My 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!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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
Concerto con molti strumenti in F Major, RV 569 (Venice/Dresden, 1720s)
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
Leading up to Elisa Citterio‘s debut as Tafelmusik’s new Music Director, we sat down with Elisa for a short Q&A so we all could get to know her better.
Welcome to Toronto, your new home! Did you know much about the city, or Canada as a whole, before your first visit?
Thank you! My first visit to Canada was when I first met Tafelmusik in 2015, and at that time I knew nothing at all about either Canada or Toronto. In the past I had turned down many tours of your country because I was too busy with other commitments, but every time I hoped to be able to come as soon as possible. My wishes came true!
What do you look forward to exploring in the city?
I am so excited about exploring the different neighbourhoods, with so many cultures living together, to discover many kind of foods, and to find green areas around the city. I am looking forward to relaxing walks on the beaches. I’d like also to explore other musical events here.
What are you looking forward to performing this year?
To be honest, I am looking forward to performing anything with the orchestra, choir, and Ivars! But I am particularly excited to perform with our guests Jeanne Lamon, Bruno Weil, Kristian Bezuidenhout, and Alison Melville.
Who are your favourite composers to perform?
Bach and Mozart. But I love Monteverdi as well. I have to say that I have also loved performing works by Strauss, Janáček, Shostakovich, Puccini, and Verdi.
What is your favourite thing to do on a day off?
If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said dancing the tango, visiting with my nephews and nieces, and walking in nature. Now I spend every free minute with my one-year-old daughter.
What was your first music gig?
It’s difficult to remember, because my mother organized a few concerts every year with her piano students, and I played every time on both piano and violin. I suppose the first time I probably played a Bach minuet on the piano, and a violin concertino by Küchler. The first professional performance was for the award ceremony of a violin competition: I was twelve and I played an easy Vivaldi concerto.
What are the last three recordings you listened to?
What is your “guilty pleasure” music to listen to?
I used to listen a lot of tango music from the 1940s and 1950s, and also some Italian pop music.
What is your great ambition?
In terms of my career, I have always wanted to play beautiful music with good musicians, but often good musicians aren’t so kindly. Tafelmusik’s members are good musicians—and kind! As to my personal life, I’ve been looking forward to leaving Milan, because I don’t like living in such a chaotic city. Toronto is
certainly bigger, but I think you have many more green areas here. I had also been wanting to have a baby for many years but I didn’t have the time to realize this wish. I am so happy to have my daughter Olivia in my life. Now my biggest ambition is to be helpful to Tafelmusik.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
There are so many wonderful musicians all over the world, and the list would be very long! Firstly I received a big inspiration from my mother, since she loved music so much — whenever she was home she listened to classical music, and she practised piano for half an hour every night, even after very long days. And I had lessons with so many teachers, and some of them were really inspiring. I can mention four of them: Chiara Banchini, Enrico Onofri, and Luigi Mangiocavallo for baroque violin, and Dejan Bogdanovich for everything.
Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?
That’s the most difficult question for me at this moment of big change. The next three years will be a great adventure both for me and for my family. Maybe we will all fall in love with your country! Of course, taking care of them and of their wishes for the future is a priority.
We don’t have the soccer following that Italy does, but we do have some passionate fans! Do you follow any sports teams?
Actually I don’t — I don’t appreciate the big business that surrounds soccer, so I won’t miss it. I enjoy following the Olympic Games, but that’s all.
You can hear Elisa perform with Tafelmusik in A Joyous Welcome from Sept 21-24, 26, 2017. Tickets are available here.
One cloudy October morning in 2012, the orchestra met for our monthly meeting to catch up on any news from our staff, review marketing and finance reports, offer advice on new projects in the works, etc. The meeting was business as usual until Jeanne Lamon, our long-time Music Director, requested the orchestra’s presence a little longer. Without much ado, she announced big news – she was retiring from her position as Music Director of Tafelmusik. For the first time ever in an orchestra meeting, the room was completely silent. I saw tears running down one of the other orchestra members’ faces, and felt them hot on my own cheeks. Finally someone, I think it was John Abberger, articulated “This news has left us speechless.” We knew in the backs of our minds that this day was coming, but on that October day, we felt the news was shocking and sudden. We weren’t ready. I think Jeanne was a little surprised by our reaction, but luckily she knew us well enough that she had brought prosecco to the meeting! We did our best to enthusiastically toast her leadership and new life, even though it was only 11:00 in the morning.
Over the next little while, we began the search for a new Music Director. The organization gathered together to choose an eleven-member “search committee” to oversee the whole process, which included musicians, staff, board members, and trusted advisors. Based on input from the whole organization, the search committee put together a job listing which encompassed Tafelmusik’s core values, “deal-breakers,” and hopes for the future. The orchestra mobilized and pored over recordings, YouTube videos, and websites of hundreds of baroque musicians to choose a small number of the most beloved to recommend that the search committee invite to perform with us as potential candidates for the MD position. The search committee painstakingly read and listened to many applications from talented musicians living all over the world.
Over the next two years, I had the opportunity, as one of the musicians on the search committee, to have a first-hand view of the search process. I saw how the orchestra grew and changed as we worked with each wonderful guest director. I saw how our feelings of despair over the news of Jeanne’s retirement changed to acceptance and support for her new lifestyle and our new relationship with her. For us it was wonderful to have such a long process. We needed it. We became more flexible as a group, we became more open to new ideas, we became less reliant on Jeanne and more self-sufficient as a group. And as time passed, as a member of the search committee, I became less mystified by the orchestra’s evaluations and audience comments after our weeks with guest directors, and more able to see what were the needs of this unique group of musicians and its dedicated staff members, board members, volunteers, and audience members.
One of the last guest musicians to be invited to be part of the search for a new Music Director came about due to a hole in our schedule. We had a concert in November 2015 with no director. We also happened to have just hired a new violist from Italy, Stefano Marcocchi. I remember talking to him one day backstage before a performance at Koerner Hall, describing all of the things I thought Tafelmusik was looking for in a new Music Director. The name that came first and foremost to his mind was a name we hadn’t heard before – Elisa Citterio. He sent us an incredibly beautiful live recording of Elisa directing Corelli concerti grossi, and we were excited to discover an amazing new violinist!
Elisa came from Milan that November to play with us, and I was immediately struck by her incredible violin playing, her warm and vibrant personality, her confidence, her super-efficient rehearsal style, and her high level of attention to detail. Her style is a little different than ours – she uses a very sharp articulation (great for the new acoustics in Jeanne Lamon Hall at Trinity St. Paul’s), and she loves the extreme dynamics typical of both historical and contemporary Italian musicians playing baroque music. That first week, it took the orchestra a few days to gel with her musically, but by the end of the week, everyone was having a wonderful time playing together. We loved her positive energy, her flawless technique, her creative ideas, and the way the music grew and changed every day, coming to life in different ways in each concert. The moment I will never forget that week was about three minutes into the first concert. The orchestra was feeling stressed (first-concert jitters) and I looked up at Elisa – she had a big beautiful smile on her face that said to me, “This is exactly the place I am supposed to be right now. I love this!” It was inspiring.
The second time we met Elisa (September 2016) was a much different experience, especially for Elisa! This time she and her partner Mirko brought their two-month-old daughter Olivia. Elisa was playing the very first concerts after her first child was born! We were stunned that in the face of utter exhaustion, Elisa still brought the same boundless energy and joy for the music with her. The rehearsals were organized and efficient, her ideas and cues were clear, creative, and easy to follow, and I don’t think I heard one out-of-tune note from her during the entire rehearsal period and concerts! No matter how tired she seemed offstage, the minute she stepped in front of the orchestra, she had all of the energy in the world for us. We had a lot of fun playing those concerts with her, and many of us remarked how fresh Handel’s Water Music (a piece we have played many times) felt under her direction. For an orchestra that plays as many concerts as we do (we have performed The Galileo Project over 70 times), the ability to keep music fresh and alive is essential.
At the beginning of the process, violinist Tom Georgi said to the orchestra at one of our many meetings, “We are going to see lots of people, and in the end, we are all going to agree.” To my complete surprise, he was right. We saw a lot of people, and in the end were in complete agreement that Elisa was the person with whom we saw ourselves building a wonderful musical life. We were thrilled when we found out that the rest of the search committee agreed with us. They too saw the special qualities, both personal and musical, that make Elisa an ideal person for this position. We were even more thrilled when Elisa accepted our offer to become the new music director of Tafelmusik!!!
This process has been long but fruitful. We have had the luxury of time to find new ways of doing things, and forge new friendships with some of the baroque world’s brightest stars. We all love Jeanne Lamon, and she continues to be such a valued part of this organization. We needed time to get used to her having a different role in Tafelmusik, and time to open our minds to change. Finally I feel like now we are ready to begin a new era, which will be different in countless ways, but similar in the ways that we hold so dear – Tafelmusik will continue to make great music together to the highest level with boundless energy and joy. I feel so lucky to be part of a group like this and I look forward to all of us developing a close new relationship with our wonderful new Music Director, Elisa Citterio.