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They spoke about it

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In the 17th and 18th centuries, the chaconne was generally indistinguishable from the passacaglia, the two musical forms being so similar in nature. In both, the repetition of a single harmonic motif evoked a sense of time stretching far beyond the limits of our physical world, thus creating an illusion of eternity! In this recording we have collected some of the most beautiful examples from the literally hundreds of such pieces composed during the baroque period. Since the attempt to create the illusion of eternity in music was generally linked to the principle of melodic variations – whether it be variations on a theme or variations over a repeated harmonic motif – we have included two famous examples of Folias composed by Falconiero and Vivaldi.

Bach’s Chaconne BWV 1004 is no doubt the most celebrated piece of its type. It is generally believed that Bach composed it in 1720 after the death of his first wife, Maria Barbara, thus creating an instrumental requiem for her that transcends the limits of time. And even now, three centuries later, the inventiveness and rich colours of the variations of this musical monument still exert the same fascination. Originally written for solo violin, this work is performed here in our transcription for two recorders and basso. This follows the tradition practiced in the Bach family home, where pieces by Johann Sebastian written for solo violin were regularly played on different instruments.

We might say that both the Passacalli della vita and the Ciaccona Di Paradiso e Dell’Inferno present the question of eternity in all its complexity. In both cases, the texts of these vocal works speak of otherworldly dimensions. In our instrumental versions, these representations of heaven and hell are intensified by the addition of variations we have composed especially for this recording. With Monteverdi, we have used the same process. The composer himself included two sections in chaconne form in his canzonetta in order to bring out the double meaning of the text – Chi vol che m’innamori (We are born today, but tomorrow we die). These two sections are strong evocations of the vanity of human aspirations when confronted with the reality of death. Once again, we have followed the baroque practice by adding our own variations to these chaconnes.

Since both the chaconne and the passacaglia trace their origins back to folk music, we have chosen to include several examples of folk songs whose charm and melancholic beauty we find especially compelling. As do the Passacalli della vita, composed a half century later, the 16th century Czech folksongs performed here express the trials and tribulations of love and life, and even include bits of humour here and there. When performing this music, we have the impression that we are establishing a conversation with these musicians of a far distant past, and that what they have to say is perfectly relevant for us in the 21st century.

Though the Folias always follow the same harmonic pattern, their musical content speaks of an uncommon state of mind. Antonio Vivaldi puts his extraordinary inventiveness to the task of describing folly in all its aspects, sometimes through the use of wild rhythms, and at other times with heart wrenching dissonances.

This same tension can be felt on several levels in the work by Vivaldi’s 17th century compatriot, Andrea Falconiero. His Folias were composed during a seven-year long stay in Spain and dedicated to a certain Señora Dona Tarolilla de Carallenos; and all the while Falconiero’s wife remained languishing in her native Italy…

Ensemble Caprice has made a habit of entering into dialog with composers of the past. For this recording, we have added several short vocal pieces that I wrote, based on poems by the 17th century mystic Angelus Silesius. These brief verses in alexandrine meter are a perfect expression of the dichotomy experienced by the human being torn between life and death, between this world and the invisible world.

© Matthias Maute

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Ensemble Caprice
AN 2 8835 Ground Midnight
AN 2 8835 Ground Midnight
AN 2 8835 Ground Midnight

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