Friday, March 3, 2017, 7:30 pm, First Parish in Wayland
Saturday, March 4, 2017, 3 pm, Emmanuel Church, Boston
Menalcas once the gayest Swain John Christopher Pepusch (1667-1752)
Sonata in C Major for cello and continuo, op. 5, no. 3 Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Andante • Allegro • Affetuoso • Allegro
English songs George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Love’s but the Frailty of the Mind
Trio Sonata in B Minor, HWV 386b Handel
Andante–Allegro ma non troppo • Largo–Allegro
Lamento d’Olimpia Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Il fulgido seren (from Scipione) Handel
Teresa Wakim, soprano
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Asako Takeuchi, violins
Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord
traverso by Martin Wenner, 2007, after Palanca
violins attributed to Edward Pamphilon, 1677, restored by Andrew Dipper,
and by an anonymous Dutch maker, c. 1736
cello by an anonymous Belgian maker, c. 1700
harpsichord by Jacob Kaeser, 1993, after German models
The Wayland concert is co-presented by the Wayland Historical Society.
The Boston concert is dedicated to the memory of Harriet S. Carey through
a gift by John A. Carey to OPR’s Fund for the Future.
Since the 17th century, London has been an important center of musical activity, rivaling the largest cultural centers in continental Europe. In early18th-century London, there was a growing interest in Italian opera by the aristocracy and gentry, the concert life of the city and surrounding communities had become increasingly vibrant, and patronage opportunities for composers and musicians were on the rise. These circumstances aligned to make London a magnet for composers and musicians from across Europe who sought to better their situations. Our program samples varied works from this time period that were created for London’s society by some of the many immigrant composers who enriched the city’s musical scene.
Born in Berlin in 1667, John Christopher Pepusch studied music theory under Klingenberg, and from the age of 14, was employed at the Prussian court. According to the 18th-century historian John Hawkins, Pepusch left Germany after witnessing the execution without trial of a Prussian officer accused of insubordination and sought to “put himself under the protection of a government founded on better principles.” After traveling through Holland, he settled in London sometime after September 1697, where he remained for the rest of his life. Pepusch became one of the founders of the Academy of Vocal Music, later renamed the Academy of Ancient Music.
Most of Pepusch’s secular cantatas include an obbligato instrument. Many cantatas were sung as
interludes in the theatre, but some were conceived for more intimate performance. Menalcas once the gayest Swain is from his second book of six English cantatas, published in 1720. The works were likely written for James Brydges, the Duke of Chandos, and performed at Cannons, the duke’s newly-built mansion. The flute part quite aptly contributes to the conveying of the simple text, with a rapid ascending motif evocative of “flying” in the first aria, and an incessantly repeated five-note descending gesture portraying the impossibility of escaping from love in the second aria.
Francesco Geminiani was another foreign composer who became quite popular and influential in English musical life. Born in Lucca to a musical family, Geminiani studied with Corelli, and upon
arriving in England in 1714, quickly established his reputation as a teacher and violin virtuoso.
According to Hawkins, Geminiani’s first patron, Baron J. A. Kielmansegge, arranged for the composer to perform for the king, and G. F. Handel accompanied him on the harpsichord. In contrast to Corelli’s measured, rational compositional and performing style, Geminiani’s writing is spontaneous, with phrases of irregular lengths succeeding each other and very little repetition of material. This seemingly meandering compositional technique makes for interesting story-telling, and the C Major Sonata from his op. 5 set for cello does not disappoint with dramatic changes of mood and character.
When George Frideric Handel arrived in England in 1712 at the invitation of Queen Anne, he found an active and thriving musical society both at court and in the public sphere. Handel was comfortable in courtly circles and quickly gained status, immediately receiving a pension from Queen Anne and later from George I.
Even before his permanent stay in England, Handel requested that some English poems be sent to him so he could become more acquainted with composing to English texts. The song Transporting Joy, composed around 1712, uses one of these. Encouraged by his ready acceptance into English society, he set out to win over the English public by involving himself in the composition and production of the newly-imported Italian opera. Despite Handel’s hectic and intensive involvement with Italian opera, he occasionally found time to compose English songs for inclusion in masques and plays. The song Love’s but the frailty of the mind was originally included in the spoken comedy The Way of the World by William Congreve and was sung by the celebrated singer Kitty Clive. The song Flattering tongue is one of several adaptations compiled by publisher John Walsh in his 1731 Choice Collection of English Songs set to Musick by Mr Handel.
Handel’s chamber and orchestral works, which generally followed Italian forms and conventions, were among his most popular works in England. They became widely disseminated principally through Walsh’s publications. The Trio Sonata in B Minor opens his opus 2 and was published by Walsh around 1730. The work follows the four-movement slow-fast-slow-fast plan that was established by Corelli and imitated by his followers. While the first, second, and last movements employ extensive motivic imitation, Handel composed the third movement in the style of a vocal aria. Here, after first participating in the opening ensemble “tutti,” the flute is given a soaring melody over the rich, undulating accompaniment.
Giovanni Bononcini was another Italian composer who met with great success in England. Already famous throughout Europe for his operas and cantatas, in 1719 he was invited to compose for the Royal Academy (the same opera company with which Handel was involved) by the Earl of Burlington. In his first two seasons with the company, five of his works accounted for an impressive 82 of the company’s 120 performances. While in London, Bononcini composed and had engraved a collection of cantatas that included his “Lamento d’Olimpia.” Although the storyline of this cantata bears similarities to the other famous lament, the “Lamento d’Arianna” set to music by many of his contemporaries, Bononcini’s setting, in general, paints a more inward, sorrowful portrait of the lamenting Arianna. The most dramatic sections of the work are in the recitatives, with their daring modulations reflective of the protagonist’s shifting emotional states.
Our closing selection is an aria taken from Handel’s Scipione, his ninth opera composed for the Royal Academy. It was first produced at the King’s Theatre at Haymarket on March 12, 1726, but unhappy with the latter section of the work, Handel eventually created a second version. The aria we have chosen from the final act of the second version was sung by the female lead—the beautiful Berenice—who found herself torn between the attentions of her captor and her beloved who attempts her rescue.
—Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf