Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) left an immense legacy not only to history, but also to literature, philosophy, and music. His travels on diplomatic missions took him throughout Europe, as far east as Poland and as far south as Florence. Living at the heart of cultural and religious changes that characterised 16th century Europe, he witnessed the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris, met with numerous important intellectuals and politicians including Emperor Rudolph II and his circle in Prague, and lost his life at the Battle of Zutphen in the Netherlands. Sidney even made plans to join Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions in the New World. Living in a time of sweeping social, political, and intellectual changes, his international awareness and connections made him an important link between the Elizabethan court and the Continent.
Even after his death, Sidney’s words have served as cultural ambassadors in their own right, transcending the boundaries between written, sung, and visual art. His numerous poetical works inspired the output of many top composers (such as William Byrd and John Ward) and were in fact often based on music themselves.
Our programme aims to showcase the legacy left to Europe through the words of this exceptional figure and his connections: Lady Penelope Rich (nee Devereaux, the woman to whom Sidney was once engaged, the subject of his dazzling sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, and dedicatee of many songs during her lifetime) and Sidney’s sister the Countess of Pembroke (who collaborated with Sidney on a translation of the Psalms, and to whom he dedicated his largest work(s), the Old and New Arcadias, and sponsored musicians such as Anthony Holborne as part of her activities). Despite Sidney’s achievements and living fame, Sidney’s name is virtually unknown in Czech society, and only one of his works (Astrophil and Stella) has been translated into Czech, making him inaccessible to many people. We would like to share Sidney’s story, the circle of lives and words connected with him, with Prague, with music as his translating force and ambassador.
Programme for 4-6 musicians: 1-2 voices, 1-3 viols, lute.
Composers: Charles Tesssier, William Byrd, John Dowland, John Coprario