Behind the Musik: A Recorder Romp

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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.

Baroque 101: The Recorder

“‘Oh the recorders, let me see one.” Hamlet, Act 3 sc. 2

A member of the flute family with relatives in other cultures around the world, the recorder is known to have been in use in Italy by the fourteenth century. The earliest recorders were made from a single piece of wood and came in two sizes. By 1619, the composer and music theorist Michael Praetorius listed eight different sizes, from a small sopranino to a great bass.

These different sizes were often built to be played together in a “consort,” like a small instrumental choir, and performed dance music, transcriptions of vocal pieces, and more complicated instrumental works; but a very sophisticated type of solo playing must also have existed. The world’s first recorder method book, written by the Venetian Silvestro Ganassi and published in 1535, includes instructions for elaborate melodic decoration, and tantalizing mentions of “good players” to whom the serious student must be sure to listen. (Oh, to have been a fly on the wall …)

In the seventeenth century the recorder’s design gradually changed to incorporate a more conical bore and a division of the instrument into separate joints, and by the turn of the eighteenth its appearance and range took on the one we’re most familiar with today. Though various sizes of recorder were still made and played, the alto recorder was the size most commonly seen in a solo or small ensemble role.

The recorder can boast a wealth of repertoire by composers both well known and less familiar. Handel composed wonderful sonatas and chamber music for the recorder, and some of the most delightful recorder obbligato parts ever written are found in his operas. J.S. Bach used the instrument in over twenty of his cantatas, the Easter Oratorio, and the Second and Fourth Brandenburg Concertos. And Telemann’s own skill as a recorder player is reflected in his brilliant and demanding solo and double concertos, chamber music, solo sonatas, and cantata obbligato parts.

Recorder instruction books for the amateur market continued to be published into the 1790s, but the instrument was a poor match for the classical and romantic aesthetics, and for the developing orchestra, so it spent most of the nineteenth century in a deep sleep. The twentieth-century early-music revival resulted in a true recorder renaissance which continues to this day.

Hear  recorder soloist Alison Melville perform in A Recorder Romp from Feb 8–11, 2018 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.