Modern Suite of Ancient Tunes employs early melodies from three sources. The first movement, Westron Wynde, is based on an early 16th century melody from the time of Henry VIII. It was used as the cantus firmus in masses by English composers during the Renaissance, the most famous of whom is John Taverner (c. 1490-1545). The bassoon plays a freely evolving and legato version of the tune, while the piano punctuates with staccato statements and chords.
The second movement, Machaut Variations, is based on the famous love song Quant je suis mis au retour by the mediaeval French composer Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377). A simple setting of the melody appears first and is followed by five variations, each with a different character. The final variation is the boldest, featuring fortissimo dynamics, tertian and added note chords, quartal harmonies, and syncopated rhythms.
The final movement, Chant Hildegard, quotes melodies from Hildegard of Bingen’s (1098-1179) Ordo Virtutum (The Play of Virtues). Hildegard was a German abbess, poet, scholar, and composer, and is the best-known female composer of the Medieval period. Chant Hildegard’s slow opening quotes the Chant of the Patriarchs and Prophets, while the fast middle and majestic ending sections weave the Chant of the Virtues into an athletic bassoon line. The piece ends with chantlike, organal harmonies in the bassoon and piano.
Score and parts included: Bassoon