CONCERT II

Sonata 12 ........................................................................................................................Dario Castello (fl. 1 st half of 17 th c.)

recorder, violin, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Fantasia in C major, from Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, bk. 5 ....................Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)

harpsichord

 

Trio Sonata in g minor, from Tafelmusik III..................................................................... Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Adagio
Vivace
Adagio
Allegro

violin, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Trio Sonata in d minor................................................................................................................................ Henry Purcell (c. 1659-1695)
Adagio
Canzona [allegro]
Adagio; Vivace
Largo

oboe, violin, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

*****intermission*****

Trio 1 in C major..................................................................................................................................... Alessandro Besozzi (1702-1793)
Andante
Allegro
Allegro

oboe, violin, viola da gamba

 

Sonata in g minor......................................................................................................................................................................... Telemann
Largo
Presto—Tempo giusto—Presto
Andante
Allegro

oboe, basso continuo

 

Sonata in e minor, op. 51/2 ................................................................................................Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755)
Vivace
Allegro
Aria: Affettuoso
Gigha

recorder, violin

 

Sonade en trio: La Paix du Parnasse, from L’Apothéose de Lulli ...............................................François Couperin (1668-1733)
Gravement: Lulli, et les Muses françoises; Corelli, et les Muses italienes
Saillie: Vivement; Rondement
Vivement

oboe, violin, basso continuo

 

Program Notes for 19 & 20 November 2005

    While we didn’t set out to trace the evolution of the Baroque sonata on this concert, it doesn’t surprise us that six of the eight works on the program are designated as sonatas or trio sonatas (the selection from Telemann’s Tafelmusik bears the title “Solo” but is really a sonata for oboe and continuo). Admittedly, genre terms before the mid-18 th century can be rather, well, generic; the Italian word “sonata” (literally, “sounded” on instruments rather than sung) originally meant simply an instrumental piece, and only gradually moved towards the more specialized meaning that it acquired during the Classical era. In any event, this program of (mostly) sonatas allows us to sample a broad range of styles spanning nearly two centuries.

 

The 17 th-century Venetian ensemble sonata had its origins in the polyphonic instrumental canzona (which in turn stemmed from polyphonic song) and in the virtuoso tradition of improvising divisions, or variations, on a musical line. A more indirect influence, according to Eleanor Selfridge-Field, was the vocal music of Claudio Monteverdi, who used contrasting styles to mirror various affects or emotional states. These three traditions come together in the sonata by Dario Castello that opens our program. Like most early sonatas, this one comprises not discrete movements but continuous sections marked by frequent changes of tempo, affect, and texture. The fugal opening section recalls not only the polyphonic canzona but also Monteverdi’s stile concitato, or agitated style. This and other strictly-rhythmic ensemble sections contrast with written-out solo improvisations over slow-moving bass lines that allow the soloist considerable rhythmic freedom.

 

Italian styles proved highly exportable, influencing English, German, and – eventually – French composers. In England, where Elizabeth I had retained a number of Italian musicians, the Italian madrigal in particular left its mark on instrumental consort music, of which the young Henry Purcell was the last great exponent. In 1683 Purcell, then court composer to Charles II, wrote in the preface to the first of two volumes of trio sonatas that he had “faithfully endeavour’d a just imitation of the most famed Italian Masters.” We don’t know for sure to which masters he was referring, but scholars have named Giovanni Legrenzi and Giovanni Batista Vitali – both of the generation after Castello – as among the likely candidates. Certainly the musical and theoretical works of these two men would have resonated with Purcell’s interest in, and flair for, formal counterpoint. Our selection, while by no means easy to play, nonetheless showcases the contrapuntal skill of the composer rather than the virtuosity of the performers. In the second movement, for example, the theme appears in inversion and, finally, in augmentation. That being said, and despite Purcell’s acknowledged debt to his Italian models, the style is unmistakably his own. Especially striking are the angular lines and chromatically-shifting harmonies of the opening Adagio, which call to mind the consort music of Matthew Locke, Purcell’s immediate predecessor at court.

 

French composers famously resisted Italian influences for most of the 17 th century, preferring the dance suite and character piece to the more abstract sonata, and inspiring lively pamphlet wars over the relative merits of the two styles. The turn of the following century, however, saw a craze for the solo and trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli; before long, according to Sébastian de Brossard, “every composer in Paris … was madly writing sonatas in the Italian manner.” The first French sonatas “in the Italian manner” were written during the 1690’s by François Couperin, the most outspoken advocate of the rapprochement of styles. Our selection, composed in 1725, is the conclusion of a long, quasi-operatic (French-Baroque-operatic, that is!) “Apothéose” in memory of Jean-Baptiste Lully, long regarded as the quintessential French musician. The “scenes” in this programmatic work depict Lully’s ascent to Parnassus, where he is greeted by Corelli and “les Muses italiennes.” Apollo persuades Lully and Corelli that the union of French and Italian styles will raise the art of music to perfection. Finally, “Lulli et les Muses françoises” (represented in our performance by the oboe) join “Corelli et les Muses italiénes” (represented by the violin) in a trio sonata that juxtaposes and blends the two styles. Perhaps the French muses get the last word, though: in the epigraph to the sonata, they demand that “Sonade” be spelled in the French manner by analogy with “Ballade, Sérénade, &c.!”

 

In the generation after Couperin, the sonata replaced the dance suite as the preferred genre for flutists, thanks in large part to the prolific Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. The six sonatas of his opus 51, from which our selection is taken, are somewhat unusual in that they are written specifically for flute and violin, in contrast to the more common practice of publishing sets of duet sonatas for any combination of, e.g., flutes, violins, or oboes. The violin in the opus-51 sonatas takes on the dual role of second treble and bass – even playing chords as if realizing a continuo line!

 

Even more prolific than Boismortier was that perennial ABP favorite, Georg Philipp Telemann; over the years, we have been continually amazed and delighted by the great variety and consistently high quality of his work. While the music of course stands on its own merits, part of the secret of Telemann’s success must have been his flair for what we might today call marketing. His numerous published collections strike a balance between unity and variety that must have made them irresistibly attractive to both amateur and professional musicians. One of these collections, from which the g-minor trio sonata on our program is taken, comprises six trio sonatas for violin with, respectively, oboe, recorder, flute, second violin, viola da gamba, and bassoon or cello (all with continuo, of course!). The balance between unity and variety extends to the overall structure of the trios; the first and last of the set are 3-movement sonate da camera (chamber sonatas), while the other four, including the one for violin and gamba that we are performing, are in four-movement sonata da chiesa (church sonata) form.

 

Our other Telemann selection, for oboe and continuo, is taken from the “Third Production” of his magisterial Musique de table, better known to us by its German title Tafelmusik. Its title notwithstanding, this three-volume collection of orchestral suites, concertos, quartets, trios, and solo sonatas – one of each in each volume, or “production” – was intended not as music for dining but as a compendium of instrumental genres and scorings. (Of the three “solos” with continuo, for example, the first is for flute, the second for violin, and the third for oboe.) A somewhat unusual feature of the oboe sonata is the four-measure basso-continuo solo that opens the first movement, where the continuo is in fact largely an equal partner with the soloist. The remaining movements are more in the treble-dominated style galant at which Telemann excelled.

 

Our two remaining selections take us beyond the Baroque. It’s perhaps significant that one of these, by oboist-composer Alessandro Besozzi, is entitled not “Trio sonata” – a term that implies the use of basso continuo – but simply “Trio.” We’ve decided against realizing the (unfigured) bass, as all needed harmonies are covered by the three notated lines. The trio is tuneful, uncomplicated, and very much in the galant, or perhaps early Classical, style.

 

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was fluent in the galant, which his employer Frederick the Great preferred to the more complex styles of the high Baroque. Bach’s own preference, however, was for the Empfindsamerstil, or “sensitive style.” Closely allied with the Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”) movement in German literature, empfindsam music attempts to mirror – and arouse – volatile human emotions through its fragmentary, kaleidoscopic character. In the C-major fantasia, brilliant toccata-like sections, often modulating to distant keys, give way to simple, songlike ones that rapidly disintegrate. Dynamics, ranging from fortissimo to pianissimo, change abruptly and often. At the risk of stretching a point in order to bring things full circle, it’s tempting to see parallels between this fantasia and the Castello sonata that immediately precedes it on our program: short, contrasting sections rather than discrete movements; abrupt shifts in affect; flights of improvisatory fancy – and maybe, had we chosen a different early-Italian sonata, unconventional harmonic syntax. Perhaps if there is a significant parallel, it is in the reassertion of the primacy of feeling.