Program Notes for 20 February 2000

An Educational Concert of Music of the 18th Century Performed on Period Instruments
6:00 p. m., Sunday 20 February 2000, the Albuquerque Museum
 

Quartett in G major………………………………………………..…..Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-1755)
 Adagio (slow)
 Allegro ma non tanto (fast, but not too fast)
 Vivace (light and quick)
flute, oboe, violin, continuo
 

interlude:  the harpsichord and playing continuo
 

Trio sonata in F major  (transcription of the Organ Sonata in C major)...Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
 Allegro (fast)
 Largo (quite slow)
 Allegro (fast)
recorder, violin, continuo
 

interlude:  the Baroque violin family and the viola da gamba
 

Concerto comique, “Le plaisir des dames” (The Pleasure of Ladies)….....…….Michel Corrette (1708-1798)
 Allegro (fast)
 Adagio (slow;  here, a short transition to the next movement)
 Allegro (fast)
The Players
 

****intermission****

Sonata in e minor………………………………………………………..Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
 Adagio (slow)
 Allegro (fast)
 Largo (quite slow)
 Vivace (light and quick)
oboe, continuo
 

interlude:  the Baroque oboe
 

Divertissement champêtre……………………………………….Jacques-Christophe Naudot (c. 1690-1762)
 Lentement (slow)
 Gaiment (lively)
 Musette.  Gracieusement (a pastoral, graceful dance over a drone like a bagpipe’s)
 Légèrement—Lentement—Gai—Lentement—Légèrement—Gai—Lentement—Fanfare--    Légèrement (a succession of brief sections in different tempos, some of which recur:     lightly—slowly—lively—slowly—lightly—lively—slowly—like a ceremonial flourish--   lightly)
 Tambourins I and II (a theatrical, lively dance over what sounds like regular drumbeats)
recorder, flute, violin

interlude:  the Baroque flute and the recorder

Deuxième Recréation de musique……………………….Jean-Marie Leclair l’aîné (the elder) (1697-1764)
 Ouverture (introduction, beginning slowly and majestically, then becoming light and fast,    returning to the opening majesty at the end)
 Forlane (a French court dance with somewhat risqué implications)
 Sarabande (in France, a slow, expressive dance, either tender or pompous)
 Menuet (an elegant, very popular dance)
 Badinage (not a dance, but light and playful)
 Tambourin (a lively theatrical dance over simulated drumbeats)
The Players
 
 
 

Program Notes

The music of the first half of the 18th century belongs to a period now called the Late, or High, Baroque.  These years, between about 1700 and about 1750, saw the final throes of the high-minded and dramatic Baroque as well as the emergence of new amusements of the Enlightenment.  While there was still plenty of music being composed for well-trained professional musicians, there was a parallel surge of interest in music for the amateur.  (It’s good to keep in mind what that word really means:  a lover of, in this case, music.)  To complicate matters further, national styles were an aesthetic issue:  an ongoing debate concerning the various merits of French and Italian styles led to efforts to combine them into what the French called the goûts réunis;  and other areas, especially the German-speaking lands, were flexing their artistic muscles as well.  The pieces on our program, chosen from this rich and sometimes confusing mix, range from the solidly serious to the frankly frivolous, from the virtuosic to the less difficult. Limited to instrumental pieces for six or fewer performers, they nonetheless cut across national and cultural modes of expression.

Johann Gottlieb Janitsch was influenced by two new styles of the 18th century, the galant and the Empfindsam, which had emerged, respectively, in Italy and northern Germany.  The galant style was to spread far beyond its origin.  Musical galanteries might include tuneful, easily forgettable melodies in short-breathed phrases over simple accompaniment.  As a point of analogy, a galant homme in 18th-century France knew how to dance the latest steps, how to flatter the ladies, how to wave his perfumed handkerchief—in other words, how to behave in society.  At its best, music in the galant style is polite, ingratiating, pretty, and unpretentious.  The North German dialect of 18th-century style, on the other hand, began with the premise that human emotions, ambivalent and changeable as they may be, can be expressed through the arts.  This Empfindsamkeit, or sensitivity, rarely found acceptance outside of German boundries, and, of the composers represented on our program, only Janitsch composed in this style.  One of its hallmarks is unpredictability, heard in Janitsch’s Quartett in G major as harmonic surprises, abrupt starts and stops, and florid ornamentation within a basically straightforward style.  Janitsch was a lawyer, composer, and bass viol player who worked for Frederick the Great of Prussia.  While Frederick preferred—indeed, demanded—music in the galant style, educated townspeople in Berlin, the seat of Frederick’s court, gloried in the Empfindsam, so Janitsch furnished music for both.  Interestingly, adherents of these new styles believed them to be more “natural” than the older Baroque style.

This older, learned Baroque style is convincingly expressed in the music of J. S. Bach.  Instead of nice melodies with unobtrusive accompaniment, one hears a welter of contrapuntal activity, in which all voices are equally important.  Rather than standing politely in the background,  the music demands unflagging attention from the listener.  From the 1720s until he died, Bach worked for the city of Leipzig, where his main function was to provide music for the largest Lutheran churches in town.  Outside of Leipzig, Bach was hardly known as a composer but was renowned as a fine organist;  the six pieces he called “trio sonatas” for organ must have been for his own recitals.  The usual definition of the generic title “trio sonata” is a piece for two solo instruments with continuo accompaniment.  But for these six sonatas,  Bach’s two solo “instruments” were his right and left hands, and the continuo line was for his feet.  Ironically, we will take one of Bach’s organ sonatas back to a more normal Baroque scoring, in which the musical lines are handled by different instrumentalists.  Whatever the scoring, the music present challenges for both performers and listeners.

The commercial trends in 18th-century Paris were certainly not the same as those in northern Germany, and both Michel Corrette and Jacques-Christophe Naudot bring us back to the frivolous.  These two French composers well understood how to satisfy the increasing demand for light music.  Many of Corrette’s melodies are based on popular tunes, and he penned at least 17 brief “how-to” treatises for amateurs wishing to play musical instruments.   Both he and Naudot published music for flutes, recorders, violins, and musettes (small bagpipes), all favored by Parisian amateur performers.  In order to encourage more people to purchase printed music, they allowed that melody lines might be played on whatever instruments one had at hand.

Both men helped to popularize the galant in France.  Corrette concentrated on the concerto, which had been almost completely neglected by French composers before him.  Between 1732 and 1760, he composed or arranged 25 “concerts comiques,” some of which have been tracked back to the tunes they were built on.  Scoring varies.  Our selection was originally for three violins or oboes or flutes with continuo;   we have added a recorder, and we will share the three melodic lines.  The possible connotations of the subtitle of this piece have so far eluded us!  Naudot was one of a significant group of flutists clustered in Paris in the early 18th century.  Probably most at home in the salon, he composed both serious and less weighty pieces, mostly for his own instrument.  The Divertissement champêtre, clearly in the less weighty category, was scored for flute, violin, and musette, without continuo;  we have replaced the musette with a recorder.

Francesco Geminiani received his training from the generation of Italians around the turn of the century, including such notable composers as Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, and in many ways he continued their Baroque tradition.  As his career developed, he published influential treatises on the modern galant style, and he counted young and progressive composers among his students.  In his own day, Geminiani was highly venerated as a composer, teacher, and virtuoso violinist.  His fame was assured after his move to London in 1714, his acquisition of talented students there, his subsequent travels, and the printing of his violin treatise in 1751.  Geminiani composed sonatas and concertos of uncommon beauty;  our selection is his only known work for oboe.

The music of Jean-Marie Leclair, like that of his countrymen Corrette and Naudot, is representative of the mixed French and Italian style.  He is considered the founder of the French school of violin playing, and his influence in that capacity extended to the end of the 18th century.  Initially trained as a lacemaker, he came to the violin through his experience as a dancer and ballet master.  After study with a disciple of the famous Corelli, he moved to Paris, where he was appointed first violinist at Louis XV’s court.  Later, his career took on more sensational tinges, and he gave up his public appearances and eventually resigned his royal position.  He was stabbed to death, probably by a nephew, though no one was ever brought to trial.  The Recréation was composed for two violins and continuo, but we will use all our instruments, including a Baroque piccolo, in various combinations.

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