So here I am, on the last hotel day of TAPFS' winter/spring tour, sitting, thinking and occasionally gazing out of the window at the modernist architecture of which the western edge of Switzerland's capital Bern is mostly constituted. Oh, look, I'm writing syntactically convoluted sentences again... and using long words too. Some things never change.
It's the day after the Innsbruck show mentioned in the most recent episode of “Mr. Wilson's Mondayitis”. The weather during the last few days has mostly been wet and miserable but although it was overcast, it stayed dry yesterday, enabling me to get out during the daytime and wander around the city for a couple of hours. This ws a treat, because I'd long wanted to take a look at the town which inspired one of the most enduring popular songs in the history of Western music!
“Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen” (“Innsbruck, I must leave you”) is generally believed to have been written by the late 15th century composer Heinrich Isaac, although some historians believe that Isaac simply took a pre-existing folk melody and popularised it. Isaac's setting was composed at some point during the 1490s. Two hundred and fifty years later it was still being covered and adapted by Bach, perhaps most famously in his “St. Matthew Passion” but, I think, most strikingly in the astonishing opening section of the unnumbered cantata “In allen meinem Taten”, BWV 97. Why astonishing? Well, the instrumental parts are written in the then (1734) fashionable French Baroque style, the alto, tenor and bass parts pile a distinctly Germanic fugue on top of that, while the “Innsbruck” tune is sung at half tempo by the sopranos as a “cantus firmus”, a plainsong technique which harks right back to the melody's late mediaeval origins. It's the kind of stylistic mish-mash which shouldn't wok at all, but which Bach was adept at pulling off.
For anyone still awake and reading, HERE is a YouTube link to a King's Singers performance of Isaac's unaccompanied setting (with some nicer pictures of Innsbruck than I was able to take on an iPod on a grey day), and HERE is another to a fairly recent live recording of the above-mentioned Bach piece directed by John Eliot Gardiner.
I wonder how many contemporary popular songs will still be getting covered and rearranged 250 years from now... will Pink Floyd's music still be known? Will The Beatles be of interest to anyone other than historians? Does anyone remember Sigue Sigue “We're the future of pop music!” Sputnik even now?
Back to Innsbruck. Isaac was sad to be leaving because, in the 1490s, the city served for a time as the primary residence of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, which, since Maximilian was a major patron of the arts, automatically made it one of Europe's top cultural centres. Sadly, I didn't make it as far into the town as the Goldener Dacht, an epic gold-roofed construction put up to celebrate Maximilian's accession to the throne of the Tyrol, and my attempt to photograph the mediaeval Hofkirche came out too blurred to be of any use. So, instead, here's a photo of the River Sill – a tributary of the Inn, the old bridge (“brucke”) over which gives the town its name – showing, in the background, the massive ski-jump built for the Winter Olympics held in Innsbruck in 1976
and here's another of a tram on the Amraser Strasse, with the mountains which seem to tower over the town on all sides... and, in the bottom right corner, yes, that's Primark! They're turning up everywhere, just like H&M.
I imagine it doesn't sound very exciting, but I really enjoy the chances touring affords for me to get out and explore towns I've heard of but never visited, so yesterday was a highly enjoyable day for me! I just wish I could have got into Salzburg the day before, but the weather was very miserable so we all contented ourselves with what was then our first glimpse of the Tyrolean Alps. Jason assured me that they were, in fact, alive with the sound of music... I expect we may be back in these parts next year, though – as Colin said, the Austrian audiences of the last week were all enthusiastic and appreciative, which augurs well for future touring possibilities.
OK, th-th-th-that's all, folks! I expect I'll be back with another of these, probably written in the USA and thus unlikely to contain too many references to ancient classical music (cue collective sigh of relief...). Have a great summer, we're sorry but it's time to go, and we hope you have enjoyed the show!