ALBUQUERQUE BAROQUE PLAYERS
with MELANIE RUSSELL, soprano
7:30 p. m., Saturday, 22 November 2014, Fellowship Christian Reformed Church
3:00 p. m., Sunday, 23 November 2014, Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales
Music of the Late German Baroque
“Gott versorget alles Leben,” from BWV 187 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
soprano, oboe, basso continuo
“Höchster, mache deine Güte,” from BWV 51 Bach
soprano, basso continuo
“Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süße,” from BWV 211 (“Coffee Cantata”) Bach
Sonata in G minor Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
oboe, basso continuo
Deine Toten werden leben, TWV 213 Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Aria: Deine Toten werden leben
Recitative: So scheut das Sterben weiter nicht
Aria: Ihr Sterblichen!
soprano, recorder, basso continuo
Sonata in E minor Telemann
viola da gamba, basso continuo
selections from Neun deutsche Arien George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
“In den angenehmen Büschen,” HWV 209
“Sußer Blumen Ambraflocken,” HWV 204
“Die ihr aus dunkeln Grüften,” HWV 208
soprano, oboe, basso continuo
We kicked off our 2014-2015 season in September with a program of arias and instrumental music by Johann Sebastian Bach. For this weekend’s concerts, we are delighted to welcome Melanie Russell as our second guest vocalist of the season, and to bring you music of Bach, Handel and Telemann—perhaps the three most iconic composers of the late German Baroque—as well as Bach’s second-eldest son Carl Philipp Emanuel.
We open with selections from three cantatas composed by J.S. Bach during his long tenure in Leipzig. As cantor of the Thomaskirche, Bach produced five cycles of sacred cantatas for the church year, while also composing secular works in his capacity as civic director of music. Sacred cantatas were usually based on the prescribed Gospel reading for a particular Sunday; texts could be taken from the Bible, from Lutheran chorales, or from contemporary Pietist poetry. Our first sacred selection comes from the second half (sung after the sermon) of BWV 187, These wait all upon you, that you may give them nourishment in due season. The text of this cantata is based on the Gospel story of the feeding of the five thousand, and its theme is God’s abundance and care for his creation. In its formal design the aria “God takes care of every life” alludes to the French overture: it opens with an Adagio in stately dotted rhythms, with oboe and singer sharing melodic material. At the words “Worries be gone!” the music shifts to a dancelike poco allegro in triple meter before returning to the opening ritornello.
BWV 51, Shout for joy to God in all lands, one of Bach’s best-know solo cantatas, may have been originally composed not for the Leipzig churches but for some festive occasion—possibly a duke’s birthday. The solo soprano part is better suited to a female coloratura than to the boy soprano that would have been de rigeur in church, the text bears little connection to the Gospel reading for the Sunday in question, the obbligato trumpet part in the first and last arias suggests a festive setting—and, in any event, Bach initially labeled the cantata as a piece for “any time,” with the “15th Sunday after Trinity” designation appearing as a postscript. The aria that we’ll perform, scored for soprano and continuo, is built on what Alfred Dürr calls a “quasi-ostinato bass”—nearly-continuous, mostly stepwise triplet figures over which the singer spins a wide-ranging melody.
Bach’s secular-cantata output is represented on our program by an aria from his “Coffee Cantata,” described in the autograph score as a “comic cantata.” In this satirical little domestic farce, Herr Schlendrian sets out to cure his daughter Liesgen of her coffee habit by forbidding her to marry unless she gives up the beverage (Leipzigers were notorious coffee addicts, and a professor at the university had recently penned a dissertation on the dangers of the drink). After much pleading, Lisette acquiesces, but then lets us know that she will make sure her marriage contract guarantees her coffee on demand. The aria “Ei! wie schemeckt der Coffee süsse” is Liesgen’s first salvo in the dispute. Aided and abetted by the obbligato flute (we’ll use recorder), she manages to make her defense of coffee both sensuous and coquettish. The music, with its focus on melody and pervasive triplet rhythms, points toward the style galant that would supersede the high Baroque style.
The style galant was picked up by Bach’s composer sons, including Carl Philipp Emanuel. Much of CPE’s finest work, however, is in the later Empfindsamerstil, or “sensitive style,” in which music seeks to reflect volatile human feelings through unpredictable shifts in melody, harmony, rhythm, or dynamics. The G-minor oboe sonata was probably written in 1735, while the 21-year-old Bach was studying law in Frankfurt, and already shows the beginnings of a markedly individual style—perhaps anticipating the Empfindsamerstil in its melancholy character, expressive melodic contours, and changeable, quirky rhythms. The final movement is a particularly intriguing blend of old and new; it’s a set of variations over a chaconne bass, but with a break in the chaconne-bass pattern at the beginning of the second half of each variation. Moreover, this movement has the character of minuet, a standard type of finale in the late-18th-centurysonata.
If you’ve attended many of our concerts over the years, you know that Georg Philipp Telemann is a perennial favorite of ours. While best known for his instrumental music, Telemann was also a prolific composer of operas, oratorios, Passion settings, and cantatas. He was appointed in 1721 to the post of town cantor in Hamburg, a position he would hold till his retirement some twenty years later. Like Bach’s Leipzig job, the Hamburg cantorate required Telemann to provide the five major churches in town with cantatas for each Sunday of the church year, as well as for certain feast days. He is known to have composed more than 30 cantata cycles; among these is the Harmonische Gottesdienst (“Harmonious church service”) from which our selection is taken. Unlike Bach’s sacred cantatas, those in the Harmonische Gottesdienst, according to Telemann’s preface, are “suited for private domestic use as well as public worship.” All comprise two da capo (ABA) arias linked by a recitative, are scored for minimal forces—solo voice with one obbligato treble instrument and continuo—and, as Telemann suggests, can double as trio sonatas with a second treble instrument taking the vocal line. The cantata on this weekend’s program was composed for the fifth Sunday after Easter, also known as Rogate, or “Prayer Sunday.” In a departure from usual practice, the text is based not on one of the prescribed readings for the day but on a verse from the book of Isaiah: “Thy dead shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” The opening aria is an exuberant three-voice fugue, with an arresting bit of text painting on the words “uns das Sterben sanft zu Machen” (“to ease our dying”) at the beginning of the “B” section. In the second aria, the walking bass line may allude to inexorable death—or perhaps the digging of, and descent into, the grave—while the recorder’s halting motif expresses trepidation in the face of death. The singer’s exhortations lead into some intricate rhythmic counterpoint among the three voices, before the promise of eternity brings in a more animated bass line underlying the vocal line, punctuated by brief scalar flourishes from the recorder.
Because we believe there’s no such thing as too much Telemann, we’re including one of the viola da gamba sonatas from his Essercizii musici, a compendium of sonatas, suites, and trios for most if not all possible combinations of flute, recorder, violin, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. The E-minor gamba sonata is on the classic pattern of the 4-movement (slow-fast-slow-fast) Italian “church sonata,” but with a bit of a twist: the slow movements (Cantabile [in a “singing” style] and Recitativo—Arioso) are of an explicitly “vocal” character. The fast movements are dances: the Allegro is a gigue, and the concluding Vivace could be described as a minuet in rondo form, but with a gypsy flavor that reflects Telemann’s affection for Eastern European folk music. The possibilities for a quasi-operatic treatment are limited only by the performers’ imaginations!
The third man in our German-Baroque triumvirate spent most of his career outside of his native land. George Frideric Handel left Germany for Italy at age twenty-one, returning only for brief stints in Hanover and Düsseldorf before settling permanently in England. Not too surprisingly, a glance at his sizable inventory of vocal works shows a preponderance of Italian and English settings and a paucity of works in his native tongue. And in fact Handel did all but abandon German texts after about 1708, with two notable exceptions: a Passion setting and a set of nine sacred songs, both on texts by his friend Barthold Heinrich Brockes. The song texts are taken from a volume of longer texts that Brockes clearly intended to be set to music and whose overarching theme is the beauty of nature as evidence of the divine. From this collection of verses variously designated as arias, ariosos, and duets, Handel chose nine arias to set to music for solo voice with unspecified obbligato instrument (we’ll use oboe in our three selections) and continuo. Composed in London between 1724 and 1726—shortly before Handel became a British citizen—the German arias show the composer’s earlier mastery of Italian styles. Except for “In den angenehmen Büschen,” where the second A section is reduced to a return of the opening instrumental ritornello, all are in da capo form. In “Süsser Blumen,” for example, the atmospheric A section gives way to a bit of text-painting in the middle section: falling petals are depicted by a drop of an octave in the vocal line, followed by an upward-soaring line on “himmelwärts” (“heavenwards”), underscoring the didactic intent of the text. Finally, in “Die ihr aus dunkeln Grüften,” the repeated bass notes (echoed briefly in the treble) evoke an arguably-humorous image of futile digging in dark caverns, in counterpoint to the treble lines’ evocation of “open air.” As often happens in these arias, the music takes on a more didactic tone in the D-minor middle section before returning to the joyful B-flat-major opening.
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