Sunday, June 19, 2016

PROGRAM SCHEDULE  •  SUN 19  •  MON 20  •  WED 22  •  FRI 24  •  SUN 26

St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 4 p.m.

The Hanoverian Putsch

Kathryn Montoya, oboe
Sadie Glass, horn
Loren Tayerle, horn

Ian Pritchard, harpsichord

Festival Orchestra
Elizabeth Blumenstock, leader

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6, No. 1


James Paisible (1656-1721)
The Queen’s Farewell

Matthew Locke (1621-1677)
Curtain Tune from The Tempest

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046

Menuet - Trio - Menuet - Polonaise -
     Menuet - Trio - Menuet


Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Concerto in D minor, W. C70
for harpsichord

Allegro assai
Adagio affettuoso

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Selections from Water Music Suite
in F major, HWV 348

Adagio e staccato
Bourrée - Hornpipe

 Reception on the Patio

Our Festival theme of music from the British Isles has had some interesting consequences for our traditional opening program of concertos. As it happens, English composers were not prolific composers of concertos! So, we open our program with a concerto grosso by an Italian composer who was, as it were, adopted by the English, though he never set foot there — Arcangelo Corelli.

The popular furor surrounding Corelli’s musical appearance in London, among players and audience alike, can scarcely be imagined. Writes Roger North, that avid chronicler of the London music scene: “Then came over Corelly’s first consort that cleared the ground of all other sorts of musick whatsoever. By degrees the rest of his consorts, and at last the conciertos came, all of which are to the musitians like the bread of life.” These elegant, relatively small-scale works were undoubtedly a welcome gift to the London music scene, but that hardly explains the enthusiasm with which they were greeted. What was it about Corelli?

London itself, by the early 1700s, was beginning its ascent from filth, poverty and disease towards becoming the world’s most powerful trade center, and it already had a robust self-opinion. (Samuel Johnson wrote, “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”) The emerging bourgeoisie had an appreciation, even a craving, for cultural adornments that lifted them further from their roots. The English had been a musical people for generations. Classicism in architecture took hold. And then Corelli appeared.

Gracious, refined, lively, optimistic, with a clean and natural musical architecture, his concerti grossi must have seemed the very embodiment of urban English values — an orderly aural mansion in which harmony, melody, and rhythm worked together to inspire, delight, and satisfy. BACK


We now take a jump back in time to two interesting short works from the 17th century. As you will hear, a very different musical spirit inhabited London in this century from that which dominated the London of Corelli and Handel a few generations later. James Paisible (née Jacques Paisible) moved from Paris to London early in his life and remained there, working as a composer, flutist, and oboist in the theater scene. The Queen’s Farewell was written for the funeral of Queen Mary, joint ruler of the British Isles with her husband William, who died of smallpox in 1694, beloved by all, at age 32. Mary’s coffin was taken through the streets of London by horse carriage to Westminster Abbey, and Paisible’s solemn march was possibly played as her coffin was carried through the Abbey. The steps taken by pallbearers in public ceremonies were extremely slowly paced, and had a simple and affecting choreography; right foot forward, left foot brought to right; left foot forward, right foot brought to left, repeat. Purcell’s moving “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary” was performed during the service. BACK

Matthew Locke was of the generation before Henry Purcell (whose semi-opera King Arthur will be performed next Sunday). He, like Purcell, composed often for the theater. The Curtain Tune from his incidental music for The Tempest (yes, Shakespeare’s Tempest) embodies the aforementioned different 17th century esthetic beautifully. Quirkiness, startling harmonies and eccentricity (that core and still-thriving British trait!) are all present in this tiny, perfect work. It is a depiction of a literal tempest, consisting of a musical sunrise, gathering clouds and winds, a violent downpour, and then an achingly beautiful rolling away of the storm and return to a damp, sunny peace. There is a repeat called for in the score which we will take, as opportunities to play and hear this lovely thing are all too rare! BACK


Honoring my commitment never to program a festival without at least one piece by J.S. Bach, we move now to his resplendent first Brandenburg Concerto. Along with the other five concertos in the set, it was composed in an (unsuccessful) bid for employment — a sort of compositional resumé — for the Margrave of Brandenburg. This first concerto boasts the most lavish instrumentation of the lot, with two horns, three oboes and bassoon, alongside the usual orchestral strings and harpsichord. The rarely employed piccolo violin — a 3/4- or 7/8-size violin, tuned a minor third higher than its standard-issue sister — also takes lively solo turns.

Perhaps the inclusion of this robust and sturdily Germanic work will inform your impressions of English taste by dint of contrast! Bach’s brilliant and dense counterpoint presides over the two fast movements, while an air of exuberant ceremony reigns in the final movement — the Minuet proper providing the ceremony, and the two interspersed Trios and a Polonaise contributing the exuberance. Note particularly the haunting slow movement, whose melancholic oboe and piccolo violin arabesques, supported by plangent harmonies, make an exotic contrast to the surrounding jubilant mood. BACK


Johann Christian Bach, Sebastian’s youngest son, moved early in his career to London, becoming known as the “London Bach” or the “English Bach.” Like all of his brothers, he learned the difficult art of contrapuntal composition from his father, but he managed to shed some of it during his successful though sadly rather brief career as a composer, favoring the rococo or galante style, all the rage in London during his lifetime. Christian composed quite a few harpsichord concertos, all invested with his birthright of good compositional sense, a sweet and rather English tunefulness, and — certainly in today’s concerto — an awareness of the Sturm und Drang style championed by his much elder brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel. BACK


We close our concert with a suite of movements from a veritable pillar of the Baroque era, Handel’s Water Music. There is a French overture, with the obligatory pompous slow section, followed by the equally obligatory lively Allegro. There are airs featuring the oboe, fanfares for horns, and some lively dances. This is much more a suite of dances than any sort of concerto, and is not limited to the French, Italian, German or English taste. Handel draws grandly and confidently upon all of the foregoing, and upon his vast experience and ability, creating a fitting musical feast for a king.

There is some disagreement among scholars concerning the reason Handel composed the Water Music. The most colorful version (with which I, and possibly you, grew up) is that Handel, having skipped out on his first employer, George, Elector of Hanover, in 1712, found himself out of favor when that very employer ascended to the English throne, and wrote the piece as a fittingly magnificent obeisance and apology to his monarch.

Good story. Quite possibly untrue, though! It is at least equally likely that the Prince Elector gave permission for Handel to leave, knowing full well that he would be King George l of England before long, and would have Handel’s services again. It is also possible that the King didn’t particularly care about Handel’s departure, became King of England, and simply hired Handel to write him some music to be played at a lavish riverboat party.

Whatever the truth, the event, which took place on July 17, 1717, was a monumental success. King George, along with several aristocratic companions, boarded a sumptuous barge at around 8 p.m., accompanied by another barge carrying some 50 musicians. The barges floated up the Thames on the rising tide, followed by an enormous impromptu flotilla of other vessels, full of Londoners eager to join the party. The London Daily Courant wrote, “The whole river, in a manner, was covered,” with boats and barges presumably all seeing their way by means of lanterns. The King was so delighted with Handel’s music that it had to be performed in its entirety (some 70–80 minutes) at least three times. BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock



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