Even though music from the Baroque era is often characterized by the compositions of Bach, Corelli, Handel, Telemann, Rameau, Scarlatti, and Vivaldi, those diademed celebrities crafted their styles upon an extremely rich and varied history of earlier Baroque composers who defined regional styles, sometimes through their own originality and sometimes through their finesse in coalescing diverse characteristics into new hybrid approaches that would define the final decades of Baroque music. It was during the first century of the Baroque — between 1600 and 1700 — that the ingredients were produced that would fill the pantry from which the most famous and emblematic late Baroque composers would draw their flavors.
This concert program samples those styles and flavors as we take a journey from Italy to Austria, Germany, France, and England, curating souvenirs from each to experience the music that inspired the Baroque masters of the next century.
• MUSIC FROM ITALY •
Giovanni Battista Buonamente (circa 1595–1642)
Sonata seconda a tre violini from Sonate, et canzoni a due, tre, quattro, cinque, et a sei voci, libro sesto (1636)
Marco Uccellini (circa 1603–1680)
Sinfonia Nona à tre violini from Sinfonici concerti brevi e facili, Opus 9 (1667)
Biagio Marini (1594–1663)
Sonata in Ecco con tre violini from Opus 8
A captivating, imaginative, and evocative style of compositions for violin (or multiple violins) and continuo, developed at the beginning of the seventeenth century in Italy, brings to the foreground the topic of florid passagework in vocal and instrumental compositions. For centuries, voices and instruments passed between themselves various compositional and expressive traits, almost always reflecting the evolution of increasing virtuosity. By 1600, the capabilities of instruments and their performers' abilities to incorporate elaborate ornamentation had equaled if not superseded the technical prowess of vocalists. In fact, the first decades of the Baroque era are essentially defined by the fioritura, or florid embellishment that was either notated by composers or improvised in performance. But the truly essential characteristic of that floridity is that it was highly expressive of a particular mood or affect, and not intended to be heard as showy or gymnastic.
Giovanni Battista Buonamente began his professional career in service to the House of Gonzaga in Mantua, followed by serving the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in Vienna. He performed at the coronation of Ferdinand III in Prague in 1627, before relocating to Parma where he was the violinist at the Madonna della Steccata church. Then moving on to Assisi in 1633, he served as maestro di cappella. The Sonata seconda a tre violini is hauntingly beautiful and alternates between a sweet conversation of sorts among the violins that gives way to energetic passages. Dance-like interpolations, almost joyful in nature, eventually return to the opening ascending and descending melodic exchange before another lively section concludes with just one note in the last bar, played only by continuo.
Marco Uccellini, like Buonamente, was also a violinist as well as a composer. It is likely that he studied under Buonamente in Assisi at the Basilica of Saint Francis. Following in his teacher’s footsteps, he enjoyed a series of appointments, first in Modena where he was well rewarded for his talents, receiving almost eight times the salary of other violinists at the Este court. And it was through the support of the Este family that he found his subsequent position in Parma, where he composed opera and ballet, none of which has survived. Uccellini’s Sinfonia Nona a tre violini, like his other sonatas for violin(s) and continuo, represents the style that would become an idiomatic standard of the early Italian Baroque. This particular sonata is unusually highly structured. In fact, it is in the “binary” form of A-A-B-B wherein the first half is repeated in its entirety, before the second half follows suit, and each of those halves are themselves composed in two contrasting sections.
Biagio Marini was known as a virtuoso violinist. Born in Brescia, his travels took him to Brussels, Düsseldorf, Venice, Padua, Parma, Ferrara, Milan, Bergamo, then back to his home town of Brescia. Not only a busy traveler, his personal life was busy, too: He married three times and fathered at least five children. His compositions, especially for violin, are innovative, incorporating several “special effects” including double and triple stops, and the technique of retuning the violin’s strings (known as scordatura) to create greater sonority from the instrument. In the Sonata in Ecco con tre violini, the primary violinist appears to be performing a complex solo sonata until, quite surprisingly, two violins begin to echo the ends of some phrases. Marini's dramatic intention is described quite literally in the surviving score which indicates for the second violinist (the first echo), “Chi sona questa parte non deve esser visto” (“Whoever plays this part must not be seen”), and even more emphatically for the third violinist (the second echo), “Quello che suona non deve esser visto” (“What is heard is not to be seen”).
• MUSIC FROM AUSTRIA AND GERMANY •
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (circa 1623–1680)
Sonata IX S 43 from Duodena selactarum sonatarum (1659)
During Johann Schmelzer’s tenure at the Habsburgs’ court, music (Hofmusik) was extremely important as it served as both a symbol and instrument of the dynasty’s magnificence and power, just as Jean-Baptiste Lully’s music was for the rival court of Louis XIV. Schmelzer’s first published works — Duodena selactarum sonatarum — include the Sonata on this program. Like seventeenth-century violin works by Italian composers — which had tremendous influence on his composing style — this sonata is divided into several sections that are inter-connected. There are no explicit tempo indications, but, very much in the Stylus Phantasticus style of the time, performers had freedom to express the music as if it were being improvised. Unlike compositions by his Italian contemporaries, rather than having multiple treble instruments against a bass, this sonata gives the second part to the viola da gamba, making a somewhat denser texture, and one that was favored by his Northern German colleagues.
Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706)
Canon & Gigue in D Major P. 27 (circa 1680)
Johann Pachelbel, (1653-1706), one of the most eminent German organist-composers of the generation before J. S. Bach, held important positions in Vienna, in several German cities, and in his native Nüremberg. He helped establish in Roman Catholic south Germany both the virtuosic keyboard style of Austria and the Protestant chorale and chorale-based forms of north Germany. His works include suites, chorale variations, and chorale cantatas. Pachelbel is also one of the most noted German composers for the organ. His works exhibit the dramatic, aggressive style of the Baroque era, albeit in a formal, almost disciplined manner. However, as exemplified in his six organ arias titled Hexachordum Apollinis, the approach is improvisatory in nature, with sharp contrasts between irregular and free rhythm. Yet these works are well ordered and designed to focus on the virtuosity of the player. In his preface to the works, Pachelbel wrote, “And many believe that music originates from the angels who sing to the honor of the Highest with their threefold ‘Holy!’. Also that the heavenly bodies attend with their wondrous movements, to exhort a beautiful Harmony or Euphony of sounds, of the kind that the worldly-wise Pythagoras and Plato attest to have heard.” Well-known as a teacher, his pupils included Johann Christoph Bach, who passed the teachings along to his younger brother Johann Sebastian. Pachelbel’s influence reached even further: He had a son, Carl Theodor, who became an important musical personality in the early history of the American colonies.
The well-known Canon (and Gigue) in D Major has become one of the most popular of all Baroque works. It has received quite possibly as much radio air-time as any other composition from the Baroque period. And its rise in popularity was due to the arrangement recorded by Jean-François Paillard in 1968. As Bach did in his transcription of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, Maestro Paillard added a viola part not found in the original. Also, on occasion, the violins (many more than Pachelbel had intended) engaged for each part double the original notes at an octave above. Certainly it was the romantic treatment of Paillard’s arrangement that initially captured the ears and hearts of millions of listeners, but the release of the recording would soon be followed by the Early Music revival that led to thousands of newly produced and newly conceived performances of Baroque music, rendered — according to the best intentions of their performers —as it was conceived: in the case at hand, a brilliant and sublime tour-de-force for three solo violins, played above a constant but very harmonically satisfying bass line. The Canon was later paired with a sprightly Gigue.
Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657–1714)
Sonata Terza from VI Sonate à Violino e Viola da Gamba col suo Basso continuo (1694)
Moving north from Nüremberg to the outskirts of Thuringia — the area of Bach's lineage — we enter a musical culture in which the Italian developments in instrumental writing found an enthusiastic audience. In some German courts, the new Italianate virtuosity mingled with other national influences to produce interesting hybrid results. One of the composers who were inspired by the possibilities of these various cultures was Philipp Heinrich Erlebach. He spent most of his career as Kapellmeister to the small court of Rudolstadt, which under his direction became a center of musical culture. Alas, a fire in the court library destroyed most of his work after his death. Of his many instrumental works — at least 120 are recorded — only six trio sonatas, six orchestral suites, and a march survive. The works we have are wonderfully vivid. His trio sonatas use the characteristically Northern German instrumentation of violin, viola da gamba, and continuo, and create a wonderful interplay of Italianate operatic styles, French dance movements, and German Stylus Phantasticus extravagance.
• MUSIC FROM FRANCE •
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632–1687)
Trios pour le coucher du Roi
As Italians proliferated their instrumental sonata genre, French composers held the Dance Suite as their preferred multi-movement form. Marin Marais was the first to publish dance suites in trio form. These movements from the Trios pour le coucher du Roi (“Trios for the King’s Bedtime”) by Jean-Baptiste Lully, known primarily as a composer of Opera-Ballets, are found only in manuscript form. The collection, containing nearly 50 symphonie and dance movements, once thought to be solely by Lully, has now been re-examined and is found to contain trios by Marais as well. Chamber music suites became a very popular foil to the Italianate sonata, and both were produced throughout all of Europe throughout the entire Baroque.
• MUSIC FROM ENGLAND •
Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
Sonata No. 9 in F Major, Z. 810 "The Golden Sonata" from Ten Sonatas in 10 Sonatas in Four Parts (1697 post.)
There are two collections of instrumental sonatas by Henry Purcell. Like all of his purely instrumental works, it is very difficult to determine when they were actually composed. In all likelihood, they were produced during a short period of time prior to 1680. The Sonatas in Four Parts seem to have been written over a long period of time and were assembled for publication by his wife, after his death in 1695. These sonatas consist of four or more short, linked sections. Some of them simply alternate between slow and fast, while others include dances and contrapuntal canzonas. This particular sonata became well known in the nineteenth century as a violin solo with piano accompaniment. It is in this form that it acquired the sobriquet, “The Golden Sonata.”
John Blow (1649–1708)
Chaconne a 4, in G Major (circa 1680s)
John Blow’s memorial in Westminster Abbey states that he was “Master to the famous Mr. H. Purcell.” We know little more information about their student-teacher relationship, but what is clear is that they were close colleagues and friends until Purcell’s untimely death. Blow’s compositional output is huge, consisting primarily of music for voices: anthems, service music, odes, songs, and the earliest fully sung English opera (Venus and Adonis—the model for Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas). He seems to have written very few purely instrumental works. His Chaconne in G major is composed over a repeating chord sequence (rather than an ostinato, or repeating bass line). Blow’s formidable understanding of counterpoint is very evident even as this work proceeds with ever-increasing activity and figuration. Just as the variations reach their zenith, the activity recedes, giving way to an expansive homophonic conclusion.
© 2021, American Bach Soloists.
VIOLIN & VIOLA
VIOLONCELLO & VIOLA DA GAMBA
VIOLONE & VIOLA DA GAMBA
HARPSICHORD & ORGAN
CYNTHIA KEIKO BLACK (violin & viola) enjoys performing at home in the Bay Area and across the United States as a violinist and violist playing music from several centuries. Born in Dallas, Texas, she grew up listening to her mother practicing piano and began her musical education as a toddler learning piano from her mother’s lap. Cynthia performs regularly with the American Bach Soloists and can be found on stage in California with other ensembles including Voices of Music, Valley of the Moon, Ars Minerva, Musica Angelica, and the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra. Across the country, she makes guest appearances with ensembles including the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, Les Délices, and Quicksilver. She enjoys playing chamber music as a member of the Costanoan Trio, a period-instrument piano trio, and Incantare, an ensemble of violins and sackbuts. Cynthia holds modern viola degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and after becoming entrenched in the world of early music, she stayed in Cleveland to complete a doctorate in Historical Performance Practice at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches young people at the Crowden School’s Community Program and in her free time enjoys being in the kitchen and her backyard vegetable garden.
ELIZABETH BLUMENSTOCK (violin & viola) started playing the violin at age eight when her mother developed a crush on a fine local violinist. Their relationship did not pan out, but Elizabeth is still with the violin, despite brief affairs with some violas. She grew up listening to Baroque music at home: “It was the background music to my childhood. In college, I heard the Harnoncourt and Leonhardt Bach cantata recordings, and was blown away by the expressiveness and instrumental timbres. The music came alive.” Now widely admired as a Baroque violinist of expressive eloquence and technical sparkle, she is a long-time concertmaster, soloist, and leader with the Bay Area’s American Bach Soloists and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and is concertmaster of the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany. In Southern California, Elizabeth is Artistic Director of the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival. Her love of chamber music has involved her in several accomplished and interesting smaller ensembles including Galax Quartet, Ensemble Mirable, Live Oak Baroque, and Severall Friends. She has appeared with period orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the United States and abroad, and has performed at the Boston and Berkeley Early Music Festivals, Los Angeles Opera, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Oulunsalo Soi festival in Finland, and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, among many others. With more than 100 titles in her discography, she has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin Classics, Dorian, BMG, American Bach Soloists, Reference Recordings, Koch International, Music & Arts, and Sono Luminus. An enthusiastic educator and mentor, Elizabeth teaches at Juilliard Historical Performance, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Valley of the Moon Music Festival, and the American Bach Soloists Academy. When not concertizing or teaching, she plays Scrabble obsessively, tries to garden, and pieces quilt tops. She has ten of them now, none of which has been quilted.
COREY JAMASON (harpsichord / Academy Co-Director) was born in New York City and developed a fascination with Baroque music as a young piano student growing up in Puerto Rico and Florida. He was introduced to the harpsichord by Anthony Newman while an undergraduate student at SUNY Purchase and then pursued further studies in early music at Yale University and at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. His fascination with historically informed performance and a love of American musical theater and vaudeville led him and his colleague Eric Davis to create Theatre Comique, an ensemble specializing in reviving late 19th- and early 20th-century American musical theater in historically informed performances. He has performed the “Goldberg Variations” and the Well-Tempered Clavier throughout the United States and his playing of Bach was described in the Los Angeles Times as displaying “the careful, due balance of objective detachment and lofty passion.” From 2007 to 2014 he was artistic director of the San Francisco Bach Choir. Nominated for a GRAMMY® award, his recent recordings include performances with American Bach Soloists, violinist Gilles Apap, recorder player Astrid Andersson, and El Mundo. He is a contributing author to History of Performance, published by Cambridge University Press. He joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory in 2001 where he is director of the school’s historical performance program and professor of harpsichord. Corey has enjoyed working with a variety of ensembles, appearing frequently with American Bach Soloists, with whom he is principal keyboardist, as well as a variety of other groups such as the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, Philharmonia Baroque, Musica Angelica, Camerata Pacifica, Yale Spectrum, and El Mundo.
YUEUN GEMMA KIM (violin) is originally from South Korea where she started playing piano at age 5 and violin at 7, although she enjoyed singing Korean and American pop songs from the 80s with her father the most. She also played organ every Wednesday at 6am at church services. YuEun moved to the US about seven years ago to study with violinist Midori Goto at University of Southern California where she also grew her passion for Baroque music while playing with the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia. Since then, she’s been exploring the early music repertoire which brought her to attend the American Bach Soloists Academy in 2019. This year, she is invited to play with various baroque ensembles including Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Boulder Bach Festival, and Blue Hill Bach. Although YuEun is not a big fan of competitions, she has been participating in quite a few of them and has won first place in USC’s Solo Bach Competition and the Strings Concerto Competition, and was a semi-finalist at the Qingdao International Violin Competition (China) and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition (New Zealand). The most memorable competition was the Boulder International Competition: Art of Duo where she has won second prize in 2018. YuEun is a core member of Delirium Musicum, a self-conducted chamber orchestra based in Los Angeles. During the pandemic, Delirium Musicum created MusiKaravan that took YuEun and Artistic Director Etienne Gara to the road in a vintage Volkswagen bus to perform socially-distanced concerts for farm workers, winemakers, random passerby, and even the occasional ostrich. The video episodes of this musical journey will start streaming in late spring 2021. Her Chopin’s Nocturne video on YouTube has over 8 million views and the funniest moment in her performing career was when she noticed Itzhak Perlman was in the audience; she couldn’t turn the pages and she ended up playing the whole Haydn string quartet by heart.
STEVEN LEHNING (viola da gamba & violone) was attending Pacific Lutheran University as an undergraduate when he stumbled upon a used book store that had a nearly complete collection of the Bach-Gesellschaft edition of Bach Cantatas in mini-score; each for only a nickel! Finding these while taking a class in Lutheran theology set him on a trajectory that prepared him to eventually become one of the founding members of the American Bach Soloists. A remarkable and versatile musician who is equally at home with violas da gamba, violones, contrabass, and historical keyboards, he has worked with many of the luminaries of the early music world including Jeffrey Thomas, John Butt, Andrew Parrott, and Ton Koopman. He has performed at the acclaimed Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, as well as the Early Music Festivals in Boston and Berkeley. After finishing his undergraduate degree and while waiting to see what performances might come his way, he worked as an apprentice learning the art of French bread and pastry. Always curious about the entirety of the world in which the music he plays came from, he dove into many aspects of early music. In addition to performing with ABS, he is their librarian, and tunes harpsichords and organs for rehearsals and performances. On the scholarship side, he has pursued graduate studies in musicology at the University of California (Davis). Steve has recorded on the American Bach Soloists, Delos, EMI, Harmonia Mundi, and Koch Labels.
WILLIAM SKEEN (viola da gamba & violoncello) had little incentive to practice cello as a young man growing up in tropical South Florida. He overcame the acute lack of arts culture in his surroundings when he found chamber music partners among a community of retired 1930s orchestra musicians in Miami Beach. Today, he is Principal Cellist with American Bach Soloists, Musica Angelica, and Co-Principal Cellist with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. He has also appeared as solo cellist with the Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle Baroque orchestras and is a frequent continuo cellist for opera companies including Chicago Opera and San Diego Opera. He is Co-Founder of the New Esterházy Quartet, whose repertoire includes over 150 string quartets performed exclusively on gut strings. Bill performs with several leading early music ensembles including Aeris, El Mundo, Galanterie, Agave Baroque, Philharmonia Chamber Players, Pacific MusicWorks in Seattle, Portland Baroque Orchestra, and Bach Collegium San Diego. In addition to his busy schedule as a period-instrument specialist, he also serves as associate principal cellist of the Stockton Symphony and was, for seven seasons, a member of the Carmel Bach Festival orchestra. He has appeared on over eighty recordings for Koch, Delos, BIS, Hannsler, Sono Luminus, and Pandore records. Since 2000, Bill has been a faculty member of the University of Southern California where he teaches Baroque cello and viola da gamba.
Don Scott Carpenter, Executive Director & Producer
Steven Lehning, Music Administrator
Eddie Frank, video
Chris Landen, audio
Filmed at the
Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Herb Garman, Director of Operations
Christopher C. Oca, Head Stage Manager & Crew Chief
David M. Moon, Senior Events Coordinator
Maya Severson, Stage Manager
Phil Daley, Music Department Events & Publicity Manager