ALBUQUERQUE BAROQUE PLAYERS
with Carol Redman, Baroque flute

Program Notes for 17& 18 September 2005

Quartet in G major, from Tafelmusik I................................................................ Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767)
Largo; Allegro; Largo
Vivace; Moderato; Vivace
Grave; Vivace

flute, oboe, violin, basso continuo

Suite in b minor, op. 35/5 .........................................................................Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755)
Prélude
Bourrée en rondeau
Rondeau: Gracieusement
Fantaisie: Vivement
Gigue

flute

Pièces de clavecin en concerts in A .................................................................Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
La La Pouplinière: Rondement
La Timide: 1 e and 2 e Rondeaux gracieux
1 e and 2 e Tambourins

flute, violin, harpsichord

Trio in G major, from the Organ Trio in E b major, BWV 525 .......................Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
[Allegro]
Adagio
Allegro

recorder, violin, viola da gamba

Trio Sonata in A major ....................................................................................................................................Telemann
Vivace
Soave
Vivace

flute, oboe d’amore, basso continuo

Quintet in A major .................................................................................................Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Allegro
Andantino
Allegro assai

flute, oboe, violin, viola da gamba, harpsichord

The eighteenth century saw a gradual transition from the high Baroque style of Johann Sebastian Bach to the early Classical style of his son Johann Christian. Well before mid-century, musical forms and styles had become highly standardized and, on a certain level, predictable – which, we hope you’ll agree, doesn’t have to mean boring! Beginning around 1730, composers began to react against the perceived excesses and artificiality of Baroque style by writing in a simpler, more “natural” style known as style galant, (the term, according to Voltaire, meant something like “seeking to please”). This melody-dominated style would ultimately evolve into the Classical style of Mozart and Haydn.

More to the point for our current purpose, the 18 th century was also the golden age of the transverse flute. The Renaissance flute couldn’t handle the technically demanding – not to mention violinistic – music of the early Baroque, and there seems to have been no solo or chamber-ensemble literature composed for the instrument until the development, in the late 17 th century, of the one-keyed flute. Originating in France and spreading to Germany and England, this instrument quickly became popular with both virtuoso performers and amateur musicians, and French and German composers responded with large quantities of solo and chamber works. With our guest artist, Carol Redman, we’ve put together a program that showcases the flute both as a solo instrument and as part of a chamber ensemble.

While our program thus leans towards the galant and Classical styles, the high Baroque is also represented here, by one of J.S. Bach’s six organ trios. These trio sonatas, which probably served as study pieces for Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, have lent themselves to transcription for chamber ensemble since the 18 th century. ABP has performed several of them over the years, using various combinations of two, three, and four players; in our current selection, the recorder and violin play the role of the organist’s hands, while the viola da gamba stands in, as it were, for the organist’s feet.

If the Bach trio, with its intricate contrapuntal writing and motivic organization, is in some ways relatively conservative (it was probably written during the 1720’s and is thus the earliest piece on our program), it is in other ways forward-looking; it’s been suggested that Bach may have been catering to Friedemann’s taste for the “pretty tunes” heard at the Dresden opera. In any event, while Bach’s solo, duo, and trio sonatas for other instruments generally follow the Corellian 4-movement church-sonata structure, the organ trios are on the Vivaldian 3-movement concerto model that was in vogue at the time. In our selection, the tonal design of the first movement suggests the characteristic Vivaldian ritornello form, while the second and third movements are fugal; notice how, in the second half of each of these binary movements, the fugue subject is inverted – i.e., an ascending line becomes a descending one.

The other trio sonata on our program, the A-major sonata by Georg Philipp Telemann, is scored in the prototypical manner for two treble instruments and continuo, but features the unusual, and coloristically striking, combination of flute and oboe d’amore. It’s an appealing exemplar of the style galant at which this perennial ABP favorite excelled. The contrasting instrumental timbres heighten the trio’s conversational quality – a quality that Telemann raised to even higher levels in his many quartets. We will perform one of the best of these: the G-major quartet from the Première production of Musique de table, better known today by its German name Tafelmusik – roughly, “Music for the [banquet] table,” though it was probably not intended primarily as background music for dining. As the language of its original title might suggest, this monumental collection of solo and ensemble works is written primarily in the French galant style; note, for example, the pastoral quality of the opening Largo. Small wonder that Telemann had an enthusiastic following in France, as well as throughout much of Europe!

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier also enjoyed a large following, especially among players of the new and fashionable baroque flute. Like Telemann, he was a facile and prolific (and perhaps somewhat underrated) composer. While his extensive musical output includes works for theater, opera, sacred music, and songs, the bulk of his work was written for small instrumental ensembles with or without voice. Much of his music was criticized for being aimed at amateurs with limited technical skills; Boismortier’s response to such criticisms was simply “I make money!” But the theorist Jean-Benjamin de la Borde recognized that “whosoever takes pains to search through this mine will find enough gold dust to make an ingot.” Boismortier’s solo flute sonatas are among his golden works and difficult enough to require an amateur to work hard to mine their riches.

We’ve already mentioned the trio sonata, a 17 th-century Italian invention that became the favorite genre of instrumental music for Baroque composers in Germany as well as Italy. While the combination of two melody instruments and continuo was certainly not unheard of in France – trios by Marin Marais and François Couperin come immediately to mind – a more characteristically French genre is the accompanied keyboard sonata or suite, represented here by a selection from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts. Here the harpsichord, instead of improvising harmonies over a figured bass, has a written-out obbligato part. Rameau states in his preface that harpsichordists may play these pieces with or without accompaniment, although the accompanying lines exhibit varying degrees of independence from the keyboard part. These lines may be played by various combinations of flute, violin(s) and viola da gamba; we’ll use flute and violin. As in much French Baroque music, character pieces predominate: the first movement honors Rameau’s patron and sometime employer A.-J.-J. Le Riche de la Poplinière, the second movement is rather transparently titled “La timide,” and the “Tambourin” is based on a Provençal folk dance accompanied by pipe and tabor.

Our final selection takes us to the edge of the Classical era; note that J.C. Bach was three years younger than Joseph Haydn! The only one of Bach’s sons to make a career outside of Germany, Johann Christian lived most of his adult life in London, where he and gambist-composer Carl Friedrich Abel produced a groundbreaking concert series. In 1764 the eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart traveled to London with his family; while he probably didn’t appear on the Bach-Abel concerts, we do know that he met Bach and played duets with him. Mozart’s acknowledged debt to J.C. Bach is evident from the D-major quintet, which bears many of the hallmarks of the new Classic-Romantic style. Note, for example, the contrasting thematic groups set out at the beginning of the first movement, with a jaunty first theme followed by a more songlike one. The slow movement, in ABA form, juxtaposes a lovely, delicate flute theme – we can’t imagine hearing it on any other instrument! – with a luxuriant cello melody, played here on the gamba. Incidentally, while the obbligato harpsichord and cello are full participants in this work, the basso continuo is not dead yet: virtuosic written-out keyboard passages alternate with stretches of figured bass, adding to the textural variety in the quintet.

 

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