Marco Uccellini (1603-1680): Aria sesta sopra un balletto from Book 3 (1642)
Marco Uccellini:: Sonata non a doi violini from Book 7 (1667)
Salamone Rossi (c. 1570- c. 1630): Sonata sopra l' Aria di Ruggiero
Salamone Rossi: Sonata sopra porta celato il mio nobel pensiero
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1713): Sonata in D major, K. 490
Nicola Matteis (? - 1714?): Suite in E minor Book 4, no. 21-29 Adagio: Preludio à due corde Motivo: Presto Fuga à due corde Aria: presto Passagio à solo Allegro--Prestissimo Ground: Bizzarie sopra un basso Malinconico Aria Amorosa
Henry Purcell (1659-1709): Sonnata No. 9 in F major, "Called for its excellence the Golden Sonata" (Z. 810) (from Sonatas in IV Parts) Largo Adagio Canzona Grave Allegro
John Blow (1649-1709): A Choice Collection of Lessons- Suite in D minor (1698) Almand Corant Theatre Tune Jigg
Christopher Simpson (1605?-1669): Joy to the Person (for solo lute)
Matthew Locke (1621-1677): Broken Consosrt- Suite No. 4 in C major Fantasie Courante Aure Saraband
Henry Purcell: Sonnata No. 6 in G minor "Chaconne" (Z. 807) (from Sonatas in IV Parts)
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Trio Sonata in D minor Op. 1, No. 12, "La Follia" (RV 63)
Program Notes by Judith Eckelmeyer
This period in music history that has become known as the Baroque is roughly (and arbitrarily) enclosed in the time frame from 1600 to 1750. The 150-year boundaries are, in fact, illusion. Monteverdi, for instance, had been composing since the 1580s, yet did not wake up on the morning of January 1, 1600, to learn that he had to change his ways or be forever relegated to the era called the Renaissance. The year of J.S. Bach's death, 1750, is a memorable round figure and is called the end of the era, yet Domenico Scarlatti (along with Handel, the third imposing late Baroque composer) died sever years later. Scarlatti had begun to use the then-emerging new style that was harbinger of another change in musical thinking (we call it the Classical era) well before 1750, and Bach's two younger sons, Emanuel and Christian, were writing with great success in an even more radical version of this new style while their old-fashioned father continued his career in what most people then considered a style passé.
The Baroque emerged with exciting changes in musical style. Although already-exisiting characters were still retained for a while in some genres, they quickly lost their power to grasp the imagination of either composer or audience. Polyphony, more or less evenly-distributed among four or more voices with carefully-controlled application of dissonance, became the "antique" style; its relation to the text was that of an elaborate vessel to the water it contained.
The "modern" style, while not entirely abandoning polyphony, began to rely on a defined bass line with a harmonic construction over it and one or perhaps two melodic lines opposing in the treble. The new style of sung music now had as its purpose the rhetorical expression of text: the vessel was now shaped to convey its contents' central message, and the contents was of great affective importance. Untraditionally-structured dissonance became acceptable if it enhanced this expressive presentation of powerful text. In addition, the taste of the emerging style relished contrasting sounds such as sections with large ensembles immediately followed by an accompanied soloist or duet, echo effects, instrumental interludes separating vocal passages, or varied textures in quick succession. This distinctly uneven or irregular sonority of texture, harmony, and means of structural cohesion appeared unnatural and distorted to early historians of music and thus inspired the disparaging term "baroque," referring to the bizarre contours of imperfect pearls. It wasn't until the Renaissance and Baroque of Heinrich Wölfflin in 1888 that "baroque" had a positive connotation, referring to a complex of stylistic characteristics common to the arts over a relatively long span of years.
The previous centuries had given preeminence to the voice almost to the exclusion of instruments. During the Baroque, instrumental genres blossomed. At first, they mimicked the vocal genres that had attained such refinement in the sixteenth century, but they eventually encompassed new organizational principles and idioms specific to the instruments themselves. In this era, too, instrument-making advanced by quantum leaps, enabling these musical vehicles to compete with the voice in agility and accuracy of intonation and even surpass it in power and range.
This concert is a venture into some of the lesser-known corners of Baroque instrumental music. The selections represent a progression from early examples of the sonata (in a guise not yet entirely recognizable as the modern genre), the suite, and several types of variation procedure to later manifestations of these genres by familiar mid- and late-Baroque composers. Each work is unique interpretation of the era's musical aesthetic, forming a veritable chain of Baroque pearls.
The earliest composer represented this evening is Salamone Rossi, whose life was spent almost entirely in Mantua. He was a virtuoso violinist in the earliest period of that instrument's independence from the viol family. He attained an informal affiliation with the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, to whom he dedicated his first published book of canzonettas; it was at this court that Claudio Monteverdi served for about two decades before going to Venice for the majority of his career. Rossi would undoubtedly have participated as a performer of Monteverdi's music. Although Rossi was a Jew (he called himself Ebreo), he was exempted from the requirement of wearing the yellow badge, both during the reign of Vincenzo and that of his successor, Francesco II. In spite of the obvious high regard in which he was held by the Gonzagas, a rift developed between him and the ruling family in his later years and resulted in his alienation from the Court. He continued his career working with Jewish theatrical troupes, a major component of Mantua's theater world. He is thought to have died in the destruction of the ghetto and the ensuing plague following Mantua's fall to troops of the Holy Roman Empire in 1630.
Rossi's vocal music, both secular and sacred (such as his polyphonic settings of Hebrew Psalms) is balanced by his contribution to the evolution of instrumental music. He is credited with originating the trio sonata in his Sinfonie e Galiarde (1607). This form employs two violins in dialogue above a basso continuo, a bass-reinforcing instrument (such as a viola da gamba or cello) with harmonic realization by a keyboard or some other chord-producing instrument (such as lute). The early trio sonatas proceed in alternating slow-fast sections. The characteristics of virtuosity and trio-sonata dialogue inform Rossi's Sonata sopra l'aria di Ruggiero. Even though this work is from Rossi's third book of sonatas (1623) and is structured like a sonata, it is unified by a recurring bass progression, thereby falling into a category of variation procedures popular at the time. Ruggiero is the term for the particular bass pattern which occurs in four motives, each treated as a musical phrase. The melody above this bass is also a loose variation; thus the "aria" of the title. The style required a degree of dexterity for the violinists and employs some unusual devices for the time--for example, a left-hand pizzicato. (Monteverdi would call for the usual bow-hand pizzicato years later in his Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.)
Marco Uccellini served as head of instrumental music at the Este court at Modena and as maestro di cappella there until 1665; he then served as maestro di cappella at the Farnese court in Parma until his death. From 1639 to nearly the last year of his life he wrote and published a great deal of chamber music, much of which required an advanced violin technique and a range extending to g''' (sixth position). Some of the solo violin sonatas require scordatura (returning the instrument), employ double stops and wide leaps, and contain dazzling technical passages (often with a descriptive intent). One such work, "The marriage of the hen and cuckoo", contains passages of fast, repeated chords that reflect the style Monteverdi used only a few years earlier as the concitato (excited) style in Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.
Christopher Simpson (variously spelled Sympson), an English theorist, composer and viol player, is considered the most important English writer on music in his time. His output includes not only scores but also pedagogical works, particularly relating to viol playing. Notables such as John Jenkins and Matthew Locke spoke in praise of his The Division-violist (1659), and Henry Purcell said of his A Compendium of Practical Musick (1667) that is was "the most ingenious book I e'er met with upon this subject." The "division-viol" for which Simpson wrote was a somewhat smaller version of the bass viol and would have been used to perform "division" (fast passagework and figures improvised over a given recurring "ground"). The key is the virtuosity needed for this kind of challenge; Simpson evidently had it.
Matthew Locke was born when England was entering the darker years of monarchy; he survived the Civil War and the Commonwealth to see the Restoration of the monarchy. This life-span would argue against a vigorous music career (or, at least, an extensively varied output of compositions), since music, like all the arts, was driven to conservatism; theater works, for example, were not presented in public (instead, private presentations were mounted). In addition, French music strongly influenced post-Restoration English music. Trained as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral, Locke also probably learned violin, cornetto, and sackbut there. He left England in 1648 for an extended visit to the Low Countries, retuning in the 1650s. With the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, his attachment to the court began and his instrumental composition blossomed. In the following year he wrote his music for "Sagbutts and Cornetts" and the first part of the Broken Consort works, then Courtly Masquing Ayres, probably for the king's ensemble of twenty-four violins, in 1662. His works also include music for theatrical productions of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Shirley's masque Cupid and Death, and others. When the court fled London in 1665 to avoid the great plague, Locke went with them; after their return from Oxford, he continued his composition and pedagogical career, including the Broken Consort Part II.
Locke's Suite No. 4 in C manor, from Broken Consort I, is somewhat typical of the dance suites of the time. It opens with a fantasy, then presents a courante (fast triple-meter dance) and air (a song-like movement not necessarily in dance rhythm), and a slow, triple-meter sarabande. "Broken" consorts were ensembles of unlike instruments, as opposed to "whole" consorts. The broken consort referred to in Lock's title consist of two violins or viols, a cello or viol da gamba, and a theorbo (a type of lute accommodating bass as well as treble strings).
John Blow began his formal musical training as a chorister at the Chapel Royal in 1661. He also studied organ with Orlando Gibbons' son Christopher; by 1668 he was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey. He remained at this post until 1679, and was succeeded by his student, Henry Purcell. Purcell died unexpectedly in 1695, and Blow was reappointed to the position. He was appointed Composer of the Chapel Royal in 1699. Blow's compositions spanned the genres popular in England at the time: songs, masques such as Venus and Adonis (1685), anthems, chamber works, and harpsichord composers of the mid- late Baroque, second only to Purcell himself. His Suite in D minor, from A Choice Collection of Lessons (1698) is a four-movement work for harpsichord. The movements are set out in the typical binary pattern that was by now firmly established, largely through the work of the French composers; the music contains ornamentation in the manner of, but less prolific than, the French style.
Nicole Matteis was an Italian violinist and composer who arrived in England by way of Germany after 1670. He brought with him the new Italian advances and demonstrated an almost legendary virtuosity in his performance, one writer commented that "he had a stroke so sweet, and it speaks like the voice of a man, and, when he pleased, like a concerto of several instruments" (Grove, 1945). His compositions were published with his technical discussion of bowing, ornaments, tempo, and methods of division playing as prefaces. He greatly expanded the potential for England's violin writing and performing. He appears to have particularly favored suites containing from three to twelve movements.
Henry Purcell provided one of the turning points in the history of English music; he is credited with having written the first true opera by a British composer--Dido and Aeneas (1689)--as well as anthems and instrumental chamber music. Among the latter are "Ten Sonatas of Four Parts", these are actually trio sonatas for four instruments (two violins, bass, and keyboard) which his brother Daniel collected and had published in 1697. They are not all typical of the "sonata" pattern of the time of four movements, alternating slow-fast. The sixth of them, in G minor, is titled "Chaconne" and functions as a variation process over a recurring bass line. It should be remembered that at this time the terms chaconne and passacaglia appear to have been applied virtually interchangeable by many composers; today, what Purcell called his chaconne would often be understood to be a passacaglia. This work also incorporates sectional changes of tempo, rhythm, and texture, that at least in some respects revealing a kinship with the sonata. Purcell's variations include extraordinary chromatic moments and even impending modulations, all of which are invariably anchored by the bass line, the lodestar guiding the marvelously imaginative and often surprising overlay.
The ninth sonata, called later by others the "Golden Sonata," is in the church sonata mold, having abstract titles and little or no dance characteristics.
Antonio Vivaldi was one of the most prolific composers of the late Baroque. The vigor and elegance of the mature style that had been formulated through the efforts of his predecessors throughout Europe and England abounds in his enormous output of vocal and instrumental compositions. In many instances, his music rides on the brink of the new pre-Classical style; there is no doubt that his work contains germinal elements of the future. He also encompasses his heritage, as evident in the unusual trio sonata in D minor, Op. 1, No. 12, called "La Follia." Like Purcell's chaconne concept and Rossi's Ruggiero, La Follia is a particular recurring pattern that had been used as a basis for variations by many composers of many nations during the Baroque. In Vivaldi's hands, the variation process takes on the essence of a lesson in string techniques of the time. Each movement is a variation, and each variation highlights a special pattern or idiom that passes between the two violins (often between the violins and the string bass line as well). Unlike the typical sonata, this work consists of twenty sections culminating in several technically-brilliant treatments for the strings.
Domenico Scarlatti, one of three major composers born in 1685 (along with Bach and Handel), was ordered by his father, Allesandro, from his home and position as organist and composer at the royal court in Naples to accompany the castrato Nicolini to Venice, Rome, and Florence in 1704. Domenico soon established himself in Rome. His father, however, continued to attempt to manage his life (much as Leopold would later do for Wolfgang Mozart). Domenico removed himself to Portugal, where he served at the patriarchal chapel in Lisbon until 1728. He entered the service of the Infanta Maria Barbara, and, when she married Fernando, Crown Prince of Spain, Scarlatti went to her court in Madrid. There he produced well over 500 keyboard sonatas almost exclusively for her. In so doing, he reshaped the sonata as a form for keyboard alone. Although he gave it only a single movement, he set this movement in the modern binary or rounded binary organization that had characterized the dance and focused on a variety of technically brilliant and idiomatic ways for the harpsichord to be played. Ornaments, lightning-fast passagework, strident dissonance, and guitar-simulating textures can all be found in these diverse and remarkable works.
The Sonata in D major, K. 490, is marked "cantabile", it has brief moments of a song-like melody harmonized usually at the sixth, alternating with scale passages and sections of "crunched" dissonant chords featuring the acciaccatura, or crushed ornament, forming clusters of sound in a unique harmony. In may ways, Scarlatti's sonata might well be perceived as pre-Classical, with its chordal construction and key organization. Nevertheless, its irregular surface of surprising changes of texture almost requires that it be numbered as one of the pearls of the late Baroque.