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Madison Early Music Festival honors Germany's Age of Enlightenment
A tuneful turning point
Parthenia's viol players perform ancient and contemporary works.
Parthenia's viol players perform ancient and contemporary works.

As lovely as HBO's Game of Thrones theme song may be, it isn't representative of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance or even the early Baroque period. Classical music lovers can enjoy repertoire from all three of these eras at the Madison Early Music Festival July 6-12. In addition to attending performances by early-music ensembles at the UW's Mosse Humanities Building, fest-goers can hear lectures about music-history milestones and learn about exotic instruments like the dulcian during a variety of workshops.

Here are several events that promise as much excitement as the cable TV show, without any of the bloodshed. For additional festival information, see here.

Piffaro, the Renaissance Band
Saturday, July 6, 7:30 p.m.

This year's fest has a German Renaissance theme, and this wind ensemble provides a fascinating introduction to the period. Its players explore many musical styles from the 16th century, using instruments such as bagpipes, recorders, sacbuts and shawms.

Parthenia, a Consort of Viols
Sunday, July 7, 7:30 p.m.

This quartet of viols will perform with two guests: tenor William Hudson and harpist Christa Patton. The program includes ancient and contemporary compositions, including works by Schwartzkopf, Senfl and Bach. In addition to playing at festivals, the group produces a concert series in New York City, which has led The New Yorker to name it "one of the brightest lights in New York's early-music scene."

Handel Aria Competition
Monday, July 8, 7 p.m.

Vocalists will compete for cash prizes by singing two of Handel's arias, one from an opera and the other from an oratorio or cantata. This is the first year of the competition, which festival publicist Susanne Voeltz says is the first of its kind in the United States.

Dark Horse Consort
Tuesday, July 9, 7:30 p.m.

Dark Horse Consort promises to explore the virtuosic side of 17th-century brass music. It will present sacred and secular pieces from Austria and Germany, including works by Schein and Scheidt.

Masked Ball
UW Memorial Union's Great Hall, Wednesday, July 10, 7 p.m.

Courtly romance will be in the air at this event featuring dances from the German Renaissance. Festival faculty will perform music from an eight-day international festival that happened in Stuttgart nearly 400 years ago. Costumes are encouraged, but no dance knowledge is necessary. European court dance specialist Anna Mansbridge will show participants how Germans boogied in the 17th century.

Calmus Ensemble Leipzig
Thursday, July 11, 7:30 p.m.

Though these five German vocalists perform very old music, they're a relatively new ensemble. Since making their debut at Carnegie Hall in 2010, they've won several international competitions. At this appearance, they'll present Mythos 116: Psalm 116, Compositions from the 17th Century.

All-Festival Concert
Friday, July 12, 7:30 p.m.

Carroll University's Kristina Boerger conducts this concert by Madison Early Music Festival faculty. The program's centerpiece is the 1616 Mass composed for the christening of one of the Duke of Württemberg's sons. The group will also perform works by several other German composers such as Praetorious and Aichinger.

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