Concerts

February 9, 2020
BEnaroya Hall, SEattle

Baroque Bacchanalia

Music on mythological themes by Bernier, Campra, Jacquet, and Rebel featuring the brilliant bass-baritone Jonathan Woody.

“Jonathan Woody…sang with resonance and authority.

— Charles T. Downey, Washington Post

 

Jonathan Woody

Bass-baritone

Ingrid Matthews

VIOLIN

Elisabeth Reed

VIOL
Byron Schenkman

Harpsichord

Program


Jean-Féry Rebel:

Sonata no. 1 in A Major

André Campra:

Cantata Silène

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre:

Sonata no. 1 in D Minor

Jean-Philippe Rameau:

Les Cyclopes for harpsichord

Marin Marais:

Plainte and Chaconne in D Major from Book 3 for viol and continuo

Nicolas Bernier:

Cantata Bachus

 

 

 

“Jonathan Woody was riveting… his voice nimble and focused.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wol
lheim, New York Times

 

Program Notes


Great movements in the history of Western music have often resulted from migrations and foreign influences. Franco-Flemish musicians working in the 16th-century Italian courts established Italy as the center of musical influence for all of Europe in the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. 100 years later Italian musicians at the French court set the trends for Europe in the late Baroque. Louis XIV established French cultural dominance in part by bringing some of the best Italian musicians and their students to France. The early 18th-century composers represented on tonight’s program were all French musicians who wrote in the Italian style – usually with a discernably French accent..

In the Baroque era there was no distinction between composers and performers. To become a musician meant being trained in singing, playing various instruments, and composing. That said, the best musicians often excelled at one instrument in particular. Jean-Féry Rebel, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, and Marin Marais were virtuoso performers on the violin, harpsichord, and viol, respectively. Rebel’s violin sonatas were modeled closely on those of Arcangelo Corelli. Jacquet’s sonatas show more direct influence from those of Isabella Leonarda which she most likely encountered in the library of her friend Sebastian de Brossard. Our first piece by Marais is a lament which relates to the expressive vocal music of the period. The chaconne which follows introduces us to the world of French courtly dance.

 Baroque cantatas are like miniature operas typically featuring one solo voice with just a few accompanying instruments. As with the operas of the period the subject matter is often drawn from Classical Greek mythology. Heroic figures such as Orpheus are represented by high voices while monsters such as Polyphemus and comic figures such as Bacchus are represented by low voices. Bacchus and his gifts are celebrated in both of the light-hearted cantatas on our program.

André Campra, son of an Italian immigrant, was one of the leading French opera composers of his time as well as music director at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Nicolas Bernier was principally a church musician however he also published dozens of secular cantatas. A 1773 biography states that he studied with Antonio Caldara in Rome, surprising since Caldara was a bit younger than Bernier, but conceivable since Bernier might have wanted to learn directly from an Italian musician.

 

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