How to "Bach" (+performance)
In January of 2021, I shared the process of how my quartet learned a Beethoven string quartet
There is a new look for Winter Baroque this year (tickets go on sale today! ticket link). First of all, beloved Boston-based period violinist Sarah Darling will be coming up while the NCMF continuo section consists of returning harpsichordist John McKean and festival regular, Eliana Razzino Yang on cello. (“Continuo” in a baroque chamber group is usually made up of some kind of keyboard instrument playing harmony along with a bass instrument, often a cello, viola da gamba, or lute. For a contemporary analogy, in a rock band the continuo is loosely equivalent to the “rhythm section:” bass guitar and/or keyboards, and drums.)
As a special treat we have the recorder at the heart of Winter Baroque for 2022; curator of the program is virtuoso instrumentalist Aldo Abreu. Born in Caracas, Aldo studied at the mecca for early music, the Royal Conservatory in the Hague. A member of the faculties of New England Conservatory, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, and Amherst Early Music, Aldo is a stalwart in the early music scene in Boston and many of you may be familiar with him (and Sarah Darling) from Handel and Haydn Society. First Prize winner of the prestigious Concert Artists Guild Competition, he has performed throughout the USA, Europe, Australia, and his native Venezuela.
Aldo prepared brief notes of the program:
The program features mainly virtuosic canzonas and sonatas for recorder by early Italian and Spanish composers such as Tarquinio Merula, Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde and Giovanni Battista Fontana. The canzona is an early Baroque instrumental piece which was derived from the French chanson. It usually begins with a pattern on one quarter and 2 eighth notes.
Tarquinio Merula (1595 – 1665) was an early Italian Baroque composer who worked in Venice, Lodi and Bergamo. His Canzona a Due Canti e basso for 2 soprano lines, obligato bass and continuo begins in 4/4, followed by a section in 3/2. The piece concludes with the same thematic material as the beginning.
Fray Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde (1595-1638) was s Spanish composer who worked in Innsbruck. A virtuoso player of the dulcian, predecessor of the bassoon, his Canzona Prima a Canto e Basso features virtuoso soprano and bass lines which interact in dialogue. The form includes a section in 4/4, followed by a section in 6/4 and closing with a section in 4/4. His Canzona Segunda for soprano line and continuo features a virtuoso soprano line.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) wrote his second suite for unaccompanied cello while Kapellmeister in Köthen around 1720. It consists of six movements, primarily stylized dance forms. It begins with a free-form, fantasy-like prelude followed by an improvisatory allemande, agitated courante, two rustic gavottes, a mournful sarabande, and a lively gigue.
Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589–1630) was born in Brescia and worked in Rome, Venice, and Padua as a violinist and composer. His Sonata Seconda is one of the earliest examples of the form. In contrast to a canzona it is through-composed (continuous, vs. having sections that repeat) with multiple changes of speed and character. The slow sections often have a vocal and free recitativo (spoken) character. The fast sections can be very virtuosic.
German composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1595 – 1665) is one of the most prolific composers of all time with more than 3,000 works. Among recorder players he is appreciated for writing numerous beautiful pieces that show a great idiomatic understanding of the instrument. His Sonata a Tre is a witty piece where each movement represents different women from mythology such as Xantippe, Lucretia, Corinna, Clelia, and Dido. The piece was published in his musical magazine Der Getreue Musikmeister. This magazine had a clever marketing initiative: sold by subscription, Telemann did his own typesetting and each issue featured incomplete works where, to get the rest, one had to buy the next issue. He used the earnings to pay off his wife’s gambling debts.
Here is Aldo playing a Vivaldi concerto on sopranino recorder.
See you in December!
David Yang, Artistic Director
What is the difference between a modern and "historic" cello and why use one over another?