This four-part series, presented by composer Howard Goodall, shows that great pieces of music are not freak accidents of genius but the direct products of their time, place, culture and politics.
The year is 1564 and Europe is still reeling from the effects of the Reformation. The sacred music of the two churches – Catholic and Protestant – was developing in completely different ways. Instrumental music was also rapidly gaining in importance – as was ballet, championed by Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France. From the violin, which dominated her dance bands, the orchestra would emerge.
The key aims of this programme are to:
* introduce the viewer to the political and social, and in particular religious contexts of the middle and late Renaissance
* explore how music could support religious devotion both in the new Protestant church in northern Europe as well as the Catholic church
* consider the importance of the use of polyphony in church music and the changes to Catholic Church music throughout the Renaissance and the early Baroque
* listen to works by key composers of the period such as Palestrina, J.S. Bach and George Handel
* discover secular works by the above composers written for pleasure such as the madrigal as well as the orchestral works
* explore the changes to instruments and the rise of the violin, particularly in Italy and France
* consider the importance of the patronage of Catherine de' Medici to the rise of ballet, the introduction of the violin and the arts in general in France