Friday, November 4, 2016, First Parish of Sudbury
Sunday, November 6, 2016, Old South Church, Boston
Drottningholmsmusique Johan Helmich Roman (1694–1758)
Allegro assai • Andante • Presto
Sonata No. 2 in A Minor for violin and continuo Luigi Madonis (c. 1690–1770)
[without tempo designation] • Allegro non Presto
Recitativo (Adagio) • Allegro
Concerto in D Major for traverso, strings, and continuo Johann Adolph Scheibe (1708-1776)
Vivace • Siciliano • Vivace
Sonata in D Major for traverso and continuo Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728–1788)
Adagio • Allegro ma non troppo • Cantabile
Chaconne in C Major Johann Valentin Meder (1649–1719)
Trio Sonata in D Major Stanisaw Sylwester Szarzynski (fl. late 17th century)
Drottningholmsmusique Johan Helmich Roman
Lento • Allegro molto • Andante • Vivace
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord
This program focuses on Baroque instrumental works by composers who played important roles in the development of music in countries that border the Baltic Sea. While national boundaries frequently shifted as a result of war and accession, the principal cities of Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Latvia, and Poland all boasted musical establishments that rivaled Europe’s principal courts and cities. This high level of musical accomplishment was brought about, in part, by the migration of musicians to those countries from Germany, France, and Italy. These musicians worked side by side with their local colleagues creating environments that nurtured cutting-edge styles.
Johann Adolph Scheibe came to the serious study of music late in life after abandoning law studies at Leipzig University. He became an important composer and music theorist, founding the influential musical journal Critische Musikus and composing prolifically in a variety of genres. In 1740, he was appointed Kapellmeister to the Danish court in Copenhagen and subsequently remained in Denmark for the rest of his life. Influenced by the aesthetic trends of the Enlightenment, he shunned the complex counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach and strove for drama through stark contrasts of motifs and dynamics while embracing a naturalness of melody and clarity of structure. These characteristics are prevalent in each movement of his Flute Concerto in D Major. Of particular note is the highly inventive final movement which goes against the norm in many ways, including not sharing the same melodic material between the solo and tutti instruments. It masquerades a bit as a rondo in its form with the repeated return of very similar motifs in the tutti sections, while the flute solo segments are comprised of entirely different material. Scheibe generates drama and surprise throughout with constant changes of affect.
While Denmark’s most important composer was an immigrant, Sweden’s most prominent, Johan Helmich Roman, was native born but traveled extensively to develop his musical style. While in England from about 1715-1721, he made contact and probably studied with Pepusch, Geminiani, Bononcini, and Handel. Roman often consciously imitated the styles of other composers, and the influence of Handel in his compositions is noteworthy, leading to Roman being referred to as the “Swedish Handel.” His Drottningholmsmusique certainly shows charming Handelian influences. Composed for the wedding of Prince Adolph Frederik and Lovisa Ulrika of Prussia (the sister of Frederick the Great), the work is comprised of 24 short pieces, many of which have melodic, textural, and rhythmic elements reminiscent of Handel’s Water Music.The violin virtuoso Luigi Madonis
made important contributions to the young city of St. Petersburg, founded by Russian Emperor Peter the Great as his “window on the west.” Although Peter was not particularly culturally sophisticated, Anna, his successor, had a great interest in the arts and in bringing the nation up to date with western culture. Through her emissaries, musicians and other artists were brought to St. Petersburg, including Madonis. Believed to have been a student of Vivaldi, Madonis was already a seasoned performer when he was invited by the Empress’s envoy to travel to St. Petersburg. There, he served as Konzertmeister for the court orchestra, and composed and published a set of twelve violin sonatas which are among the earliest printed music in Russia. His Sonata in A Minor is cast in the four-movement Italian sonata da chiesa form. It reveals his fertile musical imagination, with pervasive syncopated passages and unexpected modulations in the second movement, a rhapsodic “recitative” as the third movement, and wildly cascading passagework in the final movement.
German composer Johann Gottfried Müthel was holding a court appointment at Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1750, when he took a leave of absence to study with Johann Sebastian Bach, becoming the great master’s last student. That study was short-lived as Bach, already in ill health, died only a few months after his arrival. Müthel consequently went on a study tour, visiting Hasse, C.P.E. Bach, and Telemann, all of whom came to hold him in high regard. In 1753, he was appointed Kapellmeister to the Prussian privy counselor in Riga, Latvia. He remained in that city working as organist for thirty-five years until his death in 1788. Müthel’s compositions are in the emotionally-charged empfindsamer stil. His Sonata in D Major for flute and continuo gives the impression of an epic tale by an author with acute observation skills, a bountifully rich vocabulary, and a poetic sense of timing. In contrast to the fast movements that conclude most sonatas of the period, Müthel closes the work with a poignant Cantabile. Perhaps the most well-traveled of the composers on this program was Johann Valentin
Meder. A professional singer, he first served at various courts in northern Germany, then was Kapellmeister for churches in a number of Baltic cities including Talinn, Estonia; Gdansk, Poland; and Riga, Latvia, where he spent the last sixteen years of his life. His Chaconne in C Major ingeniously embellishes the repeating four note descending bass line with varied melodic figuration and harmonic diversity that includes an extended minor section.
The other composer represented on this program who worked in Poland is Stanis?aw Sylwester Szarzynski. Very little is known about Szarzynski’s life and only a handful of his works are extant, but the ones that have come down to us attest to the skill and artistry of this minor master. His Trio Sonata in D Major is his only surviving instrumental work. The form of this sonata is clever and unusual for the time. The opening Adagio returns to close the work, and two of the solo themes presented in the middle of the work are ingeniously combined later in the piece.
— Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf