Our 2011-12 Season begins on September 17, 2011.
German Baroque is more than J S Bach in Leipzig, the formidable Hofkapelle in Dresden, or the musical establishments of Frederick the Great in Berlin and Potsdam. Since the seventeenth century the city of Hamburg has held an important place in music and international trade, and in the eighteenth century it became a major music center. This was no doubt the result of composers such as Telemann, Mattheson, and later CPE Bach living there. Even George Frideric Handel worked in Hamburg early in his career, where he gained valuable experience that he would later use as an opera composer. Kim Pineda, August Denhard, Max Fuller, and Bernard Gordillo explore the repast of chamber music by these Hamburger composers. And we are happy to again have the music of Tim Risher on our program. His composition "River" was written for Kim Pineda and was premiered in August 2011 at the National Flute Association's Annual Convention in Charlotte, NC.
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Trio Sonata in b, TWV 42:h4
From Essercizii Musici overo Dodeci Soli e Dodeci Trii a diversi stromenti (c. 1730s)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Aria [and improvisation], BWV 988
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo in g, HWV 364b
Johann Adolf Scheibe (1708-1776)
Sonata I in D for flute and obliggato harpsichord
Tim Risher (b. 1957)
Flute and Harpsichord
Johann Mattheson (1681-1764)
Sonata III in A, from Brauchbare Virtuoso, 1720
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Sonata in G, H. 554
The city of Hamburg is not the only unifying element of our program. All of the eighteenth-century composers on our program knew each other personally or by reputation. Telemann was friends with JS Bach and stood as godfather to CPE Bach, Scheibe admired Bach’s work and met him when he auditioned for a job as an organist, and Scheibe was also friends with Mattheson. All musicians working in Hamburg knew Telemann, and anyone who wandered into Hamburg for the opera knew Mattheson. Handel became friends with Mattheson while he worked as a violin player in the Hamburg opera house, and Handel, a close friend of Telemann, subscribed to some of Telemann’s publications, while Telemann performed Handel’s operas as well as his own. Telemann’s poetry is found in two of Mattheson’s publications, and both Mattheson and Scheibe, in the roles as music critics, wrote favorably about Telemann’s music, referring to his works as compositional models for future composers. And, finally, CPE Bach’s reputation preceded him when moved from Berlin to Hamburg.
There were other composers of significance in Hamburg, to be sure, but our crew here may certainly be seen as the upper crust. Few composers were as highly regarded in their own lifetime as Telemann, Mozart referred to CPE Bach as “the father of music,” Handel was also well-known and highly regarded in his lifetime, as was Mattheson, and JS Bach was famous as a keyboard virtuoso. Of the group, Scheibe was the only one not well-known as a composer or performer, even though he wrote large quantities of music to go along with his many theoretical writings. If you were looking for a place that had a good music scene, Hamburg would have been on your short list.
The Trio Sonata in b, TWV 42:h4 is one of twelve trio sonatas found in Telemann’s seminal publication Essercizii Musici. The collection contains twenty-four total pieces; the other 12 sonatas are for various solo instruments with continuo. The collection is representative of the German sonata in the 1730s. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries words such as Essercizii or Übung were usually associated with collections of pieces that were for didactic purposes. Telemann leaves us in the dark by not providing the usual dedication or preface that similar collections have. These front pages typically explain what is to be learned or gleaned from the music. Based on a comparison of other didactic works by Telemann, we can put the pieces found in the Essercizii Musici in that same category. Telemann considered his trios to be his finest works, which makes calling this, his last publication, instructional pieces, more enigmatic.
Handel’s Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo in g, HWV 364b, is really a violin sonata (HWV 364a), with just a brief indication at the bottom of the first page of Handel’s autograph that it may also be played on the viola da gamba. This is a special piece because Handel wrote only four pieces for viola da gamba solo. Two of them are in operas (La Resurrezione, HWV 47, Giulio Cesare, HWV 17) and the other one is in a cantata (Tra le fiamme, HWV 170).
Scheibe’s Sonata I in D for flute and obliggato harpsichord gives an interesting perspective on Scheibe. Modern scholars have essentially ignored both his compositions and theoretical writings because of some published remarks he made about Johann Sebastian Bach (without actually referring to him by name). Yes, Bach was one of the examiners for an organist job that Scheibe did not get, and yes, he did say that Bach’s style was “confused” and that he cluttered up the beauty of his music with “excess art,” and that by writing out his ornamentation Bach took away a significant part of the performance process, but he said these things, 1737, at a time when there was a significant shift in musical tastes and compositional style, one which was, in theory, supposed to be based on an imitation of nature and persuasive melody, rather than a dense contrapuntal style. Scheibe’s writings are full of admiration of Bach, and he stated that Telemann, Hasse, and Graun were writing the best music of the day. The thematic material in the first and third movements of our sonata here are remarkably similar to the thematic material found in the first movement of J S Bach’s Sonata in b-minor, BWV 1030, for obbligato harpsichord and transverse flute. How could using Bach as a model for your own compositions be anything but flattery? Just because you do not like fugues because they have gone out of style is no reason to have your entire life’s work shunned by modern scholars.
Speaking of admiring Johann Sebastian Bach, the Aria and improvisation from BWV 988, just a small part from a larger work commonly known as the “Goldberg Variations.” Johann Gottleib Goldberg (1727-1756) is widely believed to have been a pupil of Bach’s, and Godlberg himself claimed that he was also a student of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784). Both of these claims are subject to speculation. Also of significant doubt is the anecdote that the Aria and 30 Variations, BWV 988 was written for Goldberg to play for his patron, Herman Karl von Keyserlingk, Russian ambassador to the court of Saxony. The length of the piece was supposed to have comforted Keyserlingk as he suffered from insomnia. What is true, based on contemporary accounts, is that Bach had exceptional skill as an improviser. Since the late fifteenth century the concept of improvisation is connected to creating music that lies outside of the expected or written composition. Professional musicians in Bach’s time were trained in many aspects of music other than proficiency on an instrument, and being able to improvise in an organized manner or on a theme or harmonic pattern was just another part of their work. Bernard and Gus will be taking the aria and then improvising on the bass line; this bass line and chord progression is on which the entire written composition by Bach is based.
Tim Risher writes about his piece, River: “I have composed many works for early instruments, which includes the Baroque Northwest and the Palladian Ensemble. The timbres created by these instruments brings up a whole new set of challenges which are quite different from modern timbres; I don't simply write a composition and assign it to whatever instrument is handy! "River", for baroque flute and harpsichord, was composed in 2009. The harpsichord sets up a pulsating figuration, with the flute flowing around the figures, starting at the low range of the instrument, slowly working its way up to the top and ending with the original line. It was written for Kim Pineda.”
The Sonata III in A, from Brauchbare Virtuoso (literally, “useful virtuoso”), was written by someone who was regarded as enormously talented in his own life. A child prodigy, performing as an organist and singer at age nine throughout Hamburg, trained in several instruments, and . . . sent to study law by his family (Handel and Telemann were also sentenced to law school in their youth, and you see what happened to them). Because of his singing prowess he spent fifteen years working in the Hamburg opera. As a singer he became acquainted with Handel, and later became friends, singing in Handel’s opera productions, even after an unpleasant encounter in which Handel’s life was spared from Mattheson’s sword by a large coat button. Until recently Mattheson’s place in the history of music has been largely based on his detailed critical and theoretical writings. These are important because we now have an incredible description of eighteenth-century musical culture at a time when it was making the shift from what we call Baroque to Classical. During this time tastes and styles changed significantly and we are now able to see this thanks to Mattheson’s (and others) writings. Much of his music was thought destroyed in World War II but it was merely hiding safely in Armenia. In the last 25 years we have been able to examine more of Mattheson’s music and see a larger picture of his contribution to opera, oratorio, and chamber music.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Sonata in G, H. 554, was actually written in Berlin, before he moved to Hamburg. We can speculate that if his Berlin employer, Frederick the Great, had allowed him to leave when he first asked, many more of Bach’s chamber music would have been written in Hamburg. Often overshadowed by his keyboard and orchestral music, CPE Bach’s chamber music is by no means inferior to the other, more well-known genres. The solo sonatas in particular demonstrate the transformation of late-eighteenth-century music from the Baroque polarity between melody instrument and continuo to the early classical/gallant style. Terms such as “empfindsamer stil” and “sturm und drang” are often used to describe the music of CPE Bach. The former term is characterized by the need for the music to produce a wide variety of emotions available. The latter term has been conscripted by musicians from eighteenth-century German literature and essentially refers to a passion and energy, or an energy and rebellion in the music. “Storm and stress” are only a small part of the musical meaning. The sonata is written in the typical layout of the mid-century: a slow movement followed by two faster movements of contrasting character.