Monday, 25 July 2011

Baroque Music Festival - The Churches - Part 1

The opening Concert:
Jeudi 28 Juillet 2011 - Ouverture
 Abbaye de Brantome


 'A trip to Arcadia.  Lovers bereft by their separation.
'A man in misery....'
'To admire the drama in Vivaldi's cantatas and sonatas.'

Portrait of Antonio Vivaldi in 1725

Sonate en si mineur Op. I no 11 RV 79
Lungi dal vago volto - cantate RV 680
Sonate en ré mineur Op. I no 8 TV 64
Perché son molli - cantate RV 681
'As for Scarlatti he leads us into an atmosphere of pastoral dalliance'

Domenico Scarlatti - 1738 portrait by Domingo Antonio Velasco

Il Trionfo dell'Onesta (sérénade pour 2 voix, 2 violons & basse continue)

Yetcabel Arias FERNANDEZ and Marina BARTOLI, soprani
Carlo LAZZARONI, Ana Liz OJEDA, violons
Caterina DELL'AGNELLO, violoncelle
Fabio BONIZZONI, clavecin et direction

Brantome in the Dronne Valley,
the most attractive valley in the Département Dordogne, the Périgord.


The landscape is one of rocky scarp slopes 
that have been inhabited by man since prehistoric times.

Surrounded by a loop in the river Dronne, some 27 Km north of Périgueux,
the little town of Brantome is referred to as "the Venice of the Périgord".


 The houses line the river Dronne...


....which flows slowly through this little town,
divided into several branches that seem to be trying to give the town greater protection.


Brantome, built in the shadow of the Benedictine abbey 
that has been very influential over the centuries,
now uses the prestigious historic building for a range of activities linked to its initial purpose.
The huge limestone cliff is dotted with countless caves that were 
used for religious ceremonies in the days of Antiquity.
They were soon given a Christian significance by hermits
attracted to this evocative spot early in the history of Christianity.

The strangest sight of all, though, is undoubtedly 
the huge bas-relief housed in the largest of the caves.
Certain archaeologists believe that it illustrates
a scene from the Last Judgement, hence its name.

The towns pride is its Benedictine abbey which dates back to 769 or 786.
It was Charlemagne ('Karl der Grosse')
who had the relics of St. Sicaire brought to the monastery 
and crowds of pilgrims then visited it to pray.
The church once had a line of domes, but they have now disappeared.
Devastated by the Vikings a few years later, 
it was rebuilt towards the end of the tenth century.
The town and the abbey developed thereafter.


From 1538, the Abbot of Brantome, Pierre de Mareuil,
had a number of structures built, including a right angled bridge over the river,
and elegant Renaissance house.
His nephew who succeeded him, Pierre de Bourdeille
is more well known under the name of Brantome.
The abbey was conferred upon him in 1557.

In the 11th Century, the monks had a gabled belltower built,
supported partly by the rock.  This 60mtr tall belfry, on the north side of the church,
is unquestionably the finest in the Périgord.  According to recent studies,
it was erected during the Carolingian or even Visigothic period,
making it the oldest belfry in France.
Formed by tour recessed storeys, it features gables in its upper section.
Crowned with a pyramidal stone roof, its various bay windowed storeys
also feature capitals sculpted with an antiquated style of leaves and interweaving.

 Beyond the bridge is the monks' garden with its Renaissance wayside altars,
an ideal spot for meditation, flowing the example set by Brantome
who chronicled the period in which he lived.....

and whose portrait can be seen on the nearby Medicis Fountain.

Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur and abbé de Brantome (c. 1540-15 July 1614)
was a French historian, soldier and biographer.
Brantome was born in Périgord, Aquitaine, the third son of the baron de Bourdeilles.
His mother and maternal grandmother were both attached to the court of Marguerite of Navarre,
on whose death in 1549 he went to Paris, 
and later in 1555 to Poitiers, to finish his education.
He was given several benefices, the most important of which was the abbey of Brantome,
but had no inclination for an ecclesiastical career.
He became a soldier and came into contact with many of the great leaders of the continental wars.
He travelled in Italy; in Scotland, where he accompanied Mary, Queen of Scots;
in England, where he saw Elizabeth I (1561,1579); in Morocco (1564);
and in Spain and Portugal.

On his death, in 1614, the Brantome Abbey had become the most prosperous in Aquitaine,
although it was soon to decline.  During the Revolution, its rich library
and the last seven monks were dispersed.



 Renaissance window at one of the town houses

The Gate of the Reformists 
stands as a reminder of the Protestant armies who,
on the march to Brantome, refrained from ransacking the abbey.

After many ups-and-downs, restoration work was finally begun in the 19th century,
under the leadership of  Abadie, the architect who restored St. Front's Cathedral in Périgueux.
He dad no hesitation in removing, changing and redesigning the building
in accordance with his own views, and it was he who gave it the appearance it has today.
Although it is perhaps regrettable that we no longer have the mediaeval castle
built for Pierre de Mareuil between the river and the abbey, nor most of the cloisters,
the abbey has nevertheless retained all its original elegance
as is evident from the angled bridge.

Renaissance Pavilion and the right-angled bridge over the river Dronne

The Abbey of Brantome - Certainly a dignified setting for the opening concert
of our ITINERAIRE BAROQUE under the artistic direction of Ton Koopmann


Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 - 28 July 1741),
nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest") because of his red hair,
was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice.
Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers,
and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe.
Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos,
especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over 40 operas.
His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (26 October 1685 - 23 July 1757)
was also an Italian composer who spent much of his life 
in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families.
He was born in Naples, Kingdom of Naples, in 1685, 
the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friedrich Haendel.
Scarlatti is classified as a Baroque composer chronologically,
although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style.
Like his renowned father Alessandro Scarlatti he composed 
in a variety of musical forms although today he is known
almost exclusively for his 555 keyboard sonatas.


all information about the concerts   here

to be continued....

Images 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 by Bertrand Cabrol
Images 8 and 9 by Nicolas Fediaevsky


  1. I'd like to be chez toi!

    Wonderful abbey - wonderful landscape!

    Viel Vergnügen mit Herrn Vivaldi und co!


  2. Thank you for the beautiful and interesting lesson in history and music.

    I am now off to listen to Vivaldi and Scarlatti

    Wishing you a great week


  3. Karrin you live in such a gorgeous region!!! I love all the houses surrounding the river everyone has a view. Your images of your scrolled up sheet music was actually very clever of you and it makes a great image. Hey if you get a chance would you mind asking Giuseppe where he got his orange waistcoat, I love it!

  4. What an enchanting place! A concert in that abbey would be pure bliss.

  5. Amazing to think that this is your countryside, so filled with important history dating back centuries. The detail you provide, along with your photos, make one wish to be there with you.
    Beautiful photographs, Karin, and a perfectly awesome post. I'm waiting for the next installment. xx's

  6. Karin, we can't get over how beautiful your region is! Such a special place full of history and character. We hope you have a beautiful week!
    Angela and Renee

  7. Thanks for giving me my history/music lesson today. The pictures are so fabulous, it looks like a fairytale. Lucky you!

  8. Another absolutely beautiful post, Karin, filled with beautiful photographs and historical notes. I'd love to be there for the concert as I adore baroque music and still play Scarlatti's sonatas. I've just watched the entire Tour de France and was awestruck with the beauty of the country; you are so lucky to live amongst all of that history!

    Cheers from Oz,
    Alaine x