Sunday, December 13, 2009

Today is St. Lucy's Day

I have already posted a link to Flow my tears. It's from Dowland's Second Book of Songs, which is dedicated to Lucy, Countess of Bedford.

Here is Donne's Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day. It's thought that the 'she' may be Lucy, Countess of Bedford who was Donne's patron as well as Dowland's.
'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Here is the repertoire we are planning for the New Year's Day concert. Since last year we were sold out and were turning people away we have added a second concert in the usual 8PM Saturday slot on the 2nd of January. The concert on New Year's Day is a matinee starting at 2PM. Doors open a 1/2 hour before concert time so come early, come often.

The Cimarosa we'll be doing is from an undated Viennese print from the very end of the 18th or even early 19th century. Of the 6 arias in the print only 2 use the low E of the guitar and there are many examples of G major chords with the low G missing. You would only do that if you didn't have the 6th course to play the low G on, I think. Anyway, Cimarosa was in Vienna in the 1790s when 5-course guitars would still have been common. Here is a picture of young Mozart with a Baroque guitarist. I wonder what they were playing together?

Cantata – Che prodigo Antonio Caldara
Caldara was a choir boy at St. Mark's in Venice (where he was born). He worked at the Imperial court from 1716. His dad was a theorbo player and violinist at St. Mark's.

Sonata on Wie schön leuchtet uns der Morgenstern Anon.
This is a very interesting piece that is mostly made up of a D major passacaglia bass with the violin playing variations on the chorale tune and there is a Bach cantata on the tune (BWV 1 in fact). The manuscript of the violin sonata is in a monastary in Vienna. It's only just been published so I don't think has been heard here before.

Guitar pieces from a manuscript from the library of the Goëss family (an Austrian noble family). There will be guitar solo arrangements of Lully as well as pieces by Count Wolkenstein-Rodenegg (obviously an amateur) and French guitarist Remy Médard. I'm pretty sure no one has played these pieces here before.

Cimarosa arias arranged for guitar and voice in the 2nd half of the 18th c. There is a picture of a very young Mozart seated at a piano with a man standing over his shoulder holding a baroque guitar.

Harpsichord pieces probably by Fux, the 1st non-Italian maestro at the Imperial court.

Cantata - Lungi dal vago volto - Vivaldi
Vivaldi died in Venice, perhaps trying to set up a commercial opera company there. His music was out of fashion in Venice and he had dedicated some concertos to the Emperor, so had been looking to move to Vienna for a little while. I'm sure this has been heard hundreds of times here before. Emma Kirkby recorded it with Tafelmusik in the late 80s. It's for voice, 1 violin and continuo.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Here's the program notes from the solo concert last week. Apparently there wasn't enough notes in any of these already very 'baroque' pieces so he took it upon himself to add 50% more.

Sonata Variata

To a turn-of-the-seventeenth-century observer, the choice of the violin for Biber’s bold affirmation of the Catholic faith which opens this programme would have been surprising; though sometimes appearing in the visual artwork of churches, the violin’s function was mostly secular at this time. Its role as the ideal instrument to accompany dancing, however, proved to be the key to its longterm success, for the influential and powerful classes placed a high value on that activity.

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”).

Muffat is celebrated for his trips to Lully’s France and Corelli’s Rome, but wrote his only violin sonata in Prague, before taking the post of organist at Salzburg Cathedral, where no doubt he knew Biber, the foremost violinist of his generation. Valentini cut his teeth as a violinist and composer in Rome during Corelli’s heyday; the two dances that form the “double-finale” of this sonata have been compared to coffee and dessert. What better way to finish any meal or concert?

Notes by

Sara at the keyboard: