Program Notes for 2& 3 November 2013

 

ALBUQUERQUE BAROQUE PLAYERS

 

with guest ANNE-MARIE DICCE, soprano

 

7:30 p. m., Saturday, 2 Nov. 2013, at Fellowship Christian Reformed Church

3:00 p. m., Sunday, 3 Nov. 2013, at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales

 

 

FRIENDS OLD AND NEW:  CONCERT II

 

Neun deutsche Lieder, selections                                                                 George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

                “Singe, Seele, Gott zum Preise,” HWV 206

                “Süße Stille, sanfte Quelle”:  Larghetto, HWV 205

soprano, recorder, oboe, continuo

 

 

Sonata X on “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut                                                   August Kühnel (1645-c. 1700)

viola da gamba, continuo

 

 

Selections from cantatas                                                                                Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

                “Seufzer, Tränen, Kümmer, Not,” from BWV 21, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis

                “Höchster, was ich habe,” from BWV 39, Brich den HUngrigen dein Brot

soprano, oboe, recorder, continuo

 

 

***intermission***

 

 

“Sustinuit anima mea,” from De Profundis                                           Michel-Richard Delalande (1657-1726)

soprano, oboe, continuo

 

 

Sonata in C major, TWV 41: C2                                                                   Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

                Cantabile

                Allegro

                Grave

                Vivace

recorder, continuo

 

 

Selected songs                                                                                                                  Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

                “Nymphs and Shepherds,” from The Libertine

                “O Let Me Weep,” from Fairy Queen

                “Fairest Isle,” from King Arthur

                “Evening Hymn”

soprano, oboe, continuo

 

PROGRAM NOTES

 

As musicians immersed in the performance of Baroque music, we are wont to tout our own instruments for their special status in ensemble and solo playing, and violin and harpsichord usually emerge as most popular and useful.  It is indeed difficult to imagine a court or church or chamber or theatre establishment without them, not to mention winds and other strings.  Truth be told, however, the favored “instrument” in the 17th and 18th centuries—and, certainly, into modern times—was the human voice.  In fact, the quality most revered in strings and winds particularly, and sometimes even keyboards, was their ability to imitate fine singers.

 

This weekend we offer you an array of sacred and secular songs and arias.  Of necessity, most of them have been taken out of context, excerpted from larger works.  As we’ll see, context is often very significant.

 

Of the vocal works on our program, only the two Handel songs were composed as stand-alone pieces, though the words are part of longer texts. The nine devotional songs in the collection, a rarity for Handel as they’re in his native tongue, were possibly intended for a performance in Hamburg in the mid-1720s.  Handel selected da capo arias from cantata librettos written by his old friend Barthold Heinrich Brockes, texts obviously meant to be sung.  Presumably poet and composer had some direct correspondence, evidenced by Handel’s small influence on Brockes’ prosody.  Later, it’s clear that Brockes knew Handel’s settings and admired them, and he openly declared that his family had sung one of them—“Süße Stille”—while boating!  Since the Hamburg performance apparently never occurred, and since there was little demand for German-language Pietist songs in England, where Handel resided, the songs remained unpublished—oddly, until 1921.  Brockes’ poems generally extol the beauty of nature as testament to divine benevolence.

 

                “Singe, Seele”

                Sing, soul, to praise God, who so wisely adorns the whole world.

                May he who delights our ears and charms our eyes when he decks tree and field with blossoms

                                be praised and glorified.

                Sing, soul...

 

                “Süße Stille”

                Sweet quiet, gentle source of calm tranquility!

                The soul rejoices when I, after this time of toilsome futility, see the serenity before me that

                                is always at hand.

                Sweet quiet...

 

Bach composed both of the cantatas from which we’ll perform arias for the season of Trinity, the “long” season, Pentecost, and he labeled cantata #21 “per ogni tempo,” “for any time.”  That is to say, the texts are somewhat generic.  Each cantata is divided into two parts, as was the custom in Leipzig, one part done before the sermon and one part after.  Both the sermon and the cantata focused on the assigned Gospel reading for that Sunday.  “Seufzer, Tränen” lies in the first part of cantata #21, the suffering and despairing part.  In the second half of that cantata, the mood becomes joyful.  “Seufzer” is a wonderful example of Bach’s word-painting:  it’s dominated by a chromatic, sighing motive and accompanied by a beautifully doleful oboe, and there’s no contrasting section to lessen the intensity.  “Höchster, was ich habe” is sung near the end of cantata #39 and is joyful and dancelike throughout.  Interestingly, its text echoes the sentiment of Handel’s “Süße Stille.”

 

                “Seufzer, Tränen”

                Groans, tears, grief, misery, anxious yearning, dread, and death gnaw at my heavy heart.  I

                                feel distress, pain.

 

                “Höchster, was ich habe”

                Highest one, what I have is only a gift from you.  I might come before you with all I have,

                                wishing to seem grateful, yet you require no sacrifice.

 

Delalande’s De Profundis belongs to the Mass for the Dead, the Requiem Mass.  His text is Psalm 130 with an added phrase at the end specifically indicating that ritual.  The Psalmist turns from despair to trust, and Delalande’s added line, “rest in peace,” makes the change plain.  Our selection fits just after the middle of the Psalm and thus is hopeful.  This De Profundis is considered by many to be an unjustly neglected masterpiece and is favorably compared to the best of Bach and Schütz, especially for its graceful melodies—a description used by one of Delalande’s students—its balance of different textures, and its varied and colorful scoring.

 

                “Sustinuit anima mea”

                I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.  (New Standard Revised Version of

                                the Bible)

 

Many of the songs by Purcell come from plays for which he furnished overtures, incidental music, dances, and vocal music—choruses, ensembles, and solo songs.  For three of our four selections, then, the context is lost when they’re used as concert pieces.  “Nymphs and Shepherds” is a case in point.  Light and happy as it is, it’s followed in the play by a massacre perpetrated by the evil Don Juan.  Shadwell’s Don in his Libertine isn’t at all repentant of his womanizing, and he’s a brute.  Flora, by the way, is the Roman goddess of springtime and flowers.  In Fairy Queen, Purcell’s music resides in masques rather than in the storyline in this anonymous libretto.  “O Let Me Weep” is sung in the final act by a nameless woman among a series of lovers, and we don’t know who “he” is.  In Dryden’s King Arthur, “Fairest Isle” is sung by Venus in praise, of course, of Britannia.  The song has very little to do with the plot, except to emphasize the political expediency of lauding England.  “Evening Hymn,” also known as “Now that the sun hath veil’d his light,” was published in a two-volume edition of sacred songs composed by various musicians.  Purcell structured that song and “O Let Me Weep” over repeating bass lines, of which he was very fond.

 

                “Nymphs and Shepherds”

                Nymphs and shepherds, come away.  In the groves let’s sport and play, for this is Flora’s

                                holiday,

                Sacred to ease, and happy love, to dancing, to music, and to poetry; you may now securely

                                rove whilst you express your jollity.

                Nymphs and shepherds...

 

                “O Let Me Weep”

                O let me weep, forever weep!  My eyes no more shall welcome sleep.

                I’ll hide me from the sight of day and sigh my soul away.

                O let me weep...

                He’s gone, his loss deplore, and I shall never see him more.

 

                “Fairest Isle”

                Fairest isle, all isles excelling, seat of pleasure and of love:  Venus here will choose her dwelling

                                and forsake her Cyprian grove.

                Cupid from his fav’rite nation care and envy will remove; jealousy that poisons passion and

                                despair that dies for love;

                Gentle murmurs, sweet complaining, sighs that blow the fire of love, soft repulses, kind

                                disdaining shall be all the pains you prove.

                Ev’ry swain shall pay his duty; grateful ev’ry nymph shall prove.  And as these excel in beauty,

                                those shall be renown’d for love.

 

                “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, even in thy arms, and can there be any so sweet security!

                Then to thy rest, o my soul! and singing, praise the mercy that prolongs thy days.

                Hallelujah.

 

Well, we do have a couple of instrumental pieces for you, too!  Kühnel’s Sonata X is a set of variations on a chorale tune for solo viola da gamba with continuo.  Viol was Kühnel’s instrument, and this sonata forms part of his 1698 set of sonatas and suites for one or two viols with—and some, optionally, without—continuo.  Also, inevitably, we’ll offer you a sonata by one of our favorite composers, Telemann.