Friday, April 22, 2016, 8:00 pm, Old South Church, Boston
Sunday, April 24, 2016, 4:00 pm, Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester


Mentre Clori la bella           Johann Adolf Hasse or Alessandro Scarlatti
                                      (1699-1783)     (1660-1725)

Trio Sonata in D Minor for two violins and continuo, La Follia, RV63  Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Mi palpita il cor         George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)


Sonata in G Minor for violin and continuo          Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)
    Larghetto affectuoso    
    Tempo giusto della scuola Tartinista
    Andante-Allegro assai

Nice e Tirsi             Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692-1753)>

Lianne Coble, soprano
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord

The Worcester concert is co-presented by the Worcester Historical Museum. 

Green Season Program Partner: The Gardens at Elm Bank – Massachusetts Horticultural Society


Program Notes

This program brings together passionate music of the late Baroque era by Italian composers and German composers writing in the Italian style. While the instrumental selections of Vivaldi and Tartini focus on  visceral feats of virtuosity, our chosen cantatas are set to texts that explore the emotional turmoil of unrequited love.

The cantata Mentre Clori la bella has been attributed to both Johann Adolf Hasse and Alessandro Scarlatti. Although the manuscript source we obtained names Hasse as composer, stylistic considerations favor Scarlatti. The work is Baroque in character rather than the more light-hearted, naturalistic galant style of Hasse’s writing. Additionally, the use of instrumental ritornellos at the end of each aria is a structure found in other cantatas by Scarlatti. Written from the perspective of a jilted lover, a spirit of spite and truculence pervades the work, including sinewy descending scales in the bass upon which ride a taunting triplet motif in the opening aria.

Antonio Vivaldi’s op. 1 set of twelve trio sonatas was published in 1705. The straightforward, concise construction of these works show similarities to those of his Venetian contemporaries Caldara, Gentili, and Albinoni. These sonatas are largely organized as dance suites, with the great exception being the single movement La Follia sonata, which consists of variations on a recurring chord progression. Possibly of Spanish origin, this chord progression (known as La Follia) was used as a basis for works by many composers including Corelli, whose opus 5 sonata of the same name may have served as a model. Vivaldi’s variations demonstrate the inventive prowess and exuberance that was to become a hallmark of his style. There is much variety of interaction among the three parts in the succession of the variations, including some lively motivic sparring between the violins and energetic passagework in the continuo. While not composed as a dance suite, this sonata contains variations that resemble dance movements, including a sarabande, siciliano, and gigue.

George Frideric Handel’s undated cantata Mi palpita il cor was probably composed during his two-year residence in Rome for the private concerts of his patron, the Marchese Ruspoli. The work survives in three versions—for soprano and continuo, for alto, flute and continuo, and for soprano, oboe, and continuo. The cantata creatively conveys the torments of unrequited love, from the anxiety captured by the heart-throbbing and virtuosic text-painting in the passionate opening recitative, to the plaintive suffering felt in the tenderness of the first aria, to the joyful fantasy that unfolds in the concluding aria.

The most famous work of the violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini is undoubtedly the “Devil’s Trill” sonata, not only because of impressive virtuosity, but also due to the story behind it. This tale was first related by Tartini himself to the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande, and published in Lalande’s Voyage d’un François en Italie:

One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Eve-rything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the “Devil’s Trill”, but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me.

Despite Tartini’s account, scholars believe the work was more likely composed in the 1740s. It was first published in 1799 in J.-B. Cartier’s massive anthology L’Art du violon. The most virtuosic uses of the trill occur in the last movement where extended trills are sustained simultaneously with other moving notes.

Giovanni Alberto Ristori was born in 1692, possibly in Bologna, and died in Dresden in 1753. He had a diverse career both as court and church musician, and although much of his life was spent in culturally-rich Dresden, he made forays to Russia and Poland, among other places. One of his positions included an appointment as director of the Capella Polacca that accompanied Elector August II on his excursions to Poland (with Franz Benda and J.J. Quantz among the dozen instrumentalists in the group). He is so little known today because so much of his compositional output was lost in the bombardment of Dresden in 1760 and in the bombings of World War II.

In his cantata Nice e Tirsi, which receives its regional premiere on these concerts, the pervasiveness of extended recitative accompanied by the full ensemble, rather than continuo only, is striking. The rhetorical quality of the writing, with its imaginative rhythmic motifs and colorful melodic gestures, appears to invite expressive rubato in the interjections made by the full instrumental forces. Giovanni’s flair for expression and theatre that is evidenced here was likely influenced by his father Tomasso, who ran a traveling company of comedic Italian actors and gave Giovanni his first job as composer for the Italian comic theatre that Tomasso ran in Dresden when the family relocated there in I717.

Although the general topic of the cantata is not extraordinary for the time—in the story line, our protagonist is more obsessed with the machinations of Cupid rather than those of the wayward or unresponsive lover—the musical devices that Ristori calls into play are quite inventive. In addition to the unusual construct of the extended recitatives, the first aria alternates between contrasting meters that seem to reflect the narrator’s confused state of mind. Instead of the standard two-character contrast found in Baroque arias, Ristori vacillates multiple times between these meters in each section of the aria, reflecting the protagonist’s varying fantastical interpretations of events.

— Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf

Ristori - Nice e Tirsi (excerpt)
Vivaldi - La Follia