MEDIA PARTNER

Sunday, June 25, 2017

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

St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 4 p.m.

Festival Finale: A Quire of Choirs
Polyphonic Music from the Edge of the Baroque

This concert was underwritten through
the generous donation of Dr. Vina R. Spiehler


A collaborative program of the Baroque Music Festival Orchestra and the Los Angeles–based ensemble Tesserae

Elizabeth Blumenstock,
Aristic Director, Baroque Music Festival

Alexandra Opsahl,
Music Director, Tesserae


Corey Carleton, soprano
Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano
Pablo Corá, tenor
Jimmy Traum, tenor
N. Lincoln Hanks, tenor
Matthew Tresler, tenor
Edward Levy, bass
Brett McDermid, bass

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Alexandra Opsahl, cornetto

Elizabeth Blumenstock, leader


Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Canzon XVI a 12, Ch. 209

Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Plaudite, psallite a 12, Ch. 41


Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Dixit Dominus secondo, SV 264
from Selva morale e spirituale (1640–41)


Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Canzon noni toni a 8, Ch. 173

Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Canzon duodecimi toni a 10, Ch. 178


Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Beatus vir, SV 268


Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Sanctus, Ch. 47
from Sacrae Symphoniae (1615)

 

Intermission

 

Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Canzon XVII a 12, Ch. 209

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Confitebor tibi Domine a 13, SV 265


Francesco Cavalli (1602–1676)
Sonata a 6
from Musiche sacre (1656)


Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Hor che’l ciel e la terra, SV 147


Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Canzon noni toni a 12, Ch. 183

Giovanni Gabrieli (1554/57–1612)
Omnes gentes a 16, Ch. 52

 

 Reception on the Patio


The period of music we now know as the Baroque era did not begin all at once, but rather as the culmination of stylistic innovations that gathered like a wave throughout the musical world. These innovations, which started appearing around 1600 and were largely developed by northern Italian court musicians and theorists, include the invention of basso continuo accompaniment notation; the new declamatory vocal styles of Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini, which we now know as monody; the recitative style and its offspring, opera; and the so-called “concerted” or concertato style.

It is this latter innovation that, more than any other, ties together the music heard in today’s program. Most simply, concertato music involved a sort of dialogue between diverse groups of singers and instrumentalists. Instead of the relatively monotone sound of Renaissance polyphony, the new style emphasized contrast and diversity of texture, often with a heightened sense of dramatic possibility. “Concerted music” could also refer to the addition of obbligato instrumental parts to the traditional vocal genres of the late Renaissance, which were — at least as notated — vocal works intended to be sung a cappella.

The decades around 1600 saw the development of the concertato madrigal and the sacred concerto, comparable to their traditional Renaissance counterparts but with the addition of basso continuo and obbligato instrumental parts. These genres reflected the new textural possibilities of late Renaissance and early Baroque music, and the new “concerted” style grew to dominate the early Baroque style that emerged from Italy, crossed the Alps, and took over the rest of Western Europe.

The addition of basso continuo — another of the major innovations of the early Baroque style — is also a form of “concerting,” if not the most important one. Chordal instruments such as organs, lutes and harpsichords had traditionally doubled vocal music throughout the Renaissance, but it was the invention of new continuo parts — conceived independently from the vocal or obbligato instrumental ones — that gave us true concertato vocal music. This radical innovation meant that composers no longer had to use the vocal parts for full harmony, opening up a new world of flexibility in texture, affect and effect.

The innovations that brought us the Baroque era were pioneered by many people, from noble enthusiasts to radical humanist scholars to practical musicians. As with all historical narratives, though, music history tends to be dominated by a few major figures. Two of these — quite disparate in their musical interests and composi- Giovanni Gabrieli A Quire of Choirs: Notes 45 tional styles, but both associated with the famous Basilica of San Marco in Venice — also dominate the music heard in this afternoon’s program.

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Giovanni Gabrieli was never officially the director of the music program at the basilica, but rather one of the two organists, originally alongside his uncle Andrea. This didn’t mean his role wasn’t powerful; indeed, he probably was the most powerful figure within the establishment.

San Marco featured a veritable Renaissance “orchestra” staffed by the finest players in Italy. It is no surprise that many of the innovations in concertato music sprung from this fertile ground. Gabrieli played a major role in working with instrumentalists and singers alike, and this role was reflected in his published books of instrumental and vocal music. However, the three sacred concertos and the Sanctus (an independent Mass movement) that we’ll hear this afternoon don’t feature strictly obbligato parts — that is, ones specifically created by the composer — but rather reflect the practice of instruments either doubling or independently playing vocal parts, creating a kaleidoscopic texture of alternating blending and contrasting sections. This is still a form of the concerted style, which was certainly a mode of performance as much as it was a compositional practice. Indeed, the practice of instrumental doubling certainly played a practical role in the development of the concertato style in composition.

Gabrieli’s music embodies other hallmarks of the Venetian style. Most notably, it features the distinctive polychoral idiom, in which groups of voices and instruments alternate as a kind of special effect — one grounded in the unique acoustical properties of San Marco, and also of course reflective of the concertato style. Audiences in the basilica would be awed by the grand sonorous effects created by dispersed groups of instruments and voices, the perfect counterpart to the visual splendor of the church’s interior.

It is this quasi-propagandistic element that explains the tendency of these texts towards the topics of praise and glory: they glorified the Venetian state as much as they did God. Other aspects of the Venetian style may reflect the influence of San Marco’s instrumentalists, such as the lively triple-meter “Alleluias” and the catchy refrains — both of which originally appear in the Renaissance vocal chanson but were further developed by instrumentalists in the new genre of the instrumental canzona. BACK

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In many respects, the music of Claudio Monteverdi was a bellwether of the early Baroque style. His collections of vocal music published over the entire course of his life, especially his eight books of madrigals (with a ninth appearing posthumously), always reflected the latest stylistic trends. From the fifth book onwards, the addition of basso continuo and obbligato instruments to create the concertato madrigal become the norm.

The sole madrigal heard this afternoon, Hor che’l ciel e la terra, is taken from Monteverdi’s most famous collection, the Eighth Book, which the composer called “madrigals of love and war.” Here, the splendid possibilities of the new concerted style are on full display. Equally on display is Monteverdi’s supreme mastery of drama, reminding us that he was of course the first true master of the then-new form of opera.

One of the paradoxes of Monteverdi’s career was that he spent a good part of his life in the service of San Marco — a church job, in other words — but only published two major collections of sacred music. (Another paradox is that Monteverdi was first hired by the Gonzaga court in Mantua as an instrumentalist, but published no purely instrumental music.) Luckily, the two sacred collections he did publish are massive in scope and contain some of the finest church music of the entire Baroque period. BACK

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In our program, you will hear two of Monteverdi’s best-known works, Dixit Dominus and Beatus vir, both from his second major collection, the 1641 Selva morale e spirituale (“moral and spiritual grove,” selva here representing a wooded place to rest in the shade and contemplate). Compared to the Gabrieli works, these demonstrate the full-fledged, mature concertato style, here taking on a more “classical” guise with a standard scoring of two obbligato violins (or cornetti), obbligato bass and continuo. Of course, other instruments could and did still carry on the tradition of doubling vocal parts, as you will hear today.

These two sacred pieces also demonstrate Monteverdi’s keen command of drama in music. This is especially evident in the dramatic and highly declamatory style of text setting; the works also demonstrate a mastery of the possibilities of the concertato style, exploiting all available resources of texture, timbre, and tonal color. His experience as a madrigal composer is also on display in his dramatic use of harmony, sometimes enlivened by bold chromaticism. BACK

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Lastly, our program features an instrumental sonata by Francesco Cavalli, Monteverdi’s successor at San Marco. Cavalli was one of the leading opera composers of the mid-17th century, but this work — included in another large-scale collection of sacred music — is strangely retrospective, glancing back towards Gabrieli, rather than foreshadowing the new instrumental concertos by composers such as Corelli and Vivaldi. BACK

Notes by Ian Pritchard

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