Sunday, June 17, 2007

ARCHIVE  •  2007  •  SUN 17  •  MON 18  •  WED 20  •  FRI 22  •  SUN 24

Saint Michael & All Angels Church, 4 p.m.

Baroque Concertos

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
William Skeen, violoncello
Michael Dupree, oboe
Paul Sherman, oboe
Timothy Howard, organ
Festival Orchestra
Burton Karson, conductor

Nicola Porpora (1686-1768)
Concerto in C major
for violoncello

Allegro – Presto

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751)
Concerto in F, Op. 9, No. 3
for two oboes


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in E minor, RV 277
for violin: Il Favorito



Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in F, RV 542
for violin and organ


Francesco Durante (1684-1755)
Concerto in F minor
for string orchestra

Un poco Andante
Andante (Minuet)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sinfonia in D minor, from BWV 146
for organ


We offer this concert in memory of Snoozie Ullman (1917-2006), founding Festival board member and long-time generous patron.


Nicola Antonio Porpora, little known today, enjoyed extraordinary fame during his lifetime. His main compositional output was in opera, but in addition to his nearly fifty dramatic stage works, he wrote masses, solo and choral motets, psalm settings and didactic pieces associated with his own vocal teaching. His operatic activities put him in close contact in London with Handel and the famous castrato Farinelli (an earlier product of Porpora’s own singing classes), and brought about royal commissions and paid positions in Darmstadt, Dresden, London, Venice, Naples, Rome and Vienna. He even served as general of the Austrian army in Naples between 1709 and 1713, and later was governor of Mantua in northern Italy.

Porpora also turned out orchestral concertos, chamber sonatas, but only one concerto for violoncello and orchestra. We may listen during this rare experience for a balance between brilliant idiomatic demands on the solo instrument and passages that seem to be inspired by Porpora’s extensive writing for operatic coloratura arias. BACK


Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni was very popular in Europe during his own time, his instrumental music ranking with that of Corelli and Vivaldi. The son of a wealthy Venetian paper merchant and landowner, he worked only because he wanted to, turning out many concertos, cantatas, operas and chamber pieces during his long life. His musical personality is buoyant and rhythmical, often reflecting that of his fellow Venetian, Vivaldi, and his melodic inventiveness impressed even J. S. Bach who based some keyboard fugues on themes of Albinoni and used others of his works as teaching materials.

This Concerto a Cinque for two oboes, strings and continuo (separate staves written for first and second oboe, first violins, second violins, viola and the ever-present basso continuo that demands cellos and bass plus harpsichord to reinforce harmonic and rhythmic stability) places the two solo oboes in friendly duets rather than in competitions. The outer fast movements have the soloists running together, while the slow movement dances gently to the dotted rhythms of a Siciliana. BACK


Vivaldi makes a popular triumvirate with his late-Baroque contemporaries Bach and Handel; indeed, a fairly equal-legged triangle could be drawn geographically between their Venice, Leipzig and London. The short-lived ecclesiastical career of “The Red Priest” gave way to a life of prolific activity as a composer of operas, sacred works and solo concertos for violin (well over two hundred!), viola d’amore, violoncello (over two dozen), mandolin (one), flute/recorder/piccolo (twenty-one), oboe (nineteen), bassoon (nearly forty), plus double concertos of which we’ll speak later.

Il favorito in E minor, also known as Opus 11, No. 2, begins with an upward outline of the triad (the same notes with which Bach begins his E major violin concerto), all the strings in unison before the upper strings soar and the solo violin then takes over. Nearly metronomic quarter notes in the orchestral strings support the soloist in the Andante for which the composer wrote out what amount to extended ornaments, unusual in a slow movement.

The final Allegro, in triple meter, is based on a dotted rhythm followed by two longer notes, reflective of an instantly recognizable theme from Vivaldi’s own Four Seasons. BACK


Vivaldi, in addition to thirty-six multiple concertos for from three to eleven soloists, wrote nearly fifty double concertos for pairs of violins (twenty-nine), cellos, flutes, oboes, trumpets, mandolins, oboe and bassoon, violin and cello (two), violin and oboe, and two complete (and two incomplete) concertos for violin and organ — all with string orchestra.

The concerto in F major for violin and organ opens by setting the violinist and organist against each other in precarious rhythmic and unison passages. The slow movement begins by tossing little themes and trills back and forth imitatively, and ends in cute measures of parallel thirds. The final movement has the soloists almost poking fun at each other in imitative laughter, the orchestra mostly staying out of the way. BACK


Francesco Durante achieved fame mostly through his church music, unusual in that time when opera dominated Naples. Details of his early years and studies in Naples and Rome are hazy, but we know that he was thrice married: his miserable first of twenty-seven years to the maledetta vecchia, as she was described, his happy second cut short after only three years by his wife’s death, and his third when in his mid-sixties to a twenty-two-year-old who had been a domestic in his household. His enormous compositional output created an international reputation and admiration for him from the public, his renowned colleagues, and his many later-famous conservatory students.

This five-movement concerto in F minor, the first of eight concerti per quartetto, is what we call a ripieno concerto, there being no featured soloists, although the Amoroso movement alternates short passages between the orchestra and four soloists who emerge somewhat conversationally from the ensemble. BACK


Bach was a busy man who, perhaps due to time constraints, often reshaped or fleshed out movements from his earlier concertos for new ones for different instruments; he even borrowed from instrumental pieces for sacred solo/choral cantata movements. The Sinfonia that opens his cantata, Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen, BWV 146, is a reworking from an earlier lost violin concerto, and is recognizable from the famous D minor harpsichord concerto, BWV 1052. “Where have I heard that?” is a common reaction! So this Sinfonia for organ and orchestra from a choral cantata really is a remarkable concerto movement that demands non-stop virtuoso playing with an arrestingly brief six-measure respite before its rush to the finish. BACK

Notes by Burton Karson


Post Office Box 838 | Corona del Mar, CA 92625-0838
Tel. (949) 760-7887 |
Kindly report any problem to the webmaster.