Trio Sonata in F major HWV 405 Handel (1685 – 1759)
Allegro – Grave – Allegro
In the late sixteenth century, the word sonata (from the Italian sonare, to sound) identified a piece that was played, rather than sung (which would be a cantata). By the baroque period, a “trio sonata” implied music for two solo instruments, with a continuo consisting of a bass instrument and a keyboard. This work was written for two recorders, and the familiar theme of the last movement is an extension of that used in Handel’s well-known organ concerto, op. 4 no. 5.
Pièces de Violes Troisième Livre Marais (1656 – 1728)
Prélude – Allemande – Sarabande – Saille du Caffè
Living and working in Paris, Marin Marais was a virtuoso of the viola da gamba, which he was said to “play like an angel”. He published several books of pieces for the instrument, as well as composing operas and other works for the stage, and a number of concerti. In addition to his musical output, with his wife he produced nineteen children, four of whom were also violists!
Trio Sonata in C major Quantz (1697 – 1773)
Affetuoso – Alla Breve – Larghetto – Vivace
Johann Joachim Quantz showed early musical promise on the double bass, and after training both in composition and in various instruments, took up the flute for which he was to become renowned only in his early twenties, when he was a member of the King of Poland’s chapel orchestra. Afterwards he travelled widely, including a visit to London when Handel was at the height of his operatic career, and to Rome where he met Scarlatti. In Berlin in 1728, he inspired the young prince who was to become Frederick the Great, to learn the flute, and in 1741 he settled in Berlin as court composer. The King’s preference for conservative Italianate music over the new northern styles (for example of the young C.P.E. Bach) affected Quantz’s output, as did Frederick’s proprietorial ban on the publication of any of his music, so that in his lifetime Quantz’s reputation relied very much on his influential book of 1752 “Essay of an Instruction how to Play the Transverse Flute”.
Gentilesse op 45 no. 5 in G major Boismortier (1691 – 1755)
Gaiment – Gracieusement – Gaiment
Joseph Boudin de Boismortier, another Parisian but a generation later than Marais, was that rarity a composer without a patron, who made himself rich by the publication of his compositions. In response to comments such as that of de la Borde “Happy be Boismortier whose fertile pen can give birth without pain to a new piece of music every month”, he was said to respond “I’m making money”! A “gentilesse” is a kindness, a suitable title for a cheerful little piece.
Italian Concerto BWV 971 Bach (1685 – 1750)
(Allegro) – Andante – Presto
This “Concerto after the Italian Taste” is not a concerto in the usual sense of the word, but is for solo harpsichord. The effect generally produced by different groups of instruments is here realised by the use of the harpsichord’s two different manuals. The two lively outer movements (the first does not have an indication of tempo) frame the lovely slow movement, where a seamless melody soars over the repetitions of the four-bar ground-bass.
Duo in D minor op. 2 no. 5 Telemann (1681 – 1765)
Largo – Vivace – Grazioso – Allegro
Georg Philip Telemann was one of the most prolific composers of his age, and considered to be one of Germany’s finest. His music was compared favourably to that of his friend J.S.Bach (he was godfather to Bach’s son Carl Philip Emanuel) and to that of Handel, whom he knew personally. The six sonatas op. two, published in 1727, were for two flutes (or violins) and are unusual in that they do not have a continuo part.
The Marvel of Peru, from Airs for the Season J. Oswald (1711 – 1769)
Scortese – Comic – Musette
Born in Crail, James Oswald was one of the Scottish Enlightment’s most important composers. He was musician and dancing master at Dunfermline, before moving to Edinburgh and then to London, where he rose to become chamber musician to George the Third. He published many volumes of music, some compilations of Scottish folk-tunes, some his own composition. The two sets of Airs for the Seasons contained twenty-four pieces for each season, each depicting an appropriate flower. The Wonder of Peru is Mirabilis jalapa (also known as the four o’clock flower), and is said to have been imported in 1540 from the Peruvian Andes – though it is perhaps difficult to picture it from these three charming short pieces for flute and continuo!
La Primavera from the Four Seasons Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Allegro – Largo e pianissimo sempre – Allegro
Perhaps the best-known baroque works of all, Vivaldi’s concerti of the Four Seasons are the best sort of programme music. There is a series of sonnets, said to have been written by Vivaldi himself, which describe what is pictured in the music. La Primavera, Spring, portrays in the first movement the singing of birds, the murmuring streams, and the thunderstorms heralding spring, which then give way to further birdsong. In the second movement the goatherd sleeps in the flower-strewn meadows, with his faithful dog barking beside him. The last movement is a pastoral dance, of nymphs and shepherds, led by rustic bagpipes, beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.
All tonight’s works are first performances for ACMC, except for the Boismortier and the Vivaldi, which Passacaglia played for us in their last visit in February 1998.