Saturday, January 31, 2009

Here is a picture of Hallie working with Prof. Tim McGee, who is retired from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. Among his many accomplishments Tim started the Toronto Consort. One of the first books I read on early music was his 'beginner's guide'.

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
Rob: Essex

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

To the UofT Faculty of Music library today and got Essex's Second Lute Song from Britten's Gloriana from the vocal score. Came home and arranged it for lute. Hallie was working on lira da braccio and how to sing a sonnet by Lorenzo the Magnificent to it. We also were trying to match up poems by the courtesans Tullia d'Aragona and Veronica Franco with 'aria di cantare' (textless tunes that fit to certain poetic forms) from 16th century Italy for Sunday's show for the Toronto Early Music Centre.

Here's a picture of Essex. Someone said he looks like me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Here are some pictures from preparation for the New Year's Day Show along with the program and note. Things got a little crammed together since Sara couldn't get a plane from back from down east due to fog. Show went well, though, and we had to turn people away since we sold out. I think we will have to add a second show next year.

A New Years Day Concert - Viennese Baroque Music

Cantata - Risoluto son gia, tiranno amore Antonio Caldara (1671-1736)
Hallie chats and has a cup of tea during a break. Archlute relaxes.

Sonata in C Minor, RV6 Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Preludio: Largo, Corrente: Allegro, Largo, Allemanda, Allegro non molto
Our violinist warms up some Vivaldi. It was pretty hot by 2:20ish.

Pieces for Guitar Orazio Clementi (d.1708)?
Aria-Corenta-Furioso-Spannioleta-Clorys-Les Enfarines

Cantata - Il Rosignolo Francesco Conti (1682-1721)
Hallie objects to having her picture taken.


Suite in D Minor Ferdinand Tobias Richter (1651- 1711)
Sara-Anne Churchill plays Tombeau sur ma Douilles.

Sinfonia à Solo di Arciliuto Anon.
Headless cat listens as we rehearse the archlute sinfonia with the spinet.

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.