Sunday, June 14, 2009

ARCHIVE  •  2009  •  SUN 14  •  MON 15  •  WED 17  •  FRI 19  •  SUN 21

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

Baroque Concertos

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
William Skeen, viola da gamba
Eleanor Choate, harp
John Thiessen, trumpet
Timothy Howard, organ
Festival Orchestra
Burton Karson, conductor

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Ouvertüre in D
for viola da gamba

Lento – Allegro – Lento
Allegro “La trompette”
Adagio – Sarabande
Grazioso – Rondeau
Risoluto – Bourrée
Allegro – Courante

George Frideric Handel ((1685-1759)
Concerto in B flat
for harp

Andante allegro
Allegro moderato

George Frideric Handel ((1685-1759)
Concert Grosso in E minor, Opus 6, No. 3
for organ

Andante – Polonaise
Allegro, ma non troppo

Rob Diggins, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
William Skeen, violoncello


George Frideric Handel ((1685-1759)
Concerto No. 13 in F
for organ


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in D, RV 208, “Il grosso mogul”
for violin


Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Suite from Indian Queen
for trumpet

Trumpet Overture
Symphony – Canzona – Adagio – Canzona


Nelemann, a North German contemporary of Bach and friend of Handel, was the most prolific composer of the Baroque period, and perhaps of all musical history. His output of around 115 concertos — solo, duo, triple and concerti grossi — seems staggering when viewed with his list of church cantatas, passions, oratorios, masses, psalms, motets, songs, operas, secular cantatas, serenades, chamber music, etc.

This Ouvertüre, a concert suite for viola da gamba and string orchestra, is for the tenor member of the viol family, held between the legs (gamba); the other survivor of the viol family is our double bass, or “bass viol,” tuned in 4ths instead of 5ths as is the violin family. Frets on the gamba’s fingerboard locate different pitches. Bach wrote profound solos for viola da gamba in his St. John and St. Matthew passions, a few cantatas, and some orchestral works. The “suite” rather than concerto category is due to the various dances that dominate and entertain. BACK


Handel wrote his concerto for harp for performance in Alexander’s Feast in 1736; it was published later for harp or organ (the organ version has been heard here in previous seasons). Harps of various designs were employed for solo and ensemble work regularly during the Renaissance, less in the Baroque (Monteverdi specified it for his orchestra in Orfeo of 1607); the “doubleaction” pedal harpsichord that allows easily for chromatic changes was patented in 1810. Handel’s three movements, in typical fast-slow-fast tempi, are light and airy, with harp and strings bouncing the main themes back and forth happily. BACK


Handel published six concerti grossi as Opus 3 in 1734, and another twelve as Opus 6 in 1740, and subsequently wrote another seven. The concerto grosso was the most popular orchestral form of his time, employing a group of usually two to five soloists on any combination of instruments (strings or winds) called concertino against the string orchestra as ripieno.

In this E minor concerto, the concertino consists of two violins and cello in animated conversation with the other strings. The slow first movement ends in a dominant chord that forces a quick entry into the Andante and its rather chromatic harmonic meanderings. Similar changes of key in the Allegro lead to a Polonaise with a recurring rhythmic pattern that is much like that of the final Allegro. BACK


Handel liked to play light, extemporized organ concertos during the intermissions of his serious oratorios, only later writing them out for publication. This No. 13, without opus number, he performed in April of 1739 during an intermission of his Israel in Egypt. It was published posthumously in London in 1761 with the title “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” You are left to discover where each bird is heard! BACK


Vivaldi wrote so many concertos — nearly five hundred! — for so many instruments, singly and in combinations, that one wonders how he had time to be the famous composer of operas, masses, psalms, oratorios, motets, sacred vocal arias, solo cantatas and other secular works. This Venetian “Red Priest,” who at an early age declared himself too ill to say Mass but then was well traveled, died and is buried in Vienna, where he was supervising a production of one of his operas.

A famous wag, thinking about Vivaldi’s evident style and the somewhat consistent form of his concertos, once said that Vivaldi didn’t write nearly five hundred concertos, but only one five hundred times. However, while having established the universally adopted format of the solo concerto, his works take on unique personalities.

This subtitle “Il grosso mogul” probably refers to Grand Mughal Akbar, who came into power in the Mughal Empire, Indian subcontinent, in 1556. Its middle movement has an “eastern” air, perhaps even gypsy, since gypsies migrated to Europe from India in the 15th century, producing music that Vivaldi certainly heard. (Bach, a great admirer of Vivaldi, made an arrangement of this piece as an organ solo that he dedicated to Duke Johann Ernst of Weimar.)

In this violin concerto, the spontaneous-sounding cadenza-like passage in the first movement and the stunningly elaborate solo line above simple chords in the harmonically slow “Recitative” are note-for-note by Vivaldi. BACK


The suite of four movements excerpted from Purcell’s Indian Queen provides lively music for the Baroque (valveless) trumpet, for which Purcell had a fondness. The general style of his late-17th-century very British music influenced 18thcentury Handel, especially for his English odes and other pieces of celebration. The Overture, the sailors’ stomping Hornpipe dance, and the more formal Symphony demonstrate Purcell’s inescapably infectious style. BACK

Notes by Burton Karson


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