Behind the Musik: Vivaldi con amore

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PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

The most popular composer for the violin, as well as player on that instrument, during these times, was Don Antonio Vivaldi . . . if acute and rapid tones are evils, Vivaldi has much of the sin to answer for.

— Charles Burney, A General History of Music (1789)

The famous Vivaldi, whom they call the Prete Rosso [the Red-Haired Priest], very well known for his concertos, was a topping man among them at Venice.

 — Mr. Wright, in his Travels through Italy (1720–22)

Such contemporary accounts show us that the appeal of Vivaldi’s music in his own time was comparable with its great popularity today. Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, and received his early education from his father, a violinist employed at St. Mark’s. In 1703 Antonio was ordained a priest, and in 1704 was appointed as a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà. A few years later he was also named maestro de’ concerti and took over direction of the Pietà orchestra.

The Pietà, founded in 1346, was one of four Venetian institutions for children who had been orphaned, or whose parents were unable to care for them. At some point during the history of the Pietà, its charges became exclusively female. Musical education became an important part of the curriculum, and by the end of the seventeenth century, the Pietà had virtually become a sort of conservatory of music, its concerts enjoying enormous prestige and popularity.

Vivaldi was to remain an employee of the Pietà until his death in 1741, and during his tenure supplied the orchestra with a wealth of instrumental concertos, several hundred in all. Many of the concertos were published by Roger in Amsterdam for circulation throughout Europe; others were circulated in manuscript form by travelling musicians. As his fame spread, Vivaldi started to receive commissions for works from abroad: he wrote many works for the brilliant court orchestra at Dresden, and had close ties with musicians in Vienna. Equally renowned as an opera composer, his many opera sinfonias complete his orchestral output.

The constant demand for concertos inspired Vivaldi to turn to instruments not usually given solo roles in the orchestra. Included in his worklist are, for example, no fewer than 40 concertos for bassoon, and several for one or two oboes. For his own instrument, the violin, he wrote over 250 solo concertos, and numerous concertos for two, three, and four violins. Occasionally Vivaldi added descriptive titles, such as the violin concertos “L’amoroso” and “Amato bene,” which inspired our own title of this week’s concerts. The form and spirit of Vivaldi’s concertos were to provide the model for the late baroque instrumental concerto both in Italy and abroad, and to delight listeners far and wide.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio

October 10–14, 2018
Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

October 16, 2018
George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

 Antonio Vivaldi
1678–1741

Sinfonia to Ottone in villa, RV 729
Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro

Concerto for violin in C Minor, RV 761 “Amato bene”
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Elisa Citterio violin

Concerto for bassoon in D Minor, RV 481
Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro molto
Dominic Teresi bassoon

Concerto for 2 oboes in C Major, RV 534
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
John Abberger & Marco Cera oboes

INTERMISSION

Concerto for violin in E Major, RV 271 “L’amoroso”
Allegro – Cantabile – Allegro
Elisa Citterio violin

Concerto for lute in D Major, RV 93
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Lucas Harris lute

Concerto for 4 violins in B-flat Major, RV 553
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Elisa Citterio, Cristina Zacharias, Patricia Ahern & Geneviève Gilardeau violins

Concerto for 2 oboes & 2 violins in D Major, RV 564a
Allegro – Adagio non molto – Allegro
John Abberger &  Marco Cera oboes
Elisa Citterio & Julia Wedman violins


Elisa and the orchestra will be heading to Humbercrest United Church later this month to record the music from this week’s concerts. The resulting CD, Vivaldi con amore, will be our first with Elisa as Music Director. Stay tuned for news of its release later this season.

If you would like to sponsor a concerto, or learn more about how you can support this recording project, please contact Ania Kordiuk at (416) 964-9562 x 223 or akordiuk@tafelmusik.org.

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Behind the Musik: Mozart 40

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PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

Mozart 40

Salzburg 1774/75

Mozart’s childhood travels had left him with a hunger for making his mark in more cosmopolitan circles than offered in his native city of Salzburg. His father’s ambitions for him played no small part in this. We therefore tend to associate his time in Salzburg with a general discontentment, but some of this association is arguably misplaced. He formally entered the employment of the Archbishop of Salzburg, Count Colloredo, in 1773, at the age of seventeen. He was appointed Konzertmeister, and the post allowed him time and space to hone his craft as a composer. The next few years saw an outpouring of compositions, including a range of chamber and orchestral works. His first “mature” symphonies date from this time (including the first of the two G-Minor symphonies, no. 25, which we will be performing later this season [The Hunt: Mozart and Haydn, April 25–30, 2019]). His very first piano concertos appeared, as did his first concerto for a wind instrument, the delightful Concerto for bassoon in B-flat Major, presumed to have been written for one of the bassoonists at the Salzburg court. Many have noted that the young Mozart perfectly captured the instrument’s inherent qualities, an early example of his tremendous skill at writing for winds as witnessed in his later symphonies and operas.

All five of Mozart’s violin concertos were written in Salzburg in a six-month period in 1775. He undoubtedly would have performed them himself (he was an accomplished violinist, and leader of the orchestra), though in what context is not known: possibly at church, possibly at informal public events. In the concertos he eschews the pyrotechnics championed by many violinists at the time in favour of a more natural, elegant, and often witty style. After hearing a performance of a violin concerto by Ignaz Fränz, Mozart wrote to his father, “I like his playing very much. You  know I am no great lover of difficulties. He plays difficult things, but his listeners are not aware that they are difficult; they think that they could at once do the same themselves. That is real playing.”

The cadenzas performed by Elisa Citterio in this program have been written by her brother, the composer Carlo Citterio.

We precede the concerto performances with a short Symphony written at the same time. The first two movements formed the Overture to the Italian comic opera La finta giardiniera, commissioned for the Munich Opera and premiered in January 1775. Shortly after returning to Salzburg, Mozart added a Finale to create a stand-alone work, and it is a spirited little piece, befitting the comedy of disguise and mistaken identity which inspired it.

Vienna 1788

By the end of the 1770s, Mozart’s need to expand his horizons beyond Salzburg reached the breaking point. He found his opportunity in 1781, when Archbishop Colloredo included Mozart in his retinue while in residence in Vienna for celebrations of the accession of Emperor Joseph II. Mozart was increasingly resentful of his position as a servant (considered lower in station than the valets, though above the cooks!), and also increasingly enthusiastic about the prospect of earning his own living in Vienna. When his request to be released from service was refused, his behavior was such that in a few short weeks he was summarily dismissed. Count Arco, the Archbishop’s steward, was given the task of sending him packing, and admonished Mozart: “here [in Vienna] a man’s success is of short duration — at the outset one reaps all possible praises and earns a great deal of money as well. That is true, but for how long? — after a few months the Viennese want something new again.”

If Mozart’s fortunes looked bright during his first years in Vienna, they indeed soon turned. By 1788 Mozart was in  serious debt, as attested by a series of heartrending letters to his fellow Mason, Michael Puchberg, pleading for money. In all, Puchberg lent Mozart 1,415 gulden, a significant sum. His wife Constanze’s health was suffering from the strain of repeated pregnancies, and on June 29 the Mozarts’ fourth child, Theresia, died at the age of six months.

Three days earlier Mozart had completed Symphony no. 39 in E-Flat Major. Symphony no. 40 in G Minor followed four weeks later, and Symphony no. 41 in C Major two weeks after that. They were to be his last three symphonies, and were apparently composed neither on commission, nor with any concrete plans for performance.  It is possible that Mozart directed performances of the works during his travels to Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin, undertaken in search of renewed fame and fortune outside the confines of fickle Vienna.

The three symphonies are remarkable works, widely contrasting, and together a comprehensive summary of the classical symphony. Of the three, the one that has drawn the most attention is the arresting Symphony no. 40. In 1793, two years after Mozart’s death, it was advertised by the Viennese music dealer Johann Traeg as “one of the last and most beautiful of this master.” The work was widely known and performed, and was very influential. The Mozart scholar Neal Zaslaw suggests that its essence can be heard again in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Bruckner symphonies. The slow movement is quoted by Haydn in his oratorio The Seasons. The quotation appears in the aria where winter is compared to old age, following the words “exhausted is the summer’s strength” — Haydn’s gesture a commemoration of the loss of his younger colleague as well as a reflection of the approaching end of his own career. Schubert made a copy of the Minuet and used it as a model for the G-Minor Minuet of his Fifth Symphony.

Early nineteenth-century critics already described the symphony as “romantic,” and although it is a near-perfect exemplar of the classical style, it is also a deeply personal, original, and intense work. Much has been written about its significance as a link between musical classicism and romanticism. Zaslaw describes it as “perhaps even a mournful hint at what Mozart might have composed had he lived a normal lifespan.”

“One must hear Mozart’s deep, artful, and emotion-filled Symphony in G Minor [no. 40] several times to be able to completely understand and enjoy it.”

– Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1804

Tafelmusik first performed Symphony 40 in 2001 at the Klang und Raum Festival in Irsee, Germany, conducted by Bruno Weil, and again on tours of the US and Europe the following season. This season marks our third performances of the symphony here in Toronto.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio

Sept 20–23, 2018
Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1756–1791

Overture to La finta gardiniera, K.196 + 207a (1774/75)
Allegro molto
Andantino grazioso
Allegro

Concerto for violin in D Major, K.218 (1775)
Allegro
Andante cantabile
Rondeau: Andante grazioso – Allegro ma non troppo
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist

INTERMISSION

Concerto for bassoon in B-flat Major, K.191 (1774)
Allegro
Andante ma adagio
Rondo: Tempo di Menuetto
Dominic Teresi, bassoon soloist

Symphony no. 40 in G Minor, K.550 (1788)
Molto allegro
Andante
Menuetto & Trio
Allegro assai

Behind the Musik: Beethoven Pastoral Symphony

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PROGRAM NOTES
By Allen Whear, violoncello

VIOLIN CONCERTO

The year 1806 was particularly fruitful for Beethoven, when numerous masterpieces including the Fourth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto, “Rasumovsky” Quartets, and two of the Leonore overtures, were completed. Having already transformed and expanded the symphony, piano concerto, and string quartet, Beethoven finally turned his attention to the violin concerto. Although he had himself played violin and viola in Bonn, and written extensively for them in chamber music, so far he had produced only an unfinished sketch for a violin concerto in C major and the two Romances with orchestra. The occasion for the new work was a benefit concert to be given on December 23 at the Theater an der Wien by and for Franz Clement (1780–1842), a Viennese violinist and leader with whom Beethoven had been friendly for a number of years. Beethoven’s new concerto was completed only two days before the premiere, so Clement must have had formidable sight-reading abilities. Works by many other composers also appeared on the program, and between movements of the concerto Clement treated the audience to a work of his own, played on one string with the violin upside down. You will not hear such fare tonight; authenticity has its limits!

New trends in violin technique and execution were sweeping Europe, particularly from France, where Tourte developed a more powerful bow and players such as Viotti and Kreutzer espoused a robust style. Beethoven was aware of these developments, and his “Kreutzer” Sonata three years earlier embraced this dramatic approach, and even carried the subtitle “in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto.” But Clement was not of this avant-garde school of playing. He used the older style bow, and was noted above all for his sweet, singing sound and his flawless command of the upper registers. These lyrical qualities are perhaps what most influenced Beethoven’s violin writing in the concerto.

Standard practice in Beethoven’s time was for performers to improvise or write their own cadenzas. He did not leave one for his Violin Concerto—except for an example found in the piano transcription, involving, oddly enough, timpani—and over the years the most commonly performed cadenzas, written by the likes of Kreisler and Joachim, have become so familiar that many do not realize that they are not part of the original work. In keeping with original practice, Elisa Citterio is providing her own cadenzas.

Four simple timpani strokes launch the concerto, in classical sonata form and on a symphonic scale. Typically of Beethoven’s middle period works, a large pattern is needed to honour and elaborate upon formal traditions while featuring a soloist as well as an orchestra. Indeed, the length of the first movement is unprecedented, roughly equivalent to an entire Mozart concerto. When struck on a dissonant D-sharp by the violins, the four-note motive asserts itself not just as an introduction to the principal theme, but as a key structural element and harmonically transforming device throughout the movement. Although the violin part demands great virtuosity, the overall effect is serenity and lyricism, rather than display.

Strings are muted for the Larghetto, which unfolds like a loosely designed set of variations. As the orchestra patiently reiterates the theme in an array of instrumental colours, the violin hovers and weaves an intricate fantasy above. An abrupt orchestral fanfare followed by a brief cadenza ushers in the finale. The Rondo is based on a jaunty hunting theme that may have come from Clement, in the 6/8 meter favoured by Mozart. Beethoven avoids the danger of repetitiveness by infusing an element of sonata development and a variety of violinistic effects. At the keystone of the rondo form is an interlude in G minor where the violin and bassoon engage in a singing dialogue. In Beethoven’s time, virtuoso violinists most often preferred their own compositions, and his Violin Concerto only received sporadic performances for several decades. It was an acclaimed performance by 13-year old Joseph Joachim with Felix Mendelssohn conducting in London in 1844 that cemented the work’s reputation, and it has maintained its iconic place in the repertoire to this day.

SYMPHONY NO. 6

In the same venue almost exactly two years later, Beethoven presented his own benefit concert, or Akademie, on December 22, 1808, unveiling the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, as well as other works. These sibling symphonies, although written concurrently, show two distinct sides of Beethoven’s character. Before hearing the opening of the Sixth Symphony, remember the dramatic and arresting start to the Fifth: its terse, four-note motto developed throughout the movement, and the work’s symbolic struggle with destiny culminating in glorious victory. Consider the “Pastoral” Symphony the antidote to the drama of the Fifth, and savour the symphony’s opening, the composer’s expression of his love of nature: “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside.” With soft dynamics, droning fifths in the bass, and simple harmonies, Beethoven invites us to relax from the outset, as if taking us by the hand and sharing his delight. The bucolic atmosphere is further enhanced by the use of constantly repeating melodic and rhythmic patterns instead of motivic development—without ever feeling monotonous—while fulfilling the architectural requirements of sonata form. Beethoven’s avowed intention was “more an expression of feeling than painting,” to distinguish this from program music conjuring specific images and events.

The end of the second movement in Beethoven’s manuscript score of Symphony no. 6, in which he labelled the flute as “Nachtigall” (nightingale), the oboe as “Wachtel” (quail), and the clarinet as “Kuckuck” (cuckoo). The score is in the Beethoven-Haus Bonn (BH64), and can be viewed on their website.

Beethoven’s earliest sketches for the Sixth Symphony included a fragment entitled “Murmuring of the brooks,” depicting flowing water. The muted strings, in lazy triplets, create a foundation of flowing, meandering water while broad melodies unfold in an unhurried manner. Although birdcalls have been implied throughout the movement, there is, near the end, a kind of cadenza where Beethoven specifically imitates the nightingale (flute), the quail (oboe), and the cuckoo (clarinet), all perfectly integrated into the structure. It’s as if Beethoven, despite claiming not to be interested in “painting,” wants to show—perhaps with tongue in cheek—how perfectly he could do it on a whim.

The Scherzo (“Merry gathering of country folk”) is a rustic dance complete with a village band in the trio section. Beethoven seems to poke fun at amateur country musicians: the merry oboe is elbowed out by the clarinet, while the bassoon struggles to play its three bass notes in the right place. Once the horn joins in, all tumble into a heavy contradance, growing ever louder until a trumpet restores order. The whole sequence is repeated until the coda, when ominous rumblings in the bass interrupt the revelry. A storm approaches …

“Storm. Tempest” introduces a raindrop motive in the violins, as the trembling below grows louder and rises chromatically towards F minor. Then full orchestral violence breaks out, augmented by piccolo, trombones, and timpani. Beethoven builds on a longstanding tradition of storm music; he surely found a model in Haydn’s Seasons. The reliable patterns of nature in previous movements are disrupted here with sudden dynamics and the most dissonant harmonies of the symphony. Gradually the storm subsides, as a miraculous musical rainbow emerges from the oboe, a broad tune derived from the initial raindrop motive. The bagpipe drones return, and Alpine yodelling paves the way for “Shepherds’ song: Happy and grateful feelings after the storm.” The leisurely pace of the earlier movements is restored in this serene rondo, until the coda, where the principal theme builds to what the Beethoven scholar Donald Francis Tovey describes as “a grand solemn tutti, glorious as the fields refreshed by the rain.” A muted horn recalls the alpine melody as the movement comes to a gentle close, and we reluctantly return to our urban reality.

© Allen Whear

Beethoven writing to his friend Therese Malfatti in 1810 about his forthcoming holiday in the country:

“I look forward to it with childish excitement. How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.”


PROGRAM LISTING

Bruno Weil guest conductor
Elisa Citterio violin soloist
Jeanne Lamon concertmaster

May 3–6, 2018, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

Concerto for violin in D Major, op. 61 (1806)
Allegro ma non troppo
Larghetto
Rondo: Allegro

INTERMISSION

Symphony no. 6 in F Major, op. 68, “Pastoral” (1808)
Allegro ma non troppo
Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande
(Awakening of joyous feelings upon arrival in the countryside)
Andante molto moto
Szene am Bach (Scene by the brook)
Allegro
Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Merry gathering of country folk)
Allegro
Gewitter. Sturm (Storm. Tempest)
Allegretto
Hitengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm
(Shepherd’s song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm)

 

Behind the Musik: Bach B-Minor Mass

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PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

In the last years of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach set about composing and compiling a series of works that would represent a summation of his life’s work. The works were written, not for specific occasions, but rather as a testimonial to his achievements, and include The Musical Offering, The Art of the Fugue, The Goldberg Variations, and the eighteen chorale preludes. The last to be composed was the Mass in B Minor. Much has been written as to why Bach, a devout Lutheran, would have chosen a setting of the Roman Catholic Ordinary as a testament to his choral work. A plausible explanation is that Bach wished to leave to posterity a great Latin mass, a centuries-old symbol of Western culture, and a musical form that had challenged generations of composers. The tradition and the architecture of the Roman mass gave him the opportunity to write a complex, highly structured work, with a formality and on a scale not permitted by the Lutheran cantatas and Passions. Like those of the other great cyclical works mentioned above, the score of the Mass in B Minor can be seen almost as a “text book.” It was, in fact, never performed in its entirety in Bach’s lifetime. Bach’s score was inherited by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who performed the Symbolum Nicenum at a charity concert in Hamburg in 1786. Forkel and Haydn had copies, and Beethoven made two unsuccessful attempts to procure a score. The Berlin Singakademie apparently rehearsed the work in the second decade of the nineteenth century, but the first performance of the complete work, translated into German and “modernized,” took place in Leipzig in 1859, more than a century after it was written.

One of the most astonishing features of this work is that, despite its elaborate symmetry and complexity, it is largely a compilation of works written much earlier. The first section to be composed was the Sanctus, first performed in 1724 as part of the Lutheran Christmas service. Manuscript parts of the Kyrie and the Gloria accompanied Bach’s petition in 1733 for a court title to the new Elector of Saxony in Dresden. Two new sections, the Credo and the movements from the Osanna to the end, contain large-scale reworkings of earlier works, including movements from several of Bach’s German cantatas. Only a few choruses were newly composed. It does not seem, however, that early models were chosen in order to facilitate or hasten the compositional process, a practice that was common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as composers struggled to meet deadlines. Bach’s reworkings were extensive and detailed: even details of text accentuation and resulting changes in articulation have been fully considered. It seems rather that Bach’s use of early material was carefully planned, so that this “text book” score could preserve a vast range of styles and genres. It is a remarkable demonstration of Bach’s great skill at reworking and restructuring existing works. It was also a testament to the tradition of the parody mass: parody is the term used to describe the extensive reuse of existing material, and this technique was widely used in mass composition during the renaissance. Parody masses form a large proportion of the masses of such composers as Gombert, Victoria, Lassus, and Palestrina. Bach’s use of the renaissance stile antico in several movements of the mass is a further nod to the long tradition of mass composition, here ingeniously coupled with movements written in high baroque style, and others in a “modern,” galant musical language.

Bach’s manuscript score of the Credo, described by Nägeli as “truly the most amazing piece of music in existence […] the awakening of the powers of faith through the wondrous force of music.”
Bach’s manuscript score of the Credo, described by Nägeli as “truly the most amazing piece of music in existence […] the awakening of the powers of faith through the wondrous force of music.”
From this diverse material Bach created a coherent and balanced work, each of the four main parts presented in a symmetrical design complete unto itself, and yet all parts intricately interconnected. This complex work, which both challenges and satisfies on countless levels, is perhaps the ultimate expression of Bach’s belief that “the aim or final goal of all music shall be nothing but the honour of God and the recreation of the Soul.”

The autograph manuscript score of the Mass in B Minor is in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Mus. Ms. Bach P180), and can be viewed on their website. After Bach’s death, the score was inherited by his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and then by CPE’s daughter, Anna Carolina. Hans Georg Nägeli, a composer and music publisher in Zurich, acquired the score from her estate in 1805, and in 1818 announced his plans to publish the score and sell it by subscription:

ANNOUNCEMENT
of the Greatest Work of Art of All Times and Nations
The incomparably great Johann Sebastian Bach has now, in our own time, been accorded a degree of recognition that makes it possible to proceed toward the publication of the work that, in content and length alone, but above all in grandeur, style, and wealth of invention, surpasses his works hitherto printed, to the same extent that these, without considering the vicissitudes of taste and the contingency of art forms, surpass those by all other composers. This is a Mass in five voices with full orchestra.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Ivars Taurins

April 5–8, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
April 10, 2018, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Mass in B Minor

Dorothee Mields soprano
Laura Pudwell mezzo-soprano
Charles Daniels tenor
Tyler Duncan baritone

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

There will be a 20-minute intermission between the Missa and the Symbolum Nicenum.

Behind the Musik: J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation

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PROGRAM NOTES
By Alison Mackay

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra standing in from of the Bach statue outside St. Thomas’s Church at the Bach Festival in Leipzig in 2014.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra standing in from of the Bach statue outside St. Thomas’s Church at the Bach Festival in Leipzig in 2014.

J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation is a celebration of the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, with an emphasis on the instrumental music which he created for his family, his students, and his colleagues. Using words and images, the performance also honours the artisans and tradespeople whose labor and expertise made the performances of Bach’s music possible, both in his own time and in the 21st century.

The project was born in June of 2014, when the members of Tafelmusik were invited to live in the city of Leipzig for two weeks as orchestra-in-residence at the city’s famous annual Bach Festival. Immersed in the atmosphere of the composer’s hometown, we were able to explore the craft of Bach’s own artisans under the guidance of our generous partners and advisors at the Bach Museum, who have provided many of the images for the project.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing The Circle of Creation with a portrait of Bach on a screen.
Photo by Glenn Davidson

Since that time, the orchestra has taken the concert across Canada and the US, and to South Korea and China. Over years of this kind of touring, there is tremendous artistic growth in the performers’ understanding of the music and in a deepening rapport amongst themselves and with the actor on stage. Before we embark on a seven-city tour of Australia this May, we wanted to share with our Toronto audience the version which concertgoers on the other side of the world will experience.

The concert begins and ends with poetry about the honorary patrons of Bach’s city of Leipzig — the Roman god of music, Apollo, and his brother Mercury, who made a glorious musical instrument from the shell of a tortoise and seven strings of sheep gut.

Image of the hands of oboe maker Harry vas Dias, projected behind Tafelmusik oboists John Abberger & Marco Cera.
Image of the hands of oboe maker Harry vas Dias, projected behind Tafelmusik oboists John Abberger & Marco Cera. Photo by Glenn Davidson

Two millennia later, the instrument makers of the eighteenth century still used materials from the natural world — bird feathers for the quills that pluck harpsichord strings, maple and spruce for the bodies of stringed instruments, and boxwood for oboes. Sheep intestines were still used to create strings for Bach’s instruments, and brass strings were made by hand for his harpsichords.

Centuries-old methods are still used today for the making of historical strings for period instruments. Because the guild members of early modern Europe were obliged to guard their trade secrets, modern makers have had to be detectives, using forensic evidence from scraps of old strings and sources such as Diderot’s eighteenth-century encyclopedia to determine the materials and techniques that would have been used for Bach’s instruments.

The images seen in this concert portray artisans from Bach’s time as well as modern instrument builders who use historical techniques to create instruments for the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Film footage and still photographs created specially for this performance feature Toronto builder and restorer Quentin Playfair, who made a cello inspired by an instrument from the Stradivarius workshop in 1726; English harpsichord and string maker Malcolm Rose; American oboe maker Harry vas Dias; German bassoon maker Peter Wolf; Toronto bow maker Stephen Marvin; and the artisans of the Aquila String factory in Italy.

Much of the music on the program is typical of the works which would have been performed at Zimmerman’s Coffeehouse in the center of Leipzig. In 1695, the merchants’ guild of Leipzig had petitioned the town council for “street lanterns that would, as in Vienna and Berlin, burn all night to prevent incessant nocturnal crime.” On Christmas Eve of 1701, 700 oil-fuelled streetlights were installed in the city, making it safe for the first time for all citizens to walk freely at night, transforming coffeehouses into venues for recreation and music.

Bach directed an ensemble which performed on Friday nights at the cafe for which the owner, Gottfried Zimmerman, acquired a set of musical instruments. The orchestral suites BWV 1066 and 1068, the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Trio Sonata BWV 1039, the Goldberg Variations, and the shorter solos for harpsichord, violin, or cello are typical of music which Bach would have performed with members of his family, university students, and amateur players of the ensemble known as the Collegium Musicum. Professional players from the Leipzig town band also participated in these performances.

These municipal musicians had responsibilities for outdoor performances from balconies at City Hall or one of the church steeples in town. Gloria laus et honour and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme are well-known hymn tunes which would have been played instrumentally by these performers. They were given salaries, clothing, music, instruments, and housing for themselves and their families in the Stadtpfeiffer Gässchen (City Pipers’ Lane), which was also the traditional street for the city’s midwives.

Blair Williams and the orchestra at the end of a tour performance, in front of the image of the canon held by Bach in the Haussmann portrait.
Blair Williams and the orchestra at the end of a tour performance, in front of the image of the canon held by
Bach in the Haussmann portrait.

In 1746, the Dresden official court painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann painted a portrait of the 61-year-old Bach holding, as was customary, an emblem of his art. Rather than being pictured with a keyboard, the famous virtuoso chose instead to hold a small piece of paper with three short lines of music — the first eight notes of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations with a six-part canon written in code. It was a powerful symbol of Bach’s roles as composer, performer, and teacher. Like the instrument makers who made his violins and harpsichords, Bach regarded himself as a craftsman who had inherited much from the guild musicians who were his forebears.

The concert ends with a reflection on human hands and the thousands of hours it takes to master the use of a violin bow or a chisel. In the long hours of labour, musicians, and artisans are sustained by the beauty of materials, the artistry of their tools, the guidance of inspiring mentors, and the exhilaration of exploring

Quentin Playfair carving the scroll of a cello.
Quentin Playfair carving the scroll of a cello.

the art of a great genius. We share with our audiences around the world an abiding love for the music of J.S. Bach, and it is a privilege to be able to perform it in celebration of his art and in recognition of the artisans, scholars, tradespeople, and music lovers who have made our own performing lives possible.

To see a complete list of the images projected during the concert, please visit: tafelmusik.org/CircleofCreationImages

Special thanks to:

The Banff Centre for its generous support of film editing for the project.  Film editor Jane MacRae and Alison Mackay were able to work at Banff as recipients of Paul D. Fleck fellowships.

Ivars Taurins for his beautiful rendering in calligraphy of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations.

 Quentin Playfair and Sue Dickin for the creation and photography of a new cello commissioned by cellist Sandra Bohn.

Jean-Marc St. Pierre of maj productions in Montreal for permission to use his footage of the Aquila factory.  We also warmly thank Paul Lewis, and Elizabeth Brown of the Discovery Channel, and Tafelmusik Board of Directors member Trina McQueen for facilitating our use of this footage.

Timothy Barrett, Director of the Iowa Centre of the Book, and filmmaker Avi Michael, creator of the film Chancery Papermaking, for the footage of paper being made as in the time of Bach.

Dr. Daniel Geiger, Microscopist and Curator of Malacology at the Museum of Natural History, Santa Monica, California for his stunning magnified images of materials from Bach’s world.

For technical information about the capturing of these images, please visit tafelmusik.org/CircleofCreationImages

The Bach Museum, Leipzig for facilitating photography at the museum and permission to use images from the collection.

Production designer Glenn Davidson for creating the photo sequences of hands and Saxon sheep.


PROGRAM LISTING

Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Directed by Elisa Citterio
Blair Williams Narrator
Marshall Pynkoski Stage Director
Glenn Davidson Production Designer
Raha Javanfar Projections Designer
Jane Macrae Film Editor

March 14–18, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Sinfonia to Cantata 249a

Sonata for 3 violins in C Major, after BWV 1005: I. Adagio

Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Ouverture

Chorale tune “Gloria laus et honor”

Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Bourrée & Forlane

Sinfonia in G Minor, BWV 797, for solo harpsichord

Prelude in C Major, BWV 933, for solo harpsichord

Suite no. 3 for violoncello in C Major, BWV 1009: Sarabande

Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: I. Allegro

Adagio, after Cantata 202/1: “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” (Depart, melancholy shadows)

Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: II. Allegro

INTERMISSION

Andante, after Cantata 208/9: “Schafe können sicher weiden” (Sheep may safely graze)

Partita for violin in D Minor, BWV 1004: Allemande

Tish Nign (18th-century Klezmer tune)

Cantata 140: Chorale “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (Awake, calls the voice to us)

Orchestral suite no. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: Gavotte

Sonata for 2 violins and continuo in G Major, BWV 1039: Adagio & Allegro ma non presto

Canons on the first 8 notes of Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087
Simplex – Duplex a 4 – Duplex a 5

Excerpts from Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
      Air – Variation #18: Canone alla sexta – Variation #22: Alla breve

Canon triplex on the first 8 notes of Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087/13

Adagio, after Cantata 42/3: “Wo zwei und drei versammlet sind”

(Where two and three are gathered together)

Sinfonia, after Cantata 11/1: “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen”
(Praise the Lord in his riches)

Movements from Cantatas 249a, 202, 208, 42, & 11, and Goldberg Variations #18 & 22 transcribed & arranged by Alison Mackay. Sonata BWV 1005 arranged by Christopher Verrette.

Behind the Musik: Handel Alexander’s Feast

Download the Program Notes and Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

Performances of odes on November 22, the feast day of the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia, were a regular feature of the concert season in London at the end of the seventeenth century. John Dryden’s ode, Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Musick, was written for the occasion in 1697, set to music (now lost) by Jeremiah Clarke. From 1700 the tradition died out, but composers continued to write settings of St. Cecilia odes as concert works. Handel composed two such odes, the first being Alexander’s Feast in 1736. (The second, From Harmony, from heavenly Harmony, followed three years later). The premiere of Alexander’s Feast took place at Covent Garden on February 19, a few short weeks after Handel completed the score. Dryden’s text was adapted by Handel’s friend, the Irish playwright Newburgh Hamilton, who “took care not to take any unwarrantable liberties” with Dryden’s original.

The audience at the premiere numbered 1,300, and it was so well received than an additional eight performances were given. Handel remounted it again the following season:

Last Night Mr. Dryden’s Ode, call’d Alexander’s Feast, was performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, to a splendid Audience, where his Royal Highness the Prince and Princess of Wales were present, and seem’d to be highly entertain’d, insomuch that his Royal Highness commanded Mr. Handel’s Concerto on the Organ to be repeated.
[A London newspaper account, March 17, 1737]

Engraved portrait of Handel by Jacobus Hoebraken, with frame and cartouche engraved by Gravelot, 1738, for the first edition of the score of Alexander’s Feast.
Engraved portrait of Handel by Jacobus Hoebraken, with frame and cartouche engraved by Gravelot, 1738, for the first edition of the score of Alexander’s Feast.

The libretto describes a banquet held by Alexander the Great and his mistress Thaïs in the captured city of Persepolis. The musician Timotheus sings and plays his lyre, inciting various emotions in Alexander until he is roused to burn the city in revenge for his fallen soldiers. Cecilia arrives to turn the barbarity to a more uplifting end through her “loftier” music.

The aim of St. Cecilia odes is to celebrate music, and it is evident here in the range of orchestrations in the airs and choruses, and by the inclusion of two concertos — one for harp, representing Timotheus’ lyre, and one for organ, representing “the divine Cecilia.”

© Charlotte Nediger


PROGRAM LISTING
Directed by Ivars Taurins
February 22–25, 2018, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

George Frideric Handel

Alexander’s Feast,
or The Power of Musick

Amanda Forsythe soprano
Thomas Hobbs tenor
Alexander Dobson baritone

Julia Seager-Scott harp soloist
Neil Cockburn organ soloist

There will be a 20-minute intermission between Parts One and Two

Behind the Musik: A Recorder Romp

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
by Charlotte Nediger

JACOB VAN EYCK
We open the concerts with a set of variations for solo recorder by the early seventeenth century Dutch carillonneur and recorder player Jacob van Eyck. He was carillonneur of the Domkerk, Janiskerk, Jacobikerk, and city hall in Utrecht, and director of the city’s bellworks, spearheading refinements in the casting and tuning of bells. In 1649, the sixty-year old van Eyck was offered a salary raise “provided that he would now and then in the evening entertain the people strolling in the churchyard with the sound of his little flute.” That same year he published two volumes of variations on popular tunes for solo recorder, named Der Fluyten Lust-Hof  (The Flute’s Garden of Delights), presumably drawn from what he played in the churchyard.

ANTONIO VIVALDI
The Four Seasons appeared in Vivaldi’s 1725 publication of twelve violin concertos entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (Bold Experiments with Harmony and Invention). The Seasons, full of audacious experiments of every kind, were undoubtedly the inspiration for the title. The four concertos are accompanied by four sonnets, giving detailed descriptions of the programmatic elements of the music, which paint a vivid picture of life in the Italian countryside in the eighteenth century. The concertos are dazzling proof of Vivaldi’s skill as a violinist and his ingenuity and inventiveness as a composer. We offer a respite from winter this week with Vivaldi’s wonderful depiction of spring, and encourage you to follow the text of the sonnet below.

La primavera

Guint’è la primavera e festosetti
La salutan gl’augei con lieto canto,
E i fonti allo spirar de’ zeffiretti
Con dolce mormorio scorrono intanto.

Vengon’ coprendo l’aer di nero amanto
E lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti;
Indi tacendo questi, gl’augellitti
Tornan’ di nuovo al lor canoro incanto. 

E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato
Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante
Dorme ’l caprar col fido can’ à lato.
Di pastoral zampogna al suon festante
Danzan ninfe e pastor nel tetto amato
Di primavera all’apparir brillante.

Spring

Spring has come, and joyfully the birds
welcome it with cheerful song,
and the streams at the breath of zephyrs,
flow swiftly with sweet murmurings.

But now the sky is cloaked in black,
and lightning and thunder announce themselves;
when they are silenced, the little birds
return to fill the air with their sweet song.

Then on the pleasant flower-strewn meadow,
to the gentle rustle of the leaves and branches,
the goatherd rests, his faithful dog at his side.
To the rustic bagpipe’s festive sound,
nymphs and shepherds dance beneath
the fair spring sky in all its glory

GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN
Another prolific composer of baroque instrumental concertos was Georg Philipp Telemann. Telemann stated that he was not a fan of the purely virtuoso solo concerto, and indeed we find that most of his concertos are more “conversational” than “exhibitionist,” and that many feature more than one solo instrument. We feature two of these this week: a Concerto for recorder and bassoon, and a Concerto for 3 violins.

Telemann was an accomplished player of wind instruments, and his writing for winds is wonderfully idiomatic — well crafted and satisfying to play. The dialogue between the recorder and bassoon in the F-Major Concerto is by turns lyrical and playful. Winds are also prominent in the Quartet in G Major, which features the same instruments as the Vivaldi Concerto da camera.

The Concerto for 3 violins appears in the second volume of Telemann’s famous publication titled Musique de table, or Tafelmusik (from which we draw our name!). The title refers to the custom of entertaining guests at ceremonial meals and banquets with music. Each of the three volumes includes an orchestral suite, a concerto for multiple instruments, and a selection of chamber music. The publication was sold on subscription, and the list of subscribers is impressive, including composers, musicians, statesmen, and nobility from all over Europe.

Telemann chooses a different orchestration for each piece in the collection, and explores different styles. The Italianate Concerto for 3 violins shows the clear influence of Vivaldi. All of the music in the three volumes is full of charm, wit, and vivacity, and is designed, ultimately, to entertain.

© Charlotte Nediger


PROGRAM LISTING
Alison Melville
, recorder soloist
Directed by Elisa Citterio

February 8–11, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Jacob van Eyck c.1590–1657 
The English Nightingale, from Der Fluyten Lust-Hof

Antonio Vivaldi 1678–1741
Concerto for violin in E Major, op. 8, no. 1: Spring, from The Four Seasons
Allegro – Largo – Allegro

Georg Philipp Telemann 1681–1767
Concerto for recorder & bassoon in F Major, TWV 52:F1
Largo – Vivace – Grave – Allegro

A. Vivaldi
Concerto da camera for recorder, oboe, violin, bassoon & continuo
in G Minor, RV 107
Allegro – Largo – Allegro

INTERMISSION

G.P. Telemann
Quartet for recorder, oboe, violin & continuo in G Major, TWV 43:G6
Allegro – Grave – Allegro

G.P. Telemann
Concerto for 3 violins in F Major, from Musique de table, Book II
Allegro – Largo – Vivace

A. Vivaldi
Concerto for recorder in G Major, RV 443
Allegro – Largo – Allegro molto

There will be a 20-minute intermission.


Join us for A Recorder Romp from Feb 8–11, 2018 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.