Still becoming Canadian – Performing at Her Excellency Mme. Payette’s Installation as Governor General

by Patrick Jordan, viola

The vast majority of the music we perform in Tafelmusik is from Europe in the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, a world dominated by royalty, birthright, and the rigid definition of society by class. We are, in all sorts of ways, trying to both understand that time, aesthetically, culturally, and socially, and also make that music relevant to the world that we live in today.

Tafelmusik with Her Excellency, Julie Payette
(L-R) Margaret Gay (cello), Patricia Ahern (violin), Patrick Jordan (viola), Elisa Citterio (violin), Mirko Trinchera, Her Excellency, Julie Payette.

Sometimes, a context for those aims presents itself, unbidden. Her Excellency, Mme Payette chose all of the music that was to be a part of her installation this past Monday, October 2nd. The range of performers was wide, inclusive, and inspiring. Members of Tafelmusik were invited to take part because the new Governor General was once a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, an experience that she herself has characterized as transformative. Upon reflection, the ceremony was also one of the most eighteenth century experiences of my performing career!

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, a contemporaneously significant if now largely forgotten composer and Kapellmeister of the second half of the eighteenth century (and great pal of Haydn and Mozart, both), wrote an autobiography in 1799, his last and sixtieth year. Amongst the tidbits of his recounts of daily life as a musician is the avuncular advice to young violinists (and I rely upon my memory here), “Before going to sleep at night, the young virtuoso is strongly advised to check the strings on the violin; if one should be found to be fraying, change it forthwith. Supposing the Prince demand it, and should you be called upon to perform the next morning at 6 a.m., better to have let the new string stretch for those hours, to ensure the purity of your intonation.”

Unlike Dittersdorf, as artists today, we enjoy immense autonomy — as a general rule, the audience waits for us to take the stage, not the other way around. Monday’s performance was very much at the command of the powers that be, and I can’t say I have felt that so intensely before. Tafelmusik’s position on the day was to play the first movement of Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, K.136 (no second repeat, we had to be done in +/- 4 minutes and 15 seconds) immediately after the address of our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, and before Her Excellency Mme Payette’s first address as the new Governor General of Canada. Not a bad spot! But not a spot that offered a great deal of flexibility.

Investiture rehearsal
Rehearsal before the big moment in the Senate Chamber.

During the ceremony, we were again, with all the other performers, in the holding room until we were taken to the green room. Our rehearsal the day before had not included the 21-gun salute being fired by howitzers on Parliament Hill, nor the shaking of the glass in the windows on our walk upstairs! I am not so accustomed to such displays of power, which would have routinely accompanied the presence of dignitaries in the eighteenth century.

(L-R) Margaret Gay (cello), Patricia Ahern (violin), Patrick Jordan (viola), Elisa Citterio (violin), Mirko Trinchera, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.

Immediately after we played, we were taken back to the green room. It was from there, via closed circuit TV, that we heard Her Excellency’s first official address. Her messages of inclusion, striving to achieve, working as a team, and making decisions based on evidence to create the best possible world for us all were genuinely inspiring. At the end of the ceremony, all of the performers were asked to wait in the green room until Her Excellency Mme Payette and the Prime Minister, his wife, and the Minister of Heritage, Mélanie Joly, had the opportunity to greet us. We had been informed of the proper protocol for addressing the dignitaries, and had all practised up in advance. When they joined us (we were given a ten-minute warning then a three-minute countdown), the day took a very welcome giant step forward into Canada in the twenty-first century. I tried to squeeze in the “correct” address but didn’t really have an opportunity because each of them was so warm and direct. Her Excellency Mme Payette wanted to know if any of us present had been in the orchestra when she sang in the choir (no, I missed her by one year). Elisa Citterio, our new Music Director was next to me on the receiving line with her fourteen-month old daughter in her arms — Olivia was definitely a hit!

Live coverage of Investiture
They spelled our name right!

I truly wish that everyone in the orchestra and choir could have been part of this, but that was not to be. I know it would have meant a great deal to many of them, especially the people who have been here for even longer than I. Beth Anderson, our Director of Artistic Administration and Operations, was lucky enough to join us on this adventure. On the bus ride away from Parliament Hill, she remarked that she found it interesting that not one of the performers had actually been born in Canada. For a moment, I thought “That’s terrible!” but it quickly dawned on me that here we were, a group of high-achieving performers who have come together with the goal of creating a powerful team for good. Wasn’t that a big part of the inspiring message from Her Excellency?

I am fond of the notion that we are all becoming ourselves in the context of a world that is changing around us. I suppose I am still “becoming Canadian” like everyone around me, and last Monday’s experience was a particularly proud and inspiring part of that journey.

Performing in the Senate Chamber
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Behind the Musik: Elisa’s Italian Adventure

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing 

A Note from Elisa

Elisa Citterio, Music CirectorMy Italian Adventure was born out of a desire to take you by means of music on a journey to the land where I was born and have lived. My hometown is Brescia, and although much less famous than nearby Venice, it played an important role in the history of music. One cannot pinpoint the date and place that the violin reached its present shape, but the studio of the violin maker Giovanni Paolo Maggini and his contemporaries in Brescia certainly contributed to the development of string instruments and to achieving the highest level of craftsmanship. String instruments from the seventeenth century had a very warm voice, and the Brescian consort of strings apparently brought to mind the sound of madrigals by Luca Marenzio, also from Brescia.

Fontana, Marini, and Vivaldi’s father are also from this city. Brescianello, Steffani, and Locatelli were born in towns not far away (especially compared to Canadian distances!), and for Castello the only references we have are Venetian. Our short trip takes us therefore to towns within a 200-kilometre radius and spanning just over 100 years. Other than the celebrated Vivaldi, the composers we will encounter on this journey are less known to the general public, but they give us an idea of what people listened to in baroque Brescia and Venice. I hope you enjoy this Italian musical adventure!

 

 

Elisa Citterio

PROGRAM NOTES
By Christopher Verrette

Baroque music was born in Italy around the turn of the seventeenth century. The innovative new forms of opera, sonata, and concerto developed there were spread to the rest of Europe through both printed music and the travels of Italian musicians. Our program begins with music by three of the pioneering composers of the era.

Fontana Sonata XIV

Little is known about the life and career of Giovanni Battista Fontana beyond what is written in the memorial preface to his sole opus of sonatas, published posthumously in his native Brescia, an important centre of violin making. He went on to work in Rome, Venice, and finally Padua, and was praised as “one of the most singular virtuosi the age has known.” Fontana’s writing is very much akin to the vocal music of his generation and calls for the noble form of rhythmic flexibility singers called sprezzatura. In Sonata XIV, the two violinists rarely play at the same time, instead exchanging solos in dialogue almost like characters in an opera, then a burgeoning new art form. The dulcian (an early bassoon) joins later in a canzona-like section, playing a decorated version of the continuo line.

Marini Sinfonia – Allemanno

Biagio Marini is recognized today mostly for his innovations in solo violin playing, not only technical displays, but highly imaginative writing that explored the instrument more fully beyond the norms of dance and consort music. Also Brescian, Marini worked at the cathedral of San Marco in Venice under Claudio Monteverdi, then travelled widely through Italy and Germany and as far north as Brussels. His Opus 22, published after returning to Italy, includes a number of short pieces for four-part strings. The Sinfonia terzo tuono is deliciously vocal, sounding much like a popular song, while the Balletto quarto Allemanno ventures into the realm of the silly: the first violin gets stuck repeating a three-note motive for most of the second half until a cadence is finally reached.

Castello Sonata X

As with Fontana, the life of Dario Castello is not well documented. He is identified as the chief wind player at San Marco on the title page of his first book of sonatas. He calls his works Sonate concertante in stil moderno, making it quite clear that he is writing in a new style. He makes use of a wide variety of figures, with frequent, bold, and sometimes jarring changes of tempo and affect. Sonata X gives a distinct voice to the dulcian, an instrument Castello possibly played himself.

Stefanni Suite from Niobe

Italian musicians were in high demand outside of their homeland, particularly at the Catholic courts of the Holy Roman Empire. Thus the talented choirboy Agostino Steffani was recruited by the Bavarian court, arriving in Munich on his thirteenth birthday. No expense was spared on his education. He was sent to Rome and Paris for further study, and employed back in Munich as organist and director of chamber music. Mostly appreciated for his vocal duets, he also wrote for the stage, although he did so clandestinely later in life because of the distinguished status he had attained as a cleric and diplomat at the Hanoverian court and elsewhere. Niobe was composed for carnival in Munich and is based on the story found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses of a queen that angers the gods by boasting about her children, who are slaughtered as punishment and Niobe turned to stone.

Locatelli Concerto op. 4, no. 12

Pietro Locatelli was a native of Bergamo, but by age sixteen he had joined the vibrant musical community that served the many churches and influential families of Rome, under the guidance of Arcangello Corelli. His earliest published music shows him to be an accomplished disciple of Corelli, but already exhibiting some interesting ideas of his own. Notably he added a second viola part to the orchestral texture. He travelled extensively as a soloist and became known for his acrobatics on the violin, the high fees and lavish gifts he received from patrons, and his extravagant clothing (with the implication that it was above his station).

It was customary for composers to do something special with the final piece in a published collection. For the last of his Opus 4 concerti grossi, Locatelli writes for four solo violins instead of the usual two. The soloists are at first heard one at a time, then mostly in pairs, but there are moments where all the violins make a glorious noise together. In the last movement there is a lot of playful banter in which the violins echo each other.

Brescianello Suite in G Minor

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello was another talent imported from Italy to Germany, where he was ultimately triumphant in what was evidently a fierce competition with the native German Reinhardt Keiser over the position of Kapellmeister at Stuttgart. The Suite in G Minor demonstrates that he became proficient in the so-called “mixed style” popular in Germany in the eighteenth century, that melded elements of both French and Italian. The Ouverture and most of the dances exhibit French traits, while the composer’s Italian origin shines through most clearly in the Siciliano.

Vivaldi Autumn, from The Four Seasons

In The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi uses his signature form, the solo violin concerto, to paint musical pictures of the seasons, supported by sonnets which are actually imbedded in the musical score. For Autumn, he chooses the key of F Major, strongly associated with hunting horns, which suits the last movement in particular, but is evident already in the opening solo of the first movement. The ensuing rambunctious solo passages are specifically designated l’ubracio (the drunk) in the score, as the harvest is celebrated perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Baroque composers often used long sustained notes and stable harmony to represent sleep or repose, but Vivaldi portrays the alcohol-induced slumber of revellers with unsettling harmonies that refuse to resolve comfortably, and a further restlessness is added by incessant arpeggiation from the continuo instruments under the muted strings. The finale vividly captures images of the hunt, complete with horns, barking dogs, gunshots, and even the final death wail of the cornered animal.

L’autunno

I. Celebra il vilanel con balli e canti
Del felice raccolto il bel piacere
E del liquor di Bacco accesi tanti
Finiscono col sonno il lor godere.

Fà ch’ogn ’uno tralasci e balli e canti
L’aria che temperata dà piacere,
E la staggion ch’invita tanti e tanti
D’un dolcissimo sonno al bel godere. 

II. cacciator alla nov ’alba à caccia
Con corni, schioppi, e canni escono fuore
Fugge la belua, e seguono la traccia; 

III. Già sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
De’ schioppi e canni, ferita minaccia
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.

Autumn

I. The peasants celebrate with song and dance
their joy in a fine harvest
and with generous draughts of Bacchus’ cup
their celebrations end in sleep.

Song and dance are done;
the gentle, pleasant air
and the season invite one and all
to the delights of sweetest sleep.

II. At first light the huntsman sets out
with horns, guns, and dogs;
the wild beast flees, and they follow its trail.

III. Terrified and exhausted by the great clamour
of guns and dogs, wounded and afraid,
the beast tries to flee but is overcome and dies.


Vivaldi Concerto for 2 oboes

The oboe was a relatively new instrument on the Venetian scene at Vivaldi’s time. In 1704, it began to be taught at the Ospedale della Pieta, where Vivaldi taught violin, and he came to use it in many of his concertos. The double concerto in C Major makes some interesting departures from typical concerto form. Instead of the usual orchestral introduction, the oboes begin the piece without the strings, who come in only later with contrasting material. Also, the second and third movements begin with essentially the same music, only in the minor mode in the Largo and the major mode in the Allegro.


PROGRAM LISTING
Directed by Elisa Citterio
October 11—15, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589-1630)
Sonata XIV for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo

Biagio Marini (c.1587–1663)
Sinfonia & Allemanno, from op. 22

Dario Castello (fl. 1625)
Sonata X for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo, from Book 2

Agostino Steffani (1654–1728)
Suite from Niobe
Entrée – Menuet – Ritornello – Gavotte – Ritornello – Adagio  – Ritornello – Gigue – Chaconne

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695–1764)
Concerto grosso in F Major, op. 4, no. 12
Allegro – Largo – Allegro

INTERMISSION

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello (1690–1758)
Orchestral suite in G Minor
Ouverture – Gavotte – Aria: Presto – Rondeau – Aria: Siciliana – Aria – Rigaudon – Gigue    

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Concerto for violin in F Major, op. 8, no. 3: Autumn, from The Four Seasons
Allegro – Adagio molto – Allegro
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist

A. Vivaldi
Concerto for 2 oboes in Major, RV 534
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
John Abberger & Marco Cera, oboe soloists

There will be a 20-minute intermission.


Join us for Elisa’s Italian Adventure from October 11–15, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

 

Sonnet of Vivaldi’s Autumn

By Christopher Verrette, violin

In The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi uses his signature form, the solo violin concerto, to paint musical pictures of the seasons, supported by sonnets which are actually embedded in the musical score. For Autumn, he chooses the key of F Major, strongly associated with hunting horns, which suits the last movement in particular, but is evident already in the opening solo of the first movement. The ensuing rambunctious solo passages are specifically designated l’ubracio (the drunk) in the score, as the harvest is celebrated perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Baroque composers often used long sustained notes and stable harmony to represent sleep or repose, but Vivaldi portrays the alcohol-induced slumber of revellers with unsettling harmonies that refuse to resolve comfortably, and a further restlessness is added by incessant arpeggiation from the continuo instruments under the muted strings. The finale vividly captures images of the hunt, complete with horns, barking dogs, gunshots, and even the final death wail of the cornered animal.

Autumn
I. The peasants celebrate with song and dance
their joy in a fine harvest
and with generous draughts of Bacchus’ cup
their celebrations end in sleep.
Song and dance are done;
the gentle, pleasant air
and the season invite one and all
to the delights of sweetest sleep.

II. At first light the huntsman sets out
with horns, guns, and dogs;
the wild beast flees, and they follow its trail.

III. Terrified and exhausted by the great clamour
of guns and dogs, wounded and afraid,
the beast tries to flee but is overcome and dies.

Franz Christoph Janneck http:/www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com;
“Landscape with Courtly deer hunting”, Franz Christoph Janneck (1656–1723). Courtesy of tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com

L’autunno
I. Celebra il vilanel con balli e canti
Del felice raccolto il bel piacere
E del liquor di Bacco accesi tanti
Finiscono col sonno il lor godere.
Fà ch’ogn ’uno tralasci e balli e canti
L’aria che temperata dà piacere,
E la staggion ch’invita tanti e tanti
D’un dolcissimo sonno al bel godere.

II. I cacciator alla nov ’alba à caccia
Con corni, schioppi, e canni escono fuore
Fugge la belua, e seguono la traccia;

III. Già sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
De’ schioppi e canni, ferita minaccia
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.


Hear a performance of Vivaldi’s “Autumn,” the second in a complete cycle of his The Four Seasons performed this year, showcasing Elisa Citterio, in Elisa’s Italian Adventure from October 11–15, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

My Italian Adventure

By Elisa Citterio, Music Director and violin

Elisa Citterio, Music CirectorMy Italian Adventure was born out of a desire to take you by means of music on a journey to the land where I was born and have lived. My hometown is Brescia, and although much less famous than nearby Venice, it played an important role in the history of music. One cannot pinpoint the date and place that the violin reached its present shape, but the studio of the violin maker Giovanni Paolo Maggini and his contemporaries in Brescia certainly contributed to the development of string instruments and to achieving the highest level of craftsmanship. String instruments from the seventeenth century had a very warm voice, and the Brescian consort of strings apparently brought to mind the sound of madrigals by Luca Marenzio, also from Brescia.

Fontana, Marini, and Vivaldi’s father are also from this city. Brescianello, Steffani, and Locatelli were born in towns not far away (especially compared to Canadian distances!), and for Castello the only references we have are Venetian. Our short trip takes us therefore to towns within a 200-kilometre radius and spanning just over 100 years. Other than the celebrated Vivaldi, the composers we will encounter on this journey are less known to the general public, but they give us an idea of what people listened to in baroque Brescia and Venice. I hope you enjoy this Italian musical adventure!

 

 


Join Elisa for Elisa’s Italian Adventure from October 11–15, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

How do you listen to music? Find out at the Listening Club.

By William Norris, Managing Director

The Listening Club

At the end of last season we tried out something new – a ‘listening club’. The idea was to have something a little akin to a book club – a chance to delve into an aspect of our repertoire and explore it more, guided by the BBC’s Dr. Hannah French and, in this first instance, Choir Director Ivars Taurins. As with a book club there was some homework to be done beforehand – some set listening, with the session exploring the pieces and recordings that had been set.

With that trial session under our belt we’re now ready to embark on a series of three listening club events over the coming year. The first one, on October 5th, actually responds to a question that arose in that very first session: How do we listen to music?

For this first session of the season Dr. Hannah French will return and be joined by Tafelmusik Bassoonist Dominic Teresi. During the 90 minute event Hannah will be posing four questions:

1) Why, when and how do you listen to music?

We’ll be asking whether you engage in passive and/or active listening, as well as talking about listening habits – live concerts, radio and so on. For this first question we’ll be asking you to listen to a work from this season, but not setting a specific recording – it’ll be intriguing to see what everyone chooses.

2) How do you choose the recordings you listen to?

What factors decide this for you – price? Availability? Simply the first thing you find on YouTube or Spotify? And are reviews helpful?

3) Can you describe what you like about your favourite recordings?

We’ll be looking at what informs your choices and ask what makes a ‘good’ performance.

4) Would you ever listen with a score?

What might this add to your listening experience? And, fear not, for this section you don’t need to be able to read music!

While the session is led and guided by Hannah, we want it to be an informal and interactive affair. Ask all the questions you want – there are no wrong answers or indeed, wrong questions. The more debate and discussion the better.

Our first session was a lot of fun, and it was great (I found) to really dive into the music rather than just let it wash over you, something which I must admit I often do, especially when listening at home.

Tickets are just $25 (and you can buy them here) and you’ll be sent the set listening ahead of the event. And if you like this one don’t forget we’ll have two more later in the season – the next looks at the battle for good taste between French and Italian Baroque Music while the last looks at the blurred boundaries between baroque and classical eras.

We’ll look forward to listening with you on October 5th!

Join us for the Listening Club, October 5th. Tickets are available here.

View from the Horn Section

By Andrew Clark, horn

Andrew Clark, horn
Andrew Clark, horn

It is rare to find orchestral works from the baroque period that use four horns instead of the usual two. On those instances when it did occur, it was usually to mark a special occasion. It is therefore an honour to be part of the horn quartet in Tafelmusik’s A Joyous Welcome program.

To perform this concert on instruments similar to those used in the eighteenth century, we will be playing horns associated with the “noble sport” of hunting. This was a pursuit (pun intended) practised by the wealthy nobility. The costs were significant: not only did hunting require a stable of horses, but refreshments had to be provided for guests, the right clothes were expected, and horn players needed to be employed to signal the unfolding events to those who followed on foot. The fanfares played had specific meanings, and included: Uncoupling the Hounds, The Running, The Cherish when the Hounds are in Full Cry, Breaking Cover, The Call Back, The Death, and The Retreat from the Field. Composers who wished to ingratiate themselves to particular patrons often wrote compositions that included horns and musical quotations from the hunt as recognition of the patron’s status and ability to sponsor the event. For three centuries these fanfares have formed the basis of idiomatic music for the horn, with examples to be found in works from Bach to Mozart, and from Brahms to John Williams.

Hunting horns were known by various names: in Italian, corno da caccia; in German, Waldhorn; in French, cor de chasse; and in English, French horn. Nowadays we often use the term natural horns to distinguish them from valved horns, which were a nineteenth-century innovation.

Earliest example of an instrument called a French horn, made in London, England in 1699, with an ivory mouthpiece (in the collection of Horniman Museum & Gardens)

Compared to other brass instruments, the horn has one of the largest tube expansions, from the narrowest tube at its beginning to a large bell at the end. Its length is dictated by the key required for the music. For example, in this program, twelve feet are needed for pieces in F, and sixteen feet for pieces in C. Sometimes the length is changed by swapping over a detachable coil of tubing called a crook, but this was a technological improvement that only gradually gained acceptance in the eighteenth century. Prior to that development a separate horn was needed for each key. Both versions will be in use for this program, and the horn section need make no apology for any crooks observed in their ranks!


Join us for A Joyous Welcome from Sept 21-24, 26, 2017. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: A Joyous Welcome

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

HANDEL CONCERTO A DUE CORI

The instrumental portions of our performances this weekend feature Handel’s last compositions for orchestra, written when the composer was in his early sixties. Handel’s three Concerti a due cori were written as “interval music” for three new oratorios: Judas Maccabaeus (1747), Joshua (1748), and Alexander Balus (1748). An oratorio that advertised the inclusion of “a new concerto” always drew a crowd. In the case of the Concerti a due cori (“Concertos for two choirs”), the works were not only newly composed, but were also a new genre. Scored for two antiphonal “choirs” of wind instruments plus a full string orchestra with continuo, they are grandiose, extroverted works, undoubtedly inspired by the trio of so-called “Victory Oratorios” for which they were composed. All three include reworkings of earlier material: Handel’s audiences would have recognized most of them, drawn primarily from oratorio choruses, so the concertos must have had a certain “medley of great hits” quality. You may recognize the chorus “Lift up your heads” from Handel’s Messiah as the second movement of the concerto we are performing this week.

CORELLI CONCERTO GROSSO OP. 6, NO. 10

Corelli was among the first composers to write music for the orchestra independent of the opera, the dance, and the church. During a visit to Rome in 1681, the German musician Georg Muffat heard performances of Corelli concertos: “These concertos, suited neither to the church (because of the ballet airs and airs of other sorts which they include) nor for dancing (because of other interwoven conceits now slow and serious, now gay and nimble, and composed only for the express refreshment of the ear), may be performed most appropriately in connection with entertainments given by great princes and lords, for receptions of distinguished guests, and at state banquets, serenades, and assemblies of musical amateurs and virtuosi.” Ideal music, then, for welcoming a new Music Director! It was Corelli who popularized the concerto grosso, based on the popular form of the trio sonata for two violins and continuo, to which is added a four-part orchestra: when the two groups play in alternation a wonderful chiaroscuro is created. The solo or “concertino” trio supplies tenderness and virtuosity; the orchestra provides a rich sonority and solid foundation. Corelli started composing and performing concerti grossi as early as 1670, but only twelve were ever published, and those posthumously, as Opus 6, in 1714. Their publication had long been awaited throughout Europe, providing a model for many composers of the late baroque, but their simplicity, classical proportions, and utterly idiomatic string writing were never entirely surpassed. In a fitting tribute, the anniversary of Corelli’s death was marked for many years by the performance of the Opus 6 concertos in the Pantheon, where the composer was buried.

VIVALDI THE FOUR SEASONS

The Four Seasons appeared in Vivaldi’s 1725 publication of twelve violin concertos entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, which translates roughly as “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 author of the sonnets is unknown, and it is possible that Vivaldi penned them himself. To ensure that the musicians were aware of the effects they were to create, Vivaldi labelled the various lines of the sonnets to correspond with letters in each of the instrumental parts. He also included very detailed instructions for performance, including dynamics, bowing, and articulations. The concertos are dazzling proof of Vivaldi’s skill as a violinist and his ingenuity and inventiveness as a composer.

The sonnet and a page of the solo violin part of Summer from the original 1725 publication.
You can see the letters in the part that correspond to lines in the sonnet.

We are delighted to be presenting all four concertos over the course of our concert season, with Elisa Citterio as soloist. We begin with Summer, which opens with languid, oppressive heat from the blazing sun, accompanied by bird calls, and finally interrupted by a summer storm. A shepherd, terrified by the storm, attempts to calm himself in the second movement, but is pestered by insects and troubled by approaching thunder. The storm lets loose its fury in the final movement. The full sonnet is printed below.

(Join us as Vivaldi’s Seasons unfold: Autumn at our October concerts, Winter in January, and Spring rather optimistically at concerts in February!)

L’Estate

I.   Sotto dura staggion dal sole accesa
Langue l’huom, langue ’l gregge, ed arde il pino;
Scioglie il cucco la voce, e tosto intesa
Canta la tortorella e’l gardelino.

 Zeffiro dolce spira, mà contesa
Muove Borea improviso al suo vicino;
E piange il pastorel, perche sospesa
Teme fiera borasca, e’l suo destino;

 II.  Toglie alle membra lasse il suo riposo
Il timore de ’lampi, e tuoni fieri
E de mosche, e mossoni il stuol furioso!

III. Ah che pur troppo i suoi timor son veri
Tuona e fulmina il ciel e grandinoso
Tronca il capo alle spiche e a ’grani alteri.

Summer

I.   In the torrid heat of the blazing sun,
man and beast alike languish,
and even the pine trees scorch;
The cuckoo raises his voice, and soon after
the turtledove and goldfinch join in song.

Zephyr blows gently, but suddenly
Boreas contests its neighbour:
the shepherd weeps, fearful
of the wild squall and anxious for his fate.

II.  He rouses his weary limbs from rest
in fear of the lightning, the fierce thunder,
and the angry swarms of gnats and flies.

III. Alas! his fears are justified,
for furious thunder splits the heavens,
flattening the cornstalks and the grainfields.

VIVALDI CONCERTO CON MOLTI STRUMENTI, RV 569

Vivaldi wrote a number of concertos with an expanded orchestra, i.e. “con molti strumenti.” The Concerto in F Major is essentially a concerto for violin, but rather than accompanying the soloist with the usual string orchestra, Vivaldi adds oboes, bassoons, and horns to create a work that is colourful and festive. The winds play solo passages in dialogue with the violinist, often stealing the limelight. This concerto survives in two versions: Vivaldi’s manuscript score in Italy, and a manuscript score and set of parts copied by the violinist Pisendel at the court in Dresden. Pisendel was one of a small entourage of Dresden musicians who accompanied the Crown Prince of Saxony on a visit to Venice in 1716. Vivaldi was impressed with the abilities of these musicians, and by their accounts of the impressive skills of the Dresden court orchestra, with its legendary wind players. He befriended Pisendel, and sent music to him in Dresden on a regular basis. It is quite possible that many of Vivaldi’s Concertos con molti strumenti were written expressly for the Dresden court, including the concerto we are performing this week.

RAMEAU SUITE FROM LES BORÉADES

Les Boréades was Rameau’s last opera, composed in his eightieth year. Although rehearsals had begun as early as April 1763, no performance took place prior to Rameau’s death in September of 1764, for no obvious reason. The work was not premiered on stage until over 200 years later, in 1982 (by John Eliot Gardiner at the Aix-en-Provence Festival). It is a remarkable opera — Rameau seems to have summoned all of his creative energy to create one final masterpiece, a work that is surprisingly modern, sensual, and spirited. Like other Rameau operas, it includes a wealth of instrumental music, written to accompany the dance, to cover scene changes, and to provide aural “images” of events and scenes on stage. The splendid overture to the opera introduces the selection of instrumental movements we have chosen to close our concerts this week.

© Charlotte Nediger


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio

September 21–24, 2017, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre
September 26, 2017, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
Concerto a due cori in F Major, HWV 333 (London, 1748)
Pomposo/Allegro
A tempo giusto
Largo
Allegro ma non troppo
A tempo ordinario

Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713)
Concerto grosso in C Major, op. 6, no. 10 (Rome, 1714)
Preludio
Allemanda
Adagio
Corrente
Allegro
Minuetto

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Concerto for violin in G Minor, op. 8, no. 2: Summer, from The Four Seasons (Venice, 1725)
Allegro non molto/Allegro
Adagio
Presto
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist

INTERMISSION

A. Vivaldi
Concerto con molti strumenti in F Major, RV 569 (Venice/Dresden, 1720s)
Allegro
Grave
Allegro

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
Suite from Les Boréades (Paris, 1763)
Ouverture
Menuet
Allegro
Danse légère
Gavottes vives
Contredanse en rondeau
Gavottes
Menuets
Entracte: Suite des vents [The winds
Gavotte légère
Entrée de Polymnie
Airs gay
Contredanses très vives


Join us for A Joyous Welcome from Sept 21-24, 26, 2017. Tickets are available here.