Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baroque Concert Preview

The Bach Concerto for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1062 is an unusual concerto. It is a double concerto for two keyboards and orchestra. This piece is familiar as a double violin concerto, in d minor; but it’s believed that Bach also arranged it for two keyboards, in c minor. Originally played on harpsichords, this recital will present it with 2 pianos.

The soloists are Annette Gurnee Hull and Nancy Correll. These two duet partners played this concerto in France last summer, with an orchestra from the Conservatory of Blois. A thrilling experience, the two are now presenting it on home ground, with friends and colleagues.

Antonio Vivaldi’s concerto, La notte, depicts “The night,” tinged by supernatural fears, in seven short movements. In the guise of an overture the opening Largo is dominated by an obsessive dotted rhythm in the accompaniment and long disconcerting trills in the flute. Suddenly in the Presto, ghosts (Fantasmi), represented musically by rising triplets, make their appearance. A short Largo subsequently leads to a brief, calming Andante. In a Presto interruption the ghosts reappear and the mood of agitation once again asserts itself (string tremolos). Sleep (Il sonno) arrives and is depicted by long note values. Dissonances, however, betray an agitated soul. Dawn follows and with it awakening (Allegro). The dream has run its course but the nightmarish visions of the night persist. Justin and April Sousa are the soloists.

Georg Phillip Telemann was Germany’s most prolific, respected and sought-after composer, regarded on even higher terms than his contemporary, J.S. Bach. The viola concerto, with its stately opening march, brilliant energetic second movement, lyrical third movement, and exuberant fourth movement, is a staple of the viola repertory. Holly MacDonell is the viola soloist.

In the last of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, the lack of violins leads to an overall low pitch and sombre sonority, both traditionally associated with death. In lieu of the two viola da gamba parts, we decided to have a viola festival with Bach’s favorite instrument. In one sense, the work is a concerto for two violas and displays Bach's love of the instrument and its full range of expressive possibilities. Yet, it is their interplay, both with each other and with the cello and continuo, that characterizes each of the three movements. Bach considered the essence of a polyphonic composition to be a symbolic tonal discussion among instruments, each presenting arguments and counterpoints, variously talking and lapsing into silence to listen to the others. Sherry Hanson joins Holly in the solo parts.

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