Program Notes for 13& 14 November 2004

2004-2005 Season: A Few of Our Favorite Things…
Concert II
7:30 p. m., Saturday, 13 November, Los Altos Christian Church
3 p. m., Sunday, 14 November, Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales


Chaconne: Two in One upon a Ground...................................................... Henry Purcell (1659-1695)


Suite #1 in C major/minor, from Part II of The Broken-Consort .......Matthew Locke (1621/22-1677)
Pavan
Ayre
Courante
Pavane
Ayre
Galliard

recorder, violin, basso continuo (cello, harpsichord)


Sonata in G major..................................................................................... Domenico Gabrielli (1651-1690)
Grave
Allegro
Largo
Prestissimo

cello, basso continuo (harpsichord)


Duet op. 12/1 in C major.................................................................... Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724-1808)
Allegro non molto
Adagio assai
Allegretto

violin, cello


Suite in d, from Book 4 of Ayres for the Violin....................... Nicola Matteis the elder (d. after 1713)
Preludio: Prestissimo
Fuga in Fantasia: Presto
Grave: Adagio—Prestissimo—Adagio
Ground per fa la mano: Allegro

recorder, violin, basso continuo (cello, harpsichord)


*****INTERMISSION*****

Trio Sonata in D major................................................................................ William McGibbon (1696-1756)
Adagio
Allegro ma non presto
Adagio
Allegro

recorder, violin, basso continuo (cello, harpsichord)


Sonata in g minor ..........................................................................Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697-1763)
Adagio
Allegro
Adagio
Allegro

oboe, cello, basso continuo (harpsichord)


Quartet in e minor, from Part III of Tafelmusik.......................... Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Adagio
Allegro
Dolce
Allegro

recorder, violin, cello, basso continuo (harpsichord)


Program Notes


During our 2004-2005 season, we want to share some of our collective musical sensibilities with you by performing pieces we’ve come to love. If you attended our September concert, you heard some examples of quirkiness and surprise, of galant sentiment, of French dances, and of Telemann’s stylistic breadth. So you know that our tastes don’t invariably tend toward the finest music and the “great” composers! For this concert, we’ll offer you another example of musical surprises and another piece by Telemann, but the rest of the program demonstrates other musical features that attract us: in some cases, simply idiomatic writing and scoring that seem tailor-made for our ensemble—including guests when we have them; particular challenges, both musical and technical; and variation forms, which highlight the finesse of both composers and performers.

Matthew Locke’s style seems the very epitome of unpredictability. With its focus on angular lines, harmonic clashes, and irregular phrase lengths, it isn’t so different in content from that of many of his contemporaries, but Locke took the conceit further. During the Cromwell years, in the mid 17th century, he was involved with musical theatre, contributing to stage works of various types, including what probably was the first English-language opera. At the same time, he was publishing chamber music for duos, trios, and quartets, some of which is crowded with motivic subtleties and kaleidoscopic alternations between major and minor. It’s possible that he was recalling an earlier, pre-Civil War English style through this intense music, which invites expressive changes in tempo and dynamics characteristic of the early Baroque. The Suite in C major/minor, from a collection of the early 1660s, is considered his richest and most beautiful trio.

Three works on this program were selected not only because they’re good pieces, but also because they were composed for the instruments we have at our disposal this weekend: recorder or oboe, violin, cello, and harpsichord.

Known in Bolognese dialect as “Minghén”—an affectionate diminutive of Domenico—“dal viulunzél”—of the violoncello—Domenico Gabrielli composed some of the earliest music for solo cello. The cello was becoming more widely popular in the 1680s, and Gabrielli’s music for it showcased the instrument to its advantage. Besides ricercars for cello without accompaniment and trumpet concertos with obbligato lines for the cello, he wrote two sonatas for cello and continuo. For the Sonata in G major, Gabrielli asked for a scordatura tuning in which the top string is brought down a step, from A to G, allowing maximum resonance in the key of G.

Giovanni Battista Cirri is a new composer for ABP, and one who lived and composed later in the 18th century than any other whose music we’ve tackled on Baroque instruments. Like Vivaldi, he took holy orders but pursued a musical career. After a few years in Paris, he settled in England in 1764, concertizing frequently and successfully. The opus 12 duos for violin and cello were published in London during the decade or so he lived there. They’re tuneful, not emphasizing a dazzling display of technique yet abundantly supplied with figuration comfortable to each instrument.

Giovanni Benedetto Platti didn’t leave us either much music or much information about himself. The extant music is tantalizing, as it shows an elegance and sense of proportion within a variety of 18th-century styles ranging from late Baroque to Classic. Today, he’s best known for fine keyboard sonatas that might indicate some meaningful contact with the early fortepiano. Platti’s career is as broadly interesting as his music: he seems to have been unusually flexible, serving variously as oboist, singer, violinist, cellist, flutist, harpsichordist, and composer! The trio in g minor is rather like an Italian four-movement church sonata, but the first movement is a pastoral siciliano, and the third movement comes close to galant style.

There’s a fourth piece we selected partly because of its scoring: Telemann’s quartet in e minor. Only the flute part isn’t for our present instrumentation, and it fits nicely on recorder. Telemann composed about 50 quartets, justifiably considered some of his finest works. Three of these quartets are found respectively in the three volumes of Tafelmusik that Telemann published in 1733, all in some way reflective of the French style. Most of Telemann’s quartets are equally demanding for all four instrumentalists, but this one leaves large gaps in the continuo, where the harpsichordist just sits back and listens to the others—a nice experience for the harpsichordist!

Two pieces on our program present special challenges to some of us. The trio sonata by William McGibbon includes a second movement that taxes the violinist while the other parts function as sympathetic accompaniment. McGibbon, a Scot with Italian leanings, contributed to Scotland’s fashionable folk music craze in the 1740s with published arrangements of Scots tunes. You may notice that our violinist can hardly restrain herself from adding Scots ornaments and bowings to this quite Italianate sonata!

Nicola Matteis the elder, who moved from Italy to England in about 1670, published four pedagogical books of Ayres for violin and continuo. In the 1680s, he added a second violin part to some of these movements, dances and fugues and variations. Though this added part is often uninteresting, sometimes it rivals the first violin line, as in the piece we’ve chosen to play. Matteis’ style is a bit like Locke’s in its irregular phrases and in harmonies that are sometimes static and other times aggressively forward-moving, but the Lockean clashes, cross-relations, and motivic subtlety are largely missing. And what exactly Matteis meant by “fugue” isn’t clear, for the second movement isn’t one. The last movement is a set of continuous variations over a fairly elaborate bass line—the English often used the term “ground” for such a repeated bass line—and it requires facility and good lungs from our wind player, who’s playing a part intended for violin.

The brief, lovely piece by Purcell that we’re using to open the Locke suite is also a set of continuous variations, these over a short and simple bass line outlining a favorite Baroque progression called a chaconne. The two treble lines are canonic, the second voice entering in exact imitation of the first at the distance of two measures. Originally, this Chaconne served as the opening for Act III of Dioclesian, a historical play for which Purcell furnished music in 1690. While the Matteis variations become increasingly energetic, those by Purcell remain unfailingly serene.

 

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