Program Notes for 8 & 9 September 2007

7:30 p. m. Saturday, 8 September 2007, Los Altos Christian Church

3 p. m. Sunday, 9 September 2007, The Historic Old San Ysidro Church

Concert I: Dolce

Sonata in A minor............................................................................................................. Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667-1752)
Adagio
Allegro
Adagio
Allegro

violin, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Suite in B minor............................................................................................................ Giovanni Battista Draghi (c. 1640-1708)
[Prelude]
[Allemande grave]
[Courante]
[Sarabande]
Gigue

harpsichord

Sonata Quarta, from Sonate Unarum Fidium............................................................ Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620-1680)

violin, basso continuo

 

*****intermission*****

 

Suite in G major, from Book III............................................................................................................. Marin Marais (1656-1728)
Prélude
Allemande with Double
Sarabande grave
Gigue à l’Angloise
2 e Muzette

viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Ricercata I, in D major..................................................................................................... Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697-1763)
Adagio
Allegro
Largo
Allegro

violin, viola da gamba

 

Trio Sonata op. 1/7 in E minor ..............................................................................................Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
Allegro; Largo
Presto; Vivace; Adagio; Poco Presto; Lento; Prestissimo

violin, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Over the course of our 2007/2008 season, the Albuquerque Baroque Players will be bringing you a metaphorical sonata – or perhaps a mega-sonata! – in four concert-length “movements,” each highlighting a particular mood, or affect. We won’t carry the analogy too far: each concert will still provide a good sampling of the wide range of musical styles, genres, and moods that came out of Europe during the 17 th and 18 th centuries. (For example, we’ve picked some gorgeous laments for our Grave concert in February, but will assuredly include some livelier works on that program as well.)

 

While most of us have become accustomed to reading terms like “adagio” or “allegro” as tempo indications, Baroque composers used such terms more as indicators of affect, or emotional state. Adagio, for example, literally means “at ease,” suggesting a relaxed mood and, consequently, a relaxed but not overly slow tempo. Similarly, while dolce – literally, “sweet – has come to mean something like “quiet” (and perhaps “rather slow” as well), the Baroque usage of the word may also indicate a gentle, tranquil aspect. For this program, we have chosen a variety of pieces that embody, at least in part, this quality.

 

*****

 

Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667-1752) is probably best known today as the arranger of the popular tunes used in John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, a satire on the operas of Pepusch’s London colleague – and perceived rival – George Frideric Handel. But he also composed numerous sonatas, trio sonatas, anthems, and secular cantatas while working as music director for the Duke of Chandos, and was a founding member of the Academy of Ancient Music, dedicated to the study and performance of music of the 16 th and 17 th centuries. He edited Arcangelo Corelli’s sonatas and concertos for London publication; his own sonatas, including the A-minor trio that we’ll perform this weekend, are on the Corellian 4-movement (slow-fast-slow-fast) model. In our selection, the opening Adagio perhaps comes closest to a dolce affect; it’s followed by a fugal Allegro and a second Adagio. The concluding Allegro suggests a vigorous peasant dance, perhaps anticipating Georg Philipp Telemann’s Polish-inspired movements.

 

The Berlin-born Pepusch was only one of a number of Baroque-era musicians to leave the European continent to work in cosmopolitan London. Among the previous generation of expatriates was the Italian keyboardist-composer Giovanni Battisti Draghi (c. 1640-1708), who worked at the courts of Charles II and subsequent monarchs. As a composer, Draghi thoroughly assimilated the eclectic English style, with its mix of Italian, French, and native English elements. French dances and French stylistic traits pervade his Six Suites of Lessons for the Harpsichord, although there is one Italianate toccata and several English-style character pieces with such titles as “A dream” and “The hunting tune.” In the B-minor suite on our program, the Prelude contains the only known English example of unmeasured notation, a French invention where pitches, but not rhythm, are notated – giving free rein to the performer’s own invention. Another French characteristic heard throughout this suite is the style brisé (literally, “broken style”), derived from lute music, where notes in separate contrapuntal lines are sounded sequentially rather than simultaneously.

 

A later Italian expatriate, the versatile Giovanni Benedetto Platti (c. 1692?-1763), worked at the Würzburg court as composer, singer, and performer on violin, cello, flute, oboe, and harpsichord. As a composer he was fluent in a variety of styles ranging from high Baroque to pre-Classical; his numerous cello concertos have been compared favorably to those by the more famous Luigi Boccherini. The D-major Ricercata for violin and cello, despite its archaic title, falls toward the Classical end of the spectrum. A ricercata (or ricercar), according to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, is “in its widest sense, a piece of an esoteric nature” – typically involving imitative counterpoint. While certainly contrapuntal – there are points of imitation throughout, as well as “voice exchange,” whereby a passage is repeated with the two parts switched around – Platti’s ricercata is by turns lyrical and playful, and always ingratiating. We do tend, sometimes, to equate galant or pre-Classical styles (not always in a complimentary way!) with “sweetness;” but we think the opening Adagio of this piece earns it a place on a program called “Dolce.”

 

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620-1680) was the first native Austrian – in fact, the first non-Italian – to be appointed music director at the Viennese court of Leopold I. In this capacity he produced a large body of ballet suites for court entertainments, as well as chamber music for up to eight instruments. We will be peforming one of his six Sonatae unarum fidium for violin and continuo – the first such collection to be published in the German-speaking countries. (Incidentally, while the Latin title of the collection can be translated as “sonatas for one fiddle,” a reading of Schmelzer’s dedication of the sonatas to one Cardinal Caraffa suggests a series of puns on similar words meaning “faith” and “allegiance.”). Our selection begins as a set of continuous variations on a four-note descending bass line (aka chaconne bass). The serene, rather plain opening section, in keeping with our concert theme, could very well be labeled dolce. The variations become increasingly elaborate, passing through a sarabande and culminating in a gigue, before the music breaks free of the chaconne bass to conclude in a brilliant display of virtuosity.

 

Also arguably dolce in character – at least in part – is the G-major viola da gamba suite by Marin Marais (1656-1728), a virtuoso gambist at the court of Louis XIV. Most of Marais’ suites are too long to play at one sitting, and it’s assumed that the performer will pick and choose movements to play on any given occasion. For this concert we’ve chosen the Prélude because of its wistful, poignant character; we’ve also selected three of the four dance types that form the core of a classic French suite. The “Double” of the Allemande is a more elaborate version of the basic allemande; while it can be played as a separate movement, we’ll combine the two by playing the elaborated version on the repeats of each half. We’ll conclude the suite with a charming Muzette – a pastoral dance evoking a bagpipe-like instrument, with the continuo (and, at one point, the soloist) supplying the drone. This movement is in the form of a rondeau (AABACADA), with the recurring A theme perhaps suggesting the monotonous working of the bellows on the musette.

 

Although Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707) was primarily a church musician, he published two important collections of chamber music – mostly trio sonatas for violin, viola da gamba and continuo – near the end of his life. Our selection, from his opus 1, follows the 17 th-century model of continuous, contrasting sections, unified in this instance by a dactylic (long-short-short) rhythmic motif that recurs at various tempos and in duple and triple meters. Tempos progress from allegro to prestissimo, with fast sections punctuated by brief, slower interludes. The concluding gigue ends abruptly, forcefully, and unforgettably. With its intricate counterpoint and almost-unrelenting rhythmic propulsion, Buxtehude’s trio is probably less dolce than any other piece on our program – but should segue nicely into our “Vivace” concert in November!

 

 

 

 

 


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