichen Europa. Bis heute ist die Beschäftigung mit den Gesängen aus Sizilien, Sardinien oder Portugal die Basis seiner musikalischen Praxis. Weniger die Musikwissenschaft. Ihm komme die so vor, sagt Schmelzer, als würde ein Kunsthistoriker nur die Farbpigmente studieren und die Vorbereitung der Leinwand, aber nicht die Art und Weise, wie ein Renaissance-Maler beim Betrachter diese enorme Wirkung erzielt.

Hier die Noten, da der Text - aber da ist noch etwas dazwischen - der Kern
Der Chor steht bei ihm nicht in Reih und Glied, sondern einander zugewandt und in sich gekehrt. Schmelzer bringt die Sänger gleichsam in eine konkrete musikalisch-spirituelle Situation. Sie sind der Kern eines Geschehens, zu dem fast gleichberechtigt das Publikum gehören soll. Dirigenten gab es nicht. Warum dann dirigiert Schmelzer den kleinen Chor? "Ich dirigiere eigentlich gar nicht, ich gebe nur Impulse, jeder hat ansonsten große Freiheiten". In der Tat sieht das großräumige Auf- und Abrudern nicht ganz so elegant aus wie vom philharmonischen Pult aus. Selten gibt er einzelne Einsätze, noch schlägt er den Takt. Einmal, da stehen Sängerinnen und Sänger besonders eng zusammen, mischt er sich darunter und wechselt einmal im Kreis herum von Sänger zu Sänger, als ob er mehr zuhöre als selber einzugreifen. Es gehe um den performativen Akt, nicht um die geschriebenen Noten. Die seien nur eine Skizze oder ein "Diagramm". Vieles steht nicht darin, das wesentlich ist für Aufführung und Ergebnis. "Am Anfang haben sich die Musiker geweigert, ein Glissando zu singen". Weil es nicht notiert ist. In der westlichen Hochkultur der letzten zweihundert Jahre galt Töne anschleifen, von einem zum anderen schmieren, nicht gerade als vornehm. Aber vielleicht muss diese Musik zumindest für nordeuropäische Ohren wirklich vulgär klingen, um ihren vollen sinnlichen Gehalt entfalten zu können. So, wie man heute selbst die Werke von Heinrich Schütz noch singt, sind sie von der Musik her kaum zu verstehen. Da geht es um andere ästhetische Traditionen, um Ordnung und Sauberkeit, um keimfreie Kunst. Damit hat Schmelzer nichts am Hut. auch nicht mit historischer "Wahrheit" - dann dürfte er gar keine Frauenstimmen besetzen -, und trotzdem hat man stellenweise den Eindruck, dass die Musik auch zur Zeit der Entstehung vor 700 Jahren etwa so geklungen hat. Schmelzer geht es mehr um eine zeitlose, er sagt "anachronistische", Wirkungsmacht. An Theorien über mittelalterliche Kunst, wie sie etwa Umberto Eco formuliert hat, glaubt er nicht. Eco geht von einer "intellektuellen Wahrnehmungsweise" aus, "die eine unbeteiligte Art des Vergnügens nach sich zieht". Es gehe mehr um Versenkung ins Kunstobjekt als um dessen Aneignung, um Betrachtungen der Proportionen, der Ganzheit und Klarheit eines Kunstwerks. Mit dieser modernen Denkweise hat man auch den sensationellen Fund einer Turiner Handschrift kleingeredet, das wohl umfangreichste Werk eines Komponisten des frühen 15. Jahrhunderts. Er heißt Jean Hanelle, ist völlig unbekannt und wird es wohl noch eine Weile bleiben. Die Musikwissenschaftlerin Margaret Bent schrieb noch 1992 von Massenproduktion nach Standardvorlage, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson attestierte die "schablonenhafte Kompositionsweise" einer "uninspirierten Musik". "Die Entstehung von Meisterwerken ist auf diese Weise natürlich kaum denkbar." Wer weiß, wie sehr solche Einschätzungen die Aufführung von Musik, also das klangliche Ergebnis beeinflussen, kann solche Forschungsergebnisse nicht gutheißen. Wie falsch sie tatsächlich sind, hört man am klarsten in der Wiederbelebung durch Schmelzers Ensemble Graindelavoix. Mutiger, freier, wahrer, meisterlicher und menschlicher hat diese Musik wohl seit ihrer Entstehung nicht mehr geklungen.

THU 20 APR 2017

Marius Peterson talking on Estonian Klassika Raadio about our new Vecchi cd...

Listen here

THU 20 APR 2017

Souvenirs of Gdansk concert...

photos by Paweł Stelmach

WED 19 APR 2017

An enthusiast review of Lisbon Gulbenkian concert in Expresso of last weekend...

TUE 18 APR 2017

Another nice review of Brno Lamentations concert by Boris Klepal.

Read more

Listen to radio review

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Graindelavoix. Jeremiášovy nářky na Velikonočním festivalu duchovní hudby

Součástí Velikonočního festivalu duchovní hudby v Brně jsou již tradičně také tenebrae – „temné hodinky“. Jejich programy nespoléhají pouze na atmosféru zšeřelých kostelů, ale přinášejí také pozoruhodné dramaturgické počiny. Na Škaredou středu zněly v chrámu svatého Jakuba renesanční lamentace v podání vokálního souboru Graindelavoix.
Obsah koncertu se dal rámcově odvodit už z jeho názvu. Na programu byly lamentace, i když zpívané – žádný křik to nebyl. Tato část názvu se vztahovala spíš k nářku proroka Jeremiáše, jehož text patří k obřadům temných hodinek ve svatém týdnu od Zeleného čtvrtka do Bílé soboty. Co se týká samotné hudby, jednalo se o polyfonii z úplného začátku 17. století stylově ještě spadající do období renesance. Na programu byli dva skladatelé: tím prvním byl Carol Luython, druhým Pedro Ruimonte. Od Carola Luythona zazněly lamentace od čtvrtka do soboty, přišemž ze sobotních zhudebnil jen výběr. Od Pedra Ruimonta byly na programu pouze sobotní lamentace, ale zato kompletní.
První zřetelnou linií koncertu bylo přiblížení programu liturgickému roku. Od Škaredé středy k Bílé sobotě je sice z duchovního hlediska předlouhá cesta, ale z lidského se jedná pouze o tři po sobě jdoucí dny, k nimž se texty Jeremiášových lamentací vztahují.
Oba skladatele večera spojoval kompoziční styl, který byl proti špičce dobového hudebního vývoje už poněkud pozadu: lamentace Carola Luythona pocházejí z roku 1604, a Pedra Ruimonta z roku 1607 – v tom samém roce už Monteverdi dokončil svou epochální hudební báji Orfeus. Není ovšem od věci si připomenout, že ani hudební uvažování – stejně jako obecně lidské – se nemění na povel a myšlenky mívají velmi dlouhou setrvačnost či poločas rozpadu.
Carol Luython a Pedro Ruimonte byli také oba ve službách Habsburků: Luython byl prvním varhaníkem císaře Rudolfa II. – působil tedy významně v Praze. Ruimonte byl ve službách Rudolfova bratrance Albrechta Rakouského, který jako regent tehdejšího Španělského nizozemí sídlil v Bruselu.
Graindelavoix je komorní soubor specializovaný právě na provádění staré polyfonie a od své první nahrávky z roku 2006 si buduje oprávněnou pověst špičkových interpretů. Jedná se o skupinu technicky vyspělých pěvců, kteří navíc tvoří vyrovnaný ansámbl asi podobným způsobem jako si lze představit špičkové smyčcové kvarteto. Takže se jedná nejen o hudebníky sólistických kvalit s charakteristickým projevem, ale zároveň o jejich stylové sjednocení ve způsobu vedení hlasů, které mají vyrovnaný objem, dobře se spolu barevně pojí a přitom nesplývají. Je to vlastně nezbytný předpoklad pro dosažení ideálně vyrovnané polyfonie, v níž má každý hlas svou osobitost a rovnocenné postavení.
Zakladatel a vedoucí souboru Björn Schmelzer vedl provedení maximálně plynule, obdivuhodná byla pečlivá a jemná práce s dynamikou jednotlivých hlasů. A stejně obdivuhodná byla i výdrž pěvců, kteří zazpívali bez pauzy více než devadesátiminutový program. Nejedná se sice o drastické zpívání v extrémních polohách, ale nároky na soustředění, intonaci, sledování okolních hlasů a přesnénástupy jsou obrovské.
Koncert složený celý z lamentací by snad mohl předem odrazovat dojmem monotónnosti, zvlášť když oba skladatelé pracovali s částečně shodným textem, ale interpretační úroveň nic takového nepřipouštěla. Navíc oba skladatelé od sebe byli dost zřetelně odlišitelní hudebně – a určitě i pouhým vnímavým poslechem, bez nějakých „odbornických“ analýz kontrapunktu.
Hudební členitost lamentací vyplývala už ze struktury textu: každou větu uvádí i v latinském překladu písmeno hebrejské abecedy, kterému se dostává samostatného polyfonního zpracování, následuje vlastní text a každé čtení završuje refrén „Jeruzaléme, obrať se k Hospodinu, Bohu svému“. Carol Luython odlišuje jednotlivé části především vnitřními proměnami a působí celkově spíš meditativním dojmem. Pedro Ruimonte naopak buduje z dramatické situace připomínající pozdější užívání polyfonie jako gradačního prostředku.
Celý koncert vlastně zapůsobil jako výjimečný moment zastavení v jakémsi dočasně stvořeném malém světě. Soustředění členů souboru Graindelavoix se přeneslo i na publikum a vytvořilo ohromně koncentrovanou atmosféru takřka bez doprovodných hluků, tedy i s minimem obvyklého kašle a vrtění v přestávkách mezi jednotlivými částmi. Přitom se jednalo o hodinu a půl velmi náročné hudby. A velmi silně zapůsobil i předěl mezi oběma autory, kdy se hudba opravdu vznesla jakoby o jednu energetickou hladinu výš a zesílila tak vědomí, že vzkříšení už je blízko.
Velikonoční festival duchovní hudby má před sebou ještě tři koncerty. Ve čtvrtek 20. dubna to bude Svědectví svatých v hudbě Hildegardy von Bingen – v bazilice Nanebevzetí Panny Marie na Starém Brně vystoupí Tiburtina Ensemble. V pázek 21. dubna rovněž na Starém Brně varhanní koncert, na programu jsou Charles Tournemire, Bohuslav Martinů, Charles-Marie Widor, Vladimír Werner, Sigfrid Karg-Elert a Max Reger. A na závěr festivalu v neděli 23. dubna oratorium Paulus – tedy svatý Pavel – Felixe Mendelssohna Bartholdyho. V kostele sv. Janů „u minoritů“ hraje Filharmonie Brno, zpívají Marie Fajtová, Štěpánka Pučálková, Jan Rusko, Roman Hoza a Český filharmonický sbor Brno, řídí Leoš Svárovský.
Ukřičené lamentace (temné hodinky). Lamentace Pedro Ruimonte (1607) a Carol Luython (1604). Graindelavoix (Belgie), umělecký vedoucí Björn Schmelzer. 12. 4. 2017, kostel sv. Jakuba, Brno. V rámci Velikonočního festivalu duchovní hudby.

FRI 14 APR 2017

Listen now to our lamentation program on polish radio broadcast...

photo Paweł Stelmach

FRI 14 APR 2017

Wonderful review with some pictures of our Brno Lamentations performance!

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Photos by Petr Francán

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Graindelavoix – v chvále nadpozemské krásy
Ve středu 12. dubna se na třetím koncertu Velikonočního festivalu duchovní hudby objevil jeden z nepochybných vrcholů letošního ročníku přehlídky – belgický vokální soubor Graindelavoix. V kostele svatého Jakuba Staršího představil na vystoupení s názvem Ukřičené lamentace obecenstvu absolutně nekoncertní program: velikonoční zpívaná čtení matutina, ve kterých v závěru Svatého týdne zaznívaly Nářky proroka Jeremiáše. Graindelavoix pod vedením Björna Schmelzera předvedl zhudebněná čtení z obřadů temných hodinek dvou skladatelů, kteří stojí na pomezí pozdní renesance a raného baroka – Carla Luythona (1557–1620) a Pedra Ruimonte (1565–1627).

Průměrný divák, jenž trpí nedostatkem času a nemůže si dovolit jezdit na festivaly staré hudby, nemá mnoho příležitostí k živému poslechu čistě vokální, vrcholně renesanční polyfonie. Pro mnohé to byla nejen možnost, jak přijít do kontaktu s vokálním renesančním kontrapunktem, ale také šance k bližšímu poznání svátků velikonočních a jejich klášterní celebrace, do které nemá publikum běžně příliš možností nahlédnout. Teprve až když je posluchač očitým svědkem podobného vokálního koncertu, uvědomuje si nekonečnou komplikovanost této hudby, samostatnost a svébytnost jednotlivých hlasů. Bylo zřejmé, že každý zpěvák prosazuje svou individualitu; u osmihlasého souboru Graindelavoix byla tato autonomie podtržena faktem, že zpěváci nevystupovali v žádném stejnokroji – nalevo byly černé kalhoty, košile a sako, vedle pak modrý svetr, uprostřed košile s krátkým rukávem a žádné boty, vpravo naopak modré triko a mikina. Poslech tohoto belgického uskupení tvořil pouze dvě třetiny celkového zážitku – ke stoprocentnímu požitku z jeho vystoupení byl velice důležitý vizuální vjem, pozorování pěvců při vystoupení, kdy byl sice každý sólistou, na druhou stranu ale také součástí celku. Byl obrovský zážitek pozorovat zápal a zanícení jednotlivých zpěváků, a to i když právě mlčeli – hudba je zcela pohltila do svých mimozemských sfér. Graindelavoix se nesnažil za každou cenu o ideálně krásný zvuk; Björn Schmelzer si byl velmi dobře vědom toho, že v takovém případě by byl dojem strojený a umělý. Ansámbl spíše uplatňoval odlišnost všech individualit, která však ve výsledném zvukovém účinu fungovala zcela koherentně.

Naprosto perfektní reciprocita účinkujících šla ruku v ruce s balancem jednotlivých hlasů, kdy bylo v celkovém zvukovém výsledku slyšet vše – zaměřil-li se například posluchač pozorně na individuální melodickou linku jakéhokoliv hlasu ze šestihlasé sazby, mohl přesně určit tóny, které daný zpěvák produkoval. Je bez debat, že vedoucí ansámblu pracoval s výbornou zvukovou představou kompozic, kdy v určitých místech nechal například zaznít jeden hlas nad ostatními, avšak v rámci zvukové celistvosti, ne na jejich úkor. Intonace jednotlivců i celku byla pak zkrátka dokonalá, a to ať se jednalo o zahájení zpěvů, průběh, či jejich ukončení – všechny souzvuky zaznívaly ve zcela čistých intervalových proporcích. Zvuková dispozice kostela sv. Jakuba Staršího společně s umem Graindelavoix byly neskutečné, a tak na konci každého čtení, před tím, než zaznělo ticho, byl dozvuk souboru naprosto ohromující; ne v plnosti a intenzitě zvuku, ale v jeho doznívající nádheře kostelního prostoru, kdy se, ačkoliv těleso už umlklo, jeho dozvuk stále nesl celou kostelní lodí a omračoval posluchače dlouhou ozvěnou, při které si divák nebyl jistý, zdali se mu onen akord, vycházející odněkud z výšky nad ním, pouze nezdá. Sbormistr Schmelzer velmi dobře rozpoznal akustiku prostoru, a tak nikdy žádný nástup na další zpívané čtení neuspěchal, ale vždy exaktně počkal se zahájením hudby tak, aby se nový zpěv zvukově nebil s ukončeným a doznívajícím melodickým předivem.
S blížícím se koncem představení jsem si uvědomil, že nemám po umlknutí zpěváků nutkání jim tleskat; ne, že by si to nezasloužili, to v žádném případě, spíše naopak – program, prostředí a zejména jejich výkon byl natolik mystickým zážitkem, že mi přišlo snad až pošetilé a nemístné ničit ho něčím tak světským, jako je potlesk, jenž slouží k dalšímu pozemskému nešvaru – uznání. Ačkoliv si Graindelavoix ocenění po svém skvělém výstupu určitě zasloužil, po prožitém představení byl potlesk pouhou rušivou entitou, jež bořila prožité mystérium. O to více mě vytrhl z rozjímání další nepříjemný zlozvyk, který jako strašák obchází soudobé koncertní prostory – aplaus ve stoje, jenž zdevastoval blaženou atmosféru v kostele sv. Jakuba Staršího po tomto transcendentním zážitku.
Hodnocení autora recenze: 95%

THU 13 APR 2017

Preparing lamentations in the fabulous Artushof in Gdansk. Concert tonight at 8 pm and tomorrow on Polish radio.

THU 13 APR 2017

On our way to Gdansk...

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WED 12 APR 2017

Just only to hear the lamentations in the beautiful acoustics of this church, it's worthwhile to come tonight to Brno. Première of our lamentations program: works by Luython (printed in Prague in 1604) and Ruimonte (printed in Antwerp in 1607)... By the way Luython was born in the Antwerp Sint-Andrieskwartier where the graindelavoix adventure once started...

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TUE 11 APR 2017

Very nice review by Cristina Fernandes in today's Publico of Gulbenkian concert in Sao Roque!

MON 10 APR 2017

Rehearsing Luython and Ruimonte lamentations in the sacristy of the Igreja de Sao Roque, Lisbon: both paintings and music are from the beginning of the 17th century and share a breathtaking exotism. Concerts in 2 days in Brno and Gdansk! We keep you informed...

SUN 9 APR 2017

Two days in Lisbon rehearsing Lamentations and we still didn't find the right long as the lamentations are 'à point'!
(c) Koen Broos

SAT 8 APR 2017

Arrived in Lisbon. Duarte Lobo & Orazio Vecchi tonight at 9pm in the fabulous Igreja Sao Roque! Join us!

SAT 8 APR 2017

Luister op Klara naar concert review van over-enthousiaste Véronique Rubens over Vecchi première in Amuz!
If you missed it, tonight in Lisbon!

THU 6 APR 2017

If you miss the concert tonight, no worries we are back tomorrow with the same program in the Abbaye of Herkenrode, near Hasselt, easily to reach, even if you live in The Netherlands or Germany...

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WED 5 APR 2017

What a pleasure to rehearse in the wonderful St. Paulschurch in Antwerp for tomorrow's concert in Amuz!
Be quick because there are only a few tickets left!

TUE 4 APR 2017

Frank Heirman in Gazet van Antwerpen about the new cd release!

TUE 4 APR 2017

Björn Schmelzer initiating dancers in singing and negotiating with the past in Royaumont...
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FRI 31 MAR 2017

A new bootleg...check it out!
Du Fay as you never heard it before!

WED 29 MARCH 2017

And some more photos by Markus Werner! Our next performance of AND UNDERNEATH THE EVERLASTING ARMS (polyphony/Beckett) is in Kortrijk on May 9th.
Don't miss it!

WED 29 MARCH 2017

Nice memories of two crazy performances during MaerzMusik's The Long Now. Many thanks to Berno and his team!
photos by Camille Blake

SAT 25 MARCH 2017

Getting prepared for a long, crazy night... First performance of our Beckett/Insomnia program at 0.00 and a second time tomorrow at 1 pm. Don't miss the event!

The Long Now
Köpenicker Str. 70, 10179 Berlin

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FRI 24 MARCH 2017

We are getting excited...

THU 23 MARCH 2017

Still in Berlin preparing the Long Now and in the meantime a nice review at Gonzo Circus of last Saturday's concert :
"(...) Uiteindelijk is het Graindelavoix dat in het openingsweekend als beste de ambities van MaerzMusik waarmaakt. (...)"

WED 22 MARCH 2017

Memories from Berlin concert last Saturday. Tomorrow we start preparations of our contribution to The Long Now.

SUN 19 MARCH 2017

Listen live or afterwards to the lecture by Björn Schmelzer at MaerzMusik, The Chronopolitics of Early Music, 2 pm. (available via MaerzMusik Facebook )

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SAT 18 MARCH 2017

Tonight Cypriot nocturne at Church am Hohenzollernplatz, Berlin!
with Anne-Kathryn Olsen, Razek-François Bitar, Albert Riera, Andrés Miravete, Marius Peterson, Adrian Sîrbu, Bart Meynckens, Tomàs Maxé, Jean-Christophe Brizard, Björn Schmelzer (dir)

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TUE 14 MARCH 2017

Even at Heathrow airport you can detect trouvère songs... Graindelavoix on its way to Oxford.

THU 9 MARCH 2017

Fresh arrival at the office: Vecchi Requiem CD, release beginning of april!

MON 6 MARCH 2017

Memories from Warsaw concert...
Thanks to Sonia, Lukasz and Olga!

FRI 3 MARCH 2017

graindelavoix in Warsaw diving into Polish polyphony... Concert tomorrow will reveal new discoveries and never performed stuff, featuring Marcin Leopolita!


Wonderfull spanish review on Cypriot Vespers cd!
"Las ocho voces del conjunto, una femenina y siete masculinas, parecen gemir y suplicar con su canto en una suerte de trance canoro que todo lo envuelve y contagia, y del que resulta imposible abstraerse. Las inflexiones en la voz, desde las más leves hasta las más evidentes, la ornamentación, la emisión abierta y casi sin impostar, el canto de garganta rico en armónicos con sus resonancias de pecho, todo queda eclipsado por la emocionalidad de estas interpretaciones a tumba abierta y sin remisión."

Click here for the complete review


Starting the preparations of our Oxford residency 'en petit comité', close reading and performing pieces from Manuscript Douce 308, listening to the voices of early 14th century Lotharingians... More to come!


Jeroen Olyslaegers on graindelavoix;
misschien was de heilige Macharius een Armeen, misschien kwam hij uit Antiochië vlakbij Libanon. hij was een pelgrim en stierf in Gent aan de pest die, zoals hij op witte donderdag had voorspeld, zou verdwijnen na zijn dood. ne praktische mens dus. het is in de Sint-Machariuskerk te Gent Dampoort dat ik gister voor het eerst een concert van Graindelavoix heb mogen meemaken. ze zongen Cypriotische vespers van Jean Hanelle uit de vroege vijftiende eeuw. die Hanelle deed het omgekeerde van de heilige Macharius: vanuit Cambrai werd deze kapelaan naar het oosten gestuurd, naar Cyprus en door de kortsluiting tussen de vlaamse polyfonische stijl en de cypriotische liturgie kwam de mens met geschenken terug, geen pest. ik keek heel erg uit naar dat concert. maar fan of niet, Graindelavoix liet mij niet zomaar toe. het begin vergde concentratie, er zat een weerstand in mij over de complexiteit in de muziek, of kwam het anders door de vrijheid die ik niet wist te plaatsen, wat was het? waarom mocht ik nu niet meteen erin, kon ik me niet direct onderdompelen? het was me niet duidelijk, maar na twee liederen was dat gevoel plots weg. ik was emotioneel binnen, om het zomaar te zeggen en ik kreeg toegang tot de extase die er in die vespers huist. achteraf, door met de dirigent en bezieler Björn Schmelzer te babbelen snapte ik die aanvankelijke weerstand ineens. dit is een echte band, een grillige band vol toptalent. ge hoort individuele stemmen die excelleren en tegelijk de collectiviteit waarborgen. het is een spannende drone-band, een rituele band met voorzangers als sjamanen, ze bezorgen u een trip. eind maart staan ze op het muziekluik van de Berliner Festspiele tijdens een non-stop event dat dertig uur duurt samen met concerten van elektronica-mensen als Tim Hecker en de legendarische William Basinski. they are something else. die Björn en zijn band zijn rock 'n' roll.


Tonight Cypriot Vespers cd-release concert for Bijloke at Sint-Machariuskerk Gent. Unfortunately it is completely sold out...


Check-it out: a new "bootleg" channel around graindelavoix with previously unreleased stuff...collector's items!


Listen and look at new Cypriot Vespers movie...!
Belgian release-concert next week in Ghent!


Specialist website by Todd McComb very enthusiast about Cypriot Vespers...

This is a fascinating cycle of antiphons (motets), and one of the most interesting sacred compositions of the period. There is a lot of very elaborate isorhythmic passagework, yet the pieces hold together in a coherent way. In fact, there are motivic connections through the cycle, making it stand as perhaps the largest-scale isorhythmic work. Despite its obscurity, it can be viewed increasingly as a monument of the period, and a cycle of uncommon merit. The above was written prior to the recent attribution of both this antiphon cycle & the entire Turin mansucript to the previously obscure Jean Hanelle. His suddenly becomes an amazingly extensive output, including e.g. the Cypriot secular music. I continue to find this cycle to be highly appealing. The performance, as usual with Graindelavoix, is fascinating. Greek & Arab liturgical pieces are included, and vocal articulation & ornmamentation encompass a range of Eastern & Southern styles, including antiphon selections that might be taken as explicitly Gallican. As a result, the way the motets of the cycle come together seems even more magical, and indeed the interpretation opens up to many broader possibilities of affective response. There is more of a "flow" here than one might expect.


Noteer alvast... Lezing 'de demonen van de Oude Muziek'

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Nieuwe recensie Cypriot Vespers op Klassieke Zaken:

"Gewaagd, want het zal op kritiek stuiten."
Allez, vooruit....

Muziek ontdoen van pseudohistorische saaiheid – dat is wat het Belgische ensemble Graindelavoix al sinds jaar en dag voor ogen staat. ‘In Vlaanderen zijn we lang gemarginaliseerd en zelfs tegengewerkt’, zei artistiek leider Björn Schmelzer, ‘maar inmiddels is het tij gekeerd. Sterker nog: voor het eerst krijgen we subsidie. En opeens doet iedereen alsof we het warm water hebben uitgevonden!’ De nieuwe aanpak is verfrissend en dat blijkt ook weer uit deze nieuwe cd met vespers van de middeleeuwer Jean Hanelle (ca. 1380-1436). Diens muziek is door de Utrechtse musicoloog Karl Kügle aangetroffen in een manuscript in Turijn, en de verbluffende kwaliteit laat maar één conclusie toe: deze man kan de concurrentie aan met Landini, Dufay, De Machaut en andere kopstukken. Schmelzer en zijn groep kozen een liturgische cyclus van motetten. Waar ze dan weer hun eigen draai aan geven, bijvoorbeeld door er Byzantijnse gezangen in te schuiven. Het lijkt wel improviseren wat ze doen, al het gepolijste valt weg. En de onconventionele klanken hebben overal iets oriëntaals, met volop versieringen. Gewaagd, want het zal op kritiek stuiten. Zo blijft Graindelavoix dapper sleutelen aan de uitvoeringspraktijk en bestrijdt het ‘conventional wisdom’.


Read new Machaut review and an exhaustive after-comment by Björn Schmelzer...
On booklets, liberties and speaking with the dead...

Read here Björn Schmelzers two reactions;

First reaction
Dear Mr Leone,
Thanks a lot for writing about our Machaut cd. I normally don’t react directly on reviews, but because I appreciate your approach and at the same time you put some relevant question marks at the articulation of my work, I take the opportunity to clarify some points. I will try to put your remarks in the wider field of critical voices towards my approach and try to answer them from within this field, so please consider them as my open response and not as a direct statement to the specific points you make.
Some of them were also put forward in the past by other critics. For example the refusal of the ‘strange’ (and apparently for some people incomprehensible) booklets I fabricate, which texts supposedly blur more the interpretation on the recording than inform it…Well, in fact that’s exactly what I would like to achieve. For me the booklet should be an accomplice of the recording, not a legitimation of it.
In ‘early music’, people often expect from the musicians to legitimize themselves, strangely they don’t expect you to be creative, productive, imaginative. These categories are in the context of early music mostly received with suspicion and are a possible threat of the ‘authenticity’ of the performance. Imagination contradicts or covers in this view the ‘historical truth’ lurking beneath the soil of time…
These booklet texts are from the beginning a love and hate issue. Some critics like to see them fitting in a sort of pedagogical, paternalistic program, a problem which contaminates (and finally will kill?) in my opinion the whole classical music world. No department of the arts looks so much like elementary school as classical music: is it because classical music was a product of the Bildung regime that it likes so much to keep this Bildung mentality?
Opposed to that, I try to write a booklet who makes the situation more complex, but I hope also more rich, for the listener, instead of reducing our work to some biographical liner notes. I would like that the listener feels triggered and challenged. The booklet texts are for those who are intrigued, who want more, or those who like to search for the layers in the musical machine. In this perspective some trust or even good will is needed….I’m lucky that I found a label as crazy as myself that let me write all these essays and is even happy to release it, I’m really grateful to Glossa because I know other labels would never give this freedom.
At the same time, most of what i say in the booklets is like hammering on the same nail. The theme or concept of ‘euchronism’ versus anachronism is coming back all the time, it’s a thread through all our recordings. You ask what this ‘euchrony’ means: well, I explain it literally on the first page p.6, between brackets behind the term: “the historicist obsession with banning every single element of anachronism”. What do I mean with this? Consciously or not, most early music approach operates with some sort of cliché or common sense scalpel, starting with present time and cutting off everything what is not proper or contemporary to its proper time. What we keep in the end is the result of a pseudo-historicist filleting…To say it very bluntly: where is all the dirt of time (scholars would maybe call it : the anachronisms) ? and what happens if we bring it in again (this is a very fragile work which asks for a lot of performative trial and error), creating a musical performance which is not primordially focused on historical information but on historical transference, and what, in this transference, is, intentionally or not, cut away, exorcized. In fact in this sense I fight against early music as ‘modernism projected into the past’ (as if in the past everything was contemporary with its own time…what a weird idea). I’m interested in the fact that there is no existing ur-text, no existing consciousness of a first group of performers who establish a normative performance practice, and that in this sense we as performers are so to say the same as all the others who came right after,…or differently expressed: it’s a sort of historical absurdism to cut off some original group of completely informed and self-identifying people from a next generation who knows already less or starts to transform it, and so and so forth till now, till us, the least informed, the furthest away from truth…
If people don’t know or pretend not to know in the 20th century, it’s mostly because they don’t care or because aesthetical strategies are in charge, often also because they don’t really listen to the material: they appropriate it, which is the opposite of reclaiming or fabulating the past: I really believe that the material speaks or even screams to us, but we have to find the right machine to capture and produce the sounds.
What I would like to show is that even Machaut didn’t know, so to say, what he was shaping, what he was doing…and yet, he did it…his main concern was the keep his things going, to give them immortality, afterlife. To keep them moving.
We underestimate this anthropological need to continue things, to let them flow in a trans-generational way, people are really busy with that, it’s about history, nothing to do with New Age. And Machaut put himself in a tradition, but cracked it, as I called it, he didn’t break with the tradition but cracked it from within, using all the tools he got from the tradition: therefore artists can be in a tradition and revolutionary at the same time.
In musicology one of the big debates is the problem of musical ‘works’: the Messe de Nostre Dame is probably such a work, a monument etc, but at the same time musicologists know that this notion of monument and even of work is completely not functioning in the context of these early repertoires. And why is that? The main reason is because they were made in a logic of continuation, of afterlife and this means: they were made to fit in operative practices. And what we call now scores, are in fact diagrammatic writings connected witch operative knowledge, as I explain in many of my booklets. In concreto, musicians would not perform a ‘work’ like Messe de Nostre Dame without what we would call now, arrangement or embellishment: respecting a composition would mean adding, enriching, with flowers, with ‘merveilles’ as the 14th century French would say, of which yes, exotica, were certainly a standard element, but this is only a superficial aspect of how they would make of the composition an event that would connect memory, the past, and the present, the embodiment.
I like so much to put the art historian Aby Warburg in this context, because he is certainly a writer historical musicologists should learn to know. He is someone who opens up the field of art, of history and also of musical repertoires of the past.
In fact my approach is nothing new, in anthropology, literature, even in art history this is already more than ten years part of a new, even historicist, approach.
In art history this was clearly understood by Warburg who was able to combine a historicist approach with something that seems to be contradictory to it, but certainly not a cheap universalist approach: in fact his idea of the afterlife and agency of images was completely historicist in a way, but offered exactly the toolbox to go beyond the paradoxes of historicism for works of art or performance, works that continue in time, moreover this continuation is fundamental for their condition.
So, in fact, I don’t understand what people mean when they claim that my work is subjective or that i would take too much liberties: liberties towards what? subjective towards which sort of presumed objectivity? On the contrary, for me doing early music is not a question of pleasure or ‘we can do what we want because the composers are all dead’ (claimed by Leech-Wilkinson in his highly problematic ‘The Modern Invention of Medieval Music’). The whole confusion emerges because of the so called objective performances, which are in fact just performances that don’t touch or affect us and in this sense contain an aura of pseudo-objectivity…like a dead body that doesn’t move and can be approached so called objectively, scientifically…And this pseudo-objectivity is of course coming from 19th century positivism and goes hand in hand with the necessity of historicism…But historicism also changed so much, and it is as if people in early music didn’t know. Let me just recall Stephen Greenblatt’s opening sentence of his 1988 historical bestseller Shakespearean Negotiations “I began with the desire to speak with the dead.” My claim to let the dead speak in early music comes in fact very late, painfully late even, after all that….
Next issue, this so called historically informed approach: historical research is not only needed for historical information, in order to enlarge our knowledge of the past but rather to differentiate what is said, claimed, stated in a certain time and what is done, perceived, practiced, operated on, etc…something Foucault taught us so aptly….one can know a lot about the Middle Ages, well, there is still the music which can function as a last test case…or the other way round: this music, when performed, gives us an idea of space, virtual space, sound space, but also about motion, tension, dynamics, consonance and dissonance, desire, lines, texts sung together, affects, melodies etc etc… suddenly there is the music which erases all our knowledge: it seemed all not that right, or at least things seemed to be still differently connected, with other dynamics and dimensions. We listen and we say: if this is possible, if we hear this, we need to change our visions, we need to change ourselves…
At the same time we maybe should all become anthropologist and try to speak with the dead and experience that evoking the music of the past is not some exclusivity of western culture, on the contrary: my claim is that early music exactly only makes any sense if we reconnect it with other worldwide practices of listening to the past, listening to the ancestral voices (who are engraved in the musical diagrams they left for us) etc…in the sense, early music is not the modernist separation of the present (our present) and a historical (unknown) past, but exactly the opposite: it is the potential to evoke the past as music (quality time) with present voices which are not so much expressing themselves but rather revealing (past) others: a sort of conditional, historical ventriloquism…
Quite aptly musicians of early music often call themselves, with modest intentions, ‘mediums’ of the composers and repertoires of the past: voilà, here, without even knowing it, the claim is made, early music is an art related to spiritualism and why not, to magic or divination (which is, in a way, also a sort of score reading), and this is why I talk in the booklet about the art of making the ‘transfer’. Anthropologists, busy with divination etc, know what it means to evoke the voices of the past, which should be at the same time familiar and foreign, so that something affective emerges, a message so affectively strong that it changes something in the listener. Here we are, that’s all what I wanted to say. Respecting Machaut and his music, for me, means trying to make this transfer so that something would happen while listening or performing.
It is our so called modernism and pseudo-rationalism (applied on terrains which have little to do with rationality) which blocks our understanding or perception. That’s all.
That’s why I mentioned Marcel Pérès, because to me he is one of the only figures of early music who speaks with the dead and in this sense opens up the field for reclaiming the past, fabulating it, articulating it’s unheard potentials, washed away by the sponge of western history. People think maybe it’s about aesthetics, doing something what looks like what he did, but for me it’s a question of politics and I explain also this in the end of my booklet text, apparently it’s alien talk on early music planet. It’s a very important element because it is what early music performance can do: changing affectively our vision of the past, opening up the past, showing that it co-exists with our present. And more, we can reclaim the past, give it back to those collectives who were banished outside the glorious history of Western humanity (there is even so much quality of the non-human to discover in those repertoires by the way…), of which classical music is still all too often a symbol. Marcel Pérès said somewhere something interesting: why is it weird or wrong to do Machaut with Corsican singers who objectively are still with one or even two legs in a chant tradition, which anyhow has maybe more to say about polyphonic practices from earlier times, than a conservatory education of which you know objectively that the whole vocal, bodily approach and even more important, the whole aesthetic and affective approach is a clear modern denial and cut with the past? Singing early music with conservatory voices is apparently professional and neutral (implied: because it’s eurocentric?) but when you work in this repertoire with European singers who have a phrasing expertise in singing glissandi and ornaments you deliver yourself to the dangerous transgression of ‘orientalism’. (There is still a story to write about the false accusations of ‘orientalism’ for example in early music performance by western modernist musicologists, I guess nobody dares to go on this slippery domain…)
More important, Pérès shows that there is no direct line from Machaut towards modernist music (a line Western scholars still implicitly and all to often draw and which is revealed through their common sense knowledge and aesthetical preconceptions) without the bending, the cracking and continuous bifurcation of that line passing through ‘minor voices’, and ‘minor voice techniques’ who realize something of Machaut’s notation what was never heard before and challenge all our preconceived historical and aesthetical ideas.
I hope my notes shed some little light on the complexity implied in the Machaut booklet text and I thank you for the opportunity to reflect on your comments.

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Second reaction
Dr Mr. Leone,
The graindelavoix recording would be only a detour of the legacy of recordings you mention, if I would somehow claim this legacy, which I clearly do not, as you can read…
My booklet text functions exactly to claim a complete different one. It’s true that all the recordings you mention are in the same tradition, they differ maybe a little bit in the use of ficta and text placement etc, but grosso modo they share a common aesthetics, which I connect with the professional concert scene and a voice aesthetics legitimated by classical western music. If you would only just experiment with what this classical singing excludes, your whole sound spectrum changes and will immediately recall vocal aesthetics which we connect with mediterranean or traditional music. In a way, it’s funny. You could do the test: let singers in a polyphonic piece sing an ornament, for example a simple appoggiatura, a slow tremolo or even a simple glissando and everything changes. This has nothing to do with so called folk music, oriental singing or what so ever, it’s just a potential of dynamic possibilities which are lost in Western classical singing. (What the reasons are for their disappearance would be to complex to explain here…)
And one of the reasons why singers of early music are mostly classically trained singers and not singers from an existing chant tradition is because it’s common sense that there is a line going from Machaut to modernism, which apparently legitimates a common voice aesthetics. Nobody feels forced to explain why a recording with medieval music is sung with classical western singers, this seems to be self evident, but if performed by singers belonging to, let’s just say, a ‘minor’ vocal chant tradition, legitimation is needed. You see, here the politics of early music come into play and need maybe some analytical deconstruction.
Listen for example to recordings of the beginning of the 20th century: you get almost dizzy from the glissandi, portamenti and appoggiatures the singer use…
In May we were in Hannover doing renaissance polyphony, but also Bach. The director of the festival, Ingo Metzmacher, who is also a famous Mahler conductor, asked me how I managed to make my singers sing glissandi so well, because he never achieved to get his violin players playing glissandi in Mahler symphonies: they just didn’t want to do it, because probably they didn’t like it or where taught not to do it…I work with my singers so intensely till they start to bend their notes, till they start to sing dynamics in a single note itself. For most of them it’s a re-discovery of dynamic possibilities, they can apply these techniques for Lied repertoire or baroque singing, because they discover that this early polyphony was a soloist repertoire performed together with others, and completely different from the norms of a choir tradition: you can just do so much more with the voice, and it’s the music of Machaut that invites you, obliges you to explore all this… And some singers of my ensemble are very good in those explorations and help the others and so we try to liberate these early repertoires from its rigid appropriation by western modernist musical legacy…
And in this sense it’s true as a group there is still such a long way to go, it’s continuously developing, it’s infinite…we did the Machaut mass some months ago in the festival of Herne in Germany, and it sounded so different from what we recorded…that’s nice!
Finally it’s maybe still important to eliminate what is probably part of the confusion: the singers of graindelavoix are not from Corsica. I don’t know where this idea comes from. Most of them have even a ‘normal’ classical vocal training, but developed next to that also other performative skills, in other music genres and in other disciplines. On the Machaut recording I work with singers from Belgium (3+ myself), France (2), Estonia (1), Romania (1), Spain (1) and US (1).
And suddenly Machaut can become convincingly part of what we could call now ‘minor’ traditions: maybe some singers, I don’t know where, would hear our recording and would say: but, this is exactly in the line what we are doing for centuries: here something amazing and for me something political would have happened.
Thanks again for helping me to explain things better!
Björn Schmelzer
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Very succesful and - what did you expect? - controversial premiere yesterday at Vienna Konzerthaus...standing ovation! Graindelavoix, you loved it or you hated it...(as usual)
Many thanks to the wonderful team of the Konzerthaus!
Come and see the show in Berlin (March 25th & 26th) or Kortrijk (May 9th) !

image Koen Broos


Tonight 7.30 pm Vienna premiere and in good company...


Start of our Vienna rehearsals in the nice spaces of the Konzerthaus. Something starts to emerge... Première on Thursday! With Katy Olsen, Carine Tinney, Razek Bitar, Albert Riera, Andrés Miravete, Marius Peterson, Arnout Malfliet, Joachim Höchbauer, Margarida Garcia, Koen Broos, Willem Van Vooren and Björn Schmelzer.

Images Koen Broos


Watch interview with Björn Schmelzer about new production: sleep, insomnia, Samuel Beckett, John Sheppard...


Our new show next week at Resonanzen Wiener Konzerthaus!


Nice review at Cross Rhythms magazine!

I have never heard anything quite like this release of a cappella music performed by the Belgium ensemble Graindelavoix, as always directed by Björn Schmelzer. The pieces, marked by a moving beauty, with one female and eight male singers, results in another of their peculiar and intriguing soundscapes that takes the listener somewhere unexpected. My first response was to label this as Orthodox music with its typical bass drone but it is neither Greek nor Russian as the flavour is more Hebrew or Arabic, reflecting the unique history of the island of Cyprus. The little-known composer Jean Hanelle (c 1380-c 1436) was a professional musician at Cambrai Cathedral and possibly later a teacher of Guillaume Dufay, who spent more than 20 years from 1411 onwards at the French court of Lusignan in Nicosia, Cyprus, a stay which involved him becoming the chapel master there. According to music scholars, Hanelle was the composer of a cycle of Magnificat-antiphons - the so called 'O'-antiphons traditionally performed during the last week of Advent - found in an Italian codex and included in this new production. Both the original plainchant and the Hanelle antiphons are presented in a series of nine pairs, between which the ensemble also performs an appropriate and context-setting selection of Maronite and Byzantine chants. The CD booklet comes with an interview with Björn Schmelzer carried out by Anne-Kathryn Olsen, a selection of late 19th-century photographs taken in Cyprus by John Thomson, and the first English translation of the antiphons, made by Jeannine De Landtsheer from the University of Leuven. While this is certainly a scholarly project it is also very listenable if you are prepared to set aside your musical preconceptions. While the singing is outstanding I would classify the release as "World Music" rather than "Choral" as listeners expecting a traditional Western vespers service will get a shock when they hear this.


Starting preparations of a new Royaumont program: weird Florentine repertoires around 1440…some musical survivals by the obscure Benoit Sirede, Italian anonymous, the magnificent Du Fay and the English mercenaries Dunstable and Lionel Power…
with Katy Olsen, Adrian Sîrbu, Marius Peterson, Bart Meynckens, Arnout Malfliet & Razek Bitar.


Very nice résumé and comment (in French) by Florian Thiébault of new Glossa-cd Cypriot Vespers with musical extract!


Machaut CD of graindelavoix rewarded by SCHERZO magazine with "Disco Excepcional"
a promising start of another busy year with plenty of international concerts, new projects and Glossa-cd releases!

MO 11 JANUARY 2016

Diary pages are dangerous, because they are promising, but not often kept or continued...
The start of a new year is a good reason to pick up again.
2016 will be a year of new recordings!
First of all there is the long-expected Messe de Nostre Dame of Machaut. Alex (Fostier) and me, we finished it yesterday night. It will be released in april for Glossa. There is the mass, plainchant proprium and two additional motets by Machaut, quite spectacular works. According to musicologists they are connected with the city of Reims, but also with the Marian devotion at Reims cathedral and indirectly with Machaut's mass.

Next there is the cd with Cypriot Vespers we recorded end of december after a nice tour, passing through Poland, Portugal and Belgium. We still have to start montage and mixing but the 'rushes' are very promising. It's a very caleidoscopic program with a lot of different, quite virtuoso elements. The release is scheduled for autumn 2016. In the meantime live performances of Cypriot Vespers in 2016 can still be heard in Prague, Tournai and Utrecht. Please keep an eye on the agenda.

In between there is something special: a recording we will make beginning of february and which will be the 'extra' of a catalogue for an exhibition in the Antwerp museum Mayer Van den Bergh. Unfortunately the museum is not so known, which is a shame. It has major pieces in its collection, as there is, one out of many: Bruegel's 'Dulle Griet' painting. I mentioned the museum once, some years ago, in an interview for Glossa, as one of my favorite. In june an expo called 'In Perspective', with intriguing interior paintings of Antwerp churches, will open. For this occasion graindelavoix provides fitting music, to be experienced in the museum while looking at the paintings, but also to take home, as part of the catalogue. The content of the cd are all first time recorded worldpremières so to say, coming from Antwerp prints around 1600 (Plantin, Phalèse). There are international compositions by Pedro Rimonte, Duarte Lobo and Orazio Vecchi; Franco-Flemish masterpieces by Georges de la Hèle and Alard du Gaucquier and Antwerp miniatures by locals Matthias Pottier and Guillelmus Messaus. It's an amazing treasure of unknown Latin pieces that give literally acoustical insight to the painted interiors, often showing singers in action. The cd will be only and exclusively available with the catalogue in 2016.

Finally, in june 2016 we will also record the 'Portrait of the artist as a starving dog', featuring the madrigals of Cipriano de Rore, of which many never recorded before. We will bring the program also at least two times in France in the summer, in the festivals of Sarrebourg and Saintes. Agenda announcements in march!

SA 25 JULY 2015

Souvenirs of an intensive masterclass at Fondation Royaumont. Subject was the cycle of motets, known as O-antiphons, of the Turin manuscript J.II.9. According to musicologist Karl Kuegle this manuscript reprensented the repertoire of the French court of Cyprus, and in extenso, of Jerusalem and was probably composed and copied by Jean Hanelle, a singer at Cambrai cathedral, later court composer in Nicosia, Cyprus. After leaving Cyprus, Hanelle could have used the manuscript to find a new employer (somewhere in North Italy?) who could give him a place to retire. But according to Kuegle, the real purpose and Hanelle's final destiny are still open questions...
Our approach was a concrete musical one, trying to understand the writing, style and performance of a selection of seven motets: the idea of a concrete musicology en acte!
I asked Adrian Sîrbu, specialist in Byzantine chant traditions and core singer of graindelavoix, to shed his light on the repertoire, assisted by two other singers of graindelavoix, Olalla Alemán and Razek François Bitar, who both have a lot of stylistic experience in affective singing and ornamentation.
We tried as much as possible to start from what the manuscript and its writing could offer us...
Our residency in Royaumont made it possible that we had all the time the monumental facsimile of the Turin manuscript that Karl Kuegle edited some years ago to our disposal. And one of the first things we discovered was the very precise and consequent placing of the text under the notes. When we dived into this repertoire some years ago, I still had the pretention I could improve the rhetorics of the text by changing the placement of the text offered by the manuscript and make the relation between text and melody more organic. For example, I would adjust the place of the end of a verse with the end of a musical phrase or with a cadence formula, and 'correct' the odd way the scribe placed the text on first sight. But this was exactly neglecting the way the composer tried to hook together the verses, creating a sort of 'musical enjambement', a micromusical level that finds its macromusical pendant in the three isorhythmic patterns together with a different spread of verses in every pattern hooked together by the composer.
This was only the first level of our research and we wanted to take the work of the composer serious, we tried to understand what he was up to with phrasing the text in this specific way. Taking the text placement serious as a part of the style of the composer taught us a lot about the musical expression and rhetorical phrasing. The moment you decide to trust the scribe, a whole world of affective musical imagery begins to emerge.
The motets we studied had two upper voices with to different texts sung at the same time. The texts itself consisted of poetic, ornamental and explanatory tropes of the simple antiphon text of which only the incipit and some words remained in the new version.
One of our focus points was also to discover how the composer created meaning by intertwining two different texts stretched over two layers of melodical phrases, producing a depth structure of meaning, or a meaning that is the effect of two different but interacting/intervocal texts accompanied by their musical affective rhetorics. Many new insights of meaning emerged that could almost only be discovered in the practical experience of singing and listening. For a big part it was this emergence of meaning, a meaning that can as such not be reduced to some elements but is the result of the total production of the motet, what was keeping us busy for a week.
At the same time it changed our view of how complex and subtle 'meaning' can be (more linked with mnemonic, affective, sensitive knowing than with signification), and how it is produced in an operative context. This was the other level: the singers' involvement in the never ending, but open finalization or creation of the motets. It was on this level that Adrian Sîrbu's expertise of other chant traditions, i.e. Byzantine chant, came into the picture.
A crucial aspect is the articulation of cadences which are only partly written down and rather suggested in the writing, but should be finalized by the singers' application of musica ficta or colorata, the sharpening of leading tones, many times even in a chromatic way in these motets. As a result, we articulated for example only in one motet O sapientia, which takes four pages in transcription (115 bars in Hoppin's transcription), more than 45 cadences, which function also as important phrasing and framing anchor points. Structure becomes at the same time audible: the motet cadences almost every two, three bars and the consequences for the auditive and affective perception of these motets are huge. It was very practical and fertile to have two participants with academic musicological background: Bartosz Izbicki and Jan Janovcik. I thank them for their interesting suggestions.
A musicology en acte relates all different aspects of construction and analysis to the concrete performance and its effects. We believe that the performance of a work is not the problematic and uncertain endpoint of a process, but rather the starting point itself of a research process that is not separate from an actual execution, in this sense always linked to it.
The important contribution of Adrian Sîrbu is situated in the aspects of how meaning and performance, context and liturgy, what is written down and what is performed and how it could be performed with implications for the understanding of the motet, are all connected: separating one of these elements is changing the whole. Another aspect of this qualitative analysis is the idea of the image: a word or a quantity of words is linked to a musical gesture: what appears in performance is a moving, sounding image. This process is complexified by the arrière-plan of tenor and contratenor and two simultaneous upper voices, making vibrate the simple sound image, giving it a depth structure. The upper voices of the motets are like infinite catalogues of affective possibilities of the words, combining syllabic and melismatic zones. The rhetorical way the composer uses color, pausa, etc, creating suspense and attraction, together with the help of multiple cadences, is still a huge subject of discovery. I had to think of Didi-Huberman's analysis of the figura in the context of Fra Angelico and Dominican image-making, even more if you get the impression that the troped strophes of the motets were written by a Dominican poet-theologian...
Graindelavoix will perform the whole cycle of motets in concert at Royaumont on the 11th of october 2015.
For the whole tour at the end of the year in Belgium, Gdansk and Lisbon, see the agenda.
I will present our findings at a conference of Montpellier University in the beginning of november.

WE 15 JULY 2015

We are proud to announce the online release of the new website of graindelavoix, finally. It took some time, and we apologize for the long waiting...too much work, too few people.
When not mentioned explicitly pictures on this website are from photographer Koen Broos, long time collaborator and also involved in many stagedesigns of our productions.

The plan is to keep you instantly informed with our facebook page. This is a public page, so you don't need to log in or being a member of facebook. You can visit our page without any problem just via a website browser.
On this website on the contrary, you will find more background information, more substantial texts and ideas, but also a calendar, images and sound examples.

We will try to keep the office diary on this page. The idea is to offer you an insight in the inner kitchen of our work, the embryonal state of things, the work in progress, the thoughts behind the work, feedback and comments after the events.