Saturday February 4, 2017 | 8:00pm (Pre-concert documentary screening 6:30pm - featuring Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra)
Vancouver Playhouse | Map
A Northwest Baroque Masterworks Project *
A co-presentation between the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra and the Early Music Society of the Islands
Monica Huggett (violin soloist)
One of the greatest composers of the early classical period was Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier Saint-Georges. Known as “Le Mozart Noir”, he was one of the earliest musicians of the European classical tradition to have African ancestry. Incredibly, this son of a slave overcame adversities of class, race, and prejudice to become a major musical star all over Europe inspired both Mozart and Haydn. Today, he is almost entirely forgotten. This programme includes several of his violin concertos, orchestral works by Mozart and one of Haydn’s Paris Symphonies.
This concert will be preceded by a free screening of a Canadian-made documentary on St George’s life featuring Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The screening will be open to the public.
(See YouTube video below) Copies of the documentary will be available for purchase at intermission.
Supported by David McMurtry and Glen Patterson
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Concerto for 2 violins and strings op 13/2 in G-major
(Chloe Meyers and Linda Melsted)
Symphony No. 85 in Bb-major “La Reine”
Adagio – Vivace, Romance Allegretto, Menuetto Allegretto, Finale Presto
Concerto for violin and strings op 10/1 in Bb-major
Allegro, Andante, Giga Allegro ma non troppo
Symphony KV Anh 223 in F-major
Allegro assai, Andante, Presto
Concerto for violin and orchestra op 5/1 in C-major
Allegro, Andante moderato, Rondeau
This evening’s programme celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments of Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), champion swordsman, French colonel, virtuoso violinist, director of Paris’s finest orchestra, and prolific composer.
Birth in Guadeloupe
Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to the plantation owner George Bologne de Saint-Georges and his African slave Nanon, Joseph Bologne de Saint-George faced a life of oppression and poverty. French law prohibited children of mixed parentage from inheriting anything from their parents, and racial tensions in the colonies prevented free people of African descent from settling in towns and cities. Colonial lawyer Hilliard d’Auberteuil expressed the sentiments of the time when he wrote in 1776, “Policy and security demand that we crush the race of the blacks with such contempt, that whoever descends from it even to the sixth generation should be marked by an indelible stain.” Though young Joseph held an uncommonly privileged position as his father’s cherished only son, his childhood was tumultuous, including a flight to France at the age of 2, when his father was unjustly accused of murder. Eventually, despairing of the possibility of raising his family in peace and security in the Caribbean, George Bologne permanently moved his household to France.
Paternal and Patrician Protection
Seizing the excuse of chaperoning his nieces to boarding school, on August 12, 1753 George Bologne, his two nieces, his son Joseph, and his valet set sail for Paris on Le Bien Aimé. Nanon joined them two years later, and they settled into a spacious Parisian apartment together. Duplicitous French law, while permitting slavery in the colonies, forbade it in France, and permitted fathers of mixed-race children to enroll them in French schools. Provided they could acquire appropriate social graces, such children might even find a place in Parisian high society alongside their fathers. Joseph excelled. He mastered swordsmanship, dancing, and musicianship, those ennobling physical disciplines that were believed to demonstrate an orderly and cultivated mind. He caught the attention of the influential Duke d’Orléans, who also championed nine-year- old Mozart when he visited Paris in 1766. Though no historical evidence survives, it is hard to believe that the duke failed to introduce the two prodigies. Perhaps Saint-Georges was even in the audience for a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony in F Major, KV. Anh. 223, which a manuscript in Leopold Mozart’s hand dates to 1765. The symphony strongly resembles the work of Johann Christian Bach, who young Amadeus had met and admired while on tour in London.
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges bolstered his position in Parisian high society when, at the age of 19, he became a Gendarme de la Garde du Roi and received the title of chevalier. Joseph’s peer Antoine Texier de la Boëssiere, the son of his fencing instructor, remembered, “No one had ever deployed more grace, more assurance in the obligatory exercises. His development was superb; his hand held at the highest possible elevation… made him the master of his adversary’s weak point; his left foot, solidly planted, never moved out of position and his right leg remained perpendicular at all times, this afforded him the means to strike with lightning speed.” The dexterity evident in his fencing also characterized his violin playing. The compositions of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges make extensive use of the highest hand positions on the neck of the violin, and the newly invented Tourte bow, longer with the characteristic slight curve and balanced tip and frog, allowed him to achieve bold, détaché strokes and vigorous arpeggiated figuration in fast movements, and long, lyrical lines in slow movements. His virtuosity was so renowned that the early nineteenth-century biographer and music critic François- Joseph Fétis asserted (probably incorrectly) that Saint-Georges must have studied with Jean-Marie Leclair, considered France’s greatest violinist and the founder of the French violin school. Like Saint George’s concerti, Leclair’s Concerto for Violin and Strings in Bb Major, Op. 10/1 demands unprecedented virtuosity from the violinist. Nevertheless, Leclair was most praised for the sweetness he coaxed from his violin. One audience member who heard him perform with fellow Corelli student, Pietro Locatelli, wrote, “Once he and Leclair were at the court of Kassel at the same time, prompting the court jester to say that both of them ran like rabbits up and down the violin, the one playing like an angel, the other like a devil. The first (Leclair) with his practiced left hand and through his neat and lovely tone knew how to steal hearts, while the second (Locatelli) brought forth great difficulties and mainly sought to astound the listener with his scratchy playing.”
“Under the Direction of the Famous Saint Georges”
Verses for the portrait of M.B. de S.***G***
Child of refinement and of genius,
He was born in the sacred valley
Nursling and image of Terpsichore,
Rival to the God of Harmony,
Had he joined his music to poetry,
He would be taken for Apollo
In 1768, the periodical of Parisian elegant society and courtly life, the Mercure de France (1768), published this word portrait of Saint-Georges. Not surprisingly, a few years later in 1772, he made his solo debut with the Concert des Amateurs, an auditioned orchestra of the best noble and professional musicians in Paris. By 1773, he had become their musical director. It was during this time that he composed and published the two concertos that you will hear on this evening’s programme. When the Amateurs was disbanded in 1781 on account of severe financial losses incurred by its members during the American War of Independence, Saint-Georges appealed to his friend the Duke d’Orléans, who reestablished the group as the Concert de la Loge Olympique, part of the exclusive freemason club to which many members of the nobility and the best professional musicians belonged. At the request of the Loge’s grand-master, Saint-Georges commissioned Haydn’s Paris Symphonies, including the Symphony No. 85 in Bb Major nicknamed “La Reine”, because it was a favorite of Marie-Antoinette. Haydn received a staggering 25 louis d’or per symphony from the Loge. In return, he produced his grandest works to date. Saint-George’s orchestra was more than double the size of the orchestra that Haydn led in Esterhaza, having 65 members: 14 first violins, 14 second violins, 7 violas, 10 cellos, 7 contrabasses, 4 horns, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassons, 2 clarinets, 2 trumpets, and timpani.
Saint-Georges also led in the fight for political equality. He worked with the young Duke d’Orléans, nicknamed Philippe-Egalité, in the abolitionist Société des Amis des Noirs. During the Revolution, he joined the National Guard and in 1792 became the colonel of the Légion des Américains et du Midi, Europe’s first regiment comprised of citizens of colour, which included Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of the novelist Alexandre Dumas. On account of his close connections with France’s nobility, he was jailed for 18 months during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, but in 1795, succeeded in reestablishing a masonic orchestra at the Cercle de l’Harmonie. The Mercure reported that this orchestra “left nothing to be desired as to the choice of works or the superiority of their execution.”
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and as music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato.
Recently, he has conducted the Montreal-based baroque orchestra Ensemble Arion, Les Violons du Roy, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra; both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra have regularly featured him as a featured soloist. In the last years, he has repeatedly conducted the Victoria Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia, most recently with Handel’s Messiah.
Alexander Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. He made his North American recording debut with the ensemble Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio (Harmonia Mundi USA), and won worldwide acclaim from both the public and critics for his 2001 release of Handel’s Gloria (ATMA Classique). Volume 1 of his recordings of the complete keyboard works by Alessandro Scarlatti appeared in May 2005. Critics around the world unanimously praised it, and in the following year it was nominated for an Opus Prize as the best Canadian early music recording. Recently, he has also released an Opus Award-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin and his new Montreal-based ensemble Tempo Rubato, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, various albums with Les Voix Baroques of Buxtehude, Carissimi and Purcell, all with rave reviews. His latest album with Karina Gauvin and Arion Baroque Orchestra (Prima Donna) won a Juno Award in 2013, and a complete recording of Handel’s Orlando was released in the fall of 2013, with an exciting group of international star soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra performing.
Alexander Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa cum laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, medieval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships for the highly talented. In addition to his studies, he has attended numerous master classes in harpsichord and historical performance. To ground himself further in the roots of western music, he became intensely involved over the course of several years with Gregorian chant. Alexander Weimann has moved to the Vancouver area with his wife, 3 children and pets, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.
Monica Huggett was born in London, in 1953, the fifth of seven children. In order to differentiate herself from her piano-playing siblings, she took up the violin at age six. Her talent became apparent quickly and, by the age of twelve, it had been decided by her parents and teachers that she would become a violinist. This saved her from the agony of having to decide what to do with her life. At age sixteen, she entered the Royal Academy of Music as a student of Manoug Parikian.
Although she did well and won several prizes, she was not entirely comfortable with her instrument until she was given a baroque violin to try. She was immediately won over by the mellow quality of the gut strings and became a fervent champion of the baroque violin. From age seventeen, Monica has earned her living solely as a violinist and artistic director – beginning in London as a freelance violinist – and currently as the first artistic director of the Juilliard School’s Historical Performance Program. In the intervening four decades, she co-founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra with Ton Koopman (PBO’s first artistic advisor); founded her own London-based ensemble Sonnerie; worked with Christopher Hogwood at the Academy of Ancient Music; with Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert; and toured the United States in concert with James Galway. She has served as guest director of the Arion Baroque Orchestra, Montreal; Tafelmusik, Toronto; the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Philharmonia Baroque, San Francisco; the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra; the Seville Baroque Orchestra; and Concerto Copenhagen. She also performs frequently as a solo violinist all over the world.
The 2013-14 season marks Monica’s 18th as artistic director of Portland Baroque Orchestra. Under her leadership the orchestra has achieved an ever-higher level of artistic excellence and expanded its historically informed repertoire through the Classical period to the early Romantic. Her achievements with PBO include a week-long festival of Bach on the 250th Anniversary of his death, the commission and world premiere of a Baroque-inspired violin concerto and two commercial CD releases (Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante and Concertone on the Virgin Veritas label and Giuliani’s Guitar Concerto and Boccherini’s Guitar Sinfonia on Koch International). She has also released two limited-edition live recordings with Portland Baroque Orchestra, one entirely of music by J.S. Bach, and, in 2008, her first new release of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons since 1992, paired with his complete Opus 11 violin concerti.
Monica’s discography numbers in the hundreds, many of which, sadly, are currently out of print. Her award winning CDs of Biber Sonatas with Sonnerie will be re-released by Universal Music later this season. Universal will also soon make many of her out-of-print recordings available to the public again as downloads.
Among her recent prizes is the 1997 Editor’s Choice award, Gramophone magazine, for J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin; the Vantaa Baroque Energy Prize (Finland), 2005; and Gramophone’s Best Instrumental Recording Award, for Heinrich Biber’s Violin Sonatas, 2002. Monica and Ensemble Sonnerie received a 2009 Grammy™ nomination for J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince, and was recently praised by the New York Times for her “sizzling rendering” (Allan Kozinn, 2/9/2010) of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 with her Juilliard Baroque ensemble.
Alongside her work at Juilliard and Portland Baroque Orchestra, Monica continues as artistic director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra.