Telemann, Bach, and Corelli
Sunday, June 27 | 6:30 PM
Stoneleigh: a natural garden
Arcangelo Corelli Suite for String Orchestra
Arr. Ettore Pinelli
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Cello Concerto No. 3 in A Major, H.439
II. Largo con sordini, mesto
III. Allegro assai
Branson Yeast, cello
Georg Philipp Telemann Ouverture burlesque de Quichotte, TWV55:G10
II. Awakening of Don Quixote
III. His Attack on the Windmills
IV. Sighs of Love for Princess Dulcinea
V. Sancho Panza Tossed in a Blanket
VI. The Gallop of Rosinante
VII. The Gallop of Sancho Panza’s Donkey
VIII. Don Quixote at Rest
Corelli – Suite for String Orchestra
Arcangelo Corelli was the most influential and successful musicians of his day. His family was not musical, but they had sufficient means to send Corelli to study in Bologna at age thirteen, and by seventeen he had earned membership in the prestigious Academica Filharmonica. His career was largely spent in Rome, where he entered the service of several important, and generous, patrons. He was able to compose, play, lead performances and teach free from financial worries. When he died, he left an estate including a small fortune in money and collections of artwork and violins. Not bad for a fiddler.
He was considered the greatest violinist of his day, and while he played with temperament, he was generally known for his projection and the evenness and beauty of his tone. He systematized the foundational techniques of violin playing and was highly sought after as a teacher. It is largely through his efforts that the violin became the principal instrument in orchestral ensembles. His output of compositions was relatively small – 5 sets of violin sonatas, Opus 1-5, and one set of concerti grossi, Opus 6 – but they were enormously influential and were known throughout Europe. Bach based his B-minor fugue BWV 579 on the Vivace movement from Corelli’s Op. 3 , No. 4 sonata for two violins and continuo. Handel modeled his concerti grossi on Corelli’s and even contrived to have them published as his Op. 6 in homage to Corelli. Corelli’s student Geminiani arranged all the Op. 5 sonatas as concerti grossi.
Perhaps the most famous transcription is the Suite for String Orchestra, constructed out of three dance movements from the Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op. 5 by Ettore Pinelli (1843-1915). Pinelli was a violinist, conductor and teacher, and he had already edited two sets of Corelli sonatas, providing a fully written continuo part. The Suite opens with the Sarabande from the Sonata No. 7, a slow, stately dance which displays Corelli’s considerable lyricism. The second movement is the Gigue from the Sonata No. 9, which features some wonderful imitative effects between the violin line and the continuo part, given to the low strings. The final movement is the Gavotta from the Sonata No. 11, which Pinelli renames Badinerie. It’s a name he borrowed from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, and he borrows the upbeat tempo as well. The name suggests music of a light and witty character, and the witty ending, with its delightful pizzicato passages, is Pinelli’s own.
Program note by Michael Moore
C.P.E. Bach – Cello Concerto No. 3
In music as in other spheres, fashions change. When Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750, his close contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann wrote a sonnet to mark the occasion, and in it he paid tribute to his friend’s talents as an organist. But Sebastian’s chief claim to fame, according to Telemann, was that he was the father of the great Bach, the Bach of Berlin. That was Carl Philipp Emanuel, Sebastian’s second surviving son, who was serving at the time as harpsichordist to Frederick the Great in the Prussian capital. (It is an interesting sidelight on human progress that, whereas heads of state in those days routinely had musicians in their employ–in Frederick’s case, around twenty of them, including the distinguished composers Quantz, C.H. and J.G. Braun, and Franz and Johann Benda–now their entourages tend to consist of speech-writers, public relations consultants, media spokespersons, and the like.)
Telemann’s high opinion of Emanuel may have owed something to the fact that the young man was his godson, but it was probably due also in part to the fact that he, Telemann, had progressive tastes, and that the young man was a progressive composer, a pioneer of trends, where his father had for the most part been rather a perfecter of trends–the topmost eminence in a range already known, not the explorer who goes out in search of new peaks to conquer. In the period between Sebastian Bach’s summation of baroque practice and the very different musical language that was to be perfected by Haydn and Mozart, Emanuel was indeed a figure of formidable authority. He was a man of broad and concentrated education, with years of legal studies at the universities of Leipzig and Frankfurt an der Oder behind him. He was on terms of friendship with such literary luminaries as Lessing and Klopstock, and his music was the music of the Enlightenment, the broadly humanistic movement in the arts, the sciences, and philosophy championed by Frederick.
In more specifically stylistic terms, Emanuel Bach was the highest embodiment of the empfindsamer Stil, or “sensitive style,” and the proponent of the doctrine of Affektenlehre, the study or theory of the passions. After visiting him in 1773 in Hamburg (where he had succeeded Telemann as municipal music director in 1768), the English music historian Charles Burney gave this vivid description of Bach’s playing:
After dinner . . . I prevailed upon him to sit down again to a clavichord, and he played, with little intermission, till near eleven o’clock at night. During this time, he grew so animated and possessed, that he not only played, but looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his under lip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance. He said, if he were to be set to work frequently, in this manner, he should grow young again.
As a composer, Emanuel Bach naturally enough gave freest reign to such flights of subjective emotion in his solo keyboard music, but the sense of drama and of expressive extremism that Dr. Burney’s account suggests finds ample scope also in his harpsichord concertos. Some fifty of these have survived. They were all written as vehicles for his own virtuosity, most of them during his years in Berlin, and most if not all of his concertos for other instruments, including cello, flute, and oboe, are arrangements from the harpsichord originals.
In each such instance, the composer took pains to adapt the solo part to the idiomatic demands of the new instrument. Composed probably in 1753, the A-Major Cello Concerto heard on this occasion is a case in point, for innumerable details such as phrasing, articulation, and actual notes are changed from the harpsichord version to suit the cantabile style of the string instrument, and it is interesting to observe that, whereas the third movement of the original harpsichord concertos contained 345 measures, in the cello version it is expanded to 351 measures, and in the version for flute shortened to 341.
Both of the work’s fast outer movements are characteristic of Bach’s concerto methods in their synthesis of his father’s ritornello structure with elements of the coming sonata style. But it is the central Largo con sordini, mesto (“broad, with mutes, sad”) that most vividly exemplifies the composer’s penchant for unpredictable, often brusquely surprising effects. In the eloquent 22-measure orchestral exordium that precedes the first solo entry, there are no fewer than nineteen shifts between forte and piano dynamics–eight of them within the first six measures alone–and hardly any occur just where you would expect. The freshness of Emanuel Bach’s inventions testifies to his originality; the coherence with which they are presented is equal testimony to his professionalism and skill.
Program note by Bernard Jacobson
Telemann – Don Quichotte
In his own day Georg Philipp Telemann was looked up to as the brightest star in the musical firmament. As the composer and theorist Johann Mattheson wrote in 1740,
Lully is renowned, Corelli may be praised;
Telemann alone is above plaudits raised.
In 1722, Bach became the Cantor of St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig only after the post had been turned down by Telemann, who was the Council’s first choice. Years later, when the greatness of Bach was posthumously discovered, Telemann suffered from the resentment that accrued to him for having been exalted over Bach in the estimation of his contemporaries. For a long time his reputation declined to that of a mere fertile scribbler–he wrote, after all, more than Bach and Handel put together: a modest estimate puts his output at something more than 3,000 works. In recent years, however, Telemann has again begun to receive his due, as indeed a lesser master than Bach and Handel, but one who need fear comparison with no other of his contemporaries.
Quite aside from its quality, Telemann’s output is close to being unparalleled in quantity. The number of his works runs into the thousands, and of orchestral suites alone he composed several hundred. Among these, the suite we hear today is unusual in that it is not laid out along the traditional lines of the French “ouverture avec la suite” (“overture with what follows”). Instead of the usual sequence of familiar dance measures, Telemann has given us here an early if far from unprecedented essay in program music, depicting the adventures of Cervantes’s legendary Don Quixote–“Don Quichotte” is the French spelling–in a series of illustrative vignettes.
The traditional overture is indeed retained, though it may not be fanciful to find in it a touch of parody. Methinks (to vary the old saying) the gentleman doth preen too much, for the conventional dotted rhythms are so emphatic that Don Quixote’s “heroism” is cast in a distinctly ironic light. The movements that follow paint evocative pictures of his awakening, his attack on the windmills (which stand in his fevered imagination as wicked giants to be vanquished), his love sighs for the Princess Dulcinea (rendered with the traditional two-note figures that are really a simple equivalent for a wistful “Ah!”), and the contrasting gallops first of his horse Rosinante and then of his squire Sancho Panza’s lowlier donkey.
The suite closes with a movement that officially portrays the hero’s rest. But perhaps there is really no rest for the superabundantly imaginative, for Telemann’s finale sounds more like Don Quixote riding off into the west, seeking as ever for more windmills, alias giants, to conquer.
Program note by Bernard Jacobson
Cellist Branson Yeast is a native of Houston, Texas and a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. His performances as a chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral musician have brought him to Chicago, London, Lucerne, Hamburg, Heidelberg, St-Jean-de-Luz (broadcast on RadioFrance), and across the north-eastern United States. While at Curtis, Branson was the last student of the late David Soyer of the Guarneri Quartet, a Jacqueline du Pré Memorial Fellow, and his graduation recital aired on WHYY Television. He also toured with the Grammy-award winning ensemble “eighth blackbird,” including a memorized production of Pierrot Lunaire and a performance with the Pacifica String Quartet. His passions for contemporary music and cross-disciplinary projects have also led him to make dozens of premieres of new works, including many chamber music and solo performances with ballet companies such as Philadelphia’s BalletX. Branson is a protégé of cellist Wendy Warner and was recently named Principal Cello of both Opera Philadelphia and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Luigi Mazzocchi, Acting Concertmaster
Meichen Liao Barnes, Associate Concertmaster
Natasha Colkett, Principal
Catherine Kei Fukuda
Mary Yong, Principal
Branson Yeast, Principal
Daniel McDougall, Principal