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The Folia is one of the several dances and dance songs of popular origin which developed in the Iberian Peninsula in late Middle Ages and may have been used in their original context for quite some time before they were later assimilated by the courtly polyphonic repertoire, both vocal and instrumental, in the late 15th and , in the early 16th century. Its Portuguese origin is confirmed by influential Spanish theorist Francisco de Salinas in his 1577 treatise De musica libri septem, and indeed it was first mentioned in several Portuguese documents of the end of the 15th century, amongst others the plays of the founder of Renaissance Theatre in Portugal, Gil Vicente, in which it is associated with popular characters, usually shepherds or peasants engaging into energetic singing and dancing (hence the name "Folia", meaning both "wild amusement" and "insanity" in Portuguese), either as an easy way of identifying their social nature to the audience or as a celebration of a happy denouement of the plot. Furthermore, throughout the 16th and 17th centuries constant references are made in the Portuguese chronicles" of the time to groups of peasants being called upon to dance the Folia at the palaces of the upper nobility on the occasion of festive events such as weddings or births.
In the early decades of the 16th century the musical pattern of the Folia was already well known all over the Peninsula, consisting of a repeated bass line (usually in two segments, A-E-A-G-C-G-A-E and A-E-A-G-C-G-A-E-A, or slightly altered versions thereof), on which various standard discants could be built and series of variations (or "diferencias") could be improvised. In his 1553 Trattado de glosas, Diego Ortiz includes several sets of such variations, using the bass line of the Folia -as well as those of the Romanesca, the Passamezzo Antico and the Passamezzo Moderno- precisely as an ostinato harmonic pattern entrusted to the harpsichord, upon which the viol performs highly virtuosic melodic elaborations. Moreover, various songs based on the same harmonic and formal structure appear already in the Cancionero de Palacio ("Rodrigo Martinez" or "Adoramoste, Senor", for instance) and in other important polyphonic songbooks, as well as in instrumental intabulations, such as Antonio de Cabezon's organ version of "Para quien crie yo cabellos", published in 1557 by Luis Venegas de Henestrosa in his keyboard anthology Libro de cifra nueva. Also in 16th century Italy, on the other hand, the Folia was also widely cultivated, either in its original form or slightly variated under the designation of Cara cosa or of Pavaniglia, appearing in a considerable number of publications of dance and instrumental music.
By the last quarter of the 17th century, however, the Folia undergoes a process of further standardization, with the above-given version of the bass line becoming the norm (each of the pitches being assigned a measure-long durational value, in triple meter), as well as with a standard discant tune associated to the harmonic sequence thus obtained. All over Europe, and throughout the 18th century, it now becomes one of the best loved grounds for highly virtuosic instrumental variations, at the hands of such important composers as Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Buononcini, in Italy, Marais and D'Anglebert, in France, or Johann Sebastian and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, in Germany. Corelli's La Follia, included in his famous 1700 Op. 5 collection of solo Sonatas for violin and continuo, was especially influential in shaping a wide gamut of variation patterns on this theme, which were then widely imitated by countless minor composers.
Needless to say, even in its new standardized Baroque version, it remains a staple of the Iberian 17th and 18th century instrumental repertoire, a particularly charming example being the setting in Antonio Martin y Coil's manuscript collection Flores de Musica (ca. 1690), for instance. Cherubini will later pay homage to its Portuguese origin by using it as the main theme for the overture of his 1798 opera Uhotellerie portugaise, and even some of the Romantic piano virtuosos, as late as 1867 (Liszt, Rhapsodie espagnole) and 1931 (Rachmaninov, Variations on a theme by Corelli), will use it as a symbol of continuity with a grand tradition of almost three centuries of brilliant variation writing for the keyboard.
- Rui Vieira Nery
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
After years of playing the various Folias by Diego Ortiz, Antonio de Cabezon, Antonio Martin y Coll, Arcangelo Corelli and Marin Marais, it became clear to us that there were certain links between the origin and evolution of the important art of musical improvisation and variation and the viola da gamba, or bass viol, itself.
In fact, it is no mere coincidence that, throughout the 16th century, and in places as different as France (Adrian Le Roy, 1551), Italy (Vicenzo Ruffo, 1564) and Germany (Matthaus Waissel, 1573), we find references in the various manuscripts and printed documents to the term "gamba", used as a synonym for "Folia".
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and long before the appearance of the violin, the bass viol was the most widely used bowed instrument for improvisation on a basso ostinato. According to the various treaties and historical references (Diego Ortiz, Aurelio Virgiliano, Christopher Simpson, Andre Maugars, etc..), a good musician should be able to carry out and improvise variations on a song, a theme or a bass continuo during a concert or any other musical performance (see Maugars, 1638). In the case of creative a creative genius such as Ortiz, Cabezon, Martin y Coll, Corelli or Marais, improvisation blossomed into masterpiece.
This aim of this CD is therefore to bear witness to an art which contributed so much to the evolution of the language of instrumental music.
The Early Folia
To give a representative picture of how the art of the Folia was practised during its first period, we have chosen three different forms: examples by Diego Ortiz, including two ricercari on the basso ostinato of the Folia; the variations on on the Folia Para quien crie yo cabellos, by Antonio de Cabezon, and two improvisations on contemporary villancicos composed according to the earliest form of the FoHa. These improvisations, which were developed following the rules and style of the time, are entitled Rodrigo Martinez, from the Cancionero Musical de Palacio (1499) and Hoy comarnos y bebamos by Juan del Enzina.
Martin y Coll
The Diferencias sobre la FoHa are to be found in Antonio Martin y Coil's manuscript, which represents the early Baroque development of the Folia (second half of the 17th century), and allow more clearly contrasting variations which play on the alternation of slow and fast couplets and the succession of highly virtuoso passages and more or less flowing cantilenas. The choice of instruments for these pieces, which include the bass viol, the treble harp, the guitar and the castanets, is in keeping with the characteristic Iberian sound of the period, according to prevailing musical taste and practice, particularly in forms such as the FoHa, the Fandango and the Jacaras, which retained strong links with their popular origins.
Corelli's reputation spread rapidly throughout Europe, particularly in France where the bass viol virtually reigned supreme. His music was held in high esteem there, and Pierre Louis Daquin observed in his Siecle Htteraire de Louis XV (Amsterdam, 1754) that the first sonatas to be heard in France were those of Corelli. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the whole of the composer's Opus V was arranged for the viola da gamba (MS. VM7 6308 Paris Bibl. Nationale). The eleven sonatas are sometimes transposed a tone or quarter-tone lower and rewritten in the key of C in thirds or F in fourths, with the exception of his Follia, which is left in the key of G. For this reason, and in order to maintain the music's original brilliance, we have decided to play it on the treble viol, using the transposition a quarter-tone lower. This enables us to retain the characteristic sound of certain open strings (A = E and G = D). In accordance with Corelli's instructions, the accompaniment is on the harpsichord and the "basse de violon".
Although we hear Marin Marais's 32 couplets on the Folia immediately after those composed
by Corelli, the only chronological link between the two works is the dates they were printed (Corelli, 1700 and Marais, 1701). The manuscript containing a large number of these variations by Marais is mentioned in a catalogue of books left in Edinburgh by Harie Maule (a violinist who was a contemporary of Marais's) in 1685, fifteen years before the publication of Corelli's work.
This manuscript is a good example of the young Marais's art and is useful to our understanding of the evolution of his work, which progressed from what was essentially improvisation to a more structured, elaborate and contrasted style (of the 28 couplets included in the 1685 manuscript, Marais kept only 16 in the final version, these appearing moreover in a different order). The final version of 1701 contains 32 couplets, 16 of which had already appeared in the 1685 manuscript and 16 of which were new. The whole was given a new structure and made use of an astonishing variety of expression and execution in its instrumental content.
Thus, all these "ex tempore" forms of music born out of improvisation, thanks to,the spontaneity and vitality of their inspiration, take on a truly timeless dimension.
- Jordi Savall (Paris, Autumn 1998)