Nov 11, 2021

Behind the Musik: Spotlight 15

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Spotlight 15

Curated by Elisa Citterio

Georg Muffat
1653–1704

Orchestral suite “Sperantis Gaudia”: Ouverture

Georg Philipp Telemann
1681–1767

Concerto for 2 violins in G Major: Grave – Allegro
Julia Wedman & Patricia Ahern, violin soloists

Concerto for 2 violins & bassoon in D Major: Adagio – Allegro assai
Cristina Zacharias & Christopher Verrette, violin soloists
Dominic Teresi, bassoon soloist

* * *

Johann Sebastian Bach
1685–1750

Concerto for viola in E-flat Major, after BWV 1053: Allegro (in a new transcription by Brandon Chui)
Brandon Chui, viola soloist

Johann David Heinichen
1683–1729

Concerto a quattro in G Major: Andante – Vivace
Marco Cera, oboe | Dominic Teresi, bassoon
Keiran Campbell, cello | Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord

Jean-Philippe Rameau
1683–1764

Pièces de clavecin en concert: La Forqueray
Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord | Julia Wedman, violin | Felix Deak, viola da gamba

* * * 

Giuseppe Valentini
1680–1759

Concerto for 4 violins in A Minor, op. 7, no. 11: Largo – Allegro
Elisa Citterio, Cristina Zacharias, Geneviève Gilardeau & Christopher Verrette, violin soloists

Giuseppe Tartini
1692–1770

Concerto for violin in A Major, D.96: Largo andante
Geneviève GIlardeau, violin soloist

* * * 

Antonio Vivaldi
1678–1741

Concerto for 2 cellos in G Minor, RV 531: Allegro – Largo
Keiran Campbell & Felix Deak, cello soloists

Concerto for bassoon in G Minor, RV 495: Largo – Allegro
Dominic Teresi, bassoon soloist

* * * 

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf
1739–1799

Concerto for double bass no. 2 in E-Flat Major: Allegro moderato
Pippa Macmillan, double bass soloist

František Xaver Brixi
1732–1771

Concerto for viola in C Major: II. Adagio
Patrick Jordan, viola soloist
(score and parts generously provided by ortus musikverlag)

Giuseppe Sammartini
1695–1750

Concerto grosso in A Major, op 2, no. 1: IV. Allegro


Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Directed by Elisa Citterio

Violin Elisa Citterio, Patricia Ahern, Geneviève Gilardeau, Christopher Verrette, Julia Wedman, Cristina Zacharias

Viola Brandon Chui, Patrick G. Jordan

Viola da gamba Felix Deak

Violoncello Keiran Campbell, Felix Deak

Double bass Pippa Macmillan

Oboe Marco Cera

Bassoon Dominic Teresi

Harpsichord Charlotte Nediger


Curator's Notes
By Elisa Citterio

Tafelmusik is a large family in which every single element is indispensable. This program was born as a continuation of the Tafelmusik at Home series which aired early in the pandemic, in May and June of 2020. Audience members were invited to virtually enter the living rooms of each orchestra member and to enjoy their chosen music. Every musician in this wonderful orchestra has particular talents and, often, favourite repertoire. I wanted to give them the opportunity to get on the soloist's "podium" and asked each player to suggest a few favourite concerto movements: something that spoke to them, or that they were itching to play. I found myself in front of a delightful list of pieces: a sort of puzzle, which, when assembled, gave rise to a varied, exciting, and well-ordered program that alternates moments of incredible feeling with others of sparkling virtuosity. This concert was planned for the fall of 2020, but restrictions prevented us from rehearsing and filming, and also scuttled several attempts to reschedule it in the winter and spring. We are delighted to finally be able to share this concert with you!

Program Notes

The concert opens with an overture from the Austrian composer Georg Muffat’s collection Suavioris Harmoniae Instrumentalis Hyporchematicae Florilegium (A bouquet of instrumental dance pieces in lovely harmony)—a fitting prelude to a program featuring a colourful array of concerto movements. The suite from which the overture is drawn is titled “Sperantis Gaudia,” meaning the joy of hope, a title that is particularly apt given this is the first concert the orchestra has rehearsed and filmed this season. We end the concert with a lively movement from a concerto grosso by the London-based Guiseppe Sammartini, an orchestral work in which a trio of two violins and cello occasionally step out of the orchestral texture.

These two spirited works frame the array of solo and ensemble concertos selected by the musicians, who introduce their choices themselves in the notes below.

Julia Wedman: Telemann Concerto for 2 violins
Musicians are often asked the question, “Which composer would you most want to go for a beer with?” My answer is not one person, but three! I want to be at a pub in Weimar with Johann Sebastian Bach when he was in his twenties, hanging out with his brilliant colleague Georg Philipp Telemann, and the hotshot Vivaldi student, Johann Georg Pisendel, who went on to be concertmaster of the Dresden court orchestra (after which Tafelmusik is modelled). What wonderful conversations they must have had! Telemann and Bach were mastering all of the national styles in Europe—they were writing dances to rival the French composers, and sonatas and vocal music to rival the Italians. Bach was learning from Vivaldi by writing out his L’estro armonico, transcribing the string concertos for keyboards, and is said to have made the comment, "Vivaldi taught me how to think musically." It might be because I am a Canadian, but my favourite styles of music are the mixed styles—and Bach and Telemann were particularly gifted with these combinations. It must have been an incredible period of learning, experimentation, creativity, and friendship.

I have wanted to play this particular Telemann concerto for a long time because there are performing parts for it copied by Bach and Pisendel, and they may well have played it together in a concert at the court of Weimar during Pisendel's visit in 1709. Bach was employed as the violin leader of the Weimar orchestra at this time. They may have also performed it nearby with Telemann at the court of Saxe-Eisenach, where he was working. Bach is well known as a keyboard player, but there are a few pieces that we know for sure he played as a violinist. His son, Carl Philipp Emanuel (Telemann's godson), spoke about his father's violin playing: “From his youth up to fairly old age he played the violin purely and with a penetrating tone and thus kept the orchestra in top form, much better than he could have from the harpsichord. He completely understood the possibilities of all stringed instruments.” Performing this concerto with a dear friend seems like one of the closest opportunities that I will have to "walk in Bach's shoes."

The first rehearsal of this piece was in my backyard in the summer of 2020 with Tafelmusik violinist Patricia Ahern. Neither of us had played music with another person in months and we were struggling to navigate playing the violin with masks on. Mine kept going in my eyes and I couldn’t see the music! Despite that, it was a thrilling experience—one that will stay in my memory for a long time. This seemed like the perfect piece to perform this year, connecting the past with our present and future.

Cristina Zacharias: Telemann Concerto for 2 violins & bassoon
When Elisa asked us for suggestions we were still in the first shutdown phase of the pandemic, so I hadn’t played music with anyone for months and life was definitely upside down. It’s always nice to be invited to suggest repertoire, especially solo concertos, but at that point in time what I really was missing was collaboration. I didn’t want to play something that left me “alone." So I looked to Georg Philipp Telemann, who wrote so many sonatas and concertos for mixed groups of soloists, and chose this beautiful concerto for two violins and bassoon.

Brandon Chui: Bach Concerto for viola (premiere of Brandon’s new transcription)
While he never wrote a piece for solo viola, it's reported that Johann Sebastian Bach loved to play the instrument. His son Carl Philip Emannuel wrote of his father, "As the greatest expert and judge of harmony, he liked best to play the viola, with appropriate loudness and softness." This movement presents us with a "what if?" scenario, exploring the possibility of what a concerto for viola by J.S. Bach could have sounded like. The original material comes from the D-major sinfonia to his Cantata 169, Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, written in 1726, featuring a solo organ and orchestra. Bach transcribed this sinfonia to be the first movement of his Harpsichord Concerto in E Major (BWV 1053) in 1738. The harpsichord arrangement has, in turn, been a favourite for other solo instrumental transcriptions, such as the oboe, oboe d'amore, and violin, with each instrument requiring a different key based on the instrument's technical demands and limitations.

I used to be a bit of a recording nut and really got to know the piece in its cantata version through a recording by Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan. I bought it at one of the two (now defunct) used CD stores in town that specialized in classical records, both of which, interestingly and randomly enough, were owned by people from Hong Kong, where my family hails from! The sinfonia, in particular, got plenty of play. When Elisa asked me if I'd play something for this program, my first thought was, "What could I do outside of Telemann?" and my mind naturally wandered to this! I have used the key of E-flat major, which is a bit more favourable technically on the viola and offers a bit of a darker sonority than D and E major. A couple of arrangements for viola actually already exist; where mine differs is in the consideration of the solo lines from both the cantata and harpsichord concerto versions. I've also done my best to integrate some of the orchestral oboe d'amore parts found in the cantata version, which are absent in the harpsichord version.

Marco Cera: Heinichen Concerto a Quattro
Johann David Heinichen was born in 1683 in the small village of Krössuln, which is about halfway between Leipzig and Dresden, Germany. His father was village pastor and cantor there, and gave young Johann his first lessons in music. Under his father’s tutelage, Heinichen started composing short sacred pieces at a young age, and by age 13 was ready to study at the Leipzig Thomasschule under Johann Kuhnau, an excellent composer. At age 19, Heinichen enrolled at Leipzig University, majoring in law. While there, he availed himself of the cultural offerings of Leipzig, including opera, and met the composers Fasch and Telemann. He was quite successful in Leipzig, but decided he needed to learn how to write Italian opera firsthand, and left for Venice in 1710. He spent seven formative years in Italy, mostly in Venice. He met numerous composers in that city, including Antonio Vivaldi, and apparently picked up the Italian style quickly, writing two successful operas for the S Angelo Theater. In 1717, Heinichen became a colleague of J.S. Bach at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. His fame spread all the way to the Prince-Elector of Saxony, Augustus II, in Dresden, who hired Heinichen to share Kapellmeister duties at his court.

Besides operas, Heinichen wrote instrumental and sacred vocal music that combined elements of the Italian, French, and German styles. His music reveals his passion for the instrumental colours of woodwinds, so is a natural choice for this program. The Concerto a Quattro is a great example of Heinichen’s recognizable, extroverted, and personal style.

Charlotte Nediger: Rameau La Forqueray
Well before acquiring renown as a theorist and opera composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau was known as a wonderful harpsichordist. In playing his solo harpsichord music, one senses that he was able to draw earthier colours from the harpsichord than some of his more “refined” colleagues, and brought to the instrument a new and inventive virtuosity. It’s music I’ve always loved playing, and my favourite collection is the Pièces de clavecin en concert, published in Paris in 1741. By this time, Rameau had produced several operas, which were noteworthy for their inventive orchestrations, and I think this played a small part in inspiring this new genre. The harpsichordist is the soloist, and Rameau explains that nothing is missing if you just play the harpsichord part. But to this he adds a violin and gamba, who are instructed to play from the full score, and to listen carefully, accompanying the harpsichord “avec douceur,” occasionally bringing out a motive or theme. It reminds me of adding subtleties or highlights to a painting, and is the ultimate chamber concerto, meant to be performed in an intimate setting: quite perfect for the film medium that brings us virtually into your home. I’ve chosen the opening movement of the Fifth Concerto. It is titled “La Forqueray”: a tribute to Antoine Forqueray or his son Jean-Baptiste, both virtuoso gambists, or possibly to the younger Forqueray’s wife Marie-Rose Dubois: they were married the same year as the publication.

Elisa Citterio: Valentini Concerto for 4 violins
I am particularly close to this not-so-well-known concerto grosso for four violins because it takes my mind back to Spain, many years ago. A gorgeous cathedral lost in the countryside. Just a few houses down the hill. I remember that I thought that the church would be empty for the concert. But of course, everyone arrived at the last moment to crowd the entire church. I was so lucky to play with my amazing teacher, Chiara Banchini, and her group, Ensemble 415. There were a few concertos for four violins on the program. I loved the sound in that space and the wonderful ornaments she added to the music. Her recording of this piece is absolutely outstanding and is a favourite of mine.

Geneviève Gilardau: Tartini Concerto for violin
A piece of music, even just a few bars, can hold so much of our lives. When asked if there was a piece I wanted to perform for this concert, I knew it was the moment to play the slow movement of Giuseppe Tartini’s Violin concerto in A Major. Just 16 bars long, this movement has attached itself in my heart to the tender memories of helping my child find the peace to fall asleep. These 16 bars have carried us through long nights and airplane flights. I would sing the melody softly when we couldn’t play the CD and the warmth of the music brought us calm, enveloping us in a protective and luminous halo.

It turned out that this is a piece that has a line of text attached to it. Tartini wrote: “A rivi, a fiumi correte amare lagrime” (flow my bitter tears, like a river). It is found in a line of a recitative from the opera Venceslao by Caldara that Tartini probably played. The two pieces have little in common, but earlier in the opera, the same character who sings the recit also sings an aria conveying very similar emotions. The aria has 16 bars and the melody, sung by the princess Lucinda, is accompanied by repeated eight notes, just as in Tartini’s Largo andante.

Tartini used short lines of poetry at the beginning of some of his works, without any explanation, sometimes even in a secret code. Maybe it was to remind him where his inspiration came from, and it is possible that he wanted to hide that his inspiration was secular. But his teaching insists on finding a way of playing that imitates the human voice. His ideal was to write in a manner that was as natural as possible. He was inspired by folk music, as it is a music that occurs naturally, inclusively, simply, as one improvises a lullaby for a crying child. His Largo andante speaks to me with compassion and acceptance, as if to console a sad young princess, and the reassuring repeated notes in the accompaniment resonate like a heart beat.

Keiran Campbell: Vivaldi Concerto for 2 cellos
Antonio Vivaldi wrote at least 27 concertos for solo cello, but his double cello concerto is especially wonderful because it can be played by two friends: perfect for Felix Deak and me. Both solo parts are equally difficult, and the two cellos mostly either play in thirds or trade virtuosic passages back and forth throughout the work. The first movement, marked Allegro, skips the usual opening ritornello and gets right to the point, with the soloists trading an exciting, rustic theme, unimpeded by violins and violas. Much of this movement consists of buzzing, swarming, 16th-note passages, which are contrasted with passionate, lyrical ones. The buzzing ritornelli are hard to miss—at three points in the movement, the entire ensemble plays this exciting, driving figure in unison. The Largo slow movement reduces the orchestration to the soloists and continuo, which gives it a more private, inward feeling. Here, both cellos are given the chance to sing, and the movement really feels like a beautifully mournful and autumnal aria.

Dominic Teresi: Vivaldi Concerto for bassoon
Whenever I get a chance to play a concerto with Tafelmusik my mind naturally first turns to Vivaldi. The Venetian wrote almost 40 concertos for the bassoon and the breadth of expression, individuality, and overall quality of them is astonishing. The concerto I chose for this program, RV 495 in G Minor, is one I've been wanting to perform for some time. I find it incredibly evocative—to me the slow movement recalls the story of Orpheus as the solo bassoon laments, enchanting the creatures of the continuo section until the entire orchestra joins in a frenzied dance in the final movement.

Pippa Macmillan: Dittersdorf Concerto for double bass
This concerto, and an earlier one written by the same composer, are probably the earliest examples of solo concertos written for the double bass. A tuning of thirds and fourths is used on the instrument: B-flat/G/E-flat/B-flat, opening up possibilities of arpeggiated passage work with nimble bow work across the strings. The whole range of the instrument is utilized: listen out for high harmonics playfully interchanged with the violins. The abundance of open strings and harmonics allow for a beautifully “open” sound on the instrument, and its fun, light-hearted character make it a natural choice for this program. Finally the double bass has an opportunity to shine in the way that other instruments do!

Patrick G. Jordan: Brixi Viola Concerto
I am drawn to music of the middle of the 18th century and particularly the style that we call the galant. The galant is an essential element of the slightly later and better-known classical style, the music of Haydn and Mozart; it also happens to be the period when the poor viola finally begins to shine as a solo instrument. Imagine my delight when, in July of 2019, I got an email from the publisher of a newly discovered concerto for viola by František Brixi, a bright light of 18th-century Bohemia. I ordered the sheet music for the concerto sight unseen. Brixi is best known (if at all) for his sacred works, a reflection of the fact that he was by the age of 27 Kapellmeister of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, the most musically significant position in the city at the time. The Adagio middle movement of the present concerto is fresh and lyrical, with lots of room for the performer to ornament and elaborate upon the given material. While I spend a fair amount of time researching this period and preparing editions myself, sometimes it’s nice to leave all that work to someone else (in this case Phillip Schmidt of ortus musikverlag) and just play!


Thank You to our Generous Donors

Tafelmusik is deeply grateful to our generous donors who have continued to support us through this challenging time. Your support has inspired us to remain strong and to deliver joy to our community through our music, and will enable us to persevere until we can once again perform live for you, our cherished patrons. Thank you for believing in Tafelmusik and in the power and beauty of music.

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Program Notes
concerto
2021/22 Season