Advent and Christmas Songs of the 16th-17th C. Prussia and Lithuania Minor

Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach, the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights and the first ruler of the Dutchy of Prussia, reorganized the lands of Lithuania Minor into the first European progressive state in which the Lithuanian language was fostered. At the request of Duke Albrecht, the use of Lithuanian language in the church was introduced in Tilze, Königsberg and later in other cities. In 1544, the University of Königsberg (Albertina), one of the most important centres of Protestantism in Europe, was established. Between 1566 and 1666 the most important Lutheran hymns were published in Lithuanian. The Advent and Christmas songs for this program were selected from these hymns, and old Lithuanian texts were adapted to the scores of famous German composers, giving them a new semantic flavour. This program presents polyphonic music by composers connected to the Duchy of Prussia, as well as arrangements of Advent and Christmas carols in Lithuania Minor, transmitted by oral tradition.

This program features two further Lithuanian ensembles: Brevis Choras and GŠ Ansamblis, and it is financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas


Music from Königsberg in the 16th and 17th centuries

The cultural centre of Lithuania Minor since the 16th Century was the ducal residence of Königsberg. In the University founded by Duke Albrecht in 1544, music occupied a main educational role, and the subjects were taught by famous composers of that time, like Johannes Eccard (1553–1611), Johann Stobäus (1580–1646) and Heinrich Albert (1604–1651). Special dedication was given to the study of singing and music theory, while artistic performance was altogether encouraged. The musical activities of both the University and the Palace were closely connected. Königsberg itself engaged in a vivid cultural life with plenty of cultural societies, like the famous Kürbishütte around poet Simon Dach (1605–1659). The repertoire varied, from psalms and masses up to instrumental pieces and musical miniatures.
Ensemble Morgaine is presenting hereby their new program with music which sounded within the grand halls of Königsberg, and in the churches where Martynas Mažvydas and Jonas Bretkūnas worked.

Program is financed by the Lithuanian Culture Council and the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas

Two Habsburg Ladies2

The musical portraits of Elizabeth and Catherine of Austria

“Two Habsburg Ladies” is a homage to Elisabeth and Catherine of Habsburg, wives of Sigismund Augustus (1520–1572), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Both sensitive personalities of a frail constitution, the sisters Elisabeth and Catherine were overshadowed in history by their more famous opponent Barbara Radziwiłł, Sigismund’s second wife and the love of his life.
Out of Elisabeth’s and Catherine’s letters, we are nowadays fortunate to know a little of their everyday lives, which were constantly surrounded by music. This musical projects starts in Innsbruck (Ludwig Senfl, Heinrich Isaac, Paul Hoffhaimer), continues in Cracow (music from the Jan Lublin tablature and from the tablature of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit), and ends in Vilnius (Valentin Bakfark, Mikołaj Gomółka, Wacław of Szamotuły , Cyprian Bazylik). Most of this valuable musical heritage is now being rediscovered after hundreds of years.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas

Evening Song2

16th c. songs, hymns and psalms from the court and chapel of Sigismund Augustus

During the reign of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund II Augustus (1520–1572), the Baltics experienced a flourishing growth of the arts, and the main Polish-Lithuanian composers of the time – Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Gomółka and Cyprian Bazylik – bound their creative life to the new important cultural residence of Vilnius.
The new protestant tradition gradually started to replace Latin with local languages in the singing practice, and several books of translations of the psalms into Polish and Lithuanian were published, the most important one being Jan Kochanowski’s Melodiæ ná psalterz polski (1579).
One century later, the war with Russia and later with Sweden put an end to the vivid cultural and artistic life of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.


Melancholy in the sonnets of Shakespeare and the music of his contemporaries

Known as “The English Malady”, Melancholia reigns over the minds of Renaissance artists and intellectuals, particularly in Northern Europe. While identified as a more-or-less treatable disease already in those times, Melancholia was back then – as much as today – the equivalent of a sensibility out of the ordinary, with the ability and desire to dwell in a gloomy state of mind over all world-weariness. The love-sickness, defeat, solitude and hopelessness of the Shakespeare sonnets are carried by ensemble Morgaine over the music by John Dowland, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Tarquinio Merula and others of the Renaissance England, Netherlands and Italy, gently passing through the different shades of post-elizabethan Melancholia.

This programme is usually performed with an actor from the country we are performing in.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas

Per te Amor

Love arias in the time of Marco Scacchi

“Per te, Amor”, a musical program describing the joys and the sufferings of love, presents composers who were connected with Polish and Lithuanian rulers of the 17th Century: Claudio Monteverdi, whose 450th anniversary we celebrate today, the great violinist, theorist and maestro di capella Marco Scacchi, his pupils Adam Drese and Angelo Berardi, as well as the organist Tarquinio Merula. Also, this program will feature the work of Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger and Stefano Landi, who were connected in the creation of “La vittoria del Principe Ladislao in Valachia”, a dramma per musica which was performed in Rome in January 1625 during a banquet honouring Prince Ladislao Vasa.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas

The Three Ravens

Ayres, ballads and dances from the time of Elizabeth I

Even as a young princess, Elizabeth was passionate about literature and music. She wrote poems, which she performed while accompanying herself on the harp or lute, and is known to have been an active dancer all her life. During her reign, England not only became a world power, but arts and education flourished, new schools were opened, as well as new theatres, which were full to the brim. Queen Elizabeth was the patron of poets and playwrights like William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, and musicians like John Dowland, William Byrd, Francis Pilkington and many others.
With this theatralised concert programme, soprano Anna Maria Wierød and ensemble Morgaine will immerse in Elizabeth’s time, in its stories, intrigues, and mysteries.

Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas

Lifetime images

Shakespeare in England, The Netherlands, Italy and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Lifetime Images is an imaginary journey through the different life stages of the Elizabethan Renaissance man.
Ensemble Morgaine creates in atmospherical density a soundscape with music from England, The Netherlands, Italy and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, complemented by poetry of William Shakespeare, John Donne, Pierre de Ronsard, Alfonso d’Avalos, Schirin Nowrousian, and by reflected images of Albrecht Dürer’s “Iris”. Starting with the bud and ending with the last withered blossom, the “Iris” is a metaphor for the transitory that lies in all living beings. The journey starts with the enthusiasm of the young age, leading through erotic passion, romance, melancholia, world-weariness, return to innocence and depart.

This programme is usually performed with a light installation or with a large screen with a presentation of selected texts.

Graphic material used in the programme presentation is based on Albrecht Dürer’s “Iris” (c.1503), Kunsthalle Bremen. Photo by Lars Lohrisch.