Sunday, June 17, 2012

ARCHIVE  •  2012  •  SUN 17  •  MON 18  •  WED 20  •  FRI 22  •  SUN 24

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

Baroque Concertos

Stephen Schultz, flute
Judith Linsenberg, recorder
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Janet Worsley Strauss, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Rob Diggins, violin
Timothy Howard, harpsichord

Festival Orchestra
Elizabeth Blumenstock, conductor

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in A minor, RV 455
for recorder


Giuseppe Tartini ((1692-1770)
Concerto in G major, D. 83
for violin


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Concerto in A minor, BWV 1044
for flute, violin and harpsichord

Adagio ma non tanto e dolce
Alla breve


Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)
Concerto in G major, QV 5:174
for flute

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

Antonio 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.


The 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


he 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


In 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


Had 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. BACK


The 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. BACK


Our 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 opera Semele.

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. BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock



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