Behind the Musik: Sound the Trumpet!

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

With this week’s concerts we usher in the festive season with a musical journey through baroque Europe. We begin our travels in Versailles, with music written to be played at a dinner party hosted by Louis XIV on January 16, 1707 (true “musique de table,” or “Tafelmusik”!). The extant score, copied by the King’s music librarian, credits Jean-Baptiste Lully fils as composer — the second son of the famed court composer of the same name. A posthumous account states that Jean-Baptiste Jr. “knew hardly anything about music,” and that he was given the position of Surintendant de la musique du roi only “out of consideration for his father’s talent.” It is entirely possible that all he contributed to the various compositions credited to him was his name. The 1707 suite for the king’s dinner may well have been written by Michel Richard de Lalande, the composer who “shared” the job of Surintendant with Lully fils. Elisa Citterio has selected a few movements from this charming suite to open our concert.

We travel south to Rome, the birthplace of the concerto grosso  — works for string orchestra that contrast a small solo group (called the “concertino,” or “little consort”) with the full orchestra (the “ripieni,” meaning “padding or stuffing”). Corelli’s final publication was a carefully prepared selection of twelve concerti grossi, his Opus 6, and quickly became famous throughout Europe. Shortly before the publication appeared, the young violinist Pietro Antonio Locatelli arrived from Bergamo to study in Rome with Corelli and his followers. Locatelli’s first publication mirrored Corelli’s last: a set of twelve concerti grossi in a format and style that pays homage to the master. This is particularly evident in the eighth concerto: just as Corelli had done in the eighth concerto of his Opus 6, Locatelli adds an optional Christmas pastorale. The opening of the concerto is rich and sombre, with divided viola parts and in the dark key of F minor. The sun comes out in the lilting F-major pastorale.

Shortly after the release of his Opus 1, Locatelli travelled north through Germany, taking posts in various cities and performing as a virtuoso violinist. He may well have encountered Telemann and Fasch, and it is to these composers we turn now. Georg Philipp 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. He also turned to instruments not always featured in solo roles, such as the viola, often overshadowed by the more brilliant violin. Telemann clearly understood the viola’s inherent qualities, and opens his Concerto for two violas with a movement labelled “avec douceur” (“with sweetness”).

Johann Friedrich Fasch and Telemann met as students at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and although Fasch was younger by only seven years, he nonetheless considered his “most beloved” friend to be his mentor. Like Telemann, Fasch favoured the more “collegial” concerto. His trumpet concerto clearly features the solo trumpet, but the soloist is amply supported in musical “conversations” with two oboes and with the accompanying strings.

We return to France and encounter Michel Corrette: born in Rouen, he enjoyed a long career in Paris, writing music of a light nature, much of it arrangements of popular tunes of the day. Among these are numerous arrangements of Christmas carols. The publication “Six Symphonies en Quatuor” bears the subtitle “containing the most beautiful French and foreign Noëls,” and the instruction that they can be played by a chamber group or full orchestra, in concert or at a church service. The first Symphonie is comprised of arrangements of four traditional French carols: “When Christmas arrives,” “The king of heaven has just been born,” “Here is the solemn day,” and “Adam was a wretched man.”

We cross the channel to England, but with a musical detour to Iberia. Organist and composer Charles Avison directed a concert series in his native Newcastle, establishing a broader reputation through his writings on music, and through his publications of sonatas and concertos. Among his most popular publications was a set of twelve concerti grossi consisting of arrangements for string orchestra of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti wrote over 500 harpsichord sonatas while employed at the royal courts in Lisbon and Madrid. A few dozen of these sonatas were published in London and enjoyed great popularity, inspiring Avison’s arrangements. Each of Scarlatti’s sonatas is a single-movement work, so Avison combined them to create four-movement concertos. There are relatively few slow movements in Scarlatti’s keyboard oeuvre, so Avison had to get creative. He claimed that several slow movements were drawn from a manuscript of Scarlatti sonatas that only he had seen, but the truth is that most of the slow movements were composed by Avison himself. In the Fifth Concerto, the opening Largo is of Avison’s invention, and the remaining three movements are arrangements of Scarlatti sonatas K.11, K. 41, and K.5.

After discovering all these new treasures, we return home, musically speaking, to familiar ground with Johann Sebastian Bach and the Second Brandenburg Concerto. Like his friends, Telemann and Fasch, Bach liked the idea of the ensemble concerto, and explored it in his collection of concertos dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg titled “Six concerts avec plusieurs instruments.” The variety of instrumentation in these concertos is their trademark feature, and the solo group of the second concerto is the most disparate: trumpet, recorder, oboe, and violin. Particularly noteworthy is the uncommonly brilliant trumpet part, written for a trumpet in F. All of Bach’s trumpet parts are demanding, but most are written for trumpets in C and D. Bach obviously had a trumpet player capable  of playing the solo passages in the higher key of F, but already by the middle of the eighteenth century such players were rarities. A copy of the score by C.F. Penzel made c.1760 suggests substituting a horn and transposing the part down an octave. A later copy suggests a flute, and 20th-century performances have substituted various instruments, among them clarinet, piccolo-heckelphone, and sopranino saxophone! We are delighted to have David Blackadder join us to perform Bach’s original scoring.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio
David Blackadder
, trumpet soloist

November 21–25, 2018
Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Jean-Baptiste Lully fils, 1665–1743
Concert donné au souper du Roi (Versailles, 1707)
Ouverture – Passacaille – Loure – Rigaudons

Pietro Antonio Locatelli, 1694–1764
Concerto grosso in F Minor, op. 1, no. 8 “Christmas” (Rome, 1721)
Largo – Grave – Vivace – Grave – Largo andante – Andante – Pastorale

Georg Philipp Telemann, 1681–1767
Concerto for 2 violas in G Major, TWV 52:G3 (Hamburg, c.1740)
Avec douceur – Gay – Largo – Vivement
Brandon Chui & Patrick Jordan violas

Johann Friedrich Fasch, 1688–1758
Concerto for trumpet in D Major (Anhalt-Zerbst, c.1750)
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
David Blackadder trumpet

INTERMISSION

Michel Corrette, 1707–1795
Symphonie de Noëls no. 1 in D Minor (Paris, 1781)
A la venue de Noël – Le Roy des cieux vient de naître – Voici le jour solennel – Adam fut un pauvre homme

Charles Avison, 1709–1770
Concerto no. 5 in D Minor after Domenico Scarlatti (Newcastle/London, 1744)
Largo – Allegro – Andante moderato – Allegro

Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685–1750
Brandenburg Concerto no. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047 (Cöthen, 1721)
Allegro – Andante – Allegro assai
Alison Melville recorder John Abberger oboe
David Blackadder trumpet Julia Wedman violin

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In search of Steffani’s music

By Charlotte Nediger

Portrait of Steffani by
Gerhard Kappers, c.1714

As librarian for Tafelmusik, I spend quite a bit of time searching out sources for the music we are performing. I sometimes hit roadblocks, but more often than not, make unexpected discoveries along the way. In digging up the music for this week’s Steffani: Drama & Devotion concerts I worked together with Ivars Taurins (Director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir — and my husband). Ivars had assembled a rich and varied program. The variety added to the challenge, as in creating his wonderful pastiche of arias, choruses, and instrumental movements he had turned to numerous Steffani operas, only one of which is published in a modern score. So it was off the libraries to search out manuscripts — these days we usually visit the libraries virtually, as most have good online catalogues, and many already have digital scans of some of their unique holdings. I always admire Ivars for his persistence in searching: if the usual searches lead to a dead end, he keeps going, and is often rewarded with results that I wouldn’t have found. This was the case for several of our arias!

In looking for a sacred piece to pair with the Stabat Mater, we found help in a few places. Daniel Webb in the Tafelmusik choir introduced us to a friend was a former librarian at Cambridge University, where we knew they had a Steffani manuscript collection. He put us in touch with Emma Darbyshire of the Fitzwilliam Museum, who was both very generous and painstaking in her assistance, and was able to provide very clear scans of the manuscript. In the end we didn’t select a piece from the manuscript, but have set them aside for future programs (perhaps even at this year’s Summer Institute?).

That led us to trying to find music for the Beatus vir which opens our concert. It’s an early work of Steffani, so a good foil to the Stabat Mater, which was possibly his last composition. We discerned from Colin Timms’ wonderful book on Steffani (more on Colin later) that the manuscript of this piece was in the Biblioteca dal Sacro Convento di San Francesco in Assisi. This seemed like a long shot, short of getting on a plane to Italy (a nice prospect, but not very practical). But I managed to find an email address for the librarian there, and gave it a whirl, with help from Tafelmusik oboist Marco Cera, who translated my emails into very elegant Italian. I was so surprised a few hours later to find a response from Fra Carlo Bottero, writing (in his equally elegant Italian) that he would be happy to photograph the manuscript, and could get JPEGs to me in a couple of days! In the ongoing correspondence, I got quite attached to my very helpful Italian monk, and am certainly enormously grateful. Now I think I should take that trip to Assisi to meet him and visit his remarkable library, chock full of treasures.

But back to our quest. By this point we were stuck on two opera choruses. Manuscripts of the full operas from which they were drawn were on the shelf of the British Library – but the opera scores were several hundred pages long. We had no idea what pages the short choruses in questions were to be found, and it would have cost an enormous amount of money to order scans of the entire operas (the British Library charges per page). We were about to give up when Ivars thought to write to musicologist Colin Timms, who has written the authoritative book in English on Steffani (Polymath of the Baroque: Agostino Steffani and His Music), which is an amazing resource. We found a university email for him, and send off a note. Again, within a few short hours he had responded and said he could help get the required pages to us: he had copies of one, and a German colleague had the other. He was so pleased that we were presenting a complete program of Steffani, and only wished that he could attend.

So now all sources were at hand, thanks to the generous and able assistance of these newfound colleagues. For the Stabat Mater we had a modern score and parts — done. For everything else I set about typesetting scores and parts, making our own performing editions. Thankfully Steffani had quite neat handwriting, as did the other scribes of most of the manuscripts. One particular challenge in the Beatus vir is that the Latin text was included in only one voice part in each of the two choirs, so you have to figure out how to make it fit in the other parts. This would be easy if it were one syllable per note, but that is not at all the case in this piece. Steffani left a few hints here and there, but the rest is up to the editor (me), conductor (Ivars), and the performers (the choir members made several suggestions). Another little editing adventure was in setting the various instrumental movements in the opera pastiche. Most of these movements were published by Roger in Amsterdam in the early 18th-century, to form instrumental suites — but we had also found manuscript sources closer to Steffani. The notes were the same, but the Roger edition had a great many ornaments in the parts, even in the less frequently ornamented viola and bass parts; the manuscripts had almost none. It was another fun puzzle for us as performers to sort out, and a window to different tastes in ornamentation both then and now.

As I write this, it is the week of the concerts. The choir has rehearsed their material with Ivars over the past month, and Ivars and I went through the arias with Krisztina Szabó at our house a couple of weeks ago. Now we all meet — Krisztina, orchestra, choir — and sing and play all of this music together for the first time. Almost all of it is new to us, and the first rehearsals of new repertoire are always special. The music of Steffani is unique, with a special beauty and energy. I’ve spent a lot of time with the notes on the page in the last months, and I can’t wait to hear it all come to life — and I especially can’t wait to share it with you.

Join Charlotte and Ivars, and the Chamber Choir and Orchestra at Steffani: Drama & Devotion from November 8–11, 2018 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. 

My Instrument with David Blackadder, trumpet

In our upcoming holiday concert, Sound the Trumpet!, David Blackadder makes his Tafelmusik debut, performing music by Fasch, J.S. Bach and more.

By David Blackadder

David Blackadder, trumpet. Photo by Boyd Gilmour
David Blackadder, trumpet.
Photo by Boyd Gilmour

The trumpet is often thought of as being perhaps the most majestic, powerful instrument of all, and traditionally this is often the case especially when large groups of trumpeters played together. The sound of multiple trumpets became so synonymous with the European nobility that it actually became a status symbol in courts across Europe to have an elite group of trumpeters, not unlike having a fleet of limousines or Ferraris today. This tradition still continues in some countries, and you need look no further than the moment when Megan Markle arrived at Windsor Chapel to hear the spine-tingling sound that the trumpeters of the Household Cavalry made to understand why.

However, there is a much more subtle, lesser-known side to the trumpet which uses the more florid, angelic quality of its upper register to symbolize the glory of God and the heavens. Handel’s “Eternal Source of Light Divine” followed the trumpet fanfare at the royal wedding as Megan processed down the aisle, and showed off just how lyrical the trumpet can be, particularly when imitating the human voice.

The trumpet that I used that day and for Sound the Trumpet! with Tafelmusik is a copy of an instrument originally made in Nuremberg by Johann Carl Kodisch around 1700. It was made by Mathew Martin of Norwich Natural Trumpets and has extremely light tubing, which makes it easier to play sustained passages in the high register. This technique of playing developed throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and became highly prized by composers and their patrons alike. The sound that can be achieved in the high register is not unlike that of a woodwind instrument, and the trumpet was indeed said to be capable of being “as sweet as an oboe.” By using different articulations the best trumpeters could play very delicately and their trills were said to rival that of any flautist of the day. Court trumpeters were handsomely rewarded for their prodigious skill and were required to play at the most important ceremonies and state occasions.

In my new partnership with Tafelmusik I would like to bring to light this gentler side of the baroque trumpet and show how it can shine perfectly well without the need to blast loudly at any point. The Fasch Concerto is a wonderful example of this, particularly the beautiful slow movement, and in the Brandenburg Concerto the trumpet shows off its incredible ability to balance with the other soloists in the absolute extremities of its high register. I remember playing to my late father the first recording of the Brandenburg Concerto I ever made as a student at the Royal College of Music. He said, “Sounds more like a flute than a trumpet to me, son.“ He didn’t realize just what a compliment that was, but I knew what he meant and I have always strived to achieve that same quality throughout my career.

Join David Blackadder in Sound the Trumpet! from November 21–25, 2018 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Quotes on Mozart’s 40th Symphony

By Tim Crouch, Senior Marketing Manager

We open our 2018/19 40th anniversary season with Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in Mozart 40. The music of Mozart is always a favourite for our orchestra and choir to perform — here are some of my favourite quotes on the composer and his symphony.

Mozart 40 - gold and silver florets on a yellow background

On Symphony no. 40

  • an “appeal to eternity” – Alfred Einstein
  • it possesses “Grecian lightness and grace” – Robert Schumann
  • “a work of passion, violence, and grief” – Charles Rosen

On Mozart

  • “Mozart is the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music.” – Tchaikovsky
  • “Does it not seem as if Mozart’s works become fresher and fresher the more often we hear them?” – Robert Schumann
  • “Mozart tapped the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breathtaking rightness.” – Aaron Copland

Quotes by Mozart

  • “I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
  • “Melody is the essence of music.”
  • “All I insist on, and nothing else, is that you should show the whole world that you are not afraid. Be silent, if you choose, but when it is necessary, speak — and speak in such a way that people will remember it.”

Join Tafelmusik for MOZART 40 at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre from September 20–23, 2018.