Program Notes for 16 & 17 April 2011

ALBUQUERQUE BAROQUE PLAYERS

with Kathryn Mueller, soprano

7:30 p. m., Saturday, 16 April 2011, at Fellowship Christian Reformed Church
3:00 p. m., Sunday 17 April 2011, at The Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales

Concert 4: Italian Sonatas and Cantatas

 

Trio #3.............................................................................................................................................. Alessandro Besozzi (1702-1793)
Andante
Allegro
Allegro

oboe, violin, viola da gamba

Trio Sonata in F major....................................................................................................................................... Antonio Lotti (1666-1740)
Largo
Allegro
Adagio
Vivace

recorder, viola da gamba, continuo

Morte di Lucretia............................................................................................................... Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737)
Presto—Recitativo
Aria: largo et affettuso
Recitativo
Aria: vivace—adagio—vivace
Recitativo—[Aria:] adagio
Recitativo

soprano, oboe, violin, continuo

 

*****intermission*****

Trio Sonata in B minor, op. 1/8 ...................................................................................................Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750/51)
Grave
Allegro
Grave
Allegro

oboe, violin, continuo

Tutto festoso Amore............................................................................................................................. Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727)
[Sinfonia]
Recitativo
Aria
Recitativo
Aria

soprano, violin, continuo

Clori mia, Clori bella.................................................................................................................................. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Recitativo
Aria
Recitativo
Aria

soprano, recorder, continuo

 

Program Notes

Sonata and cantata, ubiquitous staples of Baroque music, emerged in early 17 th-century Italy and have flourished, in different guises and sometimes under different titles, into our own times. Scored for small forces—one or a few instruments or singers plus basso continuo—they found a ready audience at court and in private homes, and soon reached the ears of all of Europe, the British Isles, and the New World. Even composers dedicated to the theatre or to the church couldn’t resist creating an opus or two in these smaller genres.

Antonio Lotti was among these, composers best known for operas and church music. He was employed as singer, organist, and, finally, maestro di cappella at the cathedral of San Marco in Venice, and at the same time was active in the numerous Venetian opera houses. It’s his early life, however, that may have informed our sonata, for its scoring for flute and viola da gamba would have been highly unusual in Italy. Born in Hanover, Lotti worked for several years in Dresden and perhaps acquired certain non-Italian tastes that persuaded him to write for this combination. In 18 th-century Italy, the flute wasn’t well regarded—we have substituted the more Italianate recorder—and the viola da gamba was deemed quite old-fashioned. To best compliment these instruments, the sonata is largely quiet and unimposing.

Several others represented on our program were particularly notable opera composers: Scarlatti, Gasparini, and Albinoni. Alessandro Scarlatti’s career took him from Rome to Naples, back to Rome, to Venice—unsuccessfully—and again to Rome and Naples. Powerful patrons supported him at every turn, including the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden, the Queen of Poland, influential and wealthy families, and worldly church officials such as the Cardinals Ottoboni and Pamphili. Despite Scarlatti’s busy, peripatetic life in theatre and church, he left us over 600 cantatas, and perhaps as many as 100 more. Most concern love in some way, and most are for a single singer with continuo. The subject of ours is indeed love—unrequited, that is—but, in addition to the soprano, requires an obbligato recorder, surely intended to underscore the pastoral setting and to emulate the gentle lapping of the river. “Clori,” originally a name for any one of three Greek mythological personages, notably the goddess of flowers (cf. the Roman Flora), has become reduced simply to a shepherdess or other young woman inhabiting the outdoors. We don’t know Scarlatti’s Clori at all, except that she’s beautiful and unfaithful, since the singer speaks for the unfortunate suitor.

Clori also figures in Francesco Gasparini’s cantata, along with Phyllis, another generalized pastoral character. Again, we know these women only obliquely, through Cupid’s eyes, and Venus is the one who points out the irony of her son whining over an insignificant bee sting without any thought for the real pain he inflicts on his victims. Gasparini composed some of the best Italian cantatas of the early 17 th century: graceful, elegant, and natural, sometimes cloaking the composer’s considerable contrapuntal skill. Incidentally, Gasparini, Scarlatti, and Lotti knew and respected each other; Scarlatti sent his son Domenico to study with Gasparini.

In contrast, Tomaso Albinoni had little close contact with any other musicians, and he apparently garnered sufficient income from his family’s stationery business, his own opera productions, and sales of his printed music to avoid the need for a paying position. Yet he devoted his life to music, and his output was impressive: over 80 operas and other dramatic works, about 50 cantatas, 59 concertos (including the first printed Italian oboe concertos), 8 sinfonias, and about 100 sonatas. Our selection, from 1694, demonstrates some of the clich és that Albinoni relied on—note the repetitions, for example, which tend to occur immediately at a different pitch level—yet it also exhibits Albinoni’s flair for melody. This trait made him so famous that many works composed by others were published as his.

Alessandro Besozzi had no connection to any type of vocal music, sacred or secular, and he lived in a later time period than anyone else on our program. He came from a musical family, most of whom were oboists, as was Alessandro. His posts were in Italy and Sardinia, but he gained some wider renown and delighted the Parisian public when he and his brother Paolo Giovanni, also an oboist, performed together at the Concerts Spirituels. Alessandro and Paolo Giovanni were close in another way, too: many of the hundreds of chamber works published under the name Besozzi were jointly attributed to the two siblings. Whoever composed them, they are tuneful and galant, and unlike much Baroque music, they can be played successfully without the harmonic underpinning of, say, a keyboard. Three instruments, playing the three musical lines, carry all that is needed. Since Besozzi died a year and a half after Mozart’s death, it’s no surprise that his style reminds us more of Mozart, Haydn, or Boccherini than of Albinoni, Lotti, Gasparini, or Scarlatti.

A cursory glance at our printed program clearly reveals patterns in the formal structures of early 18 th-century Italian sonatas and cantatas. By this time—the “high Baroque,” as we like to term it—a sonata usually consisted of three or four discrete movements in alternating slow and fast tempos, and a cantata of two da capo arias with introductory recitatives. (Da capo in this case means that the first part, or the A section, is repeated after the second part, or B section, resulting in an ABA form.) A sonata with four movements in a slow-fast-slow-fast arrangement is a sonata da chiesa, or church sonata, even though its early association with church music has been lost. Lotti’s and Albinoni’s pieces are of this type. Besozzi’s trio, in three movements, slow-fast-fast, we expect to be different just because it’s from a later era. Gasparini’s and Scarlatti’s cantatas have the requisite number of recitatives and arias, though Gasparini added a brief instrumental introduction.

The odd man out is Michel Pignolet, who later added to his given name the name of a fortress, Mont éclair, near his birthplace. Not Italian, but French, he may have spent some time in Italy with one of his early employers, but we have no information about such a sojourn or what he may have learned in Italy. In any case, four of his 24 cantatas are in Italian. Mont éclair’s production was modest, but he was praised as a fine teacher, a theorist with an admirably practical bent, and a versatile composer with a special interest in instrumental color. Morte di Lucretia shows obvious Italian influence: after a bold instrumental introduction to set the stage, as it were, two recitatives and their attendant da capo arias follow. Thereafter, though, the needs of the drama dominate the formal structure, and Mont éclair turns to his Gallic heritage for inspiration. Lucrezia moves from self-pity to decisiveness, while the narrator is irate, then triumphant. The story is based loosely on historical events from the sixth century BCE. Lucrezia, the wife of a Roman noble, Collatino, has been raped and thus dishonored by Tarquinius, a member of the ruling family in Rome. Because the rape brings disgrace also on Collatino, she resolves to kill herself to remove the taint, which she does in her final aria. The singer, who functions as the voice of both Lucrezia and the narrator, alludes at the end to the legend that Lucrezia’s death hastened the downfall of the Tarquins and the initiation of the Roman Republic.

Translations

Morte di Lucretia (The death of Lucrezia)

Recitative [Lucrezia]: Stop, Tarquinius; now that from Collatino, the great spouse, you have wrested his honor, at least grant unhappy Lucrezia death, and cause the cruel steel to render her bloodless, letting her fault take on the suitable color, alas, of blood.

Aria [Lucrezia]: Where are you going, cruel, pitiless wretch?
Return and give me back my honor!
You flee (ah, merciless Fate!)
And leave me with my heart’s grief.

Recitative [narrator]: O demented one! What raving is this? Do you not see that the traitor does not hear you? and that he holds you only in contempt, the felon, triumphing in his imposture? And you, miserable one, scatter to the winds your woe, your laments, and your torment. Therefore turn into yourself and remember that you have been disgraced, and that you must show Rome and the world that whoever no longer has honor must die. So, sever your veins and open your hand, a deed no Roman heart has ever feared.

Aria [Lucrezia]: Courage, my spirits. Go to meet death, since honor is lost.
Let myrtles surround this body, violated by a perfidious love.

Recitative [narrator]: Her face is already tinted by mortal sweat, and through the gaping wound her soul and her life will soon take flight.

[Aria] [Lucrezia]: Help me, o gods, and show an unfortunate soul the way to the Elysian Fields. I am fainting, o heavens, I am failing and already am assailed by the dreaded blow of fatal death. O fatherland! O Collatino! I die. Farewell.

Recitative [narrator]: Thus died Lucrezia, and showed the Tiber new ways of triumph, and to the shame of the Tarquins and of pride, she triumphed, even in death, upon the Capitol.

trans. By Jean-Pierre Darmon

Tutto festoso Amore

Recitative: Joyful Cupid went across the pleasant paths of a flowered garden one day, playing amid the flowers. Suddenly, not very far away, he saw, on the nice bank of a limpid stream, Clori sitting next to Phyllis, talking about him. So he said, “Where the most beautiful flowers scattered with a thousand colors unfold their beauty, come there, both Phyllis and Clori, because with immortal charm I want to dress your hair with a noble ornament.

Aria: Clori, who on her beautiful face gathers the lovely paleness of lilies, I will wreath you in lilies.
The blond hair of Phyllis, because she welcomes blushing roses on her face, I will adorn with roses.

Recitative: While so speaking, Cupid picked the nicest flowers. Then a small bee, hidden among the leaves of a graceful rose, stung his finger, hurt it with evil pain. Then sighing deeply, and almost as if his life were at risk, he ran to the charming Venus, and with a feeble voice, showing her his wound, “Ah,” he said, “mother, ah, I’m dead.” Then graceful and tender laughter rose from Venus’ lips. “Son,” she then said, “if a slight wound of a little bee causes such deep pain, how cruel and harsh do you think is the pain that those whose hearts you pierce suffer?”

Aria: Too much, ah, much too lethal is the evil pain of your dart, for the heart that experiences it knows it.
It always feels harsh pains and never has the hope of delight.

ed. and trans. (?) Lisa Narach

 

Clori mia, Clori bella

Recitative: My Clori, beautiful Clori, ah, no more mine; Clori who loved me so and whom I so loved, who now flees me pridefully and tells me how she despises me so. Oh, how I loved you. Gentle waters of the Tebro, tell her whom I so admire, with your whispers, that my ears increase your waves.

Aria: Your clear waves, who softly pour lovely tears of silver between the shores, I beseech you, be not silent should you be moved to ears.
Take my tears between the waves to bear witness to my suffering.

Recitative: Yes, gentle waves, so tell her that on your shores, whence my bitter pain has led me, my heart speaks upon my lips. My lips, o Clori, conquered by oppressive pain, conceal their suffering. Yet, alas, my heart speaks to you, and you, you feel it not.

Aria: Now eloquent, my heart speaks, to tell you of its torment.
And sighing, it says “peace,” and you know it.

ed. and trans. (?) Franz M üller-Busch

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