Lightning and Grace
October 19, 20, & 21, 2018
Judith Linsenberg, recorder
Lisa Marie Lawson, violin and Music Director
Ondine Young, viola
Michael Lawson, cello and violone
Faythe Vollrath, harpsichord and organ
Our program last fall, Bach's Coffeehouse, provided an intimate look at a singular culture in German musical life, that of the coffeehouse as a place of artistic and social freedom. This weekend's concerts provide more of an overview of German musicianship in the later Baroque period, from the earlier string sonatas of Meister and Schenck to the nearly Rococco Concerto of Graun.
The Recorder Concerto in F major by Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was written around 1731, which is nearing the end of the dates we consider the Baroque era, but at the height of Graupner's long, prolific career. After studying at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, he enrolled at Leipzig University to study law. This should ring a bell as another of tonight's composers, Georg Philipp Telemann, also studied law in Leipzig around this time, and indeed Graupner performed under Telemann's direction in the Collegium Musicum, the ensemble that performed at Zimmermann's coffeehouse.
From 1710 to 1760, Graupner's served at the court of the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, where he composed over 2000 works, including operas, symphonies, cantatas, concertos and sonatas. He is reputed to have been very personable and charming, which is said to have been one of the reasons why he was offered the post of music director in Leipzig after Telemann declined the position in 1722. Graupner had been working for the Landgrave in intolerable conditions and was prepared to accept the Leipzig position, until negotiations with the Landgrave brought his back pay and a suitable agreement. Upon Graupner's recommendation, Johann Sebastian Bach was offered the Leipzig post and the rest is history.
In tonight's concerto, Graupner follows the formal three-movement model established by Antonio Vivaldi. His music is distinguished by a renunciation of dramatic tension and the absence of harmonic intensity and polyphonic textures. The simplicity of his music already invokes the galant and early classical styles which were by then evolving. The Concerto in F major is distinguished by its slow movement featuring the recorder soloist over pizzicato strings, and the final fugal movement, a nod to the more complex polyphony from which his music is departing.
The earliest work on our program is by Johann Friedrich Meister (ca. 1638-1697), entitled Il Giardino del Piacere: La Musica Seconda, first published in 1695. At that time, Meister had been organist of the Marienkirche in Flensburg for twelve years, but possibly wrote this instrumental work for performance at the nearby ducal court of Schloss Glücksburg. In this music, Meister clearly resists the increasing strong influence of Lully's music and the French style, emphasizing the Italian features of the work by giving it an Italian title and by using the Italian version of his own name, Giovanni Frederico Maestro, on the collection's title page.
To the performer, it is curious that the work seems to begin in the French overture style, with dramatic dotted-eighth-sixteenth rhythms, but after a single phrase Meister abandons the rhythm to continue with a rich suspended harmonic line, occasionally coming back to the dotted rhythm, seemingly to remind us of the clash of musical cultures so prominent in Germany at this time. The work does follow a suite style rather than a four-movement church sonata form, with Meister choosing a lively Ciaconna as the second movement, joined by a lush adagio to a raucous Menuet, evoking a bourgeois German dance. A rich 4/4 adagio links this Menuet to the closing fugal Gigue. Overall, this piece is a good example of the freedom with which composers still created sonata-type works at the end of the 17th century.
Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703-1771) was described by Charles Burney as"one of the greatest performers on the violin of his time, and most assuredly a composer of the first rank." His Concerto for Recorder and Violin in C major illustrates very well his music's status as a bridge between the Baroque and the Classical. This concerto, with its bright, straightforward Allegro movements surrounding a relaxed, beautiful slow movement, is written in the galant style popular from the 1720s to the 1770s.
Interestingly, Graun may also have studied at the University of Leipzig. He studied music with Vivaldi's student, Pisendel, in Dresden, and later studied violin with Tartini in Padua. He joined the court of the future Frederick the Great in 1732 and later was appointed the concertmaster of the Berlin Opera. As a composer, he was primarily known for his instrumental works, though he also wrote vocal music and opera, and was the composer of two string quartets, among the earliest attempts in this genre.
Georg Philip Telemann (1681-1767) was the most successful and prolific German composer of the late Baroque period. In his exceptionally long and active life he wrote almost every genre of music imaginable, including over 100 concertos. Tonight's Concerto á 4 TWV 43B1 was written around the year 1740. Once again, its straightforward good nature represents the Galant style, which was a return to simplicity and immediacy of appeal after the complexity of the late Baroque era.
Telemann had no formal music training but educated himself by studying scores of great masters while he studied languages and science at the University of Leipzig. While he was there, he gained great popularity as a musician, and formed the Collegium Musicum in 1702, the group of lively musicians who later performed free concerts at the Zimmermann Coffeehouse. Although he was widely traveled and included many French as well as Italian elements in his works, Telemann's most important musical position was that of music director of the churches in Hamburg, from 1720 until 1767.
Tonight's performers are playing from a facimile of the Concerto parts copied by the beautiful hand of Christoph Graupner, whose concerto was first on the program.
Johannes Schenck (1660 - 1716) was a Dutch composer whose career took place mainly in Germany. He was the first published composer of Singspiel in Holland, but his fame as a musician came from his virtuosic viol playing and from his extensive compositions for the viola da gamba. His compositions were conceived for professional musicians, in contrast to the common editions of the time, which were more simply written, for amateurs.
Il Giardino Armonico, Op. 3: Sonata Terza was first published in 1692 in Amsterdam. It is one of a set of trio sonatas highly influenced by Arcangelo Corelli's Opus I trio sonatas, which were first published in 1681. Sonata Terza begins in the four-part "Sonata da chiesa" structure, with a rich contrapuntal Adagio followed by a fugal Allegro. The piece is unusual in its addition of several movements inserted as a sonata within the sonata, in which the scoring is reduced to the simplicity of one violin and continuo only. This ensemble performs Adagio, Allegro, Adagio, and Aria movements, with short three-voice Adagio interludes interspersed. After the gigue-like 12/8 Aria, Schenck once again returns to the full ensemble to conclude with a short Adagio introducing a lively Allegro in 3/8 time.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was equally as prolific as his contemporaries Telemann and Graupner, but rather less well known in his time. While Telemann and Graupner were considered to be affable and engaging, Bach was considered to be old-fashioned in his musical tastes. Only in the 20th century was Bach rediscovered and has become one of the revered musicians of all time.
Bach’s musical output was governed by each of his positions in his life. His working life can be divided into three distinct periods: First, he was organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar in 1708, where he composed many of his finest works for organ. At his appointment to Kapellmeister at Cöthen in 1717, the Duke held him prisoner for nearly a month before finally allowing Bach to leave for his new post. The court at Cöthen was Calvinist and did not use music in services, so during this time Bach concentrated on instrumental composition. In 1722 Bach’s employer, Prince Leopold, married, and his bride’s lack of interest in music led to a decline of support. Upon the recommendation of Christoph Graupner, he was employed as Thomaskantor in Leipzig in 1723, where he composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city.
The original form of the Concerto in F major BWV 1053 has been lost. Although we do not know for which solo instrument it was originally written, musicologists argue that it was probably for the oboe. The piece appears in several forms: one a reworking into a harpsichord concerto, No. 2 in E major from ca. 1738, and the other in two of Bach's cantatas from 1726, with the solo part appearing in the organ. One can only imagine that the sheer volume of music required weekly for Bach's employment made expedient the common practice of rescoring composed works for other combinations of instruments and new occasions. Today we have chosen to perform the Concerto in F major with solo soprano recorder.
Notes by Lisa Marie Lawson