Program Notes for 13& 14 September 2008

 

Saturday, 13 Sept., 2008, 7:30 p. m., at the Fellowship Christian Reformed Church

Sunday, 14 Sept., 2008, 3:00 p. m., at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales

Invitation to the Dance

Sonata in E minor, “La Magnifique”................................................................................... Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
[Moderato]
Allegro
Adagio
Sarabande
Gigue
Allegro

oboe, recorder, violin, basso continuo

Cento partite sopra passacagli ..................................................................................................Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)

harpsichord

 

Suite in E minor............................................................................................... Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, “le Romain” (1673-1763)
Prélude: Lentement
Allemande “La Fontainebleau”: Gravement
Sarabande “Le Départ”: Douloureusement
Air “Le Fleuri”: Gayement
Gavotte “La Mitilde”: Tendrement
Branle de vilage “L’Auteüil”
Menuet :Le Beaulieu” and 2 e Menuet

oboe, basso continuo

*****intermission*****

 

Sonata in F major, op. 5/10 .........................................................................................................................Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Preludio: Adagio
Allemanda: Allegro
Sarabanda: Largo
Gavotta: Allegro
Giga: Allegro

violin, basso continuo

 

Sonata in E minor, from Essercizii musici ..............................................................................Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Cantabile
Allegro
Recitativo and Arioso
Vivace

viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

3 Correnti.................................................................................................................................................... Marco Uccellini (c. 1603-1680)
Aria sopra Questa bella Sirena
Aria sopra la Bergamasca

recorder, violin, basso continuo

The music of the Baroque era (c. 1600-1750) was drenched in the rhythms and gestures of dance. Named or unnamed, dances might form the core of a piece, or they might emerge here and there. Over time, they might change in tempo or affect, and many of them came to be garbed in distinctive national costumes. Some remained extremely popular, while others left the danced repertory even when composers still made good use of them. Composers might invent their own variants of dances.

The dances we find in sonatas and suites are not the same as those actually danced, tunes for which can be found in treatises, often alongside the dance steps and floor patterns. Those outside of the danced repertory tend to be more complicated, at least in texture if not in melody, phrasing, harmony, and even rhythm. Nonetheless, they would have been heard—felt, really, in a physical way—as the same dances that middle- and upper-class people recognized from social activities or theatrical entertainments.

It should be stated at the outset that, though other Europeans contributed somewhat to dance types, it was the French and the Italians whose styles were most admired and imitated. As a cross-current, the Italian instrumental style, most particularly Corelli’s, was imported into France in the 1690s, setting off a tidal wave of Italianized French music, yet the Italians hardly concerned themselves with what the French were doing.

Our program offers two dance suites, by Hotteterre and Corelli; three pieces that include some dances within them, by Clérambault, Frescobaldi, and Telemann; and some single dances by Uccellini.

These selections admittedly don’t give an exhaustive account of Baroque dance, but they do include nine different dance genres, and they show various ways composers dealt with them. We’ll serve up examples, in their French and Italian guises, of the four dances that became standard in dance suites by the 18 th century: allemande, or allemanda; courante, or corrente; sarabande, or sarabanda; and gigue, or giga. You’ll also hear a gavotte and a gavotta—again, French and Italian—a menuet, a branle, a bergamasca, and a ciaccona.

From its name, one assumes that the allemande came from what is today Germany. It might have derived from the Renaissance basse danse, danced low to the ground, as “basse” implies. In the 17 th century, several subtypes evolved, from simple to elaborate, some in three sections and others in two, always in a duple meter. Phrases could be irregular, allowing the allemande to take on new roles with greater freedom than a more predictable dance form could. Allemandes thus functioned frequently as preludes, and sometimes as laments. You’ll hear a big difference between the allemandes by Hotteterre and Corelli, even in the words they chose to describe them: gravement, or seriously, for the Frenchman, and simply allegro for the Italian.

More than the allemande, the courante and corrente, “running” dances, exhibited marked national traits. The French courante was slow, majestic, contrapuntally complex, and rhythmically ambiguous. As a court dance, it was dignified and exacting. On the other hand, the Italian corrente was faster and homophonic, with clear phrases and rhythms. It was a hopping dance. Both were in triple meters, and both retained their popularity throughout the entire Baroque era. You won’t hear a French courante on our program, but you’ll hear several Italian ones from the early Baroque. Frescobaldi’s is buried within his Cento partite. Uccellini composed a large number of correntes, from which we’ve selected three, to be played back to back. Oddly, there’s no courante in Hotteterre’s suite, nor is there a corrente in Corelli’s.

The triple-meter sarabande arrived in Spain from the New World in the 16 th century and was considered so obscene that it was banned, allied as it was with the folia, or madness. It quickly acquired better manners, though, and, like the allemande and the courante/corrente, it split into several different types, in varying speeds and with varying degrees of ornamentation. The French tended toward slower tempos and greater intensity than the Italians. Note the tenderness of the sarabandes by Clérambault and Hotteterre as opposed to the deceptive ease of Corelli’s.

The gigue was an English dance, some say a bawdy one, perhaps as early as the 15 th century. It entered France about 1600 and Italy in the late 17 th century. Even at that late date, national versions developed, with the familiar litany of style characteristics. The French preferred more complex rhythms and irregular phrases in a moderate tempo, and they often opened gigues with two short upbeats and continued with dotted rhythmic figures. The Italian giga, in contrast, with smoother rhythms and balanced phrases, was performed at a rapid pace. As evidence, compare Clérambault’s gigue with Corelli’s. There’s a third gigue on our program, too, unnamed, as the second movement of the Telemann sonata, and it represents Telemann at his Italian best.

The duple-meter gavotte and the triple-meter menuet were French dances, but the gavotte was successfully transplanted to Italy, where it became—surprise!—more contrapuntal than its French counterpart. You’ll hear a pastoral one by Hotteterre, and a faster, imitative one by Corelli. As for the menuet, there’s only the one by Hotteterre on our program. Unlike all other Baroque dances, the graceful, artless, elegant menuet remained popular until the late 18 th century, the only dance to find a place in the new symphonic music.

The branle was also French, and its history well demonstrates the tangled mesh of interrelationships among Baroque dances. First, the name refers to a family of dances, not to just one dance. Second, by the early Baroque, that family included the gavotte. Third, a characteristic sideways step in danced branles appeared also in the basse danse, where it was called, of course, a branle. Finally, remember that the basse danse was mentioned above as background for the allemande! Overall, branles were of a popular, rustic nature, often associated with outdoor instruments such as shawms and bagpipes and the drones that pipes supplied. The branle, widely appreciated, was called a brawl in England and a brando in Italy.

The bergamasca, a folk dance and song from Bergamo, in northern Italy, also spread all over Europe and England under different names. Either its tune or its bass line, or both, came to be used as the basis for continuous variations, as in Uccellini’s piece.

The ciaccona was a New World dance that rivaled the sarabande in exuberance, if not in raciness. A fast, triple-meter dance over a repeating pattern of harmonies, it, like the bergamasca, served as the basis for many sets of variations. It’s easily allied with the passacaglia, which was not a dance at all, but rather a brief introductory phrase—a vamp, we’d say—for another piece that would follow. Along with many other brief tunes and harmonic sequences, the passacaglia became fodder for variations. Some composers confused ciaccona (or chaconne) and passacaglia, while others, including Frescobaldi, made deliberate use of the similarities and differences between the two. Since the ciaccona, the passacaglia, and the corrente all use some form of triple meter, Frescobaldi cleverly juggled and transmuted them in his variations.

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