Thursday, December 30, 2021
Baroque Basses: Beauty & Virtuosity
concert is free
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Concert pieces by Vivaldi, Handel, and Telemann; and dance music from the court of Louis XIV, featuring the baroque cello, viol, theorbo, and harpsichord.
“… steady, stylish and imaginative support from Caroline Nicolas on baroque cello…”
— Review Vancouver
Cello & Viol
Sonata in B-flat Major, RV 46, for cello and continuo
George Frideric Handel:
Air in D minor, HWV 461
Georg Philipp Telemann:
Trio in G for harpsichord, viol, and continuo
Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre:
Sarabande in G Major (1707) for harpsichord
Grand Ballet for viol and continuo
Les Voix Humaines for viol and continuo
Étienne le Moine:
Prelude in G for theorbo
Robert de Visée:
Chaconne in G for harpsichord, viol, and continuo
“This series has been an essential touchstone for me, and hope it will be so for others.”
— Audience member
At the beginning of what we now call the Baroque Era, European composers began establishing a hierarchical approach to music making in which soloists (usually treble instruments and voices) were accompanied by bass and chordal instruments. These accompanying instruments formed the so-called basso continuo designed to provide (yes, continuous) bass support to one or more soloists. In this program we are turning things upside down with a selection of music featuring four instruments which are usually associated with basso continuo now taking turns in the soloists’ roles. The cello and the viol were two equally popular bowed bass instruments in the Baroque Era. Italian composers such as Antonio Vivaldi tended to favor the four-string fretless cello, while the French favored the six- or seven-string fretted viol. Harpsichords were played all over Europe, as was the theorbo, a type of bass lute.
Antonio Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist, composer, teacher, and priest. He wrote hundreds of works for his own instrument, the violin, and many more for other instruments played by the young women and girls at the famous Ospedale della Pietà where he taught in Venice. George Frideric Handel was born in what is now Germany and spent formative years in Rome before settling in London for the bulk of his life. Handel was a great opera composer and his Air in D Minor (from a suite for solo harpsichord) sounds like a highly embellished operatic aria adapted to the keyboard. Handel and his compatriot Georg Philipp Telemann were lifelong friends who shared a passion for exotic flowers. Telemann’s Trio in G Major features dialogues between the harpsichord and viol, as well as an extended viol solo in the third movement which recalls the operatic style of Handel’s Air heard earlier.
For much of the 17th century, Italian taste dominated the European musical scene. By the end of that century, with the rise in power of Louis XIV, French taste began to take over. Louis XIV was a dancer and music lover who surrounded himself with a remarkable assortment of fabulous composers, including famous musicians such as harpsichordist Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, viol player Marin Marais, and lutenist Robert de Visée, as well as lesser known composers such as the lutenist Étienne Le Moine.