A Richly Varied Second Day at Itinéraire Baroque 2018


FranceFrance Baroque Itinéraire 2018 [2]: Baroque en Cercles. Périgord vert, France. 27.7.2018. (CC)

Nous Minoés, Ayrosas Contradanças © Jean-Michel Bale

Amor hai vinto – music by Vivaldi. L’Astrée: Chamber Ensemble of the Academia Montia Regalis (Julia Wischniewski (soprano), Paola Nervi (violin), Rebeca Ferri (cello), Pietro Prosser (archlute.baroque guitar), Giorgio Tabacco (harpsichord).. Église Abbatiale Saint-Cybard de Cercles.

Vivaldi – Violin Sonatas: D minor, RV 14 (Op.2/3); D minor, RV 27 (Op.2/1); Chamber Sonata in C minor, RV 83; Cantatas: Amor, hai vinto, RV 651; Elvira anima mia, RV 654; Lungi dal vago volto, RV 680.Sonata in C minor, RV 83; Cantatas: Amor, hai vinto, RV 651; Elvira anima mia, RV 654; Lungi dal vago volto, RV 680

This concert was subtitled ‘Sonatas and Cantatas from the National Library of the University of Turin.’ There are 27 Vivaldi manuscripts in Turin, which arrived there after a rather complex and tortuous journey, passing through a number of different hands before being gifted to Turin by Roberto Foa.

Alternating Vivaldi’s chamber music (violin sonatas and a Trio Sonata) with cantatas works beautifully. The solo violin opening to the D minor, RV14, was a lovely way to ease us in; eloquent violin/cello dialogue between Paola Nervi and Rebeca Ferri characterised this Sonata’s Preludio before the (surprisingly dramatic) Corrente established Vivaldi’s dynamic side. The finale is demanding on the violinist, beautifully managed here by Nervi. The C minor Chamber Sonata’s highlight was its gentle central Adagio, while the D minor, RV 27 holds dance movements – a sprightly Giga as its second movement, to boot, thoroughly confounding expectations, and ending with a Corrente. This was a great performance, with all players clearly revelling in Vivaldi’s explorations.

As last year’s Festival reminded us, Vivaldi’s vocal works require reappraisal. Intrinsically dramatic (the harpsichord tremolandi in Amor, hai vinto, for example), they need a voice such as Julia Wischniewski’s to do them justice. Her way with decorations, too, is free and wide-ranging. Some might claim too much so, but there is no denying the excitement generated. In the second cantata, Elvira, anima mea, Wischniewski lost no opportunity to convey the tragic circumstances of the heroine; her gesture of descending arpeggiation at ‘Partirò, ma vedrai quanto’ was one of the highlights of the concert, simply and tellingly done. Finally, the cantata Lungi dal vago volto, with Wischniewski absolutely convincing in her pining; her diction was at its clearest in this cantata (there’s a happy ending).

The music is in L’Astrée’s bones, as a glimpse at the catalogue reveals, with recordings of this repertoire for Naïve (both cantatas RV 680 and 651 are on a 2005 disc featuring Laura Polverelli, for example; RV 83 appears on a 2003 disc of Vivaldi chamber works).

Lecture: Itinéraire Baroque à travers l’Espagne – ce célèbre voisin inconnu by Albert Recasens

Spanish musicologist and conductor Albert Recasens delivered his lecture outside, under an awning in the brilliant sunshine. It was to be given purely in French (and large tracts were) but a last-minute invitation to attend with the promise that he’d be doing bits in English, too, was too tempting to resist. The ‘famous unknown neighbour’ of the title is of course Spain, and Recasens’ passion for his subject shone through. The ongoing discovery of Spanish repertoire was traced, and known music examined, including the foreign influences on Soler (he was attacked for it by the church), the lack of knowledge about Spanish Baroque church composers (thousands of manuscripts remain unpublished as musicology started late in this area). Spanish opera, too, was examined. It was a fascinating journey, in idyllic surroundings, and well attended; Recasens’ multi-disciplinary approach to music (educator, historical musicologist, conductor) pays huge dividends; plus, his enthusiasm is infectious. Good thing there was a concert soon afterwards …

Nous Minoés, Ayrosas Contradanças Music by Robert de Visée (1650-1732), Jean-Baptiste Lully and Anonymous. Xuriach (Ana Romani (dance/castanets, violin), Carles Mas (dance/castanets, fabiol/tamborino), Jaime Puente (dance/castanets), Pavel Amilcar (violin), Edwin Garcia (baroque guitar/theorbo), Marc Riera (fabiol/tamborino baroque bassoon, flute). Église Abbatiale Saint-Cybard de Cercles.

Now this is what festival performances are all about. The sense of joy throughout this semi-staged event was palpable; and it led us full-on to the Spanish side of this year’s events, too, in an exploration of repertoire from the ‘masters of dance from the Iberian school’. The manuscripts and sources used include treatises by Juan de Esquivel Navarro (1642), Juan Antonio Jaque (c1680), Pablo Minguet y Yrol (1701) and the manuscript by Don Josep Fausto de Potau et de Ferran (Memorio de las Dancas, also 1701). The musicians improvised on the melodies in some instances; there were also examples of music by Robert de Visée (1650-1732) and Lully, while the rest were anonymous.

The costumed dance, and the stories told, brought the music to vibrant life. The players/actors/dancers processed on with pipes and drums, a buzzing, rattling Baroque bassoon adding zing; and all credit for the ability to play drums and flute simultaneously. The music from thence was a cornucopia of forms and scorings, from vocal numbers of the brightest colours to a castanet duel and dance contest between the two ladies. The exuberance of youth, and the promise of of love, was the thread that kept the event together.

Le Maître et son Élève Music by Scheidt, Cabanilles, Soler, Perez de Albeniz, J. S. Bach, A.-L. Couperin and W. F. Bach. Tini Mathot, Ton Koopman (organ/harpsichord). Église Abbatiale Saint-Cybard de Cercles,

ScheidtO Nachbar Roland in C major.
Cabanilles – Corrente italiana in D minor. Tiento in G minor.
Soler – Concertos: No.3 in G; No.6 in D; No.4 in F. Sonata in D.
Perez de Albéniz – Sonata in D
J. S. Bach – Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547
Armand-Louis Couperin – Harpsichord Symphony in D
W. F. Bach – Concerto in F

Presumably intended as a crowning event for the Saturday activities, this concert actually fell somewhat short of its aim. I was seated, as usual, near the front, but this turned out to be a touch too close as the sound was just a little too overbearing.

The title of the concert, ‘The Master and his Pupil’, is multi-sided. On a very obvious level it refers to Koopman and his wife and one-time pupil, Tini Mathot. But from another slant Soler’s teacher, Domenico Scarlatti, inspired Soler to take inspiration from Spanish folklore. Spanish churches at that time often had two organs facing each other, and Soler had two organs installed in the Escorial chapel, of which he was the Master, to play with the Royal Prince.

Soler wrote six concertos for two organs, of which three were performed in this concert (one performed on two harpsichords, for diversity). But first, a touch of Scheidt: the fairly well-known O Nachbar Roland. Beginning with some delightful decorations, this was a set of variations on an admittedly rather dour North German theme (and frankly one of the variations reminded me of undergraduate efforts in pastiche).

Two pieces by Juan Cabanilles (1644-1712) were presented: a Corrente italiana (performed on the organ by Koopman alone; it is less active, at least to begin with, than the title might imply); and a demanding Tiento (Toccata: both words derive from the verb ‘to touch’) in G minor.

The Soler G major Concerto is only two movements long. It does pain me to reveal that my listening notes included the phrase ‘there’s a reason we don’t hear this music’; the music plodded along relentlessly. This was not the fault of the performers, although Mathot was the more sensitive performer of the two; subsequent listening has confirmed this music is perhaps best encountered in footnotes in music history books. A bit of playing with the programme order meant we avoided three Soler works in a row: Mateo Antonio Perez de Albéniz (c1755-1831) wrote a Sonata in D major that was stylishly performed by Mathot on a harpsichord from Koopman’s collection. A piece of many delights, it acted as a palette cleanser, and also as a lead-in to Soler’s Concerto in D major: a work blissfully of a different league from the G major. There was much more energy to the music, and wonderfully performed ornamentation from Koopman and Mathot; the interplay between the two in the finale was a delight. And while there are performances of this piece that in the first movement make it sound like fairground music, thankfully that was a trap the Koopmans avoided. The F major Concerto, performed on two harpsichords, begins with some interesting harmonic ideas and includes what was here a rather fast and furious minuet.

Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547 is for organ; here, it was performed on two harpsichords, which again was an experiment in ‘flavour’; the fugue, interestingly, had a rather successful stately feel to it. It was interesting to have a work by Armand-Louis Couperin (1727-1789), part of the Couperin musical family who, in his early twenties, took over his father Nicolas’ post at the Saint Gervais Church in Paris. His works include a book of keyboard pieces from 1751, some of which sport descriptive titles. Performed again on two harpsichords, this turned out to be an interesting, pleasant piece that could have perhaps benefitted from more sensitive handling. Finally, a Concerto in F by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the oldest of JSB’s children by his first wife, Maria Barbara. The two-harpsichord genre was favoured by Wilhelm Friedemann, and his piece was certainly one of the better of the evening. Less experimental than his Fantasies, the Concerto is nevertheless characterised by its sense of rhythmic play, particularly in the first movement.

Colin Clarke

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