MEDIA PARTNER

Friday, June 24, 2016

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

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

A London Salon

David Shostac, flute
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Timothy Landauer, violoncello
Gabriel Arregui, harpsichord


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Trio Sonata in F Major, HWV 386b

Larghetto
Allegro
Adagio
Allegro
Allegro


John Stanley (1712-1786)
Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 2
for flute

Adagio e staccato
Allegro molto
Allegro


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Suite in E minor, HWV 438
for harpsichord

Allmand
Saraband
Jigg


Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Sonata in A major, Op. 4, No. 12
for violin and basso continuo

Adagio - Presto - Adagio - Presto - Presto - Presto

Intermission

 

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Trio Sonata in B minor, HWV 389

Andante
Allegro ma non troppo
Largo
Allegro


Robert Valentine (1671-1747)
Duo in D major
for flute and violin

Adagio
Allegro


Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Sonata in D minor, H. 104
for violoncello

Andante
Presto
Adagio
Allegro


Giuseppe Baldassare Sammartini (1695-1750)
Trio Sonata in B minor, Op. 1, No. 6

Con spirito
Allegro
Andante e staccato
Allegro

 Reception in the Gardens


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We return this evening from prior adventures in home-grown music of the British Isles to the cosmopolitan London scene, where foreign flavors — especially Italian flavors — were in high fashion in the High Baroque. Adopted English son Handel is best known for his operas and oratorios, but he also composed a quite respectable amount of fine chamber music. His delightful trio sonata in F major is a bit atypical of his trio sonatas generally; many, even most, High Baroque trio sonatas, including Handel’s, are in the sonata da chiesa form — that is, they consist of four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast. This trio sonata has an extra, buoyant, Corelliesque movement (the second Allegro), and the jig that concludes the sonata is positively antic. BACK

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John Stanley, a bona fide Englishman, was a very gifted composer whose works have been sadly overlooked until relatively recent research into Baroque repertoire disinterred him, and performers began taking an interest. He was born the year Corelli died, and came of age hearing the music of Handel, Corelli, and the myriad of Italian composers who flocked to London in the last decades of the era. Not surprisingly, then, his music is Italianate in style and form, but his melodic invention mostly verges on the early Classical — tuneful, pleasing, lively, and sweet.

Composing in G minor seems to have affected him in this regard, and, especially in the second movement, he delivers some rather impetuous and fiery writing, not usually associated with the flute! The three-movement solo sonata was a development of the late Baroque, and this slow-fast-fast model was fairly common. BACK

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Handel’s petite Suite in E minor was published in 1733. Handel had become a naturalized English citizen six years earlier, after living in London for 15, and shows his allegiance to his adopted country in the Anglicized dance-name spellings. The suite begins with a lovely strolling Allmand, notable for the perfect spinning-out of limited motific material. Long, arching lines grow out of the simplest of four-note patterns; a little material in the hands of a genius pays off in coherence and a beautifully delineated mood. The Saraband continues in a quite similar vein, and a fierce rollicking Jigg breaks the mood and closes the suite in bracing fashion. BACK

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Francesco Geminiani made two extended sojourns in London during his life, and had much contact with the leading musical lights of the period there. He is one of a select group of composer/violin virtuosi —others include LeClair, Tartini, Veracini and Locatelli — and was undoubtedly the most eccentric of them. His little Sonata in A major may clock in at only about seven minutes, as compared with Corelli and Handel’s weightier 10 or 11 minutes, but it packs an outsize punch.

There is no proper slow movement at all, highly unusual for Geminiani, who elsewhere often positively wallows in Adagios, and the four (four!) fast sections are all marked Presto! As you will hear again in the cello sonata later, this is highly original music: Geminiani “goes with the flow” of his melodic and harmonic creativity, quite deliberately at the expense of traditional forms.

The author John Hawkins, writing around 1775, remarked, “The rules of transition from one key to another....[Geminiani] not only disregarded, but objected to as an unnecessary restraint on the powers of invention.” So unconventional is he formally that it is almost shocking to encounter a giga in rondo form at the end. BACK

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Handel’s B minor trio sonata is without a doubt one of his loveliest. Many trio sonatas are scored for unspecified “Treble I” and “Treble II,” leaving instrumentation up to the players. This trio is specified for the transverse flute and violin. The upper parts of the first two and final movements could in fact be played by any of the usual treble suspects — flute, violin or oboe — but the third movement is a different story. The second (lower) treble part can only be played by a violin, as it is written almost entirely in double-stops — that is, two notes sounding at the same time, something not possible on wind instruments. While the upper treble part could be played by any treble instrument, its remarkable and rather vocal loveliness make the flute the ideal choice. Indeed, the movement is really a little opera aria without words. BACK

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Duos, usually for two treble instruments, constitute a surprisingly large portion of Baroque and early Classical repertoire. As duos were probably almost never performed in public concerts, being far too small-scale, they were undoubtedly written for amateur players to perform at home after dinner parties with friends and family, and we are including two movements from a duo by Robert Valentine as a sort of window into a middle-class English home of the period.

Valentine, an exceptional recorder and flute player, reversed the more common trend, being an Englishman who relocated permanently to Rome. John Hawkins writes, “a flute was the pocket companion of many who wished to be thought fine gentlemen. The use of it was to entertain ladies, and such as had a liking for no better music than a song-tune, or such little airs as were then composed for that instrument; and he that could play a solo of Schickhard of Hamburg, or Robert Valentine of Rome, was held a complete master of the instrument.” BACK

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In his moody Cello Sonata in D minor, Geminiani reveals himself to be a true cosmopolitan, drawing on a quite French appreciation of sonority, an affinity for Italianate allegros (already demonstrated this evening!), and, occasionally, the fluent, expansive melodic style loved by the English.

The first movement is mostly an engaging meander, with only a brief introduction repeated at the end in varied form to give it a bit of structure. This same casual attitude towards the standard forms of the day persists in the lively second movement; Geminiani creates what stricter composers would probably deem only the illusion of coherence. His music doesn’t so much have tunes or structure as it has a few little musical ideas and its creator’s canny ability to combine and vary them in a natural unfolding narrative.

The beautiful but oh-so-brief third movement begins as if it meant to stay a while, but soon hits some rocky harmonic territory, and backs out. The comparatively substantial final movement starts conventionally enough, with an orderly sequence of identifiably four-bar phrases, but the composer’s unstoppable and quirky figurative imagination soon takes over, and all one can do is enjoy the ride. BACK

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G iuseppe Baldassare Sammartini is the slightly more illustrious of two composing brothers. He spent most of his extremely successful career as a virtuoso oboist and excellent composer in London and in Wales. The Trio Sonata in B minor is from a set dedicated to his employer, Prince Frederick of Wales, for whom Sammartini worked the last 15 years of his life.

The introductory opening movement manages to cover a surprising amount of harmonic territory within the constraints of a spiky, rhetorical style. The following Allegro is characterized by imitation at very close quarters between the two treble parts, tense and breathless. It’s a bit like the highly annoying game children love to play in which they persistently repeat whatever their parents have just said — minus the annoyance!

The third movement could almost be a Handel opera aria in binary form, with a brief introduction, melodic solo turns for the treble instruments, and some dramatic development for the two together. The last movement is a wild gallop toward some abyss, into which we will endeavor to avoid falling! BACK

Notes by Elizabeth Blumenstock

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