Program Notes for 24 & 25 January 2004

with guests Tom O’Connor, Baroque oboe and Anna Marsh, Baroque bassoon

J. S. Bach, his Inheritance, and his Legacy: Concert III

Trio in e minor, from Organ Trio in c minor, BWV 526……..................................................................................…J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Vivace
[Adagio]
[Allegro]

recorder, violin, continuo

La Françoise, 1 e Ordre from Les Nations………........................................................................………..François Couperin (1668-1733)
Grave—Gayement—Gravement—Gayement—Gravement—Vivement—Air:
Gracieusement—Gayement
Allemande: Sans lenteur
1 ère Courante
Sarabande: Gravement
Gigue: Gayement
Passacaille: Modérément
Gavotte

two oboes, recorder, violin, bassoon, viola da gamba, continuo

 

Quartet in G major……………………….........................................................................…………Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Allegro
Grave
Allegro

recorder, oboe, violin, continuo

 

*****intermission*****

 

trio or quartet to be selected: two oboes, bassoon(?), continuo

Trio Sonata in G major, op. 1, no. 2 …............................................................................…………………Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Lento—Vivace
Adagio—Allegro—Largo
Arioso with four variations

violin, viola da gamba, continuo

 

Quintet in g minor, RV 105………….................................................................................……………………..Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Allegro
Largo
[Allegro]

recorder, oboe, violin, bassoon, continuo

 

Today's program continues our series "J.S. Bach, His Inheritance, and His Legacy." As before, we will be performing music not only by Bach, but also by several older and younger composers whose work he knew. And our two guest artists afford us the added luxury of sharing with you a greater variety of instrumental colors and textures.

The oldest work on our program is by Dietrich Buxtehude, whose connection with Bach has the makings of musical legend. It's well known that the 20-year Bach took several months off from his job as organist at Arnstadt to walk the 250 miles to Lübeck, where Buxtehude served as organist at the Marienkirche. We don't know whether Bach had his eye on the Marienkirche position, which, as Handel had found out two years earlier, would have entailed marrying Buxtehude's much-older daughter upon her father's retirement. In any event, the prospect of meeting, hearing, and learning from the much-revered Buxtehude was more than sufficient reason to make the journey; Bach probably brought with him some of his own compositions that were modeled on those of the older master. In addition he would have attended not only the Marienkirche's worship services, but also, perhaps, some of Buxtehude's Abendmusiken, a series of evening concerts held at the church. These concerts could have included the sonata on our program, one of the few works that Buxtehude published during his lifetime. Like all of the opus-1 and opus-2 sonatas, this one shows Italian influences, both in its formal structure (faster movements linked by slow sections) and in its virtuosic writing for the strings. On the other hand, the scoring for violin, viola da gamba, and continuo is characteristic of northern-European composers; the music shifts between duo and trio textures as the gamba shifts between an elaborated version of the continuo part and a fully independent musical line.

François Couperin, like Bach and Buxtehude, was an organ virtuoso as well as a composer; Bach's personal library included several of his keyboard works. And, again like Bach and Buxtehude, Couperin incorporated Italian elements into his compositions -- perhaps a more newsworthy feat for a French than for a German composer, given the traditional characterization of Baroque musical history as tension, if not antipathy, between French and Italian styles. Couperin's ideal is captured in the phrase (actually, the title of one of his collections of chamber works) les goûts réunis: roughly, the reconciliation of styles. This ideal is made explicit in Les nations, from which our selection is taken. Each of the four trios in this collection consists of a sonata in the Italian style, followed by a French ordre, or suite of dances. Like Buxtehude's sonatas, the sonata of La Françoise is on the early Italian model of continuous sections rather than discrete movements, but is solidly in the style of the French overture with its stately homophonic introduction followed by a quicker fugal section. The dance movements are characteristically French and largely homophonic; notice, however, the bits of imitative counterpoint in the Allemande. Incidentally, it's possible that Bach knew this piece; his F-major organ aria, BWV 587, is based on L'Impériale, also a part of Les nations.

From Antonio Vivaldi Bach borrowed more extensively, as witness the numerous keyboard concertos that are actually arrangements of works by the Venetian master. In fact, as recently as the early twentieth century the composer of the "Four Seasons" was known, by and large, only to Bach scholars, who for many years were interested in Vivaldi primarily as a supplier of musical straw to be spun into gold by Bach. Since the second World War, with the publication of modern editions -- and, dare we add, with the rise of the period-instrument movement -- Vivaldi has come into his own, though his sonatas, operas, and many other vocal works are still overshadowed by his more than 500 concertos. Our selection is a concerto in the broad Baroque sense: it's a chamber work for a diverse group of solo instruments with continuo. The solo, or concertato, roles are played by different instruments and pairs of instruments in turn, while the ripieno (roughly, "orchestral") sections or ritornelli are taken by the entire group, often with the three treble instruments in unison.

Bach's debt to Vivaldi is evident in the e-minor trio sonata, one of six originally composed for organ during Bach's Leipzig period. As we have done with other organ trios, we will perform this work in a more prototypical trio-sonata configuration: recorder and violin will play the role of the organist's hands, while the continuo players take the pedal line. In its overall design of this piece is typical of the newer Italian concerto style, with three discrete movements (fast, slow, fast). The Vivaldian legacy is most apparent in the first movement, with its ritornello structure and violinistic writing. What is perhaps more significant than these surface features is the idea, articulated by Bach's early biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel, that Bach, in transcribing Vivaldi's works, learned "how to think musically." And, indeed, a close examination of this trio reveals some very subtle and sophisticated musical thinking. For example, organist John Butt has noted that the first movement simultaneously combines ritornello, da capo (ABA) and fugal structures, not to mention the juxtaposition of rigorous counterpoint with the almost galant character of the movement's central section.

Georg Philipp Telemann, the most popular German musician of his day, probably met the young Bach while working as court Kapellmeister in Bach's native Eisenach. He later stood godfather to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and in 1722 was offered the Leipzig cantorate that went to the elder Bach only after Telemann's current employer presented him with an attractive counteroffer. Telemann's some 17,000 compositions have earned him a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records -- not to mention the distinction of being the Albuquerque Baroque Players' most-played composer! Perhaps because he was so prolific and apparently facile, his posthumous reputation has followed a path similar to that of Vivaldi's: only in the twentieth century has scholarship drawn Telemann out of Bach's and Handel's shadows and approached him on his own terms. While a small ensemble like ABP can explore no more than a tiny sampling of Telemann's output, we have, over the years, been repeatedly amazed and delighted by the great variety and consistently high quality of his work. Among the chamber works the quartets, written for all manner of instrumental combinations, are especially fine. Our selection shows some of the many textural possibilities of the quartet: the thematic division of labor in the first movement suggests a violin concerto, while the second and third are for three equal parts, with the continuo joining in the counterpoint in the third movement.

Our remaining selection has been attributed to both Johann Friedrich Fasch and Johann Joachim Quantz. To at least some musicians, the preponderance of the musical evidence suggests that the e-minor trio was composed for oboes by Fasch and subsequently arranged for flutes by Quantz, with the oboe version somehow becoming misattributed to the latter. Both composers bridged the Baroque and Classical periods, though Quantz is perhaps more closely associated than Fasch with the style galant. Our selection does lean towards the later style, especially in the affettuoso third movement, but the rhythmic vitality of the fast movements, along with bits of imitative counterpoint, retains some of the flavor of the Baroque.


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