Sunday, December 13, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Thus, violins of transcendant quality first came into existence, such as those the Amati family made around 1550 for the danceband of Charles IX of France, of which only a few survived the French Revolution. Ongoing improvement in the art of violin making in the latter half of the sixteenth century contributed to the development of a kind of super-soprano instrument that could rival the highly-prized cornetto and even the human voice, and was ideally suited to the new trends in musicmaking taking place in Northern Italy, like opera and the sonata.
The first published sonata naming the violin as its treble instrument is the Cima work, dating from 1610. The practice of instrumentalists taking vocal lines and improvising embellishments on them, however, had been around for decades, and we have many written examples to emulate, some of them quite extravagant. Thus, Susanna’s tale of purity and faith can easily get lost in a torrent of virtuoso display. How delightfully seventeenth-century! Although not based on a vocal original, a similar confluence of tuneful melody and elaborate ornament is heard in the sonata by Fontana, from the only extant volume of his works, published posthumously. The scoring of the Frescobaldi piece, with its obligato keyboard part, is highly unusual for this period, but understandable coming from the leading keyboardist of the time.
The name Biagio Marini can be found on the payroll of San Marco in Venice, ostensibly as a singer, but somebody had to play those violin parts that kept cropping up in Monteverdi’s Vespers and other sacred works, so why not have the best? Marini was certainly the most innovative of his generation in the technique of the violin, exploiting its full range and capacity for doublestops, as can be heard in the Sonata Variata. He also travelled widely during his career, bringing Italian innovations to other parts of Europe. Other composers on our programme made long journeys as well.
Baltzar was a native of Lübeck and served at the Swedish court before settling in England, where he did not fail to astonish, especiallly in his ability to play the violin in multiple voices. The Neapolitan Matteis also emigrated to England, and was particularly noted for the quality of his sound production. (“He did wonders upon a Note”).
Sara at the keyboard:
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Here is the concert program order for this coming Saturday's concert. Above is a picture of us performing at the Heliconian last year (we are at Emmanuel College Chapel on Saturday)
The Resurrection from The Rosary Sonatas Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)
Sonata-Surrexit Christus Hodie-Adagio
Prelude Thomas Baltzar (1630-63)
Suzanne ung jour
Sonata from Concerti ecclesiastici Giovanni Paolo Cima (c.1570- 1622)
Sonata Seconda from Sonate…per il violino Giovanni Battista Fontana (c.1571-c.1630)
Toccata per Spinetta e Violino Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Sonata Variata from Sonate Op. 8 Biagio Marini (c1597-1665)
Sonata Violino Solo Georg Muffat (1653-1704)
Pieces in E minor Nicola Matteis (fl.1670 - 1698)
Preludio in Fantasia-Allegro-Aria Malinconica-Giga-Sarabanda con Affetto
Sonata Giuseppe Valentini (1681-1753)
Her Leaves be Green
Miss Anne Greene
Coy Daphne fled John Danyel (1564-c1626)
Eies looke no more Danyel
Lyke as the Lute Danyel
Chast Daphne fled Danyel
Gaspara Stampa 1523-1554
Amor, lo stato tuo After Vincenzo Galilei (c.1520 –1591)
Gagliarda La Gasparina Giulio Abondante (fl1546 -1587)
Excerpt from Rilke’s Duino Elegies
Oimè, le notti mie colme di gioia, Cosimo Bottegari (1564-1620)
Songs for the Egerton Sisters
Sweet stay awhile Henry Lawes (1595-1622)
Coranto René Saman (fl 1610-31)
The God of love my shepherd is Lawes
Countess of Pembrooks Funeralls Anthony Holborne (c1545-1602)
Tavola - In quel gelato core Lawes
Before the Restoration the English stage was not a place where the educated woman was permitted to exercise her skills in the sister arts of rhetoric and music. The more intimate and controlable domestic performance space was hers to command.
John Danyel was the brother of the poet and playwright Samuel, and ‘Lyke as the Lute’ is a lyric by him. John’s Songs for the Lute Viol and Voice of 1606 is dedicated to Mistress Anne Greene, the daughter of a wealthy, if not very well-pedigreed knight, Sir William Greene, who employed Danyel as a household musician. A few lines from his verse dedication will make clear the function of the songs in the collection.
To Mrs. Anne Grene…
That which was onely privately composed,
For your delight, Faire Ornament of Worth,
Is here, come to bee publikely disclosed:
And to an universall view put forth.
Before his court engagement Henry Lawes also worked as a household musician, for the more illustrious Egerton family. His duties included teaching the daughters of John Egerton, the Earl of Bridgewater. Lawes’ dedicated his Ayres and Dialogues of 1653 is to Alice and Mary, by then Countess of Carbery and Lady Herbert of Cherbury. The dedication says of the songs ‘most of them were composed when I was employed to attend to your Ladishipp’s education in musick’. Along with a song from that print, we present a psalm paraphrase by George Herbert, Mary’s brother-in-law, solos from Lord Herbert’s Lutebook, and an ayre from Lawes’ autograph songbook. Since ‘Sweet stay awhile’ preceeds the songs written for Milton’s Comus we can presume it was written when he was still teaching the girls.
Gaspara Stampa and her sister were moved to Venice when her father died and her mother exploited the children’s musical and poetic talents as she opened her house as a salon. We set two of Gaspara’s poems to extant melodic formulas that fit any sonnets as was perhaps the most common way of hearing sung poetry in mid-16th century Italy. We also present a much later poet’s lines on her to a plainchant melody.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Then we hopped on a train and came to the conference on Early Modern Women at University of Maryland. Thurs. was the session on the Sidney women and performance. Friday night was a concert of music for Miss Anne Green, Gaspara Stampa and the Egerton sisters. Here's Hallie getting ready for that.
The internets here at the hotel are nearly non-existent. More when we get somewhere with better access.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Flow my teares fall from your springs - John Dowland (1563-1626)
If fluds of teares could cleanse my follies past
I saw my Lady weepe
Merry Melancholie - Thomas Robinson (fl. c 1600)
Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
Now cease my wandring eies
Mourne, mourne, day is with darknesse fled
A Shepeard in a shade, his plaining made
Times eldest sonne, olde age the heyre of ease
Dye not before thy day, poore man condemned
Cleare or cloudie sweet as Aprill showring
O sweet woods the delight of solitarinesse
Dump Philli - Anon.
Sorrow stay, lend true repentant teares
Please restrain any applause till intermission and the end of the concert.
David Klausner was a founding member of the Toronto Consort, with whom he played for twenty years, specializing in early wind instruments. Since his retirement from the Consort he has appeared regularly as a bassoonist with orchestras in the Toronto area. For the past thirty years he has taught regularly at early music summer schools in Canada, Europe, and the United States. In his other life he is Professor of English and Medieval Studies, and Vice-Dean for Interdisciplinary Affairs in the Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Toronto. His areas of research include the documentary history of early drama in England and the social history of music.
Hallie Fishel, soprano, takes particular interest in the poetry and the historical pronunciation of the texts she sings, and enjoys lecturing on these topics, as well as other aspects of performance practice and the role of music in early modern culture, at colleges and universities across North America. She studied both traditional operatic technique and early music at Indiana University, with Thomas Binkley, Margaret Harshaw and Paul Elliott, and at the Longy School of School of Music with Laurie Monahan. With Musicians in Ordinary, she has also been heard playing the rebec, lira da braccio, and a little guitar. Hallie teaches voice privately and acts as a consultant to both singers and public speakers on matters of vocal health. She has served as soprano soloist at the Church of the Redeemer, Toronto, and as Director of Music at Trinity Anglican Church, Port Credit.
John Edwards specializes in playing numerous historical plucked string instruments, from the medieval lute to the theorbo to the nineteenth century guitar. Though he plays continuo lutes with orchestras, Mr. Edwards has always had a love of song and is in high demand as an accompanist and coach. Recently graduated as an M.A. from York University, he is a Fellow of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at the University of Toronto and has given lectures and demonstrations throughout North America.
An Anatomy of Melancholy
From the last years of Elizabeth’s reign through James’s melancholy and its attendants became a theme, even an obsession with artists. Few Shakespeare plays are without at least one character who exhibits symptoms of this disease. There were plenty of macro reasons to feel melancholy; high unemployment, inflation, a government in debt and a parliament paralyzed. Poets and musicians, though, tend to focus on the micro causes of black bile, or melancholia, to give it its Greek name.
Lucy, Countess of Bedford cultivated an image of herself as the light (‘Lucy’) in the darkness for many artists working with the imagery of melancholy. John Donne, Samuel Danyel and John Dowland were all her creatures. Dowland’s Second Book of Songs was dedicated to Lucy, and it is from this book that all of the songs heard this evening are taken. Dowland compiled the book while working for the King of Denmark, and it seems tailored to cash in on the vogue for melancholy as well as reminding the reader of a society retirement party he wrote the music for (Times eldest sonne), and allying the composer with the ill-fated Earl of Essex (The text of O sweet woods is probably a plaint by Essex to Elizabeth). It also features a song with an amorous shepherd whining on a riverbank, because Dowland knew that pastoral verse was ‘as you like it.’ Dowland, like Lucy, seems to have been cultivating an image he being ‘semper dolens’, ever sad.
Robert Burton, Oxford scholar, wrote only one book in his life, though he revised and expanded it for nearly a quarter of a century from its publication in 1621. One of his aim seems to have been to collect all the information about the melancholy disease, though his stated aim is more personal. ‘I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy.’ His straggly life’s work is a mass of quotations from the ancients and ‘neoterics’ frequently digressing into such subjects as the nature of air, spirits, and in the Third Partition, love. His treatise of love melancholy and its causes very often strays from the ‘scientific’ purposes of the book to the edges of poetry. We will leave the last word to Burton:
But to leave all declamatory speeches in praise of divine music, I will confine myself to my proper subject: besides that excellent power it hath to expel many other diseases, it is a sovereign remedy against despair and melancholy, and will drive away the devil himself.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
We are gearing up for 2009-2010. Hallie and I rehearsed for our first concert which will be a multi disciplinary performance at Tricia Postle's Majlis Arts with dancer Gauri Vanarase and poet Camille Martin. We had a preliminary get together on Friday. We'll be performing some of Camille's poems to 16th and 17th century melodic formulae like Ciacona, Folia etc. and accompanying some dance with the same. Here are a couple of snaps of the preliminary rehearsal which will give you an idea of the space too.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Here's the program and the notes.
Ricercar Franciscus Bossinensis (fl 1509)
Se non dormi donna ascolta Anon.
O passi sparsi Sebastiano Festa (d. 1524)
Piango el mio fidel servire Anon.
O dolce diva mia Peregrinus Cesena (fl 1510-20)
Tullia d'Aragona c. 1510-56
Varchi il cui raro
Fantasias (Nos. 5,6 &7) Francesco da Milano (1497-1543)
S'io'l feci unqua
Donna se 'l cor Ippolito Tromboncino (fl 1540-60s)
Vostra belta si bella Tromboncino
Io moro Tromboncino
Se voi dolc'et pietosi Tromboncino
Gaspara Stampa 1523-1554
Amor, lo stato tuo e proprio quale After Vincenzo Galilei (c. 1520-91)
El Pass'e Mezo – Gagliarda La Gasparina Giulio Abondante (fl1546 -1587)
Veronica Franco 1546-1591
Fors’anco Amor Cosimo Bottegari (1564-1620)
Lucia di Filippo Gagnolanti d. 1593
Torna deh torna Giulio Caccini (c1550–1618)
Fillide mia Caccini
Dalla porta d’oriente Caccini
If an aristocrat in Renaissance Italy were very liberal minded, he might let his wife embroider a pillow to place on the window sill to cushion her elbow while she watched the goings-on in the street. Wives were seldom anywhere unchaperoned and their lives were largely cloisetered.
The courtesan, on the other hand, was free to roam both amorously and intellectually. The ‘cortegiano honeste’ was musician, poet and muse. She didn’t have a price list and customers, she had ‘friends’ who gave her ‘gifts’. Pietro Aretino, a satirist who knew a thing or two about courtesans, tells us that musical instruments and musical hangers-on were among the most important things for the aspiring courtesan to acquire. In one of Aretino’s dialogues Nanna, an old pro, tells Pippa, her protégé, ‘Ask this man for a lute, another for a harpsichord, this man for a viola and that for a lira. Then get the maestri to come and teach you music, getting them to play for you for nothing, paying them with hopes and promises.’
What we know about Maria the courtesan’s repertoire comes from a manuscript of poetry collected by a Domenico Arrighi. He seems to have been quite smitten by Maria, a Roman who moved to Florence. Many of the poems have notes saying that she sang this one or that and these rubrics are often more effusive: ‘This song was her favorite, and she sang it so well that everyone would fall in love with her on hearing her sing it so beautifully.’ We have intabluated the tenor and bass parts of Se non dormi, Piango and O dolce diva for lute since this was the most common mode of performance for the frottola. O passi sparsi is from an English arrangement of Festa’s frottola which is the most famous setting of Petrarch’s text.
Hardly any music survives for the lira da braccio, an instrument which was used to accompany quasi-improvised solo recitation-song in the 15th and 16th century. Hallie reconstructs such a performance from such sources as do survive to perform poems by the most celebrated of the courtesan poets, Tullia. As well as her sonnets, which include many to lovers and patrons like Varchi, she published a philosophic Dialogue on the Infinity of Love from which this concert takes its name. Who better to write on the subject than a professional?
Pietro Aretino was an avid letter writer, and published collections of them. One letter invites the greatest singing teacher of Renaissance Venice, Ippolito Tromboncino, to dinner, saying that the courtesan, and Ippolito’s student, Francheschina will be there, as will the great painter Titian. A painting of Titian’s shows a disinterested Venus staring off into the distance as a lute player serenades her longingly. Could this be Ippolito and Franceschina? He certainly looks as if he will be rewarded with nothing but ‘hopes and promises’.
The performance of poetic forms to stock melodic and chord changes was perhaps the most common form of song in our period. We perform Gaspara’s sonnet to a formula which fits all sonnets and uses the Folia chord changes. The lute chords are notated in rudimentary notation in the hand of Vincenzo Galilei, though we obtain the melody other sources. We sing a passage from one of Veronica’s long terza rime to a textless ‘aria’ for that poetic form from Cosimo Bottegari’s lute song book. We have also sung passages from Dante’s Inferno to the same tune, since any terza rima can be performed to it.
But it’s not clear who was a courtesan. Gaspara was of noble birth, but her family was broke. She had several lovers who gave her ‘gifts’. Lucia was a singer at the Medici court. When there was some doubt about the potency of a noble who was about to marry a Medici daughter Lucia was sent to Venice (what happens in Venice stays in Venice) with the man in question. When she became pregnant the test was passed and he wed the Medici. Lucia was married to singer and composer Giulio Caccini, who received a dowry of several times his annual salary, paid by Ferdinand de Medici. Sleeping with the boss’ future son-in-law in exchange for a huge cash payment for your household would seem to be far beyond the normal duties of a singer. The edges of courtesanship were quite blurry in the 16th century. We might be more certain saying courtesans were independent women, accomplished poets and musicians than women who took money for sex.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Hallie and I were working on choosing music for the upcoming courtesan concert. I think we've settled on:
Songs from a poetry manuscript collected in the beginning of the 16th c. The collector, Domenico Arrighi has written beside the poems of Maria Cortigiana 'This song was her favorite, and she sang it so well that everyone would fall in love with her on hearing her sing it so beautifully.’etc. I'll intabulate some of the frottolas that Arrighi says she sang. This set is after an article by William Prizer.
Songs by Ippolito Tromboncino. He, a courtesan called Francesca Bellamano, Titian and Aretino used to hang out together. Tromboncino also was Francesca's singing teacher. Aretino has Nanna (an old courtesan) say to Pippa (new at the job) 'Then get the maestri to come and teach you music, getting them to play for you for nothing, paying them with hopes and promises.’ David Nutter suggests the Titan above is of Ippolito singing to Francesca; the body language suggests he's not going to get more than hope tonight, I think.
Songs sung (and played) by Hallie to the lira da braccio to melodic formulas, with poems by Tullia d'Aragona. She wrote many sonnets and the Dialogue on the Infinity of Love after which the concert is named.
Texts by Veronica Franco sung to textless songs in the Bottegari lute book. There are tunes you can plug any terza rima into, sonnets into etc.
Music by Giulio Caccini. He was given a dowry of several times his annual salary to marry the soprano Lucia di Filippo Gagnolanti, who he worked with at the Medici court. According to Timothy Mc Gee, the Medici family wanted to make sure that a Gonzaga family member was not 'shooting blanks', since he had been married before with no issue, before he married their daughter. Lucia, the future Mrs. Caccini, was sent off to Venice to test this out. She came back pregnant. I don't know whether your household getting a massive chunk of money for your sleeping with the boss's future son-in-law passes the definition of courtesan, but the line between 'female singer' and 'courtesan' was pretty fine.
I think I'll play some Francesco da Milano. He worked for Pope Leo X who was a big supporter of the courtesans. And I think I'll play some dances: Thomas Morely says 'The Italians make their Galliards (which they term Saltarelli) plain .... they have courtesans disguised in men's apparel who sing and dance to their own songs.'
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Snacks at the reception afterwards.
But the real reason we wanted to go to Scarborough, St. Andrew's Scottish fish and chips shop on McCowan and Ellesmere. That's deep fried mealy pudding in the top left of my plate.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
And here's the program:
Fair cruell nymph Alfonso Ferrabosco II (1572-1628)
Songs on Flowers
Go lovely rose William Lawes (1602-45)
To Pansies - Ah! cruel love W. Lawes
On the Marigold - Mark how the blushful morn Henry Lawes (1596-1662)
On the Lillys - White though ye be W. Lawes
To the Sicamour - I’m sick of Love Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666)
Gather ye rosebuds W. Lawes
Loves Constancy - No more may meads Lanier
Now in the sad declension of our time W. Lawes
Be not proud pretty one W. Lawes
Hero’s Complaint to Leander Lanier
Coranto René Saman (fl 1610-31)
Coranto (Jacques?) Gaultier (fl.1617-60)
Songs from Plays
Tell me dearest Robert Johnson (1582-1633)
So beautie on the waters stood - Had those that dwell in error - If all the ages of the earth Ferrabosco
The Cutpurse Song - I keep my horse W. Lawes
Care charming sleep Johnson
Full fathom five - Where the bee sucks Johnson
Fuggi fuggi fuggi Anon.
Tavola - In quel gelato core H. Lawes
Woe’s me! Alas Robert Ramsey (fl. 1612-1644)
Darryl Edwards, tenor, has appeared to critical acclaim in oratorio, recital, and opera in England, Germany, France, Italy, Corsica, the United States, and across Canada. His recent and upcoming engagements include Kodály's Psalmus Hungaricus with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Verdi Requiem at Dalhousie University, Orff's Carmina Burana with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Mozart Requiem with the Toronto Philharmonia, and Handel's Messiah with the Elmer Iseler Singers. Critics praise him as a ‘rich-voiced, cultured tenor who mastered the high notes effortlessly’ (Coburg Tageblatt, Germany), and an ‘effective communicator who expressed the text with sensitivity and fervour’ (Hamilton Spectator). His recordings and broadcasts include performances with National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Music Centre (Centrediscs). He is the Artistic Director of the Centre for Opera in Sulmona, Italy and the Concert Opera Group.
Named after the singers and lutenists who performed in the most intimate quarters of the Stuart monarchs’ palace, The Musicians In Ordinary for the Lutes and Voices dedicate themselves to the performance of early solo song and vocal chamber music. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards have been described as ‘winning performers of winning music’. Now in their seventh season of concerts in Toronto, they perform across North America and lecture regularly at universities and museums. Institutions where MIO have performed include the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies, Grinnell College, the Universities of Alberta and Toronto, the Kingston Opera Guild, Trent and York Universities and the Bata Shoe Museum. They have been Ensemble in Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Their debut CD of Elizabethan and Jacobean songs, Sleep Wayward Thoughts, is available at intermission.
Fair, Cruel Nymph
‘Wilson! There’s more words, let’s hear them all.’ King Charles I so ordered the singer John Wilson during a performance. This not only shows that the King was paying attention, but that he appreciated the disservice that Wilson was doing to the poet by leaving verses unsung.
And the delivery of the poetry had become the most important aspect of songwriting as England imported the new Italian Baroque style at the beginning of the 17th century. The complicated polyphony that the lute song composers of the John Dowland generation was gone, replaced by a bass from which the lutenist improvised chords. For this new style the English also imported the theorbo, a lute that had been invented by the Italians to provide a big bass sound. Inigo Jones, architect and designer of the sets for the court masque, is supposed to have imported the first theorbo. According to a contemporary diarist the weird instrument’s owner was interrogated by the authorities, who thought it might be ‘a machine brought from popish countries to destroy the king’. Indeed, Italian fashions dominated the vocal music of the post-Dowland generation so much that Henry Lawes set the table of contents from an Italian songbook to mock those who sang in Italian without understanding what they were singing.
The English Civil War stopped the slide to absolutism that became the political hallmark of 17th century France. If it hadn’t who’s to say that the heroic declamation of the masque, where the aristocrats assured themselves that they were rightly at the head of the body politic, and even that James’s Queen Anne was greater than Elizabeth, would not have combined with the drama of dialogues like Woe’s me to become court opera like that cultivated by Louis XIV and Lully? It’s moot though; The English were not going to stand for a despot, however benevolent, and the masque, baroque court music and the tradition of the Shakesperean theatre were all cut off by the Commonwealth. Perhaps the theorbo, which was used in these genres, did contribute to the destruction of King Charles, then.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Here's some snapshots from the rehearsals.
Darryl explains how he purchased three 5 dollar footlong sandwiches, one each.
Hallie reflects on the sad fate of Hero and Leander as she prepares to rehearse Lanier's great Lament thereon.
John has been having balls of fun using English theorbo tuning, which has only the top string down the 8ve, and is 'in G'; Good for c minor and Eb major, which your English composers liked.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
He's been working on what son might have been accompanied by the lira da braccio, an instrument much played by humanist poets in the late 15th and 16th century. They appear to have improvised, or quasi-improvised their settings. It has a flat bridge so plays drone effects though you can lean the bow over and play some melodic flourishes on the top string alone. It also has one string offboard of the fingerboard which was plucked with the left thumb. Here is the lira Tim made.
Hallie will be singing some poems by Tullia d'Aragona to this instrument and will be going with Tim to the huge Medieval conference in Kalamazoo in May.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We had a busy long weekend with 3 shows in 4 days with different music. Friday was a presentation for the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies on the attribution of the poems of the Earl of Essex which were set to music by Dowland, Batchelar et al. After the chin-wagging we performed the songs (except for From silent night, which uses a violin or treble viol) and it went very well. I had arranged The Earl of Essex's Second Lute Song from Benjamin Britten's Gloriana for the last piece. Here is the text that he sets:
Happy were hee could finish foorth his Fate
In some unhaunted Desert, most Obscure;
From all Society, from Love, from Hate
Of Worldly Folke! Then should Hee Sleepe Secure;
Then Wake againe, and yield God ever Praise,
Content with Hippes, and Hawes, and Brambleberry,
In Contemplation passing still his Daies,
And change of Holy Thoughts to make him Merry;
Who when Hee dies, his Tombe may bee a Bush,
Where Harmeles Robin dwells with Gentle Thrush.
Your Majesty’s Exiled Servant
Sunday afternoon was a performance for the Toronto Early Music Centre. We did our Ingrato e Crudo Amore repertoire. Music from Isabella d'Este's circle, some Verdelot madrigals and some of the music talked about in the last post. After the show we met with Prof. Katie Larson to talk about a conference in the fall at University of Maryland that she is putting together a session for.
Monday night was the Arts and Letters Club, accompanying Timothy McGee's presentation on the song Fortuna Desperata from the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The picture, which has sort of Leonardo da Vinci vs. Marcel Duchamp thing happening is from the washroom at the Arts and Letters Club.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
A New Years Day Concert - Viennese Baroque Music
Cantata - Risoluto son gia, tiranno amore Antonio Caldara (1671-1736)
Sonata in C Minor, RV6 Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Preludio: Largo, Corrente: Allegro, Largo, Allemanda, Allegro non molto
Pieces for Guitar Orazio Clementi (d.1708)?
Cantata - Il Rosignolo Francesco Conti (1682-1721)
Suite in D Minor Ferdinand Tobias Richter (1651- 1711)
Sinfonia à Solo di Arciliuto Anon.
Cantata - Lungi dal vago volto Vivaldi
After a glut of Messiahs and other pre-Christmas concerts, the Toronto concert calendar listings, and particularly those on the early music calendar, get rather thin in the first weeks of the New Year. We offer again this year a selection of Viennese music as an alternative to the Blue Danubes and Tristch-Trastch Polkas of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Day Concert and those of their imitators. But though we have moved our repertoire some 50 to 75 later than that presented in our previous New Years’ programmes, you will notice that the names of our composers have become no less Italian.
Antonio Caldara was born in Venice and was employed at St. Mark’s Church (previously the employer of Monteverdi) as a cellist. In 1708 he moved to Rome where he would have worked with Handel, Corelli and the Scarlattis. After Handel’s departure for England, Caldara followed in his footsteps as Cardinal Ruspoli’s maestro di capella and in 1717 gained employment at the Imperial court in Vienna. Here he was responsible for operas on the birthdays and name days of the Emperor and his consort, as well as other operas and sacred music including at least one large scale oratorio each Lent. This enormous workload meant that his salary peaked at a whopping 3900 florins, but he felt the need to supplement it by writing operas for the courts of other Austrian nobles. He is said to have died of a stroke brought on by exhaustion.
Among the Italian musicians at the court of Leopold I was the theorbo player, archlutenist and guitarist Orazio Clementi and it is thought that he is the composer, or at least the compiler, of a manuscript of guitar music now in the National Library of Austria. The Emperor Leopold I of the House of Habsburg played the guitar in his spare time away from prosecuting the War of the Spanish Succession. It is thought that these straightforward pieces may have been for the Emperor himself to play. Though Italian composers dominate the list of musicians and, indeed, Italian was the everyday language spoken at the Imperial court, this manuscript has a peculiarly French flavour, with its gavottes and minuets. The string crossings in the music, though, suggest the tuning recommended by the Spanish guitarist Gaspar Sanz and Spain had been a Habsburg empire for over a century. These pieces show that multiculturalism flourished in the Holy Roman Empire, at least as far as matters concerning instrumental music.
As old age crept up on Clementi a second theorbist was engaged to help with his duties. This was Francesco Conti, who hailed from Florence. Here the theorbist had been much admired by Ferdinando III de’ Medici, the great-great-grandson of the Ferdinand who employed the inventors of opera Peri and Caccini. Conti was engaged at Vienna in 1701 and his duties soon expanded beyond theorbist to composing operas and sacred music. His fame as a player had composers like Fux adding obbligato parts to arias for him, tours as far away as London, where he entertained Queen Anne with performances on the theorbo and mandolin, and earned him the epithet ‘first theorbist of the world’. As well as fame and his own fortune he married the wealthy widow and highest paid musician in Vienna, Maria Landini, who sang in many of his operas. Though a very successful composer in his time, very little of his music has been published in modern times (the motet discussed below, eight cantatas for soprano with various instruments and a duet for soprano and alto). We have edited the cantata heard today from a microfilm of an 18th century manuscript held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His most often heard music, though, is a motet Languet anima mia to which J.S. Bach added oboes and performed at Cöthen and Leipzig.
The possessor of the sole Germanic sounding name on our programme, Ferdinand Richter, was recognized as the greatest representative of south German keyboard music by Pachelbel. No slouch on the keys himself, Pachelbel dedicated a collection of organ music to Buxtehude (as the north German master) and Richter. Hailing from Würzburg, upon his appointment as court and chamber musician to Leopold Richter he taught two future emperors as well as other offspring of Leopold and visiting professional keyboardists eager to learn his skills. Again, the dance movements of his suite are French in style.
Completely Italianate and even Corellian, however, is the anonymous Sinfonia for archlute. The manuscript of this work was purchased from the library of the Harrach family in 1956 by the lutenist and musicologist Robert Spencer and we have obtained a transcription of it by Prof. Arthur Ness in Boston. Aloys, Count Harrach, an Austrian diplomat and politician, had a winter palace in Vienna, but was widely traveled. He may have picked up the Sinfonia while he was Viceroy in Naples, or perhaps it was by or for one of the lutenists at the Imperial court. The archlute was invented as a compromise between the large theorbo, which was cumbersome for solo music and uncomfortable above the bass range, and the smaller Renaissance lute. Both of these instruments were much used as the melodic bass instrument instead of a bowed string (cello or viol). Bass partbooks were printed with rubrics like ‘violone o arciliuto’ or ‘violoncello o tiorba’ well into the 18th century. The figures in these books suggest that the lutenist would play chords wherever practical in addition to the bass line.
It may seem strange to include that composer so closely associated with Venice, Antonio Vivaldi, on our concert of Viennese music. The Red Priest, as he was known, visited Vienna on the many tours he undertook towards the end of his life, some with the singer Anna Girò. The presence of her sister as chaperone on these tours did nothing to stop gossip that Anna was his mistress, and in fact suggestions were made that the arrangement was even more scandalous than just that of an old priest sleeping with a young singer. It has been suggested that some of Vivaldi’s works with lute class instruments were written for the Imperial orchestra. The Concerto con Multi Stromenti uses two theorboes and two mandolins; there are concertos for one and two mandolins and a trio with lute. The Concerto for viola d’amore and lute is probably for the orphanage in Venice. As Vivaldi’s music went out of fashion in Venice in his last years he picked up and moved to Vienna, perhaps with the goal of performing public opera company there. Before he could get established, the Emperor died and a period of mourning meant a moratorium of public performances. Vivaldi himself died penniless the same year and was buried in Vienna in a pauper’s grave.
The Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concerts started in a troubled time in that city’s history. That such periods of social turmoil could still see music flourish tells us something about the healing power of our art and the hope it nurtures in us all.