October 11, 2020
Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Bach & Musical Offerings
If you could be king for a day who would you have dedicate their music to you? Bach, Couperin, and Jacquet de la Guerre are some pretty great choices!
“(The series) exudes the high-spirited camaraderie of friends. That spirit is in keeping with Schenkman’s philosophy of musical collaboration.”
—Tom May, Seattle Times
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre:
Sonata no. 3 in F Major
Concert Royal no. 1 in G Major
Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George:
Sonata no. 1 in B-flat Major
“Prussian” Sonata no. 4 in C Major
Johann Sebastian Bach:
“Musical Offering” Trio-sonata in C Minor
“fresh and vital performances, solid ensemble playing, and a sense of spontaneity”
—Melinda Bargreen, KING FM
Louis XIV of France and Frederick II of Prussia were the most powerful European rulers of their respective eras. They were also great arts patrons and performers in their own rights. Louis XIV was a dancer and Frederick II was a flutist and composer. They sought the best musicians to play with them, and for them, at their courts. Since they never considered the possibility that the best musicians might have been people of African descent, they selected from among the best white musicians in Europe. Our program features some of the great works composed as offerings to those two monarchs.
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was brought to the court of Louis XIV as a child prodigy and became a lifelong favorite of the king. She was one of very few musicians granted permission to dedicate her works to him. In addition to a set of six violin sonatas, she published harpsichord suites, sacred and secular cantatas, and an opera. Her contemporary François Couperin composed his Concert Royeaux in 1714 as entertainment for the king’s private listening. He later published them in keyboard score with flexible instrumentation. Flute, bass viol, and harpsichord are among the instruments most often played in the king’s chambers.
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, represents French music later in the 18th century. Born in Guadeloupe, the son of a French plantation owner and an enslaved woman of Senegalese descent, Bologne was educated in France and became a champion fencer, virtuoso violinist, celebrated composer, and leader of an all-Black regiment in the French revolution. He composed six operas and his published works include symphonies, concertos, eighteen string quartets, and other chamber music. The sonata we are performing dates from 1781 and may well have been one of those he played with the French Queen Marie Antoinette.
In the 18th century Johann Sebastian Bach was less famous than some of his brilliant sons. Both Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn cited Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as a principal influence on their work. The six “Prussian” Sonatas by C.P.E. Bach were published in 1742 and dedicated to his employer, Frederick II. When his father, Johann Sebastian, came to visit him at court the king presented the elder Bach with an original theme on which to improvise. J.S. Bach’s masterpiece “A Musical Offering” is built entirely on that royal theme..