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.

Further Listening – A Grand Tour of Italy

by Christopher Verrette, violin

grand-tour-italy-map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Behind the Musik: A Grand Tour of Italy

Here are the official program notes for A Grand Tour of Italy

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

Directed by Rodolfo Richter
Dec 1-4, 2016, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
Dec 6, 2016, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

PROGRAM NOTES
by Christopher Verrette

Italy was the principal source of the musical trends that came to define baroque music in the seventeenth century. The innovative new forms of opera, sonata, and concerto were all developed there. Copious volumes of music were published, especially in Venice, and Italian musicians travelled across Europe, bringing their talents and compositions. This program moves freely between different generations of composers and different cities and courts, both within and outside Italy.

The Bergamasca was a popular dance that allegedly lampooned the citizens of Bergamo. Musically it was set to a four-note repeating bass line, over which parts could either be composed or improvised. Bergamascas have a playful affect that can be associated with performers: the mischievous servant character in Italian Commedia dell’arte, named Arlecchino, is ostensibly a native of Bergamo, and the “Rude Mechanicals” dance a Bergomask in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Marco Uccellini was a violinist based in Modena. His Bergamasca comes from his Opus 3, published in Venice in 1642.

We jump ahead a few decades to Venice under the spell of the prolific composer and violinist, Antonio Vivaldi. Although Venice had been a major centre for publishing—most of the music on this program was published there—Vivaldi preferred to have his music published in Amsterdam, as was the case with his Opus 9, entitled La Cetra. The title refers to a type of Ancient Greek harp and is no doubt a gesture toward its dedicatee, the Emperor Charles VI, who was himself a musician and music lover. The symbol relates the violin, as solo instrument in the concertos, to the instruments that accompanied classical drama, but also refers to the Hapsburg monarchs themselves, who frequently used the symbol of the lyre. A year after its publication, Vivaldi met the Emperor in person, who gave him gifts and engaged him in extended conversation (apparently to the chagrin of his ministers).

grand-tour-italy-map

The title La Cetra had in fact been used many years before by Giovanni Legrenzi for a book of sonatas dedicated to another musical emperor, Charles’ father Leopold I. Legrenzi had held positions in Bergamo and Ferrara prior to coming to Venice, where he published his Opus 10 in 1673. It is his last and most ambitious set. The scoring of one sonata for four violins is unusual, and is perhaps most striking in the first movement, when one can hear a number of short motifs being passed quickly from one violin to the next.

The interaction of four separate violin parts was also employed by Giuseppe Valentini in one of his concerti grossi, a departure from the usual two violin soloists. Valentini was part of the vital music scene in Rome during the heyday of Corelli, where there was lots of work at the various churches and in the households of influential families. It is unknown whether Valentini actually studied with Corelli, but he was certainly part of the pool of freelancers Corelli regularly called upon, and is known to have held positions with the Ruspoli and Borghese families as well. His music was circulated internationally and was frequently plagiarized.

Arcangelo Corelli was revered as a composer and violinist both during his career and after. His instrumental music represents a kind of benchmark for the forms that would dominate the later baroque. He is largely credited with developing the concerto grosso, in which a small concertino group interacts with a larger ripieno. Although he apparently composed and directed performances of concerti grossi throughout his career, they only saw publication at the end of his life, as his final Opus 6. The eighth concerto is a favourite for its seasonal content, the finale Pastorale, “written for the nativity.” Another unusual feature in this concerto is the performance indication at the first Grave: “come sta,” meaning to play it “as is,” without the added ornamentation that would normally by expected of the performers.

Dario Castello was among the first generation of composers to explore the possibilities of the sonata in the early seventeenth century. Little is known about his life; on the title page of his first volume of sonatas he claims to be chief wind player at San Marco in Venice, and several of his sonatas do include parts for cornetto, dulcian, and trombone, the principal wind instruments used in churches at the time. His works tend to be in many sections with bold changes of character.

Throughout the baroque era, Italian musicians travelled and frequently found successful positions abroad. The Hapsburg court in Vienna, the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, was noted for employing the finest Italian musicians, and it was here that the young Veronese Antonio Bertali found employment as an instrumentalist. He never returned to Italy, and would eventually ascend to the position of Capellmeister. An accomplished violinist, he is most noted for his sonatas today, but was also a composer of vocal music and had a great deal of influence over the development of Italian opera at the Imperial court, which continued for generations.

One of the best-travelled musicians of the seventeenth century was Biagio Marini. A native of Brescia, a major violin-making centre, he worked at San Marco in Venice under Monteverdi, at various Italian courts, in Germany, and as far away as Brussels. He eventually returned to Venice. He was a daring and innovative composer for the violin, creating what is some of the first solo repertoire for that instrument. The Passacaglia that closes his final opus, however, eschews virtuosity completely: a version of the passacaglia bass pattern is used as a recurring refrain, and while the intervening sections carry us through some striking harmonies, they never accelerate into fast notes, maintaining a state of gravity throughout.

We close with music by an Italian expatriate who not only never returned home, but went in a very different direction with his musical style as well. The Florentine Giovanni Battista Lulli was brought to France as a teenager for a position as an Italian tutor. Already possessing some musical and theatrical skills, he somehow continued his musical education in France, and became a favourite of the young Louis XIV. When Louis took over as ruler in 1661, he named Jean-Baptiste Lully his Surintendant of the royal music and granted him French citizenship. Lully led ensembles at court that were legendary for their discipline. Eventually he took on the challenge of creating a French form of opera, and obtained what was essentially a monopoly for its production. Dance always had a large role in these spectacles. The elegant Chaconne from his mature opera Phaëton was widely copied and transcribed in the period.

© C. Verrette 2016


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Rodolfo Richter, violin

MARCO UCCELLINI 1603/10–1680
Aria sopra la Bergamesca (Venice, 1642)

ANTONIO VIVALDI 1678–1741
Concerto no. 1 for violin in C Major from op. 9, “La Cetra” (Venice, 1727)
Allegro – Largo – Allegro molto
Cristina Zacharias, violin soloist

GIOVANNI LEGRENZI 1626–1690
Sonata for 4 violins & continuo from op. 10, “La Cetra” (Venice, 1673)

GUISEPPE VALENTINI 1681–1753
Concerto grosso in A Minor, op. 7, no. 11 (Rome/Bologna, 1719)

INTERMISSION

ARCANGELO CORELLI 1653–1713
Concerto grosso in G Minor, op. 6, no. 8 “Christmas” (Rome, 1714)

DARIO CASTELLO fl. 1720s
Sonata 15 from Sonate concertante in stil moderno, libro secondo (Venice, 1629)

ANTONIO BERTALI 1605–1669
Sonata à 4 (Vienna, c.1640)

BIAGIO MARINI 1594–1663
Passacaglia from Op. 22 (Venice, 1655)

GIOVANNI BATTISTA LULLI 1632–1687
Chaconne from Phaëton (Paris, 1683)

Join us on our Grand Tour of Italy at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.