Improvisation was a regular part of musical performance in the Baroque and Renaissance eras. Unlike today, performers were almost always also composers as well, and someone performing someone else's composition would often take liberties - even adding whole sections to the work. Today it is highly unusual that a performer would depart from the score, even a tiny bit!
In our program Flights of Fancy, we will be finding different ways to present how improvisation is a part of period music. In some cases, the ensemble will be improvising ornamentation, variations of written melodies, as well as brand new melodies created on the spot. In addition, you will hear a glimpse of the improvisational skills of Baroque (and earlier) composer-performers themselves through works of theirs that were meant to evoke their improvisational style.
One of the pieces we will perform is a strikingly beautiful ornamented version of a melody by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, which Francesco Rognoni included in his treatise on how to improvise ornaments to existing melodies. It could be argued that--given the robust ornamentation--Rognoni ends up creating a whole new piece.
Below is a performance of the original madrigal by Palestrina, followed by another performance in which the vocal parts are played by brass instruments while the violin creates her own ornaments for the melody. You'll have to wait until February 9th to hear Rognoni's version!