Posts tagged ‘early music’

September 1, 2017

I am free of love, and I listen to music lightly

by ada

Because after Jan Dismas Zelenka, Marco Beasley, Philippe Jaroussky and Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville I now finally have a new imaginary boyfriend.

Everybody, meet Vincenzo Capezzuto.

He can sing. And he can dance.

He definitely can dance.

* I’m really late to the party, I know. But I’ve been absent from the early music scene for quite a while now.

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August 27, 2017

Andrea Falconieri – Folias echa para mi Señora Doña Tarolilla de Carallenos

by ada

I did not give up on updating this blog yet – just as I didn’t give up on writing a whole series on the fascinating topic of the evolution of the la folia theme – but honestly, I don’t see anything of this happening anytime soon. So, for the meantime, let’s have some fun music, published in Naples in 1650 and dedicated to a certain lady of honour of whom I know nothing about.

ETA: I just noticed that even my spam mails think my page needs some fresh content, haha

December 31, 2016

music for the last day of 2016 – Andreas Hammerschmidt: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich

by ada

Let’s interrupt my rather intermittent broadcasting of the chronicles of the summer of 2015 for a moment to say goodbye to the parting year – a year, which was terrible on so many levels – and to set new hopes regarding the coming one.

There is nothing more important I could ask for 2017 than peace, so here is an Early Baroque setting of the ancient Gregorian antiphon Da pacem, Domine; translated by Martin Luther in 1529 and put to music by Andreas Hammerschmidt some hundred and thirty years later.

Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich, Herr Gott, zu unsern Zeiten. Es ist doch ja kein andrer nicht, der für uns könnte streiten, denn Du, unser Gott, alleine. 

Gib unsern Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit Frieden und gut Regiment, dass wir unter ihnen ein geruhigs und stilles Leben führen mögen in aller Gottseligkeit und Ehrbarkeit.

Amen.

September 18, 2015

Mödling – Ludwig van Beethoven: Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, Nr. 29 Op. 106

by ada

When the idea of the Travel Series first occurred to me, it seemed totally feasible. Like, go to places and then write about their relevance in classical music. Well, as it turns out, I do the first part (“go to places”) really well, but have some serious problems regarding the second. I visited Mödling exactly five months ago, managed to post my photos of it only one month later, and then life happened and everything became more important than Ludwig van Beethoven, whose music I don’t really fancy anyway.

But now! I still have 35 minutes left of my lunch break and I’m determined to use it the right way and show the world the places where Beethoven spent 5 summers of his life composing great music like the Diabelli-Variations (I’ve never got over the third variation, because it is so boring I am no pianist), the Mödlinger Tänze (which later turned out to not be from Beethoven at all), the Missa Solemnis (vocal works written after 1790 make me nervous) and the somewhat weird Piano Sonata Nr 29, one of the two sonatas he wrote specifically for the fortepiano.

Beethoven spent the summers of 1818-1819-1820 in this house, called Hafnerhaus, owned at the time by the potter Jakob Tuschek:

Untitled 6

And this is where he wrote the biggest part of his Missa Solemnis in the summer of 1820:

Untitled 136

And here is Beethoven himself, looking wild and dark, as usual:

Untitled 18

And now, after this totally uninformative introduction, let’s listen to the 4. movement (Introduction and Fuga) of the great sonata for fortepiano, Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, Nr. 29 Op. 106, written during the troublesome* summer of 1818 on the first floor of the Hafnerhaus and dedicated to his student, the archbishop Rudolph of Austria.

* as it seems, neither housekeepers nor maids could put up with the temper tantrums of the great Beethoven for more than 4 weeks at a time, so he spent most of his time sitting in his room and being hungry while waiting for the maid who has already run away the evening before**

** doing something to help themselves is obviously not an option for geniuses. They have to either be served or keep starving. Going out to buy food is for lowly commons***

*** can you tell I don’t really like Beethoven?

April 6, 2015

music for Easter Monday – Aria “Seele, deine Spezereien” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Oratorium Festo Paschali”, BWV 249

by ada

For my last music post of this Lent/Easter period let’s listen to one of the Great Traverso Moments of the Bach cantatas: Seele, deine Spezereien from the Easter Oratorio. The first version of it was performed almost exactly 290 years ago, on 1725 April 1. And, although I tend to find that Johann Adolf Scheibe‘s criticism of Bach’s “allzugrosse Kunst” actually has some truth in it, this music is still much more beautiful than anything else written during the past 290 years.

April 5, 2015

music for Easter Sunday – François Couperin: Motet pour le jour de Pâques

by ada

François Couperin (le Grand! – indeed he was great), court musician, composer and harpsichord teacher of the Sun King, Louis XIV, composed this Easter motet around 1700. It was most likely performed by his cousin, Marguerite-Louise Couperin, a soprano singer of the Chapelle Royale. Happy Easter!

April 4, 2015

music for Holy Saturday – “Jordanis conversus est retrorsum” from Jean-Joseph de Mondonville’s great motet “In exitu Israel”

by ada

Passover-themed music for today: Psalm 114, part of the prayer that is recited during the Seder meal, set to music by Jean-Joseph de Mondonville, the favourite composer* of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, also known as Madame Pompadour, the maitresse of Louis XV.

The great motet In exitu Israel was composed in 1753 and is the only piece by Mondonville I’ve ever played. My favourite movement is the third, when the river Jordan turns back: Jordanis conversus est retrorsum. Happy Passover!

* No wonder. Mondonville was rather sexy**

** He was also happily married to the best sight-reader musician of Paris, the harpsichord player Anne-Jeanne Boucon*** 

*** I apparently have a thing for long-deceased, married men, haha.

April 4, 2015

music for Good Friday – Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Sonata X in G minor, Die Kreuzigung

by ada

Die Kreuzigung (The Crucifixion) from the famous and unique collection Die Rosenkranzsonaten (The Rosary/Mystery Sonatas) composed by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, one of the greatest violin virtuoso of the 17th century, for the Salzburg archbishop Maximilian Gandolph Graf von Kuenburg, around 1675.

I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of speaking about this piece – more by its historical background than by its religious symbolism though. How could I explain 17th century Catholic customs, scordatura tuning, meantone temperament, stylus fantasticus and Biber’s role in the evolution of Baroque music in Austria in one short blog post? In English, which is only my third language? Totally hopeless. So let’s forget about facts and numbers and historical sources and listen to this sonata instead. It’s beautiful.

April 3, 2015

music for Maundy Thursday – “Eia Mater” from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Stabat Mater” RV 621

by ada

For all the stunning church music Antonio Vivaldi composed, he has never gotten to writing a proper passion oratorio. Fortunately, he did compose a Stabat Mater in 1721, the seventh movement of which we can now listen to. Performed by Philippe Jaroussky, because after 8 years of studying the long gone aesthetics of past societies, I only enjoy my soprano arias if sung by males.

April 2, 2015

music for Holy Wednesday – Niccolò Jommelli: Jerusalem convertere

by ada

I wanted to post a typical French Baroque lamentation today but couldn’t set my mind on one particular piece – so I decided to choose something entirely different in style: an aria from Niccolò Jommelli‘s oratorio “Le Lamentazioni del profeta Geremia per il Mercoledi Santo“. I find it fascinating how this piece, written only one year after Johann Sebastian Bach‘s death, is so definitely not-Baroque anymore.

By the way, Jommelli, just like a lot of other composers of his era, had a life I’d swap my own for at any moment, but it’s 2.30 am and I just don’t have the energy to tell more about it right now. So let’s just listen to his (rather cheerful) adaptation of Prophet Jeremiah’s call to repentance.

April 1, 2015

music for Holy Tuesday – Johann Gottlieb Janitsch: Sonata da Camera in G minor

by ada

Instruments only for today’s music – one of the quartets that are so typical for the work of Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, the viola da gamba player of the Berlin court of the German emperor Friedrich II (der Große). Its third movement, an Adagio ma non troppo, is an adaptation of the old church hymn O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. Originally written by Arnulf of Leuven in the 13th century as part of the religious poem Salve mundi salutare/Rhythmica oratio, translated to German by Paul Gerhardt in 1656, adapted to the melody of the love song Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret that appeared first in Hans Leo Haßler‘s 1601 collection Lustgarten neuer teutscher Gesäng, by Johann Crüger already in 1640, but only published in 1656, in the sixth edition of his collection of Protestant church hymns Praxis pietatis melica, and still being a source of inspiration for Janitsch (and co.) somewhere around the middle of the 18th century – this hymn definitively has what we should call a fruitful career.

Although on this recording the melody instruments are the oboe, the violin and the viola, it was originally composed for two violas and the traverso. The latter most likely was played by Friedrich II himself, as he is known to have been an amateur but very enthusiastic and talented flute player (and a lover of music, literature and arts in general. And also a lover of potatoes, but that’s another story). My favourite travelling music historian, Charles Burney has witnessed him playing and, as reported in his Continental Travels 1770-1772, was “much pleased and even surprised” with the King’s musical production. He found it important to mention though, that the capacity of His Royal Lungs has noticeably declined with age and “he was obliged to take his breath, contrary to rule, before the passages were finished”. Poor Friedrich.

March 30, 2015

music for Holy Monday – Aria “Sileant Zephyri” from Antonio Vivaldi’s motet “Filiae maestae Jerusalem” RV 638

by ada

According to Antonio Vivaldi, this is how nature mourns the death of Christ – the second movement of one of the two motets he composed as introductions for his now lost Miserere.

March 29, 2015

music for Palm Sunday – Aria “Mich vom Stricken meiner Sünden” from Reinhard Keiser’s Brockes Passion

by ada

Another year of the Holy Week Series, already the fourth since my life turned upside down. Four years of not being a musician anymore. How time flies. And while, on a daily basis, I’m already quite comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be a flutist anymore, this is that special time of the year when I really feel pity for myself and can’t stop having those “what if” and “could have been” thoughts. It’s all pointless, of course, because depression isn’t a matter of choice. And while I haven’t touched my instruments in four years, I still have a lot to say about how 18th century music is the best, so let’s talk passion music (instead of mental health woes, haha). Because, according to Baroque Palm Sunday traditions, that’s what one is supposed to listen to on this day.

Of course, no Lent can pass without me mentioning the Brockes Passion, so Brockes Passion it is, the very first version ever, written by the Hamburg composer Reinhard Keiser who, if we believe Johann Mattheson, was “the greatest opera composer of the world”. He was also a lover of good vines (especially Tokay), which, at times, made him behave “more like a cavalier than a musician” (again, if we believe Mattheson, which I personally have no reason not to do.)

Keiser was the first composer to set Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ (a prominent Hamburg politician) libretto Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus aus den vier Evangelisten… in gebundener Rede vorgestellt to music in 1712. It was performed in the same year at one of the weekly concerts organised by Brockes at his home to a neat little audience of “over 500 persons” (apparently, Brockes had rather comfortable living conditions, haha). The première was a big success and the libretto became very popular among other German-speaking composers over the next few years. Händel, Telemann, Fasch and even Johann Sebastian Bach wrote their own versions. Here are my takes on some of them from the previous years: Johann Friedrich Fasch, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, Georg Philipp Telemann, and some more Telemann (of course it can always be some more Telemann).

 

December 31, 2014

music for the last day of 2014 – Johann Sebastian Bach: Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende, BWV 28

by ada

All I can say about 2014 is exactly what Erdmann Neumeister, the librettist of this cantata has already put into words in an oh-so-appropriate manner: thank God it’s over.

December 26, 2014

music for the 2. Day of Christmas – Dietrich Buxtehude: Das neugeborne Kindelein, BuxWV 13

by ada

I originally intended to post this cantata for Christmas Day, but, alas, my scheduling skills aren’t the ones I can be proud of. You would think there’s no way to confuse 25 with 26, but you’re wrong. I’m really talented if it comes to creating chaos. Anyway. This is one of my favourite Christmas music ever (let’s forget the fact that this piece was written for New Year’s Eve, shall we?) and I am not willing to leave it out of this series just because I still can’t do proper maths after going to school for 25 years. Ha, ha.

Dietrich (orig. Diderik Hansen) Buxtehude, although of Danish origin, is one of the greatest names in the history of the Early(ish) German Baroque music. During his lifetime he was well acknowledged and of a considerable reputation, and served as a role model for many younger composers like Händel, Mattheson and even Johann Sebastian Bach who, at the age of twenty, walked more than 300 kms from Arnstadt to Lübeck to study with him. He (Bach) rejected Buxtehude’s offer to marry his oldest daughter, Anna Margareta, though. He wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea of marrying into the Buxtehude family, but his choice of wife would have been Dorothea Catrin, the youngest of Buxtehude’s six daughters. Unfortunately, Buxtehude was a man who liked things organised neatly everything to go the way of proper 17th century social customs, like successors marry the daughters of their predecessors and oldest daughters marry first. Poor Anna Margareta who, being somewhat over-proportioned and, at thirty, well over the desirable age, has a few years earlier already been rejected by both Johann Matheson and Georg Friedrich Händel. She obviously wasn’t that sweet little thing twenty-year-old composers dream of when applying for new jobs that come with a wife. Don’t worry, she did not end up as a spinster though: in 1707, at the age of 38, she wedded Johann Christian Schieferdecker, a composer of no real importance but a man of enough courage to take the risk of marrying a woman wanted by nobody. Brave guy.

And now let’s hope this post will go up on the 2. Day of Christmas instead of on Good Friday 2015.

December 25, 2014

music for the 1. Day of Christmas – Johann Valentin Rathgeber – 10 Pastorellen vor die Weynacht-Zeit, Op.22

by ada

Some sweet German pastoral songs by Johann Valentin Rathgeber, a Benedictine monk with explicit tendency towards rebellion and vagrancy; in honor of all those who, just like me, spent the first day of Christmas on the train and are spending the second day of it working.

Yes, this is a scheduled post.

Update: aaand this is the classic case of Scheduling Went Wrong. Ha! Happy 1st Day of Christmas.

December 25, 2014

music for Christmas Eve – Cristofaro Caresana: La Veglia

by ada

La Veglia, Cantata a 6 voci con violini “Per la Nascita di Nostro Signore” – a proper 17th century Christmas cantata by Cristofaro Caresana, an Englishman in New York a Venetian in Spanish Naples and proud composer of the earliest complete tarantella melody in the history of music. Happy Nativity!

December 21, 2014

music for the 4. Sunday of Advent – Samuel Capricornus: Adeste omnes fideles

by ada

I had grandiose plans for today’s music post – too bad I’ve had neither time nor energy to fulfill them. So, to make the best out of this situation, let’s listen to the motet Adeste omnes fideles composed by Samuel Capricornus; moved a lot, wrote cool music, died young. My kind of guy.

December 14, 2014

music for the 3. Sunday of Advent – Johann Stadlmayr: Resonet in laudibus

by ada

Something short and sweet for Gaudete, the 3rd Sunday of Advent: the Christmas motet Resonet in laudibus, from the collection Moduli symphoniaci, in augustissima Christi nati celebritate et caeteris deinceps natalibus, et Purificatae Virginis, feriis, quinis, senis, septenis et pluribus vocibus concinendi of Johann Stadlmayr, published in 1629 in Innsbruck.

And, although Stadlmayr has only spent four years of his life in Salzburg (1603-1607), I’m determined to squeeze him also into the Salzburg Series, because I’m tricky as hell.

I can’t share a lot of interesting details about his life but the fact that he worked as a kind of butcher for six years, because he was unable to make a living out of music. Familiar situation, isn’t it? I love you, Johann Stadlmayr, you are my soulmate and bff forever.

December 7, 2014

music for the 2. Sunday of Advent – Michel Corrette: Sinfonia V. from 6 Symphonies en quatuor, contenant les plus beaux Noëls François & étrangers

by ada

For the second Sunday of Advent let’s get back into my comfort zone padded with late(-ish) French Baroque music, and listen to one of the Christmas symphonies of Michel Corrette, obsessive writer of DIY music treatises, knight of the Order of Christ, cultivator of the beau berger mindset that flourished in the social circles of the 17th-18th century French noblesse and, last but not least, composer of noëls and other funny things, such as concertos with titles like La Femme est une grand embarras or La Servante au bon Tabac. 

Noëls are the traditional Christmas carols of the French, and back in those times it was a thing amongst French composers to write variations based upon them for the organ, but (to my best knowledge) it was Corrette whom first occurred to bind a few of them together as a set and call it a symphony. Here is No 5 of the 6 Symphonies en quatuor, contenant les plus beaux Noëls François & étrangers, avec des variations pour un 1er violon ou flûte, un 2d violon, alto & basse chiffrée, & pouvant s’exécuter à gr. orchestre à l’Office divin, published in Paris in 1781. Its last movement is based on the melody that was well-known in Baroque Europe under various names, such as Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi; La Mantovana and Noël Suisse. Today most people recognise it as the melody of Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel.*

* If when I’m done with the Salzburg Series and all my other series I’m dreaming of doing in my (nonexistent) free hours, like the Musica Hebraica, the Folia, the Female Baroque Composers, the Love, War and Death, etc, etc, I’m definitely doing a post on the early music background of Hatikvah. It’s not a long story to tell, so there is actually some hope of this happening, haha**

** hopefully I will still live blog at age 83***

*** Telemann, Schütz and even Corrette were still mentally fit and active around that age so nothing is impossible

November 30, 2014

music for the 1. Sunday of Advent – Heinrich Schütz: Rorate coeli desuper from Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II, SWV 322

by ada

Advent arrived unexpectedly quickly this year and it makes me feel somewhat betrayed. I was so busy with seriously time-consuming life events like taking – and passing – exams, changing jobs and moving between countries, that I had no time for autumn-related delights. I’m also in denial about it being winter already, so I have yet to find my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music.

Considering that I’m no fan of the music of Heinrich Schütz, his motet Rorate coeli desuper from the second book of his collection Kleine geistliche Concerte may not be the best place to start, but we all have to start somewhere. And there is nothing wrong with Schütz. He, besides being one of the most important composers in the history of Early German Baroque music and an important milestone on its – in no way linear – development, was also the composer of the first German opera, Dafne. He was excellent in so many ways I can’t count but all his merits and praiseworthy compositional accomplishments are not enough to make me not hear the modal tunes of Renaissance polyphony in his music. And I just don’t like Renaissance polyphony. I really dislike it. All those madrigals based on modal counterpoint, and such. Definitely not my thing.

And while Schütz certainly did his best to get away from prima prattica and earned his fame as parens nostrae musicae modernae totally justly exactly for doing that, he is not quite there yet. But it’s no long journey to go; only a few decades to wait until Dietrich Buxtehude nails it completely and musica poetica becomes a tool for channelling human emotions instead of being an intellectual dictionary for the practitioners of musical rhetorics.

And now, after my exhaustive attempts to make it really clear why I don’t like this piece, let’s finally listen to it. It is quite sweet, actually.

September 17, 2014

Piran – Sonata for flauto traverso and continuo in G major by Giuseppe Tartini

by ada

I was planning to do a Travel Series ever since I visited Burano island, the birthplace of Baldassare Galuppi, father of the musical genre opera buffa, uhm, well, one and a half years ago. My original plan was to complete my poor, abandoned Salzburg Series which, I’m afraid, will remain unfinished (just like some other great works of music history, like Schubert’s Unvollendete Symphonie, haha) and start other new, shiny series (I am bursting with ideas. Jewish Baroque liturgical music! Female Baroque composers! The Devil in music! La Folia! The seasons! Death! Love! Animals!). Oh well. I’m slowly losing all my illusions regarding My Own Self lately and it is time to acknowledge the – rather obvious – fact that I do not have that perseverative, ambitious personality that leads to quick (or rather, any) success. And that I need more time than other, healthy people to accomplish less than other, healthy people. But it’s the will that matters, isn’t it?

So let’s make at least one of my ideas happen and start the Travel Series with Giuseppe Tartini. He was born in 1692 in Piran as the son of the director of the still existing Piran salt mines. He, like most of the musicians of his time, was a man with a thorough education. Besides music he also studied humanities and law. Because he was quite the rebel, he defied the will of his parents who wanted him to become a priest and got married at the age of 18. After this he was forced to flee to Assisi without his wife for three years. That’s where he began to play the violin in an autodidact way and where that memorable encounter with the Devil happened, which resulted in his most famous work, the sonata Il trillo del diavolo (The Devil’s Trill). After years of travelling, he settled in Padua where he spent his life teaching the violin, composing and writing his main and heavily criticised theoretical work, Trattato di Musica, based on (mostly erroneous) mathematical calculations. One of his ideas (or rather observations) proved to be right though and so he discovered the existence of the “terzo suono”, the “third tone”. These are the additional tones that you can hear when an interval of two tones are played at the same time. They are also called combination tones (sum tones or difference tones, depending on if it’s the summation or the difference of the frequencies of the original two tones). This is the basic phenomenon behind the medical examination used to evaluate the hearing capacities of newborn babies and to diagnose tinnitus. So after 300 years, Tartini’s discovery has found a practical use other than tuning the violin. Oh well. A late recognition is better than no recognition at all.

The Piran people are rather proud of the “maestro della nazioni”, as Tartini was lovingly called by his contemporaries for his extraordinary teaching skills (you can read his educational letter to his pupil, Maddalena Lombardini, translated to English by one of my favourite people, the travelling music historian of the 18th century, Charles Burney, here), so they named Piran’s main square after him:

Piran Tartinijev trg

Here is he conducting the Piran roofs, tourists and pigeons in eternity:

Piran Tartini sculpture 1

There is a small exhibition in the house Tartini was born, but it is not allowed to take pictures, so here is the photo of my (rather worn) sandals on the stairs that lead to the exhibition room. Just to prove I was in fact there, haha. (Okay, so these could be any stairs anywhere but believe me. They are real Piranian Tartini stairs. Even if they are neither old nor historical enough to be original.)

Tartini house Piran 1

I was tempted to post a recording of the The Devil’s Trill, because it is a piece of music everybody has heard of, and also because although it is a piece of music everybody has heard of, it is also a melody nobody can actually recall; but mainly because I have a lot to say about the Devil and His deeds. Unfortunately I am a very picky audience and am also very hard to please. Of all the recordings YouTube has to offer I only found one that makes my standards and it abruptly ends a few tacts into the third movement. The other recordings are mostly that middle 20th century kind of crap with overused vibrato and symphonic settings I get nightmares from (while I am an honest admirer of both David Oistrakh and Itzakh Perlman when playing Romantic repertoire, I refuse to listen to them playing Baroque. It hurts so much). So I took comfort in being (or rather having been, once upon a time? Depression really sucks) a traverso player and picked the flute sonata performed by Jed Wentz whom I was Facebook friends with during my carefree, pre-depression times (okay, so during the times I was slowly, painfully slipping into depression over the period of long, long years). It is a nice sonata even if it’s nothing spectacular. Tartini was a great teacher but, obviously, not a very exciting composer.

April 21, 2014

music for Easter Monday – Jacques Champion de Chambonnières: Paschalia

by ada

For Easter Monday I chose a short (not even 2 minutes long) dance movement by one of the best French harpsichord players of the 17th century, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières. He served at the court of both Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV, and among his pupils were Louis, Charles and François Couperin and Jean-Henri d’Anglebert. Although he was a very skilled musician who was held in high regard by his contemporaries, he also had his shortcomings that costed him his career: he couldn’t play the figured bass well enough to accompany the operas of Lully. And, as you might remember from yesterday’s post, Lully was a very influential man in the court of the Sun King (actually, he ruled the whole  17th century French music life. And he ruled it with a firm hand). So Chambonnières lost the game and had to go. He died a poor man, leaving exactly 142 small dance movements behind as a musical legacy. He published two collections of them during his lifetime, but some of them, as this short Paschalia, exist still only in manuscript.

What I love about this short piece of music is that it is like a dream within a dream: it has a hidden passacaille towards its end that, despite of being only 9 bars long (whole fifteen seconds in this recording), is a complete, perfect little piece in itself.

Because that’s how easy I am to please. You can buy my heart with fifteen seconds of ostinato.

April 20, 2014

music for Easter Sunday – Michel Corrette: Laudate Dominum de coelis

by ada

For Easter Sunday let’s have something fun: the motet Laudate Dominum de coelis  by Michel Corrette, the Telemann of France. He, just like Telemann, also played every existing instrument you can think of, including hurdy-gurdy. Being as altruistic as he was, he wanted to share his knowledge with everyone so he just kept on writing practical treatises (I’ve read only the one for the flute, but there are so many more). As for the music he composed, most of it can be described with the sole word: cute. All those glittery harpsichord pieces and delightful Noëls, really, pure cuteness. If we would all listen to more Baroque hurdy-gurdy music like this, we could make the world a funnier better place to live in.

The second movement might sound quaintly familiar which – would I not be so exhausted* – would bring me to the fascinating topic of copyright laws in the 18th century Europe and down the rabbit hole of the conflict of French and Italian music tastes during the 17th century, beginning with Giovanni Battista Lolli***, the most French (Frenchest?! Seriously, my English just keeps on getting worse with every word I type) composer of all times and trendsetter for generations of musicians who were – unlike him – indeed, French. He, btw, was also the one who monopolised the 17th century French music market through securing for himself the right to compose and produce operas, thereby financially ruining lots of his fellow colleagues. A smart businessman, he was.

* I spent the night with watching old series of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I went to bed at 4 am. Now I feel like I slayed vampires all night. Or, more precisely, like I were a slayed vampire myself**

** I’m totally aware of the fact that this is not the way one is supposed to spend the night of the Resurrection. But I have my excuses, like 1) my family doesn’t celebrate Easter (we still will organize an Easter egg hunting for M&M though, because well, they are children and children deserve to have fun) 2) I’ve had my head and soul full of ICU lately and just crave some meaningless recreation time before starting in a new hospital on Tuesday 3) I’m reliving my teens.

*** you may have heard of him as Jean-Baptiste Lully, the man who lived for and died of French music (literally)

PS.: Surrexit Christus hodie by Esterházy Pál for 2012 and a proper Easter Sunday cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach for 2013: Der Himmel lacht, die Erde jubilieret.

PS 2.: Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

April 18, 2014

music for Good Friday – Lamentu di Ghjesu

by ada

For today’s music let’s go back to the ancient Corsican tradition of performing the Passion story during the procession of Good Friday: Lamentu di Ghjesu, based upon the folia theme, which is probably the oldest known ostinato ground (a harmonical line played repeatedly while the player/singer improvises a melody upon it). I could write pages about its origin and use through the centuries* without making you understand what it actually is, so let’s make it really simple instead:

  1. You have a few bars long harmony line that goes on and on and on, always in the same way
  2. Try to sing the main music theme of Vangelis1492 upon it
  3. Does it fit?
    a) Yes, it does – congratulations, you have a folia!
    b) No, it does not
      • it must be some other ostinato line
      • sorry, you probably didn’t sing it properly, try it again

Christina Pluhar‘s band L’Arpeggiata has been lately accused in early music circles** with “popularizing” early music, but I’m not sure if this expression really fits what they do, and even if it does, I don’t mind it at all. Because, actually, that’s exactly what this music needs: to made be known and loved by as many people as just possible. And, a fact that most of these devoted and oh so critical early music players tend to forget: this kind of music was intended to be performed mostly by common people. Just for pleasure. With no higher purpose than to serve everyday life events and/or to entertain. It should be taken for what it is: popular music at its best. 

PS: While last year’s Good Friday music was the great classic Es ist vollbracht from the Johannespassion, the year before I posted another, very beautiful Corsican passion song on another ancient ostinato line: Maria (sopra la Carpinese).

* I’ve actually done this for one of my music theory courses at the university

** not that I’ve had anything to do with early music circles since my depression other than writing vague, very unprofessional music posts twice a year, haha

April 18, 2014

music for Maundy Thursday – Johann Friedrich Fasch: “Mich vom Stricke meiner Sünden” (Passio Jesu Christi, FWV F:1)

by ada

For Maundy Thursday (is there any part of the world where it is still Thursday?) let’s have another version of the Brockes-Passion, composed by another Bach-contemporary and former Sängerknabe of the famous Thomasschule of Leipzig, Johann Friedrich Fasch. Although they have not met at Leipzig (having been at the same age, Fasch just finished his study years ten years before Bach arrived to begin his teaching career at a position that was originally intended for Fasch); their sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch were friends and even roommates when both employed at the Potsdam court of Friedrich the Great. Their job was to play continuo for the king, a flute player and amateur composer himself, whose teacher was Johann Joachim Quantz, the author of the the bible of all traverso players of all times (myself included), Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, which is an endless source of information on the performance practice of the first half of the 18th century. 

Back to Papa Fasch – although he composed numerous cantatas and some other vocal works, this is his only oratorio. The opening movement is a nice choral in a polyphonic setting, the violins doubled with oboes, which is a great plus in my eyes. The voice of the Baroque oboe is one of the (very few) things that make life bearable.  

Two years ago I posted Pater dimitte illis from the oratorio Agonia di Cristo (Le Ultime Sette Parole) by Niccolò Jommelli with some stunning obligato bassoon part. Last year’s music for Maundy Thursday was Jesus in Gethsemane by Francesco Antonio Rosetti, which unfortunately seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth YouTube since then. That’s what happens to good music in our days. I am so sad.   

April 16, 2014

music for Holy Wednesday – Jan Dismas Zelenka: Lamentatio I pro Hebdomana sancta, ZWV 53

by ada

According to my own tradition I’m supposed to post something French today. Two years ago I wrote about the most beautiful Tenebrae music of all times, Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres pour deux voix composed by the 18th century royal harpsichord teacher François Couperin. Last year it was Leçon de Mercredi by another royal harpsichord teacher, Michel Delalande. I can’t make up my heart to leave my eternal love and longterm imaginary boyfriend, Jan Dismas Zelenka completely out of this year’s series though, so for Holy Wednesday let’s listen to one of his beautiful lamentations, Lamentatio I pro Habdomana sancta, based upon Prophet Jeremiah’s laments. While it’s definitely not French music, it fits the Tenebrae-tradition perfectly. 

April 16, 2014

music for Holy Tuesday – Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel: Brockes-Passion

by ada

I again feel overwhelmed by the amount of beautiful music composed for this special time of the year – I wish I could listen to the Bach-Passions all the time and call it done without missing out on everything that led to them: the smaller composers and their small steps on the way to Bach’s perfection. Fortunately I have a thing for small composers and their imperfect music that makes me happy without making me hate myself (which is the case if I listen to too much Bach at a time, haha). So for Holy Tuesday let’s have a so-called “small composer”, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, Bach’s contemporary who, before ending up as a Kapellmeister at the court of Gotha, travelled through Europe serving in cities like Rome, Prague and Wrocław, made friends with names like Vivaldi, Fasch and Bononcini and gained a reputation in the eyes of his peers as high as Johann Sebastian Bach himself. He even made it into Johann Mattheson‘s Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte*, a collection of contemporary musicians’ biographies. One of his compositions (Bist du bei mir) is included in the collection of small exercise pieces Bach edited together for his son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and that was later passed on to his second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach. Unfortunately only a small amount of Stölzel’s work survived his successor Jiří Antonín Benda‘s  ruthless selection process, who considered the majority of them simply as “useless junk”. 

After Barthold Heinrich Brockes published his libretto Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus in 1712, it became quickly a thing of fashion to set it to music. People like Händel, Telemann, Fasch and even Bach (in his Johannespassion) all made their versions of it and so did Stölzel in 1725. His Brockes-Passion has a stunning first and an airy, sweet last movement and some (quite uninteresting but very German Baroque) filling in between. Since it is one of all the twelve of his surviving works, it is really worth listening to.

* Well, he actually submitted himself, because he had a sense of business. But hey, that’s how the world of music works, even today. All you need is the ability to promote yourself in a shameless way and make as much superficial friendships as possible for future use. Being talented and/or a good musician is only an added plus, not the least mandatory.  

PS: in 2012 I posted something Early Italian: the Stabat Mater of Giovanni Felice Sances. In 2013 it was another version of the Brockes-Passion, that of Georg Philipp Telemann

April 14, 2014

music for Holy Monday – aria “Sventurati miei sospiri” from Giovanni Battista Ferrandini’s cantata “Il pianto di Maria”

by ada

The genre of “The Virgin’s Lament”, the passion story told from the perspective of Mary, originates from around the 5th century and has its roots in the Byzantine rite built on that particular teaching of the Council of Ephesus in 431 which declares Mary not only as the mother of Christ but also as the mother of God. It appears in various literary forms and musical settings throughout the centuries, but its purpose is always the same: to express the suffering of a mother who has to watch his son being unjustly killed. 

The aria Sventurati miei sospiri is part of the cantata Il pianto di Maria (Cantata sacra da cantarsi dinanzi al Santo Sepolcro) which, for a very long time was attributed to Georg Friedrich Händel but was actually composed by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini, an 18th century Italian composer. I really would love to share the intimate details of his life here but unfortunately the only sensational thing ever happened to him was having the 15-year-old Mozart play at his house while on one of his Wunderkind-tours in 1771.

Last year’s music for Holy Monday was the choir movement He smote all the first-born of Egypt from Georg Friedrich Händel‘s oratorio Israel in Egypt.

February 18, 2014

music of the week – Francesco Rasi: Ahi, fuggitivo ben

by ada

I have mentioned Francesco Rasi before: he was that wild, adventurous, and quite impetuous singer, who took the script of Claudio Monteverdi‘s opera L’Orfeo with him to Salzburg, where he, with the help of Archbishop Markus Sittikus, produced and sung the leading role of the first opera performance in the German world ever and became thereby responsible for that exaggerated Teuton love of operas, which, some 250 years later, resulted in Wagner‘s Götterdämmerung. I try really hard not to blame him for it.

Rasi was also on quite bad terms with his stepmother, and after murdering her servant who was in charge for her estate, he tried to kill her too. He didn’t succeed though and had to flee. He was condemned to death by the court of Arezzo so he took refuge at first in Prague and then in Salzburg. Apart of his murderous nature, Rasi was a very talented, virtuoso and well-known singer of his time, who was a student of Giulio Caccini and whom “not only Italy but even all Europe venerated.” * ** He also played various instruments and composed a few volumes of music, mostly short songs in the early seventeenth century style of pure monody. One of these songs is Ahi, fuggitivo ben from his 1608 collection Vaghezze di Musica per una voce sola, where he, from a perspective of the abandoned lover, complains about the misery of being a fugitive. The moral of the story? Don’t try to murder your relatives (or anybody, actually) if you want to lead a relaxed life and plan to retire at your birthplace.

* letter from Don Gregorio Rasi to his nephew Giulio Francesco Rasi around 1650

** He was also deeply impressed by the weapons of the Hungarian artillery which he encountered during his 1601 travels. Am I the only one to find this small detail of his life quite charming? Oh, those times when music was still real as life! Why, why do I have to live in this boring age of global warming, genetically modified food and tumblr aesthetics?

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