Program Notes for 2 & 3 February 2008

Albuquerque Baroque Players
with guest Marilyn McDonald, violin
7:30, Saturday, 2 February 2008, Los Altos Christian Church
4:00, Sunday, 3 February 2008, The Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales


Sonata in Four Movements
Concert III: Grave

Symphonias: La gran Battaglia and La Suavissima,
from Sinfonie boscareccie, op. 8, 1669 ..........................................................................................Marco Uccellini (c. 1603-1680)

two violins, basso continuo

 

Sonata X from Prothymia suavissima, 1672.............................................................................................. Antonio Bertali (1605-1669)

two violins, viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

La Cornara, from Sonate da chiesa e da camera, book 2, 1656........................................................ Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)

two violins, basso continuo

 

Plainte in D major, from Pièces de viole, book 3, 1711 .....................................................................................Marin Marais (1656-1728)

viola da gamba, basso continuo

 

Lamentation faite sur la mort très douloureuse de Sa Majesté Impériale, Ferdinand
le troisième; et se joue lentement avec discretion, c. 1657.................................................... Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)

harpsichord

 

Partia VI, from Harmonia artificioso-ariosa, 1696 ..............................................................Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1664-1704)
Preludium
Aria with variations
Finale

two violins, basso continuo

 

***intermission***

 

Sonata in D major, op. 3/6, 1730............................................................................................................. Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764)
Andante
Allegro
Largo
Allegro ma non troppo

two violins

 

Trio Sonata in G major, op. 5/4, 1739................................................................................................ George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Allegro
A tempo ordinario—Allegro, non presto
Passacaglia
Presto
Menuet: Allegro moderato

two violins, basso continuo


Program Notes

With this set of concerts, we arrive at the third “movement” of our 2007-2008 season, grave. Like many descriptive musical terms from the 17th and 18th centuries, this one later acquired a corollary meaning and was defined as slow in tempo, but at its inception it merely meant serious, or solemn.

Serious sections in Baroque music, whether labeled grave or not, were most often treated as a foil for faster, lighter sections. Early in the 17th century, varied sections might alternate unpredictably and rapidly. These changes in affect served to illuminate a new style, the “second practice,” or the stile moderno. First appearing in Italian vocal music, it soon spread into German-speaking regions and into instrumental music.

The first three composers represented on our program were Italians with much sympathy for the new style. From Marco Uccellini, who held the position of maestro di cappella in both Modena and Parma, we have seven extant collections of sonatas, dances, and sinfonias. Though his sinfonias tend to be less bold than his sonatas, “La Suavissima” does have two clearly differentiated parts. Similarly, our selection by Giovanni Legrenzi is divided into four sections, the last closely related to the first. Legrenzi, who worked in Bergamo, Ferrara, Venice, and probably elsewhere, was an influence on Torelli, Vivaldi, and Bach. Antonio Bertali, on the other hand, abandoned Italy for Vienna, where he imported the new Italian style and amplified it. The Bertali sonata on our program is simply outlandish, spiked with quirky chromatic gestures for all three solo instruments.

Biber, a Bohemian who worked mostly in Salzburg, was greatly taken with the new Italian style. Also a virtuoso violinist, he had a fondness for sets of variations and for scordatura tunings on the violin. His variations, such as those in the Partia VI, seem to grow in difficulty. The Partia VI is, though, the only piece in Biber’s Harmonia artificioso-arioso that doesn’t call for retuning the violin strings. To be sure, Biber’s compositional audacity is better heard in his solo sonatas than in his trios, where individual flights of fancy must necessarily be somewhat curtailed.

Another violin virtuoso, Leclair, also furnished challenging music for his instrument. He was trained in lacemaking and dancing as well as in music, and he studied with a violin teacher who knew the Italian repertory. By the late 17th century, Italian style had lost some of its aggressiveness and unpredictability, and short sections had given way to lengthier and more developed discrete movements. The idol of the day was Corelli. The format of Corelli’s church sonatas, in fact, has informed our season title, because of the regular alternation of slow and fast movements. This late 17th-century style is what Leclair studied. Considered the “father of the French violin school,” Leclair was recognized while he lived for his fluency and rhythmic freedom in performance, for his ability to combine Corellian and French traits in composition, and for his quarrelsome personality. After he was murdered, probably by a nephew, his influence continued until the end of the 18th century. Leclair published two collections of violin duos without bass.

Not a violin virtuoso and not a consistently dedicated composer of chamber music, Handel nonetheless provided his peers and posterity with fine violin sonatas and trios. His two main trio collections, op. 2 and op. 5, are remarkably different. The sonatas of op. 2 adhere fairly closely to the Corellian model of the church sonata, while those of op. 5 are made up largely of transcriptions from the composer’s anthems, operas, and oratorios. Definitely out of place in this concert, op. 5/4 contains hardly a moment of grave other than a brief segue from the fugue of the second movement into the passacaglia.

There are a few types of Baroque pieces that are prevailingly grave, and one of these is the lament, variously called a tombeau or a plainte. A tombeau was composed as an elegy, in honor of someone who had died, but a lament might concern any kind of sad event—including, for the composer Johann Jacob Froberger, the loss of his purse to a pickpocket, or musings on his own future death. The plainte was typically less specific in its grievance. Marin Marais, a virtuoso gambist and a Frenchman who eschewed the popular Italian style, included several of them among his 569 solo viol pieces. His “Plainte” in D major has no known program but obviously sighs and yearns gently for something not to be had. Froberger’s laments and elegies are modeled on rhetorical funeral orations, beginning with mourning and continuing into anger and, finally, resignation. Thus, the composer indicates that they’re to be played slowly and freely. His lament for his patron Ferdinand III imagines the deceased ruler rising into heaven at the end and, perhaps, knocking at the door. These two grave pieces don’t sing or dance; they speak.

We open our concert with no grave at all. Uccellini’s “Gran Battaglia” is a trumpet-like fanfare of sit-down-and-be-quiet music!

 

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