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The Early Music Week faculty share thoughts on the year's program

Anne LegeneMay 1, 2014

Beggars Unite!
The Spanish Golden Age in the Netherlands

by Anne Legêne

It is impossible for me to think of the Spanish Golden Age without thinking of the Dutch revolt against Phillip II, which lasted 80 years (1568-1648) and led to the birth of the first republic in Europe, and the beginnings of a national identity for the Netherlands. Religious differences and persecution, economic problems and constitutional conflicts made the Spanish autocratic rule unacceptable to the largely Protestant low countries. 

Murder of William of Orange

Bullet holes at the Prinsenhof in DelftGrowing up in Delft, I daily passed by one of my favorite places in the world: the “Prinsenhof”, a beautiful little court of William of Orange, fighter for tolerance, freedom of religion, and just government, who led the revolt, and died there in 1584 at the hands of a hired murderer. The bullet holes in the wall can still be seen (picture at right).


The carillon in the church tower in Delft played songs from the “Geuzenliedboek”, and “Valerius’ Nederlandtsche Gedenck-clanck”, the first a popular compilation of political songs of the period, the second a history of the war interspersed with songs set on popular melodies from all over Europe. Song was one of the important ways to spread the spirit and information of the revolt. Protestants and Catholics taunted each other by borrowing each other’s melodies and setting new texts to them. Neder-Landtsche Gedenck-Clank(Geuzen, from the French word Gueux, or Beggars, was a name taken on with pride by the confederacy of Calvinist Dutch nobles and other malcontents after having been dismissed asinconsequent and mere beggars by one Spanish ruler.)


So this year at Early Music week, in one of my classes, I may lead my own little rebellion and present political songs from Valerius’ Gedenck-clanck and the Beggars Song Book, including sources and different settings of the same melodies.

The cabzón fishOr else we may celebrate the spirit of conciliation, by offering Tientos and Differencias by the wonderful Spanish composer and organist Antonio de Cabezón. (Although the word Cabézon means stubborn in Spanish, and is also the name of this fish)

The Cabazon composer, AntonioThe blind Cabezón (c1510 -1566) was músico de la cámara to Charles V and Phillip II. Between 1548 and 1551 he accompanied Phillip on his travels to Milan, Naples, Germany and the Netherlands, and in 1555 to London on the occasion of Phillip’s marriage to Mary Tudor. His variations, called discantes, diferencias or sometimes glosas, form a high point in the history of the genre. His models include popular Spanish songs, such as El canto llano del caballero, and dance forms. A wide range of variation techniques are seen, including migrating cantus firmus themes altered beyond recognition, and profuse ornamentation. During his journeys with the royal chapel Cabezón must have influenced musicians throughout Europe, in particular in England where composers such as Tallis and Byrd took up the art of variation.

Here is Cabezón’s beautiful “Cancion de Emperador Carlos V”:

And here is the “Geuzenliederen”:

Recent posts:

EMW 2019:
Dances of Love and War, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2018:
Transformative Dance, by Ken Pierce

Transformation, by Larry Wallach

Music: A Transformative Art, by Pamela Dellal

EMW 2017:
Music and nature, by Larry Wallach

Images of Nature in Dance, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2016:
Dancing to music, by Ken Pierce

Playing for historical dance, by Jane Hershey

EMW 2015:
Language, by Pamela Dellal

Genre, by Larry Wallach

Legacy, by Larry Wallach

EMW 2014:
The Spanish Golden Age in the Netherlands,
by Anne Legêne

Sephardic Music, by Jay Rosenberg

Ensalada by Salomé Sandoval