Further Listening – A Grand Tour of Italy

by Christopher Verrette, violin


The diverse roster of composers in A Grand Tour of Italy, guest directed by Rodolfo
Richter, affords a lot of opportunity for further listening and some interesting viewing, too. The music of Uccellini is certainly worthy of more attention. He wrote music for both solo and multiple violins, including this Sinfonia for three.

The revival of interest in Vivaldi‘s music is one of the great comeback stories in classical music, and research into his life, music and its manner of performance is ongoing. Here is a performance from Venice that attempts to recreate the all-female choir he would have written for at the Pieta. Yes, even the tenors and basses are women!

Here is another beautiful sonata from La Cetra by Legrenzi, performed by Quicksilver, of which our own Domenic Teresi is a member.

I had not played anything by Valentini prior to this week. Listen to his concerti grossi from Op. 7 performed by Ensemble 415 — and hear the musicians of the Tafelmusik Winter Institute perform the 7th Concerto at their concert on January 11!

Corelli was so revered in life that in death he lies in Rome’s Pantheon. He was commemorated in annual performances there for years, and in 2013, on the 300th anniversary of his passing, violinist Davide Monti led a flash mob performance of one of his concerti grossi outside the building.

As Castello appears to have been a wind player, it is interesting to hear his music performed on the cornetto, a kind of woodwind-brass hybrid instrument that was popular in Venice at that time. Listen to it here.

Bertali must have been an accomplished violinist as well as a leading composer of his time. This Ciaconna is perhaps his most popular work today.

Marini is particularly noted for his innovations as a violinist. This solo sonata is one of his most adventuresome.

Lully‘s Chaconne from Phaëton is one of relatively few pieces for which notated choreography survives from the Baroque period. Watch the reconstruction of what it may have looked like by Carlos Fittante and Voices of Music.

You can watch and listen to all of the music on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/tafelmusik1979 in the playlist titled Further Listening – A Grand Tour of Italy.


Further Listening – Close Encounters … of the Italian kind

by Lucas Harris, lute/guitar

If you enjoyed our concert program Close Encounters … of the Italian kind, featuring Patricia Ahern and Christopher on violin, Stefano Marcocchi on viola, Felix Deak on violoncello, and myself on lute and guitar, I encourage you to explore some of the following:

We played Antonio Vivaldi’s Ciaconna from Concerto in C Major, RV 114. But the Ciaccona was a bass line or harmonic pattern that nearly every baroque composer used somewhere! One of the most famous ones is Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna for two tenors and continuo. Check out the first recording I heard of this piece by the group Tragicomedia in its older formation from the early 1990s.

In fact, an even earlier style of this “ground bass” comes from Spain (and in fact maybe from the New World originally). Spanish musicians loved to set risqué texts about dancing the “chacona,” often rhyming the word with “vida bona” (the good life).  Once my wife (Tafelmusik violinist Geneviève Gilardeau) and I created a concert about the evolution of the ciaccona called “The Secret of the Good Life: The Ciaccona’s Dance to Fame.” (We also have a dog named Ciaccona.) Check out Juan Arañés Un Sarao de la Chacona here. Note that it was illegal to dance the chacona according to the Inquisition, but people did it anyway.

Emilia Giuliani was an illegitimate daughter of the more famous Mauro Giuliani, the most notable guitarist in Beethoven’s Vienna. Mauro tried to cash in on the huge popularity for Italian opera by writing virtuosic guitar pieces based on melodies from Rossini operas, calling them “Rossiniane.” Here’s Julian Bream playing one of them.

Emilia followed her father’s example and wrote several pieces in the same vein, but using material from operas by Bellini, calling them “Belliniane.” Here’s the Italian guitarist Federica Artuso playing one of them on a period guitar.

It’s well known that some of Luigi Boccherini’s music has the influence of Spanish music, as he lived and worked in Madrid. He wrote about a dozen quintets for strings and guitar, and we played three movements from #7 in E Minor. The most famous of these quintets is #4 in D Major, which ends with a fandango, another Spanish dance. Here is a recording by La Real Cámara in which performers take the liberty of using a separate percussionist in order to have the castanet sound in more of the work.

Boccherini’s score asks the cellist to drop out for a few bars to play the castanets at one point (presumably this was the part Boccherini himself played—the cello part is extremely virtuosic). This performance takes the liberty of using a separate percussionist in order to have the castanet sound in more of the work. It is also notable that this performance uses a six-course double strung Spanish guitar (there is some controversy over whether Boccherini intended the guitar parts for such an instrument or for a single-strung instrument which would have been more prevalent in France at this time).

Finally, we finished the concert with Francesco Geminiani’s orchestral reworking of Archangelo Corelli’s variations on La Follia for solo violin and continuo. Have a listen to Corelli’s original here in a recording that influenced me when I first starting to play early instruments.

The follia is yet another chord pattern for the Spanish guitar which the Italians and others took up as a common framework for virtuosic variations into the eighteenth century. But like the ciaccona, the follia has roots from much earlier. In the seventeenth century, Spanish instrumentalists improvised passagework (called “diferentias” or “glosas”) over repeating chord patterns. Fortunately for us today, they occasionally would publish some of this kind of passagework to give an example of how it was done. Have a listen to Andrew Lawrence King and The Harp Consort playing their arrangement of a follia for harp by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz.

You can watch and listen to all of the music on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/tafelmusik1979 in the playlist titled Further Listening – Close Encounters … of the Italian kind.

Further Listening – Let Us All Sing!

by Ivars Taurins, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director

If you enjoyed our concert program Let Us All Sing!, featuring Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, and Sherezade Panthaki, soprano, Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone, and Philippe Gagné, tenor, I encourage you to explore some of the following:

George Frideric Handel
The Laudate Pueri on our concert program is thought to have been part of a larger work composed by Handel while visiting Rome in 1707. It was a commission to compose music for a Vespers service in celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for an order of Carmelite nuns at their Church of Santa Maria di Monte Santo. One of the most striking pieces in Handel’s “Carmelite Vespers” is his DIxit Dominus, and within it the most exquisite and sensual movement, setting the words “de torrente in via bibet” – (He shall drink of the brook in the way), for two sopranos, male choir singing chant, and strings.

De torrente in via bibet” from Dixit Dominus (Elin Manahan Thomas & Grace Davidson, the Sixteen, dir. Harry Christophers). The whole of Dixit can be seen here in a live performance with John Eliot Gardiner directing the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.

Jean-Philippe Rameau
For me, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s music is the epitome of the French baroque movement in music, but is also a harbinger of the orchestral colours, textures, and harmonies which reappear generations later in the music of Debussy and Ravel, and brings to mind the works of the great French impressionist painters of over a century later.

If you track down Gardiner’s ground-breaking 2002 recording of Les Boréades, have a listen to “Que ces moments sont doux” from Act V, scene v: 1 minute, 10 seconds of overwhelming beauty and sensuality.

Listen to Entrée de Polymnie from the same opera…divine. And, if you want something which, at the beginning, sounds like something from another century
( hints of Stravinsky! ), try The Overture to Zaïs: specifically the first selection of the live concert at The Proms (0:00 – 4:54). You can also try this recording  of Les Musiciens du Louvre, directed by Marc Minkowski, with modern art!

Agostino Steffani
I admit that up until three years ago, Steffani’s music was unknown to me. It was due to the groundbreaking research and consummate artistry of Cecilia Bartoli that I discovered the amazing riches of this obscure Italian composer, working at court of Hannover, for the future King George I of England.

Here is Bartoli’s video project about Steffani, entitled “Mission,” and info from her website about the project. Here are a couple of examples of Steffani’s ravishing music for voice: “Morirò” from Henrico Leone and “T’abbraccio mia Diva” from Niobe, regina di Tebe.

You can watch and listen to all of these videos on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/tafelmusik1979 in the playlist titled Further Listening – Let Us All Sing!

Further Listening – The Eloquent Cello

by Tafelmusik violist Patrick Jordan

Patrick Jordan, viola. Image: Sian Richards
Patrick Jordan, viola. Image Credit: Sian Richards

If you enjoyed our concert program The Eloquent Cello, featuring and directed by Chistophe Coin, I encourage you to explore some of the following.

We played C.P.E. Bach’s Symphony for strings in B Minor, Wq.182/5. He also composed three cello concertos: check out Christophe Coin’s video of the Cello Concerto in A Major, Wq 172.

Another fun piece by C. P. E. Bach is the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepiano — it really shows that the two instruments lived and breathed the same air for a period of time!

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.

Boccherini also composed a vast amount of chamber music, and one of his most amusing works is a string quintet titled “Evening Music of the Streets of Madrid,” G.324, featuring, you guessed it, the cello!

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.

Finally, two works by the most widely published contemporary of tonight’s composers, Johann Baptist Vanhal. First, a movement of his Cello Concerto in C Major. Here’s one of his almost 80 symphonies, Symphony in E minor (Bryan e1).

You can watch and listen to all of these videos on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/tafelmusik1979 in the playlist titled Further Listening – The Eloquent Cello. We also included Capriccio no. 8 by Joseph Dall’Abaco in the playlist, a piece guest director Christophe Coin performed in one of his encores.