Riding & Music in the Renaissance
Baldessare Castiglioni, who published the famous Book of the Courtier in 1528, spoke of sprezzatura and the importance of arts over martial skill as the most valuable asset of a courtier. In the Renaissance courts, music was the highly prized and riding masters were teaching skills derived from military equestrian maneuvers to become what would be our modern dressage.
What fascinates Eisenstein is that the language used to describe the correct forms of riding and music were exactly the same.
Through reading sixteenth century descriptions of both arts, examining the illustrations in riding manuals, and hearing music from that time, we can find connection between riding and music.
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Robert Eisenstein is a founding member and program director of the Folger Consort, early music ensemble in residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., since 1977. The Consort performs over thirty concerts each season at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington National Cathedral and other venues. Recent projects include a program featuring dramatic readings from Merchant of Venice with actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford and Samantha Bond with music by the Mantuan Jewish contemporary of Shakespeare, Salamone Rossi, and the Bassano family, also likely Jewish, with branches in London and Venice. In addition to the US performances the program was presented with the Gabrieli Consort and Folger Consort at the Wanamaker Theatre of Shakespeare’s Globe in London. The Consort opened the Folger’s Wonder of Will year commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a collaboration with the English vocal ensemble Stile Antico, performed in Washington and New York. In September 2019 Mr. Eisenstein served as music director for a production in the Folger Theater of Davenant’s Restoration version of Macbeth. The Folger Consort’s latest recordings are A New World Christmas (2014) and A New Song (2011). Mr. Eisenstein delivers public lectures at the Folger related to each Consort program, and frequently participates in conferences and workshops at the Folger Library.
In addition to his work with the Consort, he is the director of the Five College Early Music Program in western Massachusetts, where he teaches music history, performs regularly on viola da gamba, violin, and medieval fiddle, and coordinates and directs student performances of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. He is a recent recipient of Early Music America's Thomas Binkley Award for outstanding achievement in performance and scholarship by the director of a college early music ensemble.
Recent performances with his viol quartet/quintet, Arcadia Viols, the Folger Consort and other ensembles include appearances at the Boston Early Music Festival fringe concerts, the Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival, Napa Shakespeare Festival, the Seattle Medieval Women’s Choir and the Chautauqua Festival.
Mr. Eisenstein attended Antioch College as an undergraduate, where he met and began working with his future Folger Consort colleagues. He completed the MFA in Historical Performance at Sarah Lawrence college where he studied musicology and viola da gamba with Richard Taruskin. He and his wife own four horses and enjoy riding in the woods around their home. Although he doubts he will make it to the Olympics he also enjoys working on dressage.
Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 6:00 - 7:30 pm