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Sensuality, playfulness, joy and energy burst forth in a feast of counterpoint that manifests the workings of Bach’s beautiful mind. The unique collection of trio sonatas for organ BWV 525-530 is largely Bach’s reworking of some of his favourite – now mostly lost – instrumental compositions. Victoria Baroque Players chamber ensemble will play these sublime sonatas re-transcribed for varied combinations of instruments.
This concert will be followed by a free screening of Martin Luther at 4pm. The 109 minute documentary will explore how one man reluctantly took on the most powerful institution of his day and won. Martin Luther is credited with expounding a new vision of man’s relationship with authority.
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Bach‘s Trio Sonatas for Organ, transcribed for multiple instruments
Trio Sonata No.1 in G major BWV 525 (orig. in E flat)
Trio Sonata No.1 in D major BWV 529 (orig. in C)
Trio Sonata No.1 in E minor BWV 526 (orig. in C minor)
The trio sonata – two equal upper parts over bass – was the standard form for chamber music of the Baroque Era. Despite Bach’s enormous musical output, there are only two instrumental trio sonatas by Bach that can be attributed to him with certainty: the trio sonata for two flutes and continuo BWV 1039 (heard in the August 9th concert) and the trio sonata in his Musical Offering BWV 1079 (heard at last year’s EMV festival). Bach may well have written many more such works, but many of his chamber works went missing due to his offspring’s carelessness with his manuscripts after his death.
On the other hand, we do have surviving copies of Bach’s six organ sonatas, BWV 525-530, each in three movements written in strict trio sonata form: two independent parts for the manuals and the bass line to be played by the pedals. Large sections of these sonatas were Bach’s transcriptions and re-workings of his previous organ and instrumental works. The collection was likely put together in the late 1720s in Leipzig as exercises for Bach’s eldest son to perfect his organ technique, adding to the already-existing collection of graded keyboard works, the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. The sonatas were widely copied and disseminated by Bach’s other students and organists, and, unlike many of Bach’s other works, continued to be held in high regard in the second half of the 18th century after his death. In 1788 Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel described the sonatas as being “written in such galant style that they sound very good and never grow old, but on the contrary, will outlive all revolutions of fashion in music.” Despite their pedagogical origins, they are indeed exquisite masterworks, and are still amongst organists’ most treasured and technically demanding repertoire.
The sonatas masterfully combine and imitate various idioms of instrumental writing of the time, such as the Italian sonata and ritornello concerto. Despite the use of highly sophisticated counterpoint, the musical language is sometimes closer to that of his sons than to Bach’s own; examples of this in this concert include the expressive sighing themes of the slow movements in BWV 525 and BWV 529.
The philosophy around composing in the Baroque Era was flexible and practical: a good musical idea could bear to be used in different formations, to be played as a solo, or by two, three or more players, accommodating each function in question and the resources available, featuring the same musical idea in a different light through different lenses. As many of the organ trios have their origins in either lost or surviving instrumental works, we have taken the liberty of re-transcribing some of these sonatas for multiple instruments, as has been done by many other ensembles in this modern age. Transcriptions of these sonatas are a welcome addition to the otherwise scarce number of surviving chamber works by Bach, and much of the writing is indeed as idiomatic for melodic instruments as it is for the keyboard. They are a real joy for an instrumentalist to perform, conversational and expressive in nature, and like all Bach’s music, a goldmine for continuos musical exploration and discoveries.
For today’s concert we have chosen to use four distinctly different instruments – flute, violin, bassoon and keyboard – highlighting the independent voices of the scoring. In the sonatas BWV 525 and 526 the bassoon and keyboard share the bass line: Michael Jarvis is adding figured bass to Bach’s original scoring (his right hand is improvising harmony over the bass line), giving the sonatas a basso continuo foundation that is found in standard Baroque trio sonatas.
We have transcribed the Sonata BWV 529 for just two instruments – flute and obligato harpsichord – Michael’s right hand taking the lower melodic top line. This scoring is similar to Bach’s Sonatas for flute and obligato harpsichord in B minor BWV 1030, A major BWV 1032, and G minor BWV 1020 (spurious).
Bach’s 15 Two-part Inventions were part of his Klavierbüchlein for young Wilhelm Friedemann, dating from around 1720. The inventions still hold a place in the standard repertoire of keyboard students today, and have instructed many generations in the skill of playing two independent melodic lines. We are trusting that the beauty and ingenuity of these contrapuntal miniatures is still apparent when taken out of their original form and played as a violin and bassoon duet.
Programme notes by Soile Stratkauskas
Soile Stratkauskas, flute
Finnish-born Soile Stratkauskas moved to Victoria, BC, in 2010 and has since established herself as the leading baroque flutist on the Canadian West Coast. She is a member of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and regularly performs in Early Music Vancouver's concerts. Soile completed her undergraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and gained her Master's degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London, UK, where she studied early flutes with Lisa Beznosiuk. Soile has performed with many prominent period instrument orchestras in the UK, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Gabrieli Consort and Players, and has toured in Europe with these groups. Soile is the founder and artistic director of the Victoria Baroque, which, in addition to maintaining its own series, has given guest performances for Early Music Vancouver, Early Music Society of the Islands, ArtSpring, and the Cowichan Symphony Society. Soile teaches baroque flute at the University of British Columbia as part of Early Music Vancouver's Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme and is the artistic director of the Summer Baroque Intensive Programme at the Victoria Conservatory of Music supported by EMV and Victoria Baroque.
Christi Meyers, violin
Christi Meyers has had a prominent role in the musical life of Victoria, BC for almost 15 years. Assistant Concertmaster of the Victoria Symphony since 2001, she has also been active playing in musical organizations locally such as the Galiano Ensemble, Odyssey String Quartet and away, for the Vancouver Symphony, Sinfonia Rotterdam (NL) and the European Camerata (UK).
She has also nurtured her love of baroque violin playing as a member of the Victoria Baroque Players, performing also with Pacific Baroque Orchestra and on numerous projects with Early Music Vancouver. As an educator, she coaches the violins of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra, maintains a small private studio, and was on the music faculty at the University of Victoria from 2005-10. Christi has recorded chamber music for both CBC radio and television and can be heard on baroque recordings for ATMA (QB) and Marquis (ON). Born in Montreal and raised in Grande Prairie, Alberta, she holds degrees from McGill, Western, and the Vancouver Academy of Music, where she studied with Gwen Thompson and Sonia Jelikova.
Katrina Russell, bassoon
Katrina Russell has a diverse performance background as a bassoonist, with repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary music, and from orchestral playing to solo appearances. Prior to moving to Vancouver Island, she lived in Britain, and as a specialist in historical performance, she played and recorded with many of the foremost period instrument ensembles in Britain and Europe. As a member of these groups Katrina has toured widely, appearing at many leading festivals around the world from Perth (Australia), to Mostly Mozart (Lincoln Center, New York), and the BBC Proms. On modern bassoon she has appeared with groups ranging from The London Chamber Orchestra (UK), to the New York Philomusica, and the Vancouver Symphony, Victoria Symphony, and other Canadian orchestras. The past number of years have seen her appear with various West Coast period instrument ensembles, including Early Music Vancouver, Victoria Baroque, and The Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
Katrina taught for several seasons at the Comox Valley Youth Music Centre and the Victoria Conservatory Summer Academy. She is also currently on Faculty at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, and teaches at the University of British Columbia as part of the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme in association with Early Music Vancouver.
Michael Jarvis, harpsichord
Michael Jarvis is one of Canada’s finest harpsichordists, fortepianists and continuo players and is in demand as a collaborative artist. In addition to performing across Canada, he has performed as soloist and continuo player throughout the USA, England, Italy and Bermuda.
Michael Jarvis may be heard on the Marquis Classics, Hungaroton, ATMA, Naxos, Solitudes and Avalon CD labels, and has often broadcast nationally and regionally for the CBC, as well as nationally across the US on NPR. He and violinist Paul Luchkow’s CD of Hummel’s op. 5 violin sonatas was chosen as a finalist as best classical album of the year in the Western Canadian Music Awards 2013. His most recent CD with Paul, Michel Corrette’s Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin, Op. 25 (on mythological themes), was released to excellent reviews on the Marquis CD label in Spring 2017.
Michael was featured on two national Canadian television specials for Bravo: “A Baroque Christmas” and “A Baroque Easter”. He was also co-host and star of the 13-part television series “Come into the Parlour” for Bravo-TV. He was recently appointed conductor of the Bach on the Rock chamber choir and orchestra on Salt Spring Island.
He has taught harpsichord and continuo and lectured many times at the University of Toronto. He has taught harpsichord performance at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario and at Havergal College, Toronto, and taught fortepiano at UBC.
When he is not playing early music, Michael is an avid collector of early jazz and early opera 78 rpm recordings and is an early phonograph restorer. Michael lives in Victoria, BC.
Note: Michael Jarvis tragically passed away on December 25, 2020. His obituary can be found here.
Artistic Director - Soile Stratkauskas
Now in its eighth season, Victoria Baroque brings together early music specialists from Vancouver Island and beyond. Victoria Baroque’s home venue is the Church of St John the Divine in downtown Victoria, and invitations for guest performances have included Early Music Vancouver, Early Music Society of the Islands, Cowichan Symphony Society, Artspring, and Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival. The ensemble’s repertoire ranges through chamber, orchestral, vocal, and choral works from the Baroque and Classical periods. Collaborations with international guest artists are an integral part of the ensemble's programming, and past guest directors and soloists have included Tafelmusik's Jeanne Lamon; leader of the English Baroque Soloists, Kati Debretzeni; British harpsichordist Steven Devine; Pacific Opera Victoria's Timothy Vernon; and soprano Nancy Argenta. Victoria Baroque is passionate about outreach and engaging with emerging young talent through community workshops, school concerts, and collaborations with the Victoria University School of Music, Victoria Conservatory of Music, and the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra. Victoria Baroque's debut CD, Virtuosi of the Baroque, on Marquis Classics, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award in 2014.