St. Michael & All Angels Church, 4 p.m.
Stephen Schultz, flute
Judith Linsenberg, recorder
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Janet Worsley Strauss, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Rob Diggins, violin
Timothy Howard, harpsichord
Elizabeth Blumenstock, conductor
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
in A minor, RV 455
Giuseppe Tartini ((1692-1770)
Concerto in G major, D. 83
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
in A minor, BWV 1044
for flute, violin and harpsichord
Adagio ma non tanto e dolce
Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)
in G major, QV 5:174
Arioso e mesto
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in G major, TWV 40:201
for four violins
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in E minor, TWV 52:e1
for recoder and flute
Reception on the Patio
Vivaldi, the premier exponent of the Baroque concerto, wrote over
500 concertos, many for a single soloist, but also many for multiple
instruments. Giuseppe Tartini, born a bit later, composed 135, virtually
all for the violin. While Vivaldi exploited rhythmic drive and often
relied on figurative repetition to generate excitement, Tartini
was a master of quirkiness and pleasantness (an odd combination!).
This difference will be apparent to you as you hear one concerto
from each composer, side by side.
first movement of Vivaldi’s recorder concerto RV 455
is a testament to the considerable power of repetition, when employed
by a composer with imagination. In the Largo, except for the opening
ritornello and the very abbreviated closing ritornello, there are
just two voices; the ornate solo voice of the recorder rests high
above a unison violin line, creating a melancholy mood, broken by
the third movement, fleet and lively, with nearly continuous solos
interrupted briefly by truncated orchestral ritornellos. BACK
Tartini concerto sets out in the easygoing yet
ornate style that came into vogue in the late Baroque. The Largo
is very much in the Vivaldian mode; the third movement, though,
departs formally from that model. Vivaldi’s last movements
tend to be very lively, and are like his first movements in form
and brilliance. Composers of Tartini’s generation, however,
had developed the rather surprising habit of concluding their sonatas
with genteel minuets, rather than with fast and furious allegros.
This trend carried over into the last movements of Tartini’s
concertos, many of which are in triple meter, composed in binary
form, and relatively light and gentle in character — minuets
in all but name. As if to make allowances for those who would like
at least some fireworks at the end of a concerto, Tartini includes
an opportunity for a solo cadenza, a chance for the soloist to surprise
the audience with a last-minute burst of virtuosity. BACK
the triple concerto for flute, violin, and harpsichord by Johann
Sebastian Bach, we see a massive increase in scale and
complexity compared with Vivaldi and Tartini. The piece lasts about
20 minutes, twice as long as a typical Vivaldi concerto. This reflects
Bach’s interest in counterpoint, figuration and harmony, and
his ability to exploit a form to the fullest.
In the first movement, the ritornello introduces three main elements:
a rapidly rising figure, a triplet figure, and a rather playful
dotted figure. The solos rely largely on development of the triplet
figures, and the orchestra contributes short interruptive ritornellos
involving the rising and dotted figures.
The enchanting slow movement is composed for the soloists alone;
it is a reworking of the slow movement of his Organ Trio No. 3.
Rather than having the flute or violin carry the tune, he partners
the harpsichord melodically with the flute and violin by turns.
Not once do the flute and violin carry the melody between them —
Bach is insisting on the melodic possibilities of the keyboard!
The final movement is a rich hybrid of fugal and concerto forms.
The harpsichord comes to the fore as the principal soloist, while
the flute and violin recede in importance. BACK
he not lost his father at a young age, Joseph Joachim Quantz
would probably have become, like him, a blacksmith. Instead, he
learned to play violin, oboe and flute, eventually becoming renowned
as the finest flutist in Europe. Today’s concerto was written
while he was employed as composer, flute builder and flute teacher
to Frederick the Great of Prussia — himself an accomplished
flutist — and was probably intended for the royal fingers.
This concerto is the latest-written of those on our program, and
one can hear the trend away from contrapuntalism and complexity
towards longer phrases, more melodious tunes, and a more restrained
approach to ornament. The slow movement is tender and melancholy,
while the prevailing affect of the fast movements is animated and
charming, with phrases of nearly Classical regularity.
word “concerto” simply means “together.”
The more prevalent meaning of the word, suggesting a soloist playing
brilliantly in front of an orchestra, is the result of the phenomenal
popularity of the solo concerto, as conceived by Torelli, Albinoni,
Vivaldi, and others in the early 1700s. Before the solo concerto
took the concert-going world by storm, there were other sorts of
pieces named “concerto” that consisted simply of various
instruments playing “together.” For example, there were
concertos for strings with no soloists at all.
There were also four little concertos by Georg Philipp
Telemann for four violins with no orchestra at all! In
these “concertos,” the four players serve variably as
soloist and accompaniment for each other; they are both orchestra
and soloists. In form, these pieces resemble a sonata more than
the usual concerto, having four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast.
They are miniaturized; all four together last only about seven minutes.
If one may judge a composer by his miniature works, Telemann proves
himself a master. Beautifully balanced, amazingly full of harmonic
complexity in the brief slow movements, and vigor and fun in the
fast ones, these little jewels are a delight to play and hear.
final concerto, for recorder and flute, is another of Telemann’s
masterpieces. Again, he has written a concerto in four movements,
sort of an enhanced sonata. The opening Largo is like expressive
clockwork, while the Allegro that follows boasts lively imitative
ritornellos and cheerful racing solos. The lovely third movement
is like an operatic duet — it even begins with the same notes
as Handel’s “Where e’er You Walk” from his
The finale reveals Telemann’s fascination with ethnic music,
in this case possibly Turkish. The movement is full of bizarre phrase
lengths, outré harmonies, and obsessive whirling-dervish-like figures,
a spectacular and unexpected close to an already superlative piece.
Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock