MEDIA PARTNER

Sunday, June 22, 2014

PROGRAM SCHEDULE  •  SUN 22  •  MON 23  •  WED 25  •  FRI 27  •  SUN 29

St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 4 p.m.

Champions of the Concerto
Concertos for Multiple Soloists by Telemann and Vivaldi

Mindy Rosenfeld, flute
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Rob Diggins, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Susan Feldman, violin
Andrew McIntosh, violin
Janet Worsley Strauss, violin
Amy Wang, violin
Gretchen Claassen, violoncello

Festival Orchestra
Elizabeth Blumenstock, leader


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Tafelmusik I/3: Concerto in A major, TWV 53:A2
for flute, violin and violoncello (beginning)

Largo
Allegro


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in F major, RV567
for four violins

Andante
Allegro
Adagio
Allegro


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in A major, TWV 40:204
for four solo violins

Grave
Allegro
Adagio
Spirituoso


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in G minor “La Notte,” RV439
for flute

Largo
Allegro
Largo
Allegro

Intermission


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in E minor, TWV 52:e3
for flute and violin

Allegro
Adagio
Presto


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto Grosso in G minor, RV 578
for two violins, violoncello, strings and continuo

Adagio e spiccato
Allegro
Larghetto
Allegro


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Tafelmusik I/3: Concerto in A major, TWV 53:A2
for flute, violin and violoncello (conclusion)

Gratioso
Allegro

Reception on the Patio


Telemann and Vivaldi rank extremely high on the list of most prolific composers in all of Western music. Indeed, Telemann is reputedly the title-holder in this category in the Guinness Book of World Records, with some 3,000 compositions to his credit. And lest you imagine that he padded his numbers with stacks of simple one-movement pieces, included in those 3,000 works were over 1,000 church cantatas; at least 200 (of a likely original 600) orchestral “overtures” or suites; and hundreds of trio sonatas and concertos, most of which are substantial multimovement works of between 10 and 25 minutes’ duration.

Vivaldi, known as the “father of the concerto” even though he did not invent the form — that distinction resides with Giuseppe Torelli, a generation or so Vivaldi’s senior — composed over 500 concertos alone, not to mention numerous cantatas, operas, sonatas, sinfonias, and one lone surviving (and sumptuous) oratorio.

Counting the number of extant works by Telemann and Vivaldi only hints at their actual grand total. Fire, war, and the many other agents of entropy have engulfed countless manuscripts. As a reference, for example, it is estimated that we have only half of J.S. Bach’s oeuvre; and that percentage quite possibly holds for many other Baroque composers. Painful to contemplate!

Both of our Champions were prodigiously cornucopian, lived at roughly the same time, shared a common musical language and style, and wrote music in the most of the same forms. Yet their “flavor” is rather different. Many of Vivaldi’s concertos are well known for their energetic ritornellos, their athletic solos, and their rhythmic vigor. Telemann’s concertos, by contrast, often seem aimed at a decidedly bourgeois aesthetic — bourgeois in the best sense: full of comfort, satisfaction, robust goodness, and a strong sense of composerly fair play.

When Telemann serves up an Allegro, it often seems to be for a party of well-dressed, well-educated, happy people, enjoying a convivial evening in a fine home, accompanied by fine food, drink, and lively conversation. When Vivaldi does the same, the atmosphere is usually more one of adventure and unpredictability. The unexpected and the excitingly unsafe make appearances. While Telemann is certainly capable of surprises, one never feels unsafe!

Social class may inform these differences: Telemann was in fact a member of the bourgeoisie, Vivaldi not. But perhaps another factor could be the creative spirit as funneled through quintessentially Germanic thoroughness and curiosity on the one hand, and a red-haired and Mediterranean temperament on the other. Whatever the sources, vive les différences!

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Our selection from Telemann’s celebrated Tafelmusik, with which we both begin and end our program, perfectly exemplifies the bourgeois aesthetic. It achieves gracefulness that is never effete, pathos that is never unbearable, and virtuosity that delights rather than stuns. BACK

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Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in F Major does not make a particularly convincing case for the characteristics imputed to Vivaldi above! In fact, this is one of the most Telemannesque of Vivaldi’s concertos, as it is enormously at ease, never driven, smiling and playful.

Notice that the usual three-movement fast-slow-fast concerto structure has been utterly abandoned here; the piece consists of five sections that flow into one another, bringing to mind Corelli’s concerti grossi. BACK

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In Telemann’s Concerto for Four Solo Violins in A Major, one of four such that he wrote, the composer’s trademark egalitarianism is very much on display, with equal part-writing for all, except in the lovely third movement, which could almost be a Handel aria. BACK

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La Notte (“The Night”) is a rather programmatic concerto, portraying someone having a very bad sleep experience. Like the four-violin concerto in F major, it is more or less through-composed, rather than consisting of the usual three stand-alone concerto movements.

From the first bars, we know we are in a dangerous neighborhood; the sense of threat is born out in the second section, aptly titled Fantasmi (“Ghosts”). If the third movement sounds familiar, pat yourself on the head; Vivaldi has borrowed the third movement of “Autumn” from his Four Seasons. In both settings, the movement is titled Il Sonno, or “Sleep” — and what an uneasy sleep it is! BACK

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It can be difficult to tell the difference between a concerto for multiple soloists and a concerto grosso, which by definition features multiple soloists. The taxonomic boundary between the two forms is quite porous! Both the Telemann E minor concerto for flute, violin, cello and orchestra and the Vivaldi concerto for two violins, cello and orchestra lie in this overlapping territory.

Where Vivaldi’s four-violin concerto in F major is rather Telemannesque, Telemann’s Concerto in E minor is rather Vivaldian, with its determined bustling first-movement ripieno; the Presto and final Allegro are also extremely Italianate, and could almost be mistaken for Vivaldi. The slow movements, however, are pure Telemann, particularly the yummy and much-too-brief second Adagio, which is more of a bridge to the last movement than a movement in its own right. BACK

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Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in G minor begins with what sounds like the opening of his “Winter” concerto from The Four Seasons, but enormously slowed down. Both the Allegros make extensive use of rising chromatic lines; the last one owes quite a bit of its character to the Tarantella, an ancient dance from southern Italy said by some to imitate the convulsions of someone who has been bitten by the indigenous wolf spider, and by others to be the fast dance one must perform to sweat out the spider’s venom! BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock

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