MEDIA PARTNER

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

PROGRAM SCHEDULE  •  SUN 18  •  MON 19  •  WED 21  •  FRI 23  •  SUN 25

Sherman Library & Gardens, Central Patio Room, 8 p.m.

Music from Monticello

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Rob Diggins, viola
Heather Vorwerck, violoncello
Ian Pritchard, harpsichord

Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano
 


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Overture to Alessandro, HWV 21

[Grave] — Allegro — Lentement — Allegro


Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)
Beneath a Weeping Willow’s Shade


Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Trio Sonata in C major, Op. 3, No. 8

Largo
Allegro
Largo
Allegro


Traditional Scottish folksong
The White Cockade
Arr. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Adagio, Wq 52/6
for keyboard


Traditional Scottish folksong
Aye, Waking O!
Arr. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)


Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
String Quartet in C minor, Op. 2, No. 1

Allegro Comodo
Largo
Allegro

 

Intermission

 


Maria Cosway (1760-1838)
Ogni dolce aura


Felice de Giardini (1716-1796)
String Trio in G major, Op. 20, No. 6

Andante
Adagio
Rondeau: Allegro


Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Cujus animam gementem
Aria from Stabat Mater (1736)

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Vidit suum dulcem natum
Aria from Stabat Mater (1736)


Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Bess of Bedlam
Lyrics by anonymous author


Carlo Antonio Campioni (1720-1788)
Duo in A major
for two violins

Allegrino
Presto scherzando


John Stafford Smith (1750-1836)
To Anacreon in Heaven
Official song of the Anacreontic Society


Reception in the Gardens


Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Governor of Virginia, author of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State (under President Washington), second Vice President (under John Adams), third President, and U.S. Minister to France, died, fittingly, on the 50th anniversary of American independence — July 4th, 1826. In addition to his well-known political employment, Jefferson was also an accomplished architect, horticulturalist, surveyor, meteorologist, mathematician, violinist, loving husband, assiduous father, and ardent student of moral and political philosophy. His passionate love of music is evident in many of his letters, in the time he took to learn to play the violin well, and in his large and wide-ranging music library.

Our program tonight is about more than the music we will perform. It is, to an almost equal extent, about the man who collected it. These program notes include both biographical details and brief discussions of each piece. The program itself consists of a number of short musical sets; most sets will be introduced by a spoken quote from Jefferson himself, taken from his personal letters, so as to let him speak for himself.

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We open with Handel’s overture to Alessandro. Jefferson had a set of the overtures to every one of Handel’s operas and oratorios in his library. If it seems odd to see a mere five players performing what should be a work for full orchestra, consider that Jefferson undoubtedly hoped to play the music he bought, but would have had no hope at all of assembling an adequate orchestra at Monticello, and indeed would have been fortunate to put even a passable string quartet together. The titular Alessandro (Alexander the Great) was, as we know, a precocious young warrior and military strategist, and Handel’s overture is appropriately brimming with vitality, determination, and pomp. BACK

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Francis Hopkinson, rather like Jefferson, a man of quite varied accomplishments, being a lawyer, judge, scientist, inventor, and very active musician. In 1788, he composed eight songs (he authored the words as well), and dedicated them to “To his Excellency, George Washington, Esquire.” Here is a quote from the dedication:

However small the reputation may be that I shall derive from this Work, I cannot, I  believe, be refused the Credit of being the first Native of the United States who has  produced a Musical Composition. If this attempt should not be too severely treated,  others may be encouraged to venture upon a path, yet untrodden in America, and  the Arts in succession will take root, and flourish amongst us.

It is hard for me to believe that no single American composed any music between 1776 and 1788, even allowing for general upheaval in the post-Revolutionary United States, and surely Hopkinson could not have proved his claim. I forgive this entirely, however, being charmed by the thought of a politician composing sentimental songs for another politician! I have tried without success to think of a modern-day parallel. BACK

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Corelli’s music is no stranger to this Festival, but this is the first time we have performed one of his trio sonatas, a genre which actually comprises 48 of his mere 72 published works. The opus 3 sonatas, unlike opuses 1, 2 and 4, are sonatas da chiesa (church sonatas) which is to say the movements are ordered slow-fast-slow-fast, contain a fugal movement, and no dances are allowed!

The opening Largo is a sunny, smiling affair, with only the merest suggestion of clouds or frowns, and is followed by a lively little fugal piece in which Corelli shows his mastery, certainly of contrapuntal writing, but also, and more cannily, of leavening that learned style with very enjoyable non-fugal episodes.

The next slow movement is in the relative minor key; Corelli’s signature harmonic suspensions and dissonances, while beautiful, are here not particularly intense. Indeed, he seems to me to be reluctant to dig too deeply, to affect too strongly, preferring to suggest pain without actually delivering any. The last movement is the usual busy, spirited closer. BACK

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We now take a look at Jefferson’s only courtship and marriage. His wife-to-be, Martha Wayles Skelton, 23 years old to Jefferson’s 27, was already a widow; the one child, a son, born to that first ill-fated marriage died before his fourth birthday. Martha was the daughter of a wealthy, socially prominent (and slave-owning) Virginia planter and lawyer, John Wayles, Martha’s father, initially opposed Jefferson’s suit, believing it a poor match from the worldly point of view.

Indeed, Jefferson became quite wealthy because of the marriage, inheriting much of his father-in-law’s land (and his 130-plus slaves). The courtship advanced over Wayles’ objections simply because Thomas and Martha were profoundly in love — and well matched. Both were highly educated and passionate about music, Jefferson playing the violin quite well, and Martha an accomplished keyboard player.

Martha was attractive and lively. In words spoken to Jefferson by her brother-in-law, Robert Skipwith, she possessed “the greatest fund of good nature... that sprightliness and sensibility which promises to ensure you the greatest happiness mortals are capable of enjoying.” The marriage, though darkened by the early deaths of three of their six children, was a very happy one. Not a long one, alas; Martha never recovered from her last childbirth, and died a few months after it at the age of 33 (that sixth child, Lucy Elizabeth, died at age 2).

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The White Cockade and Aye, Waking O! are two of the several hundred Scottish songs arranged by Haydn during one of the recurring enthusiastic rediscoveries of that wonderful repertoire. The first song is simple enough, but the second, with poetry by Robert Burns, is a remarkably touching lament of a man for his dying lover. Death at a young age was unimaginably commonplace until the advent of anti-bacterial medications in the early 20th century, but nonetheless painful for its ubiquity. Burns himself died at age 36 following a dental extraction. BACK

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I was unfamiliar with the keyboard works of C.P.E. Bach until researching this program, and am delighted and astonished by them. They run a very large gamut in mood, figuration, composerly technique, and imaginative inspiration. If Bach’s younger brother Johann Christian Bach was an inspiration for the young Mozart (as discussed in Friday’s notes), surely C.P.E. Bach’s music had a profound impact on the young Haydn. Looking into possible connections between the two men, I found this, from Albert Christoph Dies’s biography of Haydn:

That Haydn sought to make [C. P. E.] Bach’s principles his own, that he studied them untiringly, is apparent even in his youthful works from that period. From his nineteenth year Haydn wrote quartets which gave him a reputation among lovers of music as a profound genius, so quickly had he learnt. As time went on, he acquired Bach’s later writings. In his opinion Bach’s writings form the best, most thorough and most useful textbook ever published.

As soon as Haydn’s musical output became available in print, Bach noted with pleasure that he could count Haydn among his pupils. He later paid Haydn a flattering compliment: that Haydn alone had understood his writings completely and had known how to make use of them. BACK

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Jefferson, at the tender age of 17, and in his first year of studies at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, was already an advanced enough violinist to be invited to play string quartets (to general acclaim) at the home of Francis Fauquier, the city’s Royal Governor. It is possible that Jefferson played the cello in these readings! He was apparently also a sufficiently interesting social companion to be invited to Fauquier’s excellent dinner parties, where he was introduced to high-level political and philosophical discussion — to which he took like a duck to water — and also to fine wines, a taste for which remained with him for the rest of his life.

In a similar testament to youth, Boccherini’s string quartets, Opus 2, were composed when the also young Boccherini was only about 20 years old. The first movement of our quartet is immediately engaging, and wonderfully clear in its form. The second reminds us that Boccherini was a virtuoso cellist, as it begins with a luscious cello solo, handed over to the first violin. The last movement begins in a fiery mood, which keeps reappearing unexpectedly in the milder sections. BACK

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While serving as the U.S. Minister to France between 1785-89 (he traveled to Paris in 1784, before assuming a formal government role), Jefferson met the celebrated and charming young painter Maria Cosway. He became infatuated with her, though it is highly doubtful that their relationship became intimate, as the lady was married, albeit unhappily. The two maintained a substantial and affectionate correspondence until Jefferson’s death.

Cosway grew up in Livorno, Italy, along with three of her eight siblings. The family’s deranged nursemaid had murdered the other four children, apparently to ensure their direct passage to heaven. (She was arrested when someone overheard her talking about killing Maria.) She was a highly accomplished and successful painter, and while her musical endeavors may not have equaled her artistic work, her little song Ogni dolce aura has an undeniable charm. BACK

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It is far beyond the purview of these notes to examine Jefferson’s many political accomplishments. His political philosophy, however, deserves at least a brief description, because it demonstrates the laudably inspirational nature of his hopes for our infant country. The yawning chasm between the ideals he espoused and their practical application in his personal life, however, is stunning, particularly regarding the management of his personal finances, and, much more importantly, regarding his lifelong and intimate involvement in slavery, about which more below.

In 1801, at his first inaugural address, Jefferson listed 15 “essential principles of our Government,” as cogent a short statement of his beliefs as you are likely to find. The degree to which we all recognize and embrace most or all of these principles is a testament to how deeply embedded Jefferson’s thought is in our hopefully abiding sense of what America is. Here are his 15 principles:

  1. Equal and exact justice to all men, irrespective of political or religious  persuasion;
  2. Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, without entangling alliances to any;
  3. Federal support in the rights of states’ government;
  4. Preservation of constitutional vigor of the Federal government;
  5. Election by the people;
  6. Absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority;
  7. A well-disciplined militia;
  8. Supremacy of the civil over the military authority;
  9. Light taxation;
  10. Ready payment of debts;
  11. Encouragement of agriculture and commerce;
  12. The diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar  of the public reason;
  13. Freedom of the press;
  14. Protection by habeas corpus and trial by juries impartially selected;
  15. Freedom of religion.

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Our de Giardini trio was not chosen for any particular political content! It presents very nice examples of the sorts of moods favored by the rococo and early classical composers, moods designed to charm, to please, to stir mildly. In other words, the very sorts of effects desired by well-bred, well-heeled bourgeois concert-goers. Breezy virtuosity, simple sentiment, and high spirits are the order of the day. BACK

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Though Jefferson was brought up in the Anglican faith, his college studies of Enlightenment thinkers convinced him that natural reason offered a finer basis for morality than supernatural faith. Ever reluctant to discuss his religious beliefs as a public figure, Jefferson found that his views inevitably became widely known. New York’s Rev. John Mason called him “a confirmed infidel,” and Thomas Robins, a Connecticut preacher, called him a “howling atheist.”

Neither of these inflammatory epithets is deserved, and indeed were politically motivated. Jefferson was neither an infidel or atheist, but a deist. Deists believe in a creator, but one who is then not directly involved with his creation, so they reject belief in supernatural revelation. Not surprisingly, then, Jefferson rejected much of the Bible. In fact, in 1804, for an after-dinner activity, he took a razor to two copies of the Bible, cutting out all that he did not believe, and assembling the remainder into a new 84-page volume, which he entitled “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.”

For all that Jefferson rejected belief in Jesus’s divinity, he believed Jesus’s moral teachings to be “a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man.” In his library were quite a few Christian sacred works; he is unlikely to have purchased them for any devotional reason, but was clearly not immune to their artistic appeal.

One of these was Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, which was composed in the last days of the composer’s very short life; Pergolesi died of tuberculosis in 1736, at the age of 26. The piece immediately became enormously popular, and has remained so. While I enjoy much of it, I must confess that I agree with one of its detractors at the time, Gianbattista Sammartini (a Franciscan friar and himself a very fine Baroque composer), who felt that Pergolesi’s style was too frivolous to convey the profound grief of the text. In the first of our two arias, notice, for example, the positively jazzy syncopations of the principal theme! The second aria, though, is one of the two finest and most expressive of the whole work. BACK

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It is difficult to shine a light on Thomas Jefferson’s life and fail to become aware of the disconnect between his elevated liberal ideals and the way he conducted parts of his life. Probably nowhere is this disconnect more evident and distressing than in his profound complicity in slavery. Having inherited 52 slaves from his father, and 135 from his wife’s father, he not only maintained them and engaged in buying and selling them, but, due to his enormous debts, did not arrange for them to be freed upon his own death.

This sad fact points to another disconnect in his character: Jefferson frequently touted the virtues of sound personal (and national) economy as a matter of moral uprightness, but himself failed to limit his pursuit of the varied and costly objects of his many interests. Generating debts in the amount of $100,000 (close to $3,000,000 in today’s dollars) might be vaguely excusable if one has the collateral to pay them off, but when that collateral comes in the form of human beings, it becomes unforgivable. And when coupled with his public opinions about slavery, the unsavory picture of a profligate hypocrite emerges, and is very hard to ignore, however much we may be aware that we judge from the vantage point of the post-Civil War, post-Civil Rights present day.

And it gets worse. Martha Jefferson’s father had six children with one of his slaves, Elizabeth Hemings, herself the child of a master/slave relationship, and Jefferson inherited them all through his marriage. Elizabeth’s children were therefore Martha’s enslaved half-brothers and sisters. After Martha’s death, Jefferson initiated a relationship with one of them, Sally Hemings, fathering six children with her. Their descendants are still living.

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Bess of Bedlam was published in the first of the two volumes of “Orpheus Brittanicus,” a collection of Purcell songs owned by Jefferson. It is a wondrous example of a genre known as “mad songs,” which became quite popular in 17th-century England. London, particularly, had a large population of beggars, vagrants, and malnourished and mentally unstable people. Many of these were confined at Bedlam, the city’s insane asylum, where more fortunate but more ghoulish citizens could view them for a penny each. Purcell was quite attracted to this genre; perhaps the nature of madness has a natural affinity for the artistic imagination! I wish we knew who wrote the words. They convey a rueful awareness of suffering as part of the lives of all of us, and more, a richly sympathetic acknowledgment of Bess’s essential humanity. BACK

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Only two of Jefferson’s six children with his wife Martha survived to adulthood, and the second, Patsy, died at age 26. Jefferson was a very attentive father to his two young girls, determined to see them healthy, well-educated and productive. His plan for their daily schedules is indicative of his ambitions for them! The following is from a letter to his 11-year-old elder daughter Patsy:

With respect to the distribution of your time, the following is what I should approve:

  • From 8. to 10. o’clock practise music.
  • From 10. to 1. dance one day and draw another.
  • From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next day.
  • From 3. to 4. read French.
  • From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
  • From 5. till bedtime, read English, write, &c.

While this schedule may seem excessively focused on the arts (which were considered appropriate studies for well-born young women), Jefferson also counseled them in the pursuit of other studies, and in practical moral philosphy:

I do not like your saying that you are unable to read the antient print of your Livy, but with the aid of your master. We are always equal to what we undertake with resolution. A little degree of this will enable you to decypher your Livy. If you always lean on your master, you will never be able to proceed without him. It is a part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate; to surmount every difficulty by resolution and contrivance.

He also wrote:

I hope you have good sense enough to disregard those foolish predictions that the world is to be at an end soon. The almighty has never made known to any body at what time he created it, nor will he tell any body when he means to put an end to it, if ever he means to do it. As to preparations for that event, the best way is for you to be always prepared for it. The only way to be so is never to do nor say a bad thing. If ever you are about to say any thing amiss or to do any thing wrong, consider before hand. You will feel something within you which will tell you it is wrong and ought not to be said or done: this is your conscience, and be sure to obey it. Our maker has given us all, this faithful internal Monitor, and if you always obey it, you will always be prepared for the end of the world: or for a much more certain event which is death. This must happen to all: it puts an end to the world as to us, and the way to be ready for it is never to do a wrong act.

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A huge part of Jefferson’s music library was devoted, not surprisingly, to violin duets, including volumes by Roeser, Godwin, Campioni, Tessarini, Besozzi, Sammartini, Battino, Figlio, Deigiardino, Borghi, Chintzer, and Haydn! Though many of these pieces are necessarily slight, most are enjoyable; I found the Campioni duos particularly charming. BACK

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Jefferson appears to have eschewed spirits, but beer, both strong and weak, was served with many meals. Indeed, Martha brewed “small beer” (low-alcohol brew) every two weeks to supply the Monticello domicile. Jefferson also drank wine regularly, if not heavily, and enjoyed it enormously. Ever the optimistic horticulturalist, he repeatedly attempted to grow wine grapes at Monticello, and was as repeatedly frustrated.

But we remember his love of wine with the English drinking song that closes tonight’s program, To Anacreon in Heaven. It was the official anthem of an 18th-century London men’s social club called the Anacreontic Society, which devoted itself to “wit, harmony and the god of wine,” and whose members, like Jefferson, were amateur musicians. I suspect you will find the tune rather familiar! BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock

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