Program Notes for 22 & 23September 2001

7:30 p. m., on Saturday, 22 Sept., 2001, at Los Altos Christian Church
and
3 p. m., on Sunday, 23 Sept., 2001, at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales


Sonata II, on "Bush aboon Traquair," from A Treatise of Good Taste.......Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
violin, recorder, viola da gamba, continuo

Suite no. 2 in D major/minor, from Broken Consort, book 2.........................Matthew Locke  (1621/23-1677)
 1. Pavan
 2. Ayre
 3. Galliard
 4. Ayre
 5. Sarabande
violin, recorder, continuo

Jhon come kisse me now, from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book..........................William Byrd (c. 1540-1623)
harpsichord

Thomas Burke and Planxty Browne.................................................................Turlough Carolan (1670-1736)
The Wood Lark, from The Bird Fancyer's Delight....................................................Mr. Hill (fl. early 18th c.)
The Narcissus, from Airs for the Seasons: Spring..................................................James Oswald (1710-1769)
 1. Air
The Bullfinch.........................................................................................................................................Mr. Hill
The Narcissus.........................................................................................................................................Oswald
 2. Giga
violin, recorder, continuo

Sonata no. 5 in G major, in imitation of Corelli.............................................William McGibbon (1696-1756)
 1. Adagio
 2. Allegro
 3. Largo
 4. Allegro
violin, oboe, continuo

***intermission***

Sonata no. 4 from Ten Sonata's in Four Parts.........................................................Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
 1. Adagio
 2. Canzona
 3. Adagio—Vivace
 4. Largo
violin, oboe, viola da gamba, continuo

Music for a while, from Oedipus.............................................................................................................Purcell
Halcyon days, from The Tempest
Love in their little veins inspires, from Timon of Athens
Bid the Virtues, from Come, Ye Sons of Art
Nymphs and shepherds, from The Libertine
Now that the sun hath veil'd his light (An Evening Hymn)
Jay Hill, tenor
with violin, recorder, oboe, continuo

Program Notes

Over the course of our 2001-2002 season, the Albuquerque Baroque Players would like to guide you on a musical tour of Europe.  We'll be performing music from the British Isles, Italy, Germany, and France, in that order. To be sure, Italy and Germany did not become modern nations until quite late in the 19th century, but there was a certain commonality of style among Italian-speaking composers, and also among German-speaking composers.  The obverse is true, too:  in all four of these areas, there were regional dialects that enriched the "national" styles.  We'll offer you a broad view, selecting attractive and varied repertory but not confining ourselves only to the greatest composers and the profoundest music.  We hope that you find the diverse flavors of all these geographical/cultural areas pleasing and worthy of more tasting!  We have even persuaded our refreshments team to provide appropriate intermission treats.

If the phrase were not so cumbersome, we might have subtitled our British program "Tunes, Trifles, Foreign Influences, and the Occasional Emergence of a Real Individual," for these terms characterize much  British music of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Tunes, catchy and memorable melodies, abounded in the British Isles.  In the Baroque era, British people sang in pubs, in the street, in the theatre, at public gatherings.  Popular and folk tunes quite naturally made their way into both trivial and serious music, where they often served as themes for variations.  New tunes were penned, of course, sometimes in the popular idiom, and some have in fact entered the folk repertory as fiddle tunes.  Chances are, at any rate, that you'll hum or whistle more of this British music on your way home than you will our selections from Italy, Germany, or France, where composers had other primary concerns.

Some of the tunes you'll hear on our program are the popular ones used by Geminiani and Byrd.
Geminiani, an outstanding Italian violinist who emigrated to England in 1714 and later spent some
years in Dublin, was familiar with the melodies of his adopted homeland.  In order to show how to apply
the ornaments he touted in his Treatise of Good Taste (1749), he wrote out arrangements of well-known
tunes, including the Scots tune "Bush aboon Traquair."  Byrd's harpsichord variations, more numerous and
more subtle than Geminiani's, are based on a melody that was sung to several different texts:  Protestants
knew the secular text "Jhon come kisse me now," while Catholics knew sacred parodies.  (Byrd was a
recusant Catholic—that is, he refused to take communion in Anglican churches.  Much of his music was
composed for his fellow recusants.)  The blind Irish harpist Carolan apparently composed his dance tunes
and airs as he traveled from one house to another, where he hoped to be given room and board in
exchange for entertaining his hosts.  We don't know who "Mr. Hill" was, but he compiled and
published 40-odd airs for those wishing to teach birds to sing.  Some of the melodies seem to be new, while
others have been traced to their origins.  Using a recorder or flageolet to play such pieces over and over for
birds was a widespread hobby, practitioners hoping to sell the trained birds at a profit.  Supposedly, the
tunes recreated appropriate melodies for each variety of bird.  Bullfinches were the favorites.

What about trifles?  We intend the kindest meaning for that term.  Domestic music-making was a vigorous tradition in the British Isles in the 17th and 18th centuries, and a strong middle class encouraged a continuous supply of both throw-away and longer-lasting music.  Geminiani's, Carolan's, and Mr. Hill's pieces could be considered trifles.  You might find the piece by Oswald a trifle, or even that by McGibbon, whose efforts don't quite amount to any real competition for Corelli.  Pleasant, easily digested, forgettable, yet perhaps worth a second hearing:  that's a succinct description of a musical trifle.  (Sorry, we will not be able to offer you an edible English trifle at intermission!)

Oswald and McGibbon were Scots.  Oswald, the most prolific 18th-century composer in Scotland, wrote 96 Airs for the Seasons, simple but artfully structured.  It is said that he discovered the secret of melody:  that there are no new ones, just recycled ones!   Wherever his melodies came from, he eventually published many that sound like Scots tunes in the 12 volumes of his Caledonian Pocket Companion, from which some were taken to fit Robert Burns' poems.  Though McGibbon, too, became enamored of Scots tunes in the 1740s—doubtless for patriotic reasons—he previously had labored under the influences of many composers.  The trio sonata on our program, not at all Scots-influenced, comes from a 1734 set of six, all "in imitation of Corelli."

The great Italian Arcangelo Corelli wasn't the only composer aped or studied by British composers, and Italy wasn't the only country to furnish musical models.  Foreign styles had long assailed England—not just in music, but also in fashion and theatre.  Except for the Cromwell years in the mid 17th century, Italian music strongly affected English styles and genres.  The rage for the Italian sonata, along with a rage for the violin, spread into Scotland and Ireland in the 18th century.  As long as good money was to be earned, waves of Italian and Italophile musicians continued to wash up on England's shores.  When Handel arrived in London in 1710, for example, he was fresh from several years' residency in Italy.  French style, too, wielded some power, especially after Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 after years of exile in France: Charles made it clear to his court composers that he would not listen kindly to complex English fantasies and wanted to hear light, refined French dances.  Of necessity, then, both Italian and French styles influenced nearly all British composers.

Among them are most of the composers represented on our program.  Geminiani was one of many disciples of Corelli.  Carolan heard and was influenced by the Italianate music being performed in Irish homes. Oswald picked up Italian and French styles as he moved from his hometown, a small fishing village, to Edinburgh and then to London.  McGibbon, in addition to the six trio sonatas in Corelli's style, published a set of "graces" (ornaments) to one of Corelli's solo violin sonatas.  Locke, whose style is hardly lightweight and undemanding, bent nonetheless to Charles' request for French dances.  Purcell, deep in his heart a contrapuntist, was nonetheless taken with the expressiveness of Italian trio sonatas and the flexibility of French vocal settings.

The last two composers named, Locke and Purcell, though not deaf to the appeal of a good tune, not above composing an occasional trifle, and certainly not impervious to the felicities of Italian and French music, are the "real individuals" on this program.  Locke's unique style, unpredictable, angular, harmonically and contrapuntally rich, came out of the Cromwell years.  Locke arrived in London in the 1650s, when he contributed to and participated in several significant theatre productions.  Continuing his theatre work into the Restoration years, he also published several collections of extraordinary chamber music, including two books called The Broken Consort—"broken" meaning that solo instruments are combined with continuo instruments.  Locke's personality was reputedly as thorny as his music, and, because of his contentiousness and his Catholicism, he never received a court appointment.

There's no clear evidence that Purcell studied with Locke, but he composed a heartfelt musical elegy for him.  Like Locke, Purcell worked in the theatre and wrote music for domestic use, but he was also a respected composer at court and at the Chapel Royal.  Although Purcell's 22 trio sonatas show Italian traits, they belong only to the composer.  The viol plays a ornate version of the continuo line and is sometimes quite independent of it.  Movements are apt to be continuous.  The texture is cleverly enlivened, even in the simplest movements, with polyphonic activity.  The outline may be Italian, but the content and organization are Purcell's.  The songs are really innately English, though Purcell knew French declamation and theatre.  The songs we have chosen to perform show some of the composer's prowess and variety in vocal writing.  Many of the songs were composed for plays, and knowing their contexts elucidates their texts.  Four of our selections come from plays and one from a celebratory ode, leaving only one more or less independent song—more or less, because that one was coupled with another.  "Music for a while" is surely Purcell's best-known theatre song, intended to calm the three Furies in Dryden and Lee's Oedipus.  As in many of Purcell's songs, the melody is sung over an ostinato, a very chromatic one in this case.  "Halcyon Days," from an adaptation of Shakespeare's Tempest, is probably not by Purcell, but it used to be ascribed to him.  "Love in their little veins inspires" was added to another Shakespeare adaptation, Timor of Athens, as part of a masque to take place at the end of the play.  "Nymphs and shepherds," which remained extremely popular into the 18th century and is correspondingly well known now, sounds very light-hearted, but a massacre follows it in Shadwell's Libertine.  "Bid the virtues" is taken from the 1694 birthday ode for Queen Anne, with a text probably by Nahum Tate.  We end this set of songs as we began it, with an ostinato song.  Purcell's "Evening Hymn" is performed far more frequently than his "Morning Hymn," but they were originally intended as companion pieces.  Purcell, not content with the poems' contrast of the beginning and the end of day, takes William Fuller's "Evening Hymn" text into another kind of end, the gentle realm of death.
 

Song Texts
 

Music for a while
 Music for a while shall all your cares beguile;
 Wond'ring how your pains were eas'd, and disdaining to be pleased
 Til Alecto free the dead from their eternal bands,
 Til the snakes drop from her head and the whip from out her hand.
 
 

Halcyon days
 Halcyon days, now wars are ending.
 You shall find where-e'er you sail
 Tritons all the while attending
 With a kind and gentle gale.
 
 

Love in their little veins inspires
 Love in their little veins inspires their cheerful notes, their soft desires.
 While heat makes buds and blossoms spring, those pretty couples love and sing.
 But winter puts out their desire, and half the year they want love's fire.
 
 

Bid the Virtues
 Bid the Virtues, bid the Graces
 To the sacred shrine repair,
 Round the altar take their places,
 Blessing with returns of pray'r
 Their great Defender's care
 While Maria's royal zeal
 Best instructs you how to pray
 Hourly from her own
 Conversing with th'Eternal Throne.
 
 

Nymphs and shepherds
 Nymphs and shepherds, come away.
 In the groves let's sport and play,
 For this is Flora's holy day,
 Sacred to ease and happy love,
 To dancing, to music and to poetry;
 Your flocks may now securely rove
 While you express your jollity.
 
 

Now that the sun hath veil'd his light (An Evening Hymn)
 Now that the sun hath veil'd his light and bid the world goodnight,
 To the soft bed my body I dispose.  But where shall my soul repose?
 Dear God, ever in thy arms, and can there by any so sweet security?
 Then to thy rest, O my soul, and, singing, praise the mercy that prolongs thy days!
 Alleluia.
 


return to home page.