Program Notes for 18& 19 September 2004

Albuquerque Baroque Players
2004-2005 Season: A Few of Our Favorite Things…
Concert I
7:30 p.m. Saturday, 18 September, Los Altos Christian Church, Albuquerque
3:00 p.m. Sunday, 19 September, Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales

Sonata ottava a due ..............................................................Dario Castello (fl. second half of 17th c.)
violin, bassoon, continuo (harpsichord)


Duo in Bb major ..............................................................................Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Moderato
Presto
Amoroso
Presto
oboe, violin


Sonata in G major ....................................................................................Georg Benda (1722-1795)
Allegro moderato
Andantino
Allegro
recorder, harpsichord


Sonata in G major, “La Félicité” .........................................................Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Lentement—Allegro—Lent—Allegro—Gavotte—Gigue—Lent
oboe, violin, continuo (bassoon and harpsichord)

*****intermission*****

Prélude in g minor, from L’Art de toucher le clavecin…....................................... ..François Couperin (1668-1733)
harpsichord
8e Concert, dans le goût théatral………………………….......................................…………………….….Couperin
Ouverture
Grande ritournèle: Gravement
Air: Noblement
Air tendre: Rondeau
Air léger
Loure: Pesament
Air: Animé, et léger
Sarabande: Grave, et tendre
Air léger
Air tendre: Lentement
Air de Baccantes: Très animé
oboe, violin, bassoon, harpsichord

Trio Sonata in a minor ........................................................................Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755)
Vivace
Largo
Allegro
oboe, bassoon, continuo (harpsichord)


Trio Sonata in F major……………............................................……………………………...………………Telemann
Largo
Allegro
Largo
Allegro
recorder, violin, continuo (bassoon, harpsichord)


Program Notes

Inevitably, in the years of ABP performances and rehearsals since our debut in 1998, we have collectively and individually discovered numerous and diverse musical enthusiasms. At times a challenge draws us in, and we recklessly rush in to do battle with technical and stylistic difficulties. But the lure is just as likely to be familiarity, the gratifying comfort of believing that we understand certain music and know how to work with it. Some of our favorites are, predictably, “great music,” such as Bach’s organ trios or Rameau’s concerts. Others, though, are clearly not the finest specimens of Baroque art, and may even seem trite on first hearing, but something about them makes us smile, or amazes us, or surprises us, or touches us.

Perhaps you’ve noted some of these enthusiasms in past concerts. We love the unpredictable and spontaneous early-17th-century music of Italy, for example, and the quirkiness of the early 18th-century “sensitive style.” Indeed, it would be fair to admit that quirkiness of all types seems to appeal to us! In contrast, we’re now coming to a better appreciation of another early 18th-century style, often termed “galant,” and we’re abandoning our earlier, somewhat snippy disdain for it in favor of a search for its natural grace and sentiment. We’re also intending to continue to explore the wonderful chamber music of France. And we won’t forget to include pieces by one of our favorite composers, Telemann.

We have other “favorite things,” to be sure, but each of the above is represented on this program.

Dario Castello was a wind player, and he published only two collections of instrumental pieces—29 sonatas in all. Beyond these facts, we know little about him except that his music was quite popular and widely known into the late 17th century. The sonatas call for one to four solo instruments and continuo (the bass line, to be fleshed out with appropriate harmonies) and are constructed of contiguous, contrasting sections. The parts for bassoon—for dulcian, really, but our guest will play the line in Sonata ottava on bassoon—are especially idiomatic and sometimes virtuosic. So we begin our program with extroversion, unpredictability, and quirkiness!
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We don’t stop there, as the following piece, by Telemann, is equally surprising, though its formal scheme is more disciplined. Telemann, one of the most prolific and multi-talented composers of any time period, published three collections of duos for two melody instruments without continuo, and a fourth collection is found in manuscript. He was highly esteemed for these as well as for, particularly, his pieces for one instrument without continuo and his quartets, for three melody instruments with continuo. Our selection comes from the manuscript of duos, which contains the longest such works, the most passionate, and the most difficult.

Georg Benda worked as a violinist at the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia until he took a job in Saxe-Gotha, where he divided his professional life between the church and the theatre. His instrumental compositions, like his brother Franz’s, demonstrate both the bourgeois Empfindsamerstil and the courtly galant style that were popular around Berlin. Our selection, originally for flute or violin and obbligato harpsichord—meaning that the part is written out rather than improvised—is unfailingly galant, very sweet, with elegant and effortless-sounding ornaments.

This Italian galant style, known all over Europe, invaded the musical boundaries of some French composers, including Boismortier. There’s little Frenchness left in our selection, a trio sonata for a treble and a bass instrument, melody instruments in different registers. Boismortier didn’t hold a court position, but instead worked in orchestras of the public theatres in Paris, where comic operas and other light music contrasted strongly with the formality of royal entertainments. He composed many pieces for amateurs, even writing for such rustic instruments as vielles and musettes, and became very popular and very wealthy.

The other two French pieces we’ll perform aren’t so heavily penetrated by the Italian style, yet one Italian in particular influenced both composers. The great Arcangelo Corelli’s violin sonatas, known in France from the 1690s, inspired many French composers to write instrumental pieces that weren’t just traditional French dance suites. François Couperin was apparently among the first to attempt such works, though he didn’t publish them until decades later. He wasn’t interested in giving up his national musical heritage; thus he made repeated efforts to combine what he found best in both worlds, the French and Italian, in a style called “les goûts réunis.” That being said, we must concede that our selection is more French than Italian, as it was probably intended to be a small-scale musical reflection of a divertissement from a hypothetical opera by Lully, the dominant composer of Baroque operas in France. It’s a series of songs and dances without singers and dancers but with all the appropriate rhythmic verve, earnestness, piquancy, and delicacy. We’ll open this suite with one of the brief pieces Couperin included in his treatise on harpsichord playing, which he suggested would serve as useful introductions for larger pieces.

The style of Clérambault’s trio sonata, also based on a combination of French and Italian musical characteristics, seems more self-conscious. Italianisms spurt out in the form of sudden quick passage-work, even in the continuo line. Most of the rich harmonies and dissonances that are found in the Couperin work are missing from this piece. It begins in a French manner, however, with a typical French overture, having a slow section followed by a faster, fugal section, which moves directly into a continuous series of sonata and dance movements.

The last selection on our program is another by Telemann, this quite different from the Duo. Or is it so completely different? Here’s a piece that sounds simple, direct, uncomplicated. Yet its themes and phrases and voices constantly interrupt and undercut. Telemann is surely, in a covert way, glorying in his ability to please while he’s being clever.

We hope that you are as pleased with the fun and cleverness, the attractiveness and subtleties of some of our favorite things as we are.


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