The department of early music was set up in 1988 with a view to developing the teaching of the music of the middle ages and the Renaissance. Since then repertoire from other periods has been added so that the period of reference now extends to the beginning of the 19th century and overlaps with the classical period.
In parallel with high level instrument tuition, ensemble work is a central element of each class, to such an extent that all the teachers of instruments and singing also teach music for ensembles. Furthermore, the department offers a range of subjects that allows students to develop in-depth understanding of musical styles of the past by means of theoretical and practical study: Ars Musica (notation, solmisation, counterpoint, improvisation and writing), musical discourse (musical rhetoric), basso continuo (underlying harmony), ornamentation, singing, etc.
The department also carries out a great deal of research in many widely different areas of performance: French music, improvised Renaissance counterpoint, continuo groups, instrument-making, musical rhetoric, links with oral traditions of music, etc.
Students give concerts regularly, either at the conservatory or in partnership operations with the many partner institutions.
Head of Department: Anne Delafosse
Ever since it was set up the department of early music has implemented a policy of purchasing instruments from widely differing stylistic spheres, ranging from the recreation of a medieval organ from a painting by Van Eck to the purchase of a pianoforte built by Fritz in Vienna in 1828.
Harpsichordists have at their disposal Italian harpsichords built by Emile Jobin (16th, 17th and 18th centuries), French style harpsichords (David Ley’s Dumont model and Yoshida’s copy of an unnamed harpsichord dating from 1679) and German and Flemish harpsichords (17th and 18th centuries). These, together with other instruments (by Dowd and Chevallier), mean that there are sufficient harpsichords to have a keyboard available in every teaching or practice room. This group of instruments also includes a copy of clavichord by Hass and a copy by Christopher Clarke of a pianoforte built by Lengerer in Vienna in 1787.
There are several organs, including a three-register “organo di legno” by B.Fleig, which is used for accompanying. Viol players can play on a consort of seven viols. There are several other instruments in this group, including a lirone and a violone.
In the strings family there are medieval vielles, different violins, violas and baroque cellos, with a wide variety of bows for the different schools of violin-making and violin-playing.
The lute family includes a wide variety of lutes from the 15th to the 17th century, theorbos, a vihuela, Renaissance and baroque guitars, a cistre or pandora and gothic and baroque harps.
Two consorts of recorders are at the disposal of students, as well as medieval flutes and a bass recorder by Hotteterre.
Among the woodwind instruments available, students can learn to play 17th century instruments (notably the dulciane) and baroque or classical instruments tuned to 430Hz.
These workshops have been set up at the initiative of the teaching staff and are held throughout the academic year.
This workshop offers an introduction to medieval music based on secular monodic repertoire (troubadours, trouvères, Guillaume de Machaut, trecento, etc.) instead of approaching the music of the middles ages via Renaissance music (15th century polyphony, followed by Ars Nova, and so on).
The first area covered is that of the monodic chansons of Guillaume de Machaut, of the troubadours and the trouvères, and those to be found in surviving engravings of instrumental music and in the sacred repertoire. This is followed by work on the polyphonic repertoire. Students are invited to learn or improve their skills on instruments such as the vielle, the medieval lute and the gothic harp. The art of accompanying the monodic chanson is explored and developed.