Room 14

Sometimes composers layer two completely different melodies over each other and the effect can be quite magical. Let's listen to what Gustav Holst did in his St. Paul's Suite. St. Paul's was a school where Holst taught for many years and he wrote this piece for one of his ensembles. Listen to this excerpt from the final movement. Listen!

Here's a verbal description of what you heard. The opening melody that sounds like a hopping and skipping dance is known as the Dargason. But what a surprise later when the famous English melody, Greensleeves is added over it. That's the tune that moves more slowly over the Dargason. Listen again if you didn't catch it.

If that was still too subtle for you listen to a louder one that comes back before the end of the music, Listen!
Now that was merely two melodies over each other, but what if you combined eight (!) melodies at once. It was done for the first time in 1673. That's 335 years ago!!! The composer was Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber and the music is supposed to be like a bunch of drunken soldiers who are all singing different songs at the same time. This is just one movement out of larger work known as Battalia. Listen!

That was an amazing accomplishment that wouldn't be attempted again for hundreds of years.

Biber: Battalia; Le Concert des Nations; Jordi Savall, Conductor; Label Alia Vox; Catalog number 9825

Holst: St. Paul's Suite; Alan Barlow/Royal Philharmonic ASV Living Era label

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