Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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

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

Dancing in the Isles

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin, violino piccolo
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Rob Diggins, viola, guitar
Judith Linsenberg, recorder
Heather Vorwerck, violoncello
Ian Pritchard, harpsichord

James Oswald (1710-1769?)
Trio Sonatas on Scots Tunes

Air:   O Mother What Shall I Do
Air:   Ettrick Banks
Air:   She Rose and Let Me In
Air:   Cromlit’s Lilt
Air:   Polwart on the Green

An English Court Masque

The Temple Anticke (Anonymous)
La Volta (William Byrd, c. 1543-1623)
Graysin (Anonymous)
Lord Zouches Masque (Giles Farnaby, 1563-1640)
The Fairey Masque (Robert Johnson, c. 1583-1633)

Thomas Baltzar (1630-1663)
Selections from The Division Violin
Published by John Playford (1623-1687)

Prelude for Solo Violin
John Come Kiss Me Now

Medley of Traditional Scottish Tunes
Arranged by Elizabeth Blumenstock

Air:   Johnnie Faa
Jig:   My Lame Leg
Strathspey:   The Gordon
Reel:   Old Grey Cat
Reel:   Lord Saltoun


Medley of English Country Dances
Arranged by Musica Pacifica

Scotch Cap
Orleans Baffled
Irish Lamentation
Mr. Lane’s Maggot

Nicola Matteis (fl. c. 1670-c. 1714)
Suite in A minor, Book II
for violin

Alemanda ad imitatione d’un tartaglia
Movimento incognito
Passaggio rotto
Aria burlesca con molte di bizzarie

Nicolas Matteis (fl. c. 1670-c. 1714)
Ground after the Scotch Humour

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Three Parts upon a Ground, Z. 731

Medley of Traditional Irish Tunes
Arranged by Elizabeth Blumenstock

Air:   Farewell, My Love, and Remember Me
Air:   The Grassy Green Pillow
Jig:   Greensleeves
Jig:   Planxty Toby Peyton
Reel:   The Mountain Rose

Reception in the Gardens

Music and dancing have gone hand in hand in virtually every human society we know about. In our own time, except for professional dancers and amateur devotees of specific styles of dance, popular dancing seems to be the province of the younger generation; not remotely so in pre-modern times! Everyone danced throughout their lives as often as time and mobility permitted. As poet Lord Byron wrote, “On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined.”


Scottish-born cellist, dancing master, musicologist and composer James Oswald was an avid collector of Scottish tunes and an able arranger, and, also being a publisher, issued several volumes of them. Traditional tunes were historically sung or played either as solos or with the simplest of accompaniments; what Oswald attempted in his Trio sonatas on Scots tunes is to marry these fine melodies with the trio sonata texture so popular during the High Baroque.

As you may have read in the notes for Monday night’s program, the number of of Scottish tunes arranged by composers (including Haydn and Beethoven) was absolutely staggering, but virtually all of them were just for solo voice with harpsichord or fortepiano accompaniment. Oswald may well have been the first to publish a complementary second line, or countermelody, along with a high-class bass line and keyboard realization.

He was not the last to do this, though: our English, Scottish and Irish tune medleys later in the program have been treated the same way by yours truly and by Musica Pacifica. BACK


Masques — elaborate entertainments involving dancing, music, costumes and machinery — were enormously popular in 16th- and 17th-century England. They were often designed to flatter their noble and royal sponsors (see notes for our Festival Finale for more on this), and it was common for the patron’s own courtiers to participate as dancers. Sometimes even a queen or king danced as well. If you add a libretto, singers and actors, you pretty much have an opera, and in fact, the word “masque” continued to be used occasionally in the 18th century to describe works that are now commonly called operas or semi-operas, such as Purcell’s King Arthur, and the much later Masque of Alfred by Thomas Arne.

Reflecting the extreme cultural and class divisions of the time, masques generally came in two flavors. The “antimasque” had its roots in popular entertainment, and was characterized musically by a rapidly changing sequence of highly contrasting sections, often with abrupt and carnivalesque effects, to support the physical comedy of acrobats and jugglers. Our Temple Anticke and Fairey Masque are antimasques. The “maine masque” was a more genteel, aristocratic take on music and dancing, here represented by Graysin and Lord Zouches Masque.

However elevated aristocrats may have liked to consider themselves, these occasions were often riotously rowdy. Here is Sir John Harington, himself a fascinating man, courtier and so-called “saucy Godson” at the court of Elizabeth l, and inventor of the flush toilet (an achievement which must surely have earned him undying gratitude and esteem for his entire life), reporting on a performance of the masque Solomon and Sheba in 1606: “The entertainment went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down, wine did so occupy their upper chambers.”

In this masque, the Queen of Sheba was to bring gifts to the King, representing Solomon, and was to be followed by the spirits of Faith, Hope, Charity, Victory and Peace. Harington delightedly adds that the actress playing the Queen tripped on the throne, tossing her gifts in the air; Faith and Hope were too drunk to speak, and Peace took to slapping anyone obstructing her way with her symbolic olive branches. BACK


Londoner John Playford, bookseller, minor composer and publisher, brought out several volumes of music — six editions of The Division Violin and at least nine of The Dancing Master — which may be receiving even more attention in the Baroque revival of the past 50 years than they did in his lifetime! The lovely improvisatory Prelude for solo violin, one of the earliest such pieces I know of, is a rarity; most of the pieces in this volume are, like John Come Kiss Me Now, popular tunes with several variations, accompanied by a figured bass. Both selections were composed by Thomas Baltzar, a highly accomplished German violinist from Lübeck who moved to London after a stint at the German Embassy in Sweden. BACK


The traditional tunes in our three medleys (Scottish, English and Irish) have been arranged in a variety of ways. A few of the tunes seem to invite the addition of second and even third lines, almost tunes in their own right; others fare better with only simple chordal and rhythmic accompaniments; and others benefit from unison playing of the tune. Harpsichord, occasional cello pizzicato and guitar (the Festival debut on this instrument of our own Rob Diggins!) make a wonderful harp-like plinking together, and recorders and whistle add color and character.



Violinist and composer Nicola Matteis was born in Naples, made his way to London while still a young man, and took the city by storm. John Evelyn, a notable diarist of the day, wrote, “I heard that stupendious Violin Signor Nichola (with other rare Musitians) whom certainly never mortal man Exceeded on that instrument, he had a stroak so sweete, & made it speake like the Voice of a man; & when he pleased, like a Consort of severall Instruments: he did wonders upon a Note: was an excellent Composer also. Nothing approch’d the violin in Nicholas’ hand: he seem’d to be spiritato’d & plaied such ravishing things on a ground as astonishd us all.”

Matteis published four volumes of “Ayres for the Violin,” some of which are actually embryonic trio sonatas as seen by the unusual inclusion of ghostly second violin notes written right amongst the notes of the violin part. He often titled his fascinatingly eccentric music with equally unusual titles; the first movement of tonight’s Suite in A minor means “Allemande in imitation of a stutterer.” The second means “unknown movement, the third means “broken passage,” and the final movement translates as “burlesque air with a lot of strange things.” His Ground after the Scotch Humour is altogether more straightforward, being continuous (and catchy) variations over a simple repeating bass line. BACK


We follow Matteis’s comparatively conventional ground with possibly the strangest and most intriguing ground of all time, written by the incomparable Henry Purcell. Composed around the same time as the one by Matteis, it is a marvel of tricksy counterpoint, bizarre harmonies, and shifting moods and meters. As I am fairly confident you will doubt it, I assure you we are playing all the correct notes! BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock


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