Toronto-based Tafelmusik is one of the world’s leading period performance ensembles, renowned internationally for its distinct, exhilarating, and soulful performances. Founded in 1979 by Kenneth [...]
A Baroque Feast
They spoke about it
An exquisite feast of masterpieces from the Baroque repertoire, served on a silver platter by one of the best chamber orchestras in the world: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Once again, Tafelmusik’s soloists display their art with typical gusto. This CD is definitely a pièce de résistance for any good music library.
Handel: The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, from Solomon
Handel’s extensive output includes several “greatest hits”: Water Music, Messiah, several celebrated opera arias, and the lively orchestral sinfonia which announces the arrival of the Queen of Sheba in his oratorio Solomon.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) borrowed the theme for the sinfonia from an aria in Giovanni Porta’s opera Numitore, but it is the exuberantly “Handelian” manner in which he presents the material which makes the sinfonia far more memorable than the original model.
Handel: Concerto for harp in B-flat Major
The Concerto for harp in B-flat Major was included in the first performance, in February, 1736, of Alexander’s Feast, Handel’s setting of Dryden’s St. Cecilia Ode. The concerto’s history is unusual: Handel’s autograph score is marked “Concerto per la Harpa”; a manuscript organ continuo part is marked “Concerto per il Liuto e l’Harpa”; and the 1736 word-book refers to it as a concerto for “the Harp, Lute, Lyricord, and other Instruments,” the lyricord a keyboard instrument with large rotating wheels which vibrated against the strings like a hurdy-gurdy.
The London publisher John Walsh included the work in his 1738 publication of Six Organ Concertos, Op.4, the solo part marked organ, but otherwise unchanged from the autograph score for harp. If there were indeed solo parts for lute and/or lyricord in the original concerto, they have not survived. Regardless, it is a thoroughly charming work, equally delightful in all its guises.
Purcell: Suite from Abdelazar
The English flocked to the London theatres when they were reopened after the Restoration. Old plays by Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher were “tidied up” and eventually supplemented by works by new playwrights. Music, dance and spectacle were gradually added to complement the drama.
Henry Purcell (1659-1695) provided the music for countless plays. In many cases, as in Abdelazar, the music was truly incidental: curtain music, music for scene changes, and the occasional dance or piece of mood music. Purcell’s theatre music was enormously popular, and a collection of his instrumental “Ayres for the Theatre” was published posthumously in 1697. The suite from Abdelazar is taken from this collection, and was written by Purcell for a 1695 revival of the tragedy by Mrs. Aphra Behn, subtitled The Moor’s Revenge.
Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 cellos in G Minor, RV 531
For almost 40 years Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was violin teacher and orchestra director at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a female orphanage at which the pupils received extensive musical training. One of Vivaldi’s principal duties was to provide several concertos each month for performances by the Pietà’s renowned orchestra. Although most of his over 400 extant concertos feature the violin, the constant demand for new and novel concertos inspired Vivaldi to turn to instruments not usually given solo roles in the orchestra. Included in his worklist are, for example, 27 solo cello concertos, an instrument previously assigned a predominately supporting role in the orchestra. The Concerto for 2 cellos in G Minor is unique in Vivaldi’s output, and in the baroque repertoire.
J.S. Bach: Sinfonia in D Major from Cantata 42
The Sinfonia to J.S. Bach’s Cantata 42, “Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats”, is scored for two oboes, bassoon and strings. The Cantata was first performed April 8, 1725 in Leipzig. The Sinfonia is written in the style of a concerto grosso, with the winds taking on the solo roles. Although Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) turned to many of his cantata sinfonias for material when composing concertos, and vice versa, there is no other extant version of this sinfonia.
Locatelli: Concerto grosso in F Minor, Op.1, No.8
Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764) was born in Bergamo and studied in Rome, probably with Arcangelo Corelli. Locatelli’s first publication, the concerti grossi Op.1, was published in Rome in 1721, seven years after the appearance of Corelli’s famous concerti grossi Op.6. Although officially dedicated to his patron, Camillo Cybo, it is clear from the music that Locatelli has written these works in homage to Corelli. The format is the same: eight concerti da chiesa followed by four concerti da camera. The style and choice of movements is similar, although Locatelli’s music is clearly a generation younger than Corelli’s. The homage to Corelli is particularly strong in the eighth concerto: as Corelli did in his Opus 6, No.8, Locatelli adds an optional Christmas pastorale. The opening of the concerto is rich and sombre, with divided viola parts and in the dark key of F Minor. The sun comes out in the lilting F Major pastorale. Bach owned a copy of Locatelli’s Opus 1, and is known to have performed the eighth concerto at a concert of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum in December 1734.
Marcello: Concerto for oboe in D Minor
Alessandro Marcello (1684-1750) was one of Venice’s privileged nobile dilettante. The son of a Venetian senator, he was a well-trained and skilled musician, but did not have to rely on music for his livelihood. In addition to composing, he played violin and sang, painted, wrote poetry, and pursued mathematics and philosophy, all with considerable distinction. A member of the Arcadian Academy, Marcello held weekly concerts at his home. His best-known composition is the Concerto for oboe in D Minor, which first attracted attention in the form of a transcription for solo keyboard by J.S. Bach.
Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 violins in A Minor, Op.3, No.8
The Concerto for 2 violins in A Minor is from Vivaldi’s first publication of instrumental concertos: L’Estro armonico (roughly translated as “Harmonic fancy”) was published by Roger of Amsterdam in 1711. It was among the first set of Italian concertos to be published in northern Europe and was enormously successful. The twelve concertos for one, two and four solo violins were remarkably innovative works at the time of their appearance and their influence was widespread. They were soon reprinted by Walsh in London, and Leclerc in Paris, and received wide distribution. Bach was among their many admirers, and transcribed six of the twelve concertos for keyboard.
© Charlotte Nediger