We played one of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s symphonies based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, “The Rescuing of Andromeda by Perseus.” There are three more, and here’s part of the one entitled “The Fall of Phaeton.”
And being a big Dittersdorf fan myself, I can’t help but share with you his perhaps most sublime 30 seconds of music, the opening of his String Quartet in D Major.
We also played Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in D Major, G.483. Boccherini was of course a famous cellist and immensely prolific composer, so the number of pieces he composed featuring the cello is huge. Here’s another of his concerti, the Cello Concerto in G major, G.480, with a very different feel, featuring guest director and soloist, Christophe Coin.
Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major might have been the most familiar work on our concert program. It was composed for Josef Weigl, the principal cellist when Haydn began leading the orchestra at Prince Esterhazy’s court. Weigl was also the cellist who premiered Haydn’s string quartets, op. 33, and here’s a movement from Haydn’s String Quartet in B Minor, op. 33, no. 1, featuring the Eybler Quartet, three of whom are members of Tafelmusik.
Perhaps even better known than the C major Concerto is Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major. It was composed for the next principal cellist in Haydn’s orchestra, Anton Kraft. In 1805, Kraft published his own Cello Concerto in C major, op. 4.
French cellist and guest director, Christophe Coin, makes his Tafelmusik debut with The Eloquent Cello. He took some time between rehearsals to chat with our Marketing Associate, Andrew Eusebio.
After studies with Nikolaus Harnoncourt in Vienna and Jordi Savall in Basel, Christophe Coin quickly established a solo career, and in 1987 formed le Quatuor Mosaïques, a renowned period-instrument quartet whose impressive discography includes works by Haydn, Mozart, Arriaga, Boccherini, Jadin, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. He teaches baroque cello and viola da gamba at his alma maters, the Conservatoire de Paris, and the Schola Cantorum in Basel.
Andrew Eusebio:In your opinion, what is it about the cello that audiences love?
Christophe Coin: I think the cello is maybe one of the most appreciated instruments probably because it is so similar to the human voice. It’s very lyrical and very expressive of all sorts of emotions. Sometimes the violin is a more virtuosic instrument, but it has a rather limited range at the bottom end, and people like to be moved by lower voices.
This fashion is quite new, I think. When I started cello, for example, the cello class in my hometown, in Caen, had few pupils. My teacher there was a fantastic cellist, a fantastic pedagogue, and a student of Pablo Casals. My mother didn’t want me to learn violin—she didn’t like violin—so we went to this man because there was room in the class, and I have never regretted it.
AE:Some of the pieces in the program have a rich history with Tafelmusik, while others have never been performed on our stage. How was the program selected, and what was your process in pairing them together?
CC: I made three propositions to Jeanne [Lamon]. My first proposition was to perform Haydn’s D-Major cello concerto and a concerto by Antonin Kraft, who was the principle cellist in Prince Nikolaus’s orchestra at Esterházy. I believe Hadyn’s D-Major was probably composed for Kraft. This is similar to Sergei Prokofiev or Dmitri Shostakovich composing a piece for cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: a composer working with an idiomatic specialist of the instrument. But, the Kraft concerto would have needed more wind instruments, and we wanted to limit the concert to two oboes and two horns. So I think Jeanne was very happy to do the Boccherini concerto. I suggested this one because I have never played it, so it’s a new opportunity for me—and it’s the only one with an original cadenza by Boccherini in the slow movement. It’s at least one cadenza I don’t have to write or think about!
AE:What is it like to direct an orchestra while playing the cello part, as you’re doing in the Dittersdorf and CPE Bach?
CC: Well, I did it a long time ago when we started a group in Paris called Mosaïques, which had a mixture of different people from different orchestras—people who wanted to learn this repertoire. This was almost 40 years ago, at that time, many people didn’t play Haydn symphonies. This orchestra disappeared and the principal people remained together as a quartet, Quatuor Mosaïques, which is still active after 30 years.
When we started as an orchestra, I was leading from the cello: we never had a conductor. So I’m used to that and I like it. I don’t like to move my arms much if I can avoid it. Sometimes it’s a problem with a group that’s not well connected, but with Tafelmusik, they know each other so well and they are used to playing without a conductor, so I think it’s not a problem. But, in fact, the cello is playing a bass line, a normal bass line.
AE:The Haydn cello concerto has a special connection to many people. What is your personal connection to this masterful piece and why?
CC: You know this piece has been rediscovered quite recently. Well, recently being the 1960s. Before, only the D-Major, which is a much larger concerto, was played. And since the C-Major appeared, the D-Major is not so often played, which is a pity. It’s another level of difficulty—and, the Finale, which is a sort of French tune, something 6/8, is less flashy than the finale of the C-Major. It’s sort of a “wet blanket” Finale. So, people nowadays play the C-Major more.
My special connection I would say is that I recorded it, actually before Anner Bylsma recorded it with Tafelmusik, and it was my first recording as a soloist, and my first recording on a historical instrument. That was with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. I was 23, and I had a cello made especially for that recording. That was my first experience playing and recording a concerto, so it’s quite important for me, this recording.
AE:That is a special connection. When was the last time you performed it?
CC: Maybe two to three years ago.
AE:Not so long ago, but I’m sure it’s great to play it again.
CC: Yes, it’s nice to play it again, especially with such a good orchestra!
AE:What do you believe to be the next great frontier for period ensembles in terms of repertoire?
CC: I don’t know. Nowadays, some orchestras on period instruments play Debussy and Ravel. With the quartet (Quatuor Mosaïques), we play Bartok’s first and second quartet on gut strings. I think that’s the limit. I mean, until the first World War, gut strings were used, quite generally, in all orchestras, and then it progressively changed. Between the two wars, I think people started to change strings—the violin for the E string because they broke most easily. Maybe the cellists were the last to change. Nowadays, it would be impossible to go to a modern orchestra with gut strings. I think there is no reason not to play twentieth-century repertoire on gut strings.
It’s a little more complicated for the winds, such as the oboe or clarinet, because the keyed instruments changed a lot during the nineteenthcentury and the evolution was complicated. It’s difficult to have twenty different instruments to play the repertoire that spans the nineteenth century. I have heard some Wagner and Mahler with period instruments already. I’m not sure it really brings something completely new. The most important thing for me is the concept you have behind a performance, not so much the instruments themselves.
Maybe it’s also interesting to have modern composers write pieces for period instruments. I know that Tafelmusik has commissioned new pieces. Of course, it’s not so interesting when a composer uses period instruments as a gimmick. But if you really try to understand the technique and the possibility of generating a new sound, I think it’s a challenge for the composer.
Join us for The Eloquent Cello, October 5-9 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.
Dittersdorf Symphony no. 4 in F Major after Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Carl Ditters is one of the few masters of the Viennese classical school who was actually born in Vienna. He was well educated in non-musical subjects and established a solid reputation early on through his violin playing and increasingly popular compositions. He enjoyed the friendship of Gluck and Haydn, and was highly regarded by the Austrian emperor, the Prussian king, and numerous nobles in between. Eventually Ditters himself was ennobled, and after 1773 was referred to as “von Dittersdorf.” His informative and frequently amusing autobiography, dictated on his deathbed, ends on a poignant note, as he reveals his compromised health and poverty (similar to the way Boccherini spent his final days, and so unlike the fame and wealth enjoyed by his friend Haydn). Dittersdorf left a large catalogue of works in all the genres of his day, including opera and oratorio, but his instrumental works are the most performed today, especially those for unusual instruments such as double bass and harp.
Dittersdorf writes that around 1780 “it occurred to me to take some of Ovid’s Metamorphoses as subjects for characteristic symphonies.” He wrote twelve of them, and performed them in Vienna as a self-produced event, hoping to raise a significant sum of money. One of his biggest subscribers was Baron van Swieten (also a patron of C.P.E. Bach: see below). Six Metamorphoses symphonies survive in their original form. The fourth is inspired by the myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda: after killing Medusa, and while flying over Africa, Perseus discovers the Ethiopian princess Andromeda, naked and chained to a rock. Her mother had unwisely boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, or sea nymphs. A furious Poseidon sent a sea monster to wreak havoc along the coastline, and the only way to appease him was to sacrifice Andromeda. Falling in love with her at sight, Perseus kills the monster, frees her from bondage, and subsequently marries her. The opening Adagio is in effect an extended aria for oboe which would not seem out of place in an opera or ballet. The Presto evokes an image of Perseus flying with winged sandals. The Larghetto, in the mournful key of F minor, might depict the suffering of Andromeda. The Finale begins in sturm und drang mode (Perseus defeating the monster), then leads to a graceful minuet signifying the celebration of his triumph and marriage.
Boccherini Cello concerto in D Major
In the history of cello playing, the unique contribution of Luigi Boccherini is universally acknowledged, yet he left no treatise, method, nor notable student. The legacy of his cello playing lies instead in his numerous sonatas and concertos, and in the concertante role—yielding nothing to the violin—that he gave the instrument in his voluminous output of chamber music. Of the thirteen or so known Boccherini cello concertos, only five were published during the composer’s lifetime. The last of these, the Concerto in D Major, G.483, was published in Vienna in 1784. Compared to earlier concertos, the Allegro maestoso demonstrates a richer, more varied orchestration. The opening tutti briefly quotes Gluck’s inferno music from Don Juan, a work Boccherini would have encountered, and likely performed, in Vienna. The Andante lentarello is unique in offering a fully written-out cadenza by the composer.
C.P.E. Bach Symphony for strings in B Minor
The Dutch diplomat and amateur musician Baron Gottfried van Swieten is remembered for his role in introducing the music of J.S. Bach to Mozart, as well as his contributions to Haydn’s Creation. While serving as ambassador in Berlin, he became enamoured with the symphonies of C.P.E. Bach, and commissioned a set of six symphonies for strings, which appeared in 1773. Bach’s writing is “outside the box” of the Viennese symphonic tradition, and his unique language is highly expressive, occasionally quirky, and always entertaining. His writing for the upper strings in the Symphony in B Minor is typically brilliant and powerful while not being specially idiomatic; unlike the other composers on this program, this Bach never mastered a string instrument!
Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major
In 1761, Joseph Haydn was appointed Vice-Capellmeister to the court of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. This was the beginning of a three-decades long relationship with the Esterházy dynasty. Although nominally ranked under the aging Capellmeister Gregor Werner, Haydn was put in charge of the orchestra from the start, directly engaged in hiring musicians to expand and improve the small resident orchestra, which it is thought he led from the second violin desk. His compositions from this early stage, such as concertos and symphonies with extended solos, demonstrate great confidence in the abilities of the individual musicians, and must have flattered and ingratiated his new colleagues. These included virtuosos such as concertmaster Luigi Tomasini and cellist Joseph Weigl. The latter was appointed just a few weeks after Haydn, and the two became close friends: Haydn stood as godfather to two of Weigl’s children. The cellist’s playing most certainly inspired Haydn’s Concerto in C Major. No record survives of a first performance of the work, but the first movement’s principal theme is recorded in Haydn’s Entwurf-Katalogue (sketch catalogue) from the time.
For 200 years, this sleeping beauty disappeared, until it was found in an anonymous manuscript in Prague in 1962, an event hailed by musicologist H.C. Robbins-Landon as “the greatest musicological discovery since the Second World War.” The entry in Haydn’s catalogue, plus the evident high quality of the work, made authentication swift, and the modern premiere took place in May of that year by Milos Sadlo in Prague. Since then its reputation has grown to one of the finest cello concertos of the eighteenth century, and indeed one of the best concertos for any instrument from this early classical period. Resting in amber, so to speak, throughout the nineteenth century, it avoided the mutilations and romanticized editing endured by Haydn’s later Concerto in D Major (as published by Gevaert) and Boccherini’s famous Concerto in B-flat Major (as published by Grützmacher).
A courtly atmosphere is established in the stately Moderato. The Adagio exploits the cello’s singing qualities, and Haydn uses a trick favored by Boccherini: the solo melody emerges from a quietly sustained note, making a sort of “secret entrance.” The Finale abounds in Haydn’s energetic humor and unrestrained virtuosity, making full use of advanced techniques, such as thumb-position, and exploiting the full range of the cello. The Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma once likened the tension in the solo cello’s opening note to a “cat watching a mouse hole.”
Every once in a while, there is a piece of music that has a specific connection to something in one’s life. That is the case for me and the Haydn C-Major Cello Concerto. Our younger daughter, Madeleine, went through a period of a few weeks shortly after she was born during which she would wake at 1:00 am in great distress. She wasn’t hungry or suffering from colic, nor did diapers need changing. She simply needed to cry. She’d had a difficult birth, and my theory was that she somehow needed to work that out, and this was her chosen hour. The rest of the day and night she was quite happy.
Unfortunately this period coincided with a Tafelmusik tour — I was at home with my newborn and her five-year-old sister, but my husband Ivars [Tafelmusik Choir Director Ivars Taurins, formerly violist in the orchestra] was in Germany with the orchestra. Needless to say, those 1:00 am wake-up calls quickly became as distressing for me as for my daughters. To the rescue came a guardian angel in the form of my mother, the girls’ much-loved Nana. A firm believer in the power of the rocking chair, she took over the middle-of-the-night shifts, firmly holding and rocking Madeleine. She determined that music might help, and I’m not sure why, but she turned to Tafelmusik’s recording of the Haydn cello concertos, with Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma.
Perhaps it was simply on top of the CD pile, as it had just been released some months before. Perhaps she was drawn to it because she had enjoyed the company and conversation of Anner on tours (mom had come along as nanny when our older daughter was a baby and toddler, and a couple of the European tours featured Anner as soloist). In any case, it worked. The C-Major Concerto is the first piece on the recording, and something about it calmed baby Madeleine, so we played it every night. I came to think of it as her midnight story, and at that tender age, what better than music to tell a tale, assuring her (and us) that all is well. Haydn is a masterful storyteller, as is Anner (both in life and in music) – and it all fit.
I haven’t heard the concerto since that time, now 25 years ago, and I’m looking forward to hearing Christophe Coin play it at our October concerts. Madeleine is living in New York City, otherwise I’d bring her along. Perhaps I’ll send her the recording. She would probably find it oddly soothing, and wouldn’t know quite why.
Christophe Coin performs Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto at The Eloquent Cello October 5-9 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.
Two of Bach’s official posts required him to compose and perform a great deal of instrumental music: that of Capellmeister to Prince Leopold of Cöthen (1717–1723), and that of Director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig (1729–1741). Unfortunately, much of the music Bach wrote for these posts is thought to have been lost. Many works, including the four orchestral suites, have survived only in the form of copies by Bach’s friends or colleagues. The last suite is the grandest of the four, scored for three oboes, bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, strings, and continuo. In its original version, probably written at Cöthen but no longer extant, it did not employ trumpets and timpani. Bach used the overture, with the addition of trumpets, timpani, and choir, as the opening chorus of Cantata 110, “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” written for a Christmas service in Leipzig in 1725. A few years later, he turned to the work again, creating the suite as we now know it, presumably for performance at the Collegium Musicum. For this version he retained the trumpet and timpani parts of the chorus, with slight alterations, and re-worked the original dance movements to include the brass.
Rameau Dances from Les Indes Galantes
Jean-Philippe Rameau astonished the Parisian public in 1733 when, at the age of 50, he presented his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie. André Campra, Lully’s successor at the Paris opera, said of the first performance, “My Lord, there is enough music in this opera to make ten of them; this man will eclipse us all.” For his second foray into stage music two years later, Rameau turned to the form made popular by Campra, the opéra-ballet. The convoluted plots of the grand mythological tragedies are replaced in the opéra-ballet by a loosely structured series of tableaux linked by a general theme. The thread that links the four acts of Rameau’s first opéra-ballet, Les Indes galantes, is the eighteenth-century notion of the exotic. Each act presents a tale of love and intrigue in a distant land, the Indies in this case represented by Turkey, Peru, Persia, and North America. The whole is preceded by a prologue extolling the universal power of love. The work was enormously popular, and between 1735 and 1773 it was performed no fewer than 320 times at the Royal Academy of Music in Paris.
In the complete opera there are some 90 minutes of instrumental music, of which we offer a very brief sampling. The opera ends in the forests of North America, with “les sauvages” dancing the ceremony of the Grand Calumet de la Paix (Peace Pipe), and all joining in a final Chaconne. To this we add a lively Tambourin danced by sailors from the Turkish entrée.
Handel Water Music
At about eight in the evening the King repaired to his barge. Next to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in number, who played on all kinds of instruments, to wit trumpets, horns, hautboys [oboes], bassoon, German flutes [transverse flutes], French flutes [recorders], violins, and basses; but there were no singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel, a native of Halle, and His Majesty’s principal court composer. His Majesty approved of it so greatly that he caused it to be played three times in all, although each performance lasted an hour — namely; twice before and once after supper. The [weather in the] evening was all that could be desired for the festivity, and the number of barges and above all of boats filled with people wanting to listen was beyond counting.
It was on the occasion of the royal river excursion of July 17, 1717, described above by the Brandenburg Resident in London, Friedrich Bonet, that Handel’s “Celebrated Water Music” was first performed. River parties were regular occurrences during the summer season in eighteenth-century London, and royal excursions were important social occasions. The 1717 event was apparently the grandest, and possibly the last, of King George I’s water parties. A contemporary newspaper account reported that there were so many boats, filled with “persons of quality,” that “the whole river in a manner was cover’d.” The barges floated up the river from Whitehall to Chelsea, riding the tide. The King and his party were served dinner at Chelsea at one o’clock in the morning, returning to St. James’s Palace at half-past four.
Handel’s reputation, both with the royal family and the more general public, was served well by his contribution to the “royal cruise.” Movements from the so-called Water Music appeared in various publications for several decades, and concert performances were very popular. Throughout the work the wind and brass instruments, so well suited for outdoor use, figure prominently. This week we are performing the entire Water Music, in an arrangement of movements as may have been used in eighteenth-century concert versions.
SNAPSHOT OF 1717: THE YEAR OF WATER MUSIC
MUSIC George I hosts a royal river party on the Thames on July 17, for which George Frideric Handel composes Water Music.
Johann Sebastian Bach is appointed Capellmeister to Prince Leopold in Cöthen.
Jean-Philippe Rameau(left) is organist at the cathedral in Clermont-Ferrand (1715–1722), and composes the grand motet “In convertendo Dominum” for ceremonies celebrating the installation of the new bishop of Clermont, Jean-Baptiste Massillon. (Hear Tafelmusik perform this motet Nov 2–6 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.)
ART & LITERATURE
Jean-Antoine Watteau paints Les plaisirs du bal(left).
François-Maire Arouet is imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months for having written a verse that satirized the Regent of France. He leaves prison with the completed text of his first play, and the pseudonym Voltaire.
The first English translation in 100 years of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is published by Samuel Garth, with translations by Dryden, Pope, Addison, Tate, Gay, Congreve, and others. It remains the standard English translation for some 200 years.
HISTORY The first known Druid revival ceremony is held on the Autumnal equinox at Primrose Hill in London.
Crews on ships commanded by Benjamin Hornigold and Edward Teach capture the British-built Concorde in the Carribean. Hornigold accepts a British amnesty for all pirates, but Teach rejects it and becomes knows as Blackbeard(left). He captures several ships and sails north to the North American coast.
With the (still-humid) September air, the words ‘Season Opener’ seem to be everywhere in Toronto’s cultural scene.
We’re adding an extra word – ‘Festive Season Opener,’ because there’s no better description for Handel’s perennial favourite, Water Music. This classic was so popular at the time of its original performance, it was reportedly requested by King George that the musicians play it three times – all in the same night!
It would have truly been a sight to see all the musicians on a royal barge, partying on the River Thames in 1717. Fortunately, the Academy of Ancient Music recreated just such an event, as part of Her Majesty The Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012. Take a look in the video below!
Next time, we’re going to need to do this along Toronto’s waterfront on Lake Ontario. What do you think?
At Tafelmusik, we not only strive for excellence onstage but also off. Managing Director, William Norris, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing and Sales, Rejean Tremblay, and Bobblehead Bach had the opportunity to attend the 2016 AMA conference (Arts Marketing Association) in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Our Tafelmusik delegates, along with over 650 arts, culture and heritage professionals (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, National Dance Company Wales), were delighted to be part of a series of presentations and discussions focusing on how arts organizations can stay relevant to their audiences in 2016.
Tafelmusik is committed to maintaining a deep and meaningful connection with our amazing audiences. In our quest to stay relevant locally and internationally, we are in constant discussion about how to reach new audiences in order to keep with the rapidly changing times. In this process of “staying relevant”, we are, of course, also committed to offering the unique and compelling experience that has always been at the core of what we do.
As we process all that we learned from the conference, we wanted to share a few photos of the great sights our delegates got to see during their stay in Edinburgh!