Christmas Potpourri

Saturday, December 12, 2020, 7:30 EDT, Online


Noëls pour les instruments, H. 534 and 531           Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)
    Les Bourgeois de Châtres• Où s’en vont ces gais bergers    
    Joseph est bien marié • Or nous dites Marie • A la venue de Noël
    Une jeune pucelle • Les Bourgeois de Châtres

O che nuovo stupor           Francesca Caccini (1587-after 1641)

Noël Étranger           Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772)

Como aunque culpa           Manuel de Zumaya (c.1678-1755)

Noëls, H. 531                     Charpentier
    O créateur    
    Laissez paître vos bêtes
    Vous qui desirez sans fin

An Hymn for Christmas Day           John Christopher Smith (1712-1795)

Die Schlittenfahrt (The Sleigh Ride)     Leopold Mozart (1719-1787)
    Intrada • Sleigh Ride • The Young Lady Shivering with Cold     
    The Ball Begins (Menuett) • End of the Ball (rondo) • Sleigh Ride

Deck the Hall With Boughs of Holly    Traditional Welsh

Jessica Petrus, soprano
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello
Olav Chris Henriksen, theorbo and English guittar

Program Notes

This program is a sampling of festive seasonal rediscoveries from composers across two continents, including instrumental French noël settings, arias from Italy, Mexico, and England, and Leopold Mozart’s playful musical Sleigh Ride.
    Marc-Antoine Charpentier is notable among French Baroque composers for the quantity, variety, and quality of the works he composed for the Christmas season. Written for both sacred and secular occasions, these include six of his 34 Latin oratorios, several motets, two pastorales, his famous Messe de Minuit, and ten instrumental noël settings. Charpentier’s noël settings, composed in the 1690s, owe much to the French dances of the period: Gavotte, Bourée, and Minuet. His settings show refined contrapuntal mastery and variety in instrumentation. Here, he achieves colorful contrasts by utilizing various trio combinations in juxtaposition to the full ensemble. This program presents all of Charpentier’s surviving instrumental noël settings.
    Francesca Caccini was the daughter of composer Giulio Caccini, who is credited with the invention of the spoken style of singing called recitative. Francesca was highly regarded as a singer and composer in her day and is the first woman known to write opera. The text of her strophic aria O che nuovo stupor describes the wonder of the discovery of the birth of the Savior.
    Louis-Claude Daquin was a brilliant organist who served many churches and cathedrals in Paris, including Sainte-Chapelle, the Chapelle Royale, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Noel Étranger (foreign noël) is from a collection of noël settings originally written for organ. On the title page of this collection, it is stated that they may be played on other instruments. Our use of flute, violin, and cello provides a variety of instrumental color combinations for this virtuosic work.
    Manuel de Zumaya was a highly-respected composer native-born to Mexico who was maestro at the Mexico City and Oaxaca cathedrals. His evocative cantata Como aunque culpa uses the harmonic progression of a descending scale in the bass line, coupled with an upwardly spiraling repeated melody in the trebles. Its text is about the coming of Christ to repair the damage to mankind brought on by the fall of Adam.
    An Hymn For Christmas Day is a charming strophic aria published in John Arnold’s 1765 collection “Church Music Reformed.” Its approachable style is not unlike those in secular English songbooks of the period, with frequent interjections of instrumental “symphonies” set in alternation with the tuneful vocal part.
    Although chiefly remembered as the father and educator of W. A. Mozart, Leopold Mozart was a respected composer (especially of church music), author of an influential violin treatise, and deputy Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. His programmatic Die Schlittenfahrt was written around 1755 and describes through music a sleigh journey to a fancy ball and back home. It is one of several colorful character pieces he composed, including the Peasant Wedding and the Toy Symphony, all of which were probably written for specific occasions and call for unusual instruments.
    The program concludes with the beloved holiday tune Deck the Hall. Of Welsh origin, this tune did not originally have words, but was used as a vehicle for improvisation by the famous Welsh harpists. This performance will reflect that origin by featuring improvised phrases played by ensemble members alternating with the “Fa la la” phrases played by the full ensemble.

                —Suzanne Stumpf and Daniel Ryan