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Before Bach: 17th-Century Music for Strings & Winds; La Modestine; Madeline Lucy Smith, soprano; Sumner Thompson, baritone; Majka Demcak
Parnassus Musicus: Music of the Austrian Habsburgs
In the early Baroque era, the Austrian Habsburg courts at Graz and Vienna were a cauldron for a rich stew of German and Italian music. The young Archduke Ferdinand (1578–1637) established a vibrant musical ensemble at his court in Graz, where German musicians were gradually joined by Italian newcomers who introduced Baroque novelties like canzonas, sonatas, and concertos. The Italians had triumphed by the time that now-Emperor Ferdinand II took up his throne in Vienna in 1619. In this programme featuring Austrian instrumental music of the early Baroque, La Modestine, Cappella Borealis, and special guests join forces to explore Habsburg music from both sides of the Alps, including motets, canzonas, sonatas, and sacred music for violins, sackbuts, organ, and voices.
To view/download this programme, please click here.
This concert is generously supported by Zelie & Vincent Tan
Giovanni Priuli (c. 1575-1626):
Canzone terza à 6
Orlando di Lasso (1530/32-1594):
German Lied: Der Wein de schmeckt mir also wol à 5 (1573)
Annibale Padovano (1527-1575):
Ricercare del Duodecimo Tono
Philippe de Monte (1521-1603):
Clamavi de tribulatione mea à 6
Vincenzo Pellegrini (1562-1630):
Dominus regit me — Solo motet from Parnassus musicus
Orlando di Lasso:
Luxuriosa res vinum à 6 (1594)
Heinrich Pfendner (c. 1590-1631):
Canzona for organ
Canzone prima à 6
Giovanni Valentini (c. 1582-1649):
Canzona for organ
Egredimini filiæ Sion — Solo motet from Parnassus musicus
Antonio Bertali (1605-1669):
Sonata in G
Giovanni Battista Buonamente (c. 1595-1642):
Sonata à 6
At few times in Western music history did so much change as the years around 1600. Within a couple of decades, the rich legacy of Renaissance vocal polyphony had been shunted aside by a exciting array of new styles and genres gushing from Italy: virtuosic solo singing and the first glimmerings of opera; the rise of a persistent accompaniment of voices and instruments by bass and chord-producing instruments (the so-called basso continuo or thoroughbass); new kinds of music featuring independent instrumental parts; and techniques like the so-called “concerto” in which different timbres of voices and instruments were creatively juxtaposed. Once regarded as a reflection of a cosmic, ineffable harmony, music now sought to move the emotions of flesh-and-blood human beings.
Looking to the German-speaking regions north of the Alps, tradition has it that the Italian novelties were first adopted by the great Protestant composers of the early 17th century—notably the “three S’s”, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt. But this is to overlook the Catholic courts and cities to the south, closer to the Alpine peaks and the Italian frontier. Notably, the courts of the Austrian Habsburg princes and emperors at Prague, Innsbruck, Graz, and Vienna were cauldrons for a heady mixture of the German with the Italian, the mature Renaissance with the incipient Baroque. Much of the music cultivated here is obscure today, and some of it remains unpublished in modern editions. But what has been discovered so far suggests that at least some of the origins of German Baroque music are to be sought in these opulent courts, which were diverse culturally as well as linguistically.
Emperor Rudolph II (r. 1576–1612), a reclusive and hermetic figure, preferred to maintain his court in the Bohemian capital of Prague. Led by Philippe de Monte (1521–1603), Rudolph’s German- and Netherlandish-dominated musical ensemble represented the autumn of Renaissance polyphony, with music scored for balanced ensembles of voices and featuring carefully constructed counterpoint and motivic imitation. Monte’s six-voice motet “Clamavi de tribulatione mea” (I wailed of my tribulation), presented here in an arrangement for violins and trombones, is an exceptionally expressive and almost madrigalistic work in which we feel the desperation of a lost soul drowning in a sea of sorrows. As a contrast to this dark mood we offer two compositions by one of Monte’s correspondents, Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594), who had established himself as Europe’s favourite composer from his base at the ducal court of Bavaria in Munich. Lasso’s German lied “Der wein, der schmeckt mir also wol” (The wine tastes so good) was found etched into a stone tabletop from 1589 that is preserved today in the Herberstein Palace in Graz. Five singers seated around the table could read their individual parts, presumably emptying glasses of wine themselves. As a pendant we offer another of Lasso’s praises for the glories of wine, the motet “Luxuriosa res vinum et tumultuosa” (Wine is a luxuriant thing, and turbulent), drawn from his last motet collection published at Graz in 1594.
There was then, a love for the Renaissance master’s music in the Styrian capital, but it was here in Graz where new musical breezes from the south were first felt. Archduke Ferdinand (1578–1637), later to become Emperor Ferdinand II in 1619, was as enthusiastic for Italian culture as he was a zealous promoter of the Catholic cause in his divided realm. Ferdinand’s father Archduke Karl II (r. 1564–1590) had already begun to invite Italian musicians to join his chapel in Graz, none more prominent than Annibale Padovano (1527–1575), who had been organist at the famed Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice for over a decade before his arrival in Austria. Padovano was one of the great innovators of the Venetian ricercar, a keyboard work balancing learned imitation, motivic development, and virtuosic fancies. Under Ferdinand the transition of the Austrian musical chapel from a German-Netherlandish to a largely Italian body was completed. Ferdinand sent several of his musicians to Venice for further study, and hired native Italians in ever greater numbers. Hired as Ferdinand’s chapelmaster at Graz around 1614, Giovanni Priuli (c. 1575–1626) drew on his former experience as a musician at Saint Mark’s to enrich the Austrian court music with new vocal and instrumental styles. Echoes of Venice are clearly heard in the two instrumental canzonas offered on today’s programme, scored here for three violins, three trombones, and basso continuo: the sectional construction and frequent tempo changes are signs of musical change to come.
The year 1615 saw one of the greatest musical tributes to a Habsburg emperor. Giovanni Battista Bonometti, a tenor at the Graz court, dedicated a vast collection of sacred vocal motets to Archduke Ferdinand called Parnassus Musicus Ferdinandaeus (The Musical Parnassus of Ferdinand), featuring music by no less that thirty-two composers, almost all of them Italians—even Claudio Monteverdi, who later would dedicate his Eighth Book of Madrigals to the emperor’s son Ferdinand III in 1638, was in the mix. The motets drawn from the Parnassus on tonight’s programme, “Dominus regit me” by Vincenzo Pellegrini and “Egredimini filiae Sion” by Priuli, are among the earliest sacred works for solo voice and organ continuo published north of the Alps, and testify to Graz as one of the earliest conduits for the Italian Baroque in the north. Perhaps it was his German background that excluded Heinrich Pfendner (d. 1630), Ferdinand’s organist, from Bonometti’s anthology. We pay tribute to him tonight by featuring one of his organ canzonas found in a south German manuscript, showcasing a strict imitative approach enlivened by alternations between duple and triple meter. The organ canzonas of his Graz colleague Giovanni Valentini (c. 1582–1649), the emperor’s longtime chapelmaster, are not dissimilar, but show more willingness to explore chromatic musical territory.
Our programme of instrumental music is rounded out with explorations of a more “mature” Italian Baroque featured at the Vienna court of Ferdinand II in the 1620s and 1630s. The sonata for two violins, gamba and continuo by Antonio Bertali (1605–1669), one of the emperor’s favourite composers, begins to show off the possibilities of idiomatic writing for the pair of high violins, with rapid dotted figures and leaps abounding. The final piece on our programme is a sonata for two violins and four trombones by Giovanni Battista Buonamente (c. 1595–1642), one of Ferdinand’s chamber musicians. Like other sonatas and canzonas of the time, this piece revels in meter changes and timbral alternations between the violins and trombones, but is especially memorable for its introduction and conclusion, a sparkling and energetic outburst for all instruments combined.
— Notes by Alexander J. Fisher
Before Bach: 17th-Century Music for Strings & Winds
La Modestine was formed in 2016 by four renowned musicians who discovered that playing together was one of their great joys. La Modestine’s repertoire focuses on music of the Baroque for one or two violins, viola da gamba and basso continuo. Members include Marc Destrubé, Natalie Mackie, Kathryn Wiebe and Christina Hutten.
Marc Destrubé enjoys a diverse international career on historical and modern violins, performing as soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster or director/conductor. He is co-concertmaster of the Orchestra of the 18th Century (Amsterdam), first violinist of the Axelrod String Quartet (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC) and of the Vancouver quartet Microcosmos, and is a regular guest director and soloist with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Australian Haydn Ensemble and Lyra Baroque Orchestra. In Vancouver he has been director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, concertmaster of the CBC Radio Orchestra and first violinist with the Purcell String Quartet. He performs regularly for Early Music Vancouver, is Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Festival (Victoria), a member of the Turning Point Ensemble, and concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra. His recording of Haydn violin concertos (ATMA) has been critically acclaimed, and he has commissioned and premiered numerous works by Canadian composers. A highly-respected teacher, he has been a visiting artist at the Paris, Utrecht and Moscow Conservatories, the Banff Centre, University of Indiana, Case Western University, UVic, UBC and VCC. He is on the faculty of the Berwick Academy at the Oregon Bach Festival and course co-director of the Twin Cities Baroque Instrumental Programme. http://marcdestrube.com
The passionate artistry of violinist Linda Melsted has won the hearts of audiences across North America, Europe, and Japan. Currently concertmaster of Seattle Baroque Orchestra, she has appeared as soloist, member, and leader of many outstanding ensembles, including Tafelmusik, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. Linda is the featured soloist in Tafelmusik’s documentary “Le Mozart Noir”, and has recorded for Sony, ATMA, Classique, and Harmonia Mundi.
Linda’s true love is chamber music. She has performed with many ensembles in chamber music series from Toronto to Seattle including Early Music Vancouver, Gallery Concerts, Northwest Showcase, Camerata Musica, Folia, Discovery Island Music Festival, La Primavera, and Toronto Music Garden. She is co-founder of the chamber ensemble sound|counterpoint (www.soundcounterpoint.org) as well as the Cosi Quartet, a classical oboe quartet, and the Salish Sea Players (www.salishseaplayers.org), a group dedicated to bringing early music to retirement and nursing facilities in the greater Seattle area. Linda is also a cat lover and shares her home with three cute kitties – Gus, Gerome, and Kalli. Linda performs on a Nicolo Amati violin.
Natalie Mackie studied cello at the Conservatoire de Musique (Québec), followed by a degree from the School of Music, University of British Columbia. While at UBC, she began studying viola da gamba as well, and later pursued further studies at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague. Natalie has played with many ensembles in Canada and the U.S., including New World Consort, Les Coucous Bénévoles, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Seattle and Portland Baroque Orchestras, Les Voix Humaines, Les Voix Baroques, Tempo Rubato, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, Victoria Baroque Players, Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, and others. She has toured throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe, playing in cities such as New York, Boston, San Francisco, at London’s Wigmore Hall, Paris, Cologne, Strasbourg, Utrecht and Bologna, among others, and has recorded for Radio France, German Radio, BBC, CBC, and NPR, as well as the Canadian label Atma Classique. She plays violone, viola da gamba, and occasionally baroque cello, in Pacific Baroque Orchestra and the Bach Cantata Project players, and frequently appears in Early Music Vancouver’s summer Festival. Natalie also has a passionate and abiding interest in new music and performs newly commissioned works both as a soloist and with the ensembles of which she is a member.
Michael Jarvis has been called one of Canada’s finest harpsichordists, fortepianists and continuo players, and is in demand as a collaborative artist. He may be heard on Marquis, Hungaroton, ATMA, and Naxos CDs, as well as London Records, and has broadcast nationally for the CBC and in the US on NPR. Michael hosted three specials on Bravo-TV: “A Baroque Christmas”, “A Baroque Easter” and co-hosted the13-part series on 19th-century domestic music, “Come into the Parlour”. He conducted in Toronto the premiere of the 12-tone opera “Cassandra” by Vancouver composer Ian McAndrew to rave reviews in Opera Canada. His performing editions of 17th/18th century choral and organ music have been published by GIA, Chicago. He has taught harpsichord at the University of Toronto, Wilfred Laurier in Waterloo, and Havergal College, Toronto, and fortepiano at UBC. Recently he has worked with violinist Paul Luchkow in an exploration of the Classical/Romantic sonata repertoire. Their recording of Hummel Sonatas (a Western Canada Music Award nominee, on a fortepiano from 1800) for fortepiano and violin/viola is available on Marquis Classics. His forthcoming CD on the Marquis label, the complete sonatas for harpsichord and violin (on mythological themes), op.25 by Michel Corrette, is currently in post-production. Michael lives in Victoria, BC.
Madeline Lucy Smith, soprano
A graduate with honours from the UBC Opera Program, Madeline Lucy Smith has recently arrived home in Vancouver after three years in the Netherlands, where she studied privately with the world’s foremost experts in historical performance practice, and performed around Holland, Belgium and Italy. Highlights included singing in two projects at the Utrecht Early Music Fringe Festival in 2017.
No stranger to world stages, Lucy studied the art of stage craft performing operas on the stage of the Chan Centre and in historic houses in the Czech Republic throughout her schooling. She made her professional debut at the Melbourne Recital Hall in 2009 singing First Witch in Dido and Aeneas with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic and subsequently premiered, toured and filmed the premiere of Australian composer Nicolas Buc’s Mary MacKillop Mass.
In Vancouver, Lucy is in demand both as a soloist and an ensemble singer. This autumn will mark her 6th full season with the Vancouver Chamber Choir where she is often featured as a soloist, most notably on the JUNO nominated CD “A Quiet Place” (2014) and on the CBC broadcast performance of Bach’s Magnificat (2013).
Lucy is a soloist and section leader at Christ Church Cathedral, and also sings regularly with musica intima, as well as for Early Music Vancouver, both as part of Vancouver Bach Festival projects, and in larger scale choral works with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, under Alexander Weimann.
Sumner Thompson, baritone
Praised for his “elegant style” (The Boston Globe), Sumner Thompson is one of today’s most sought-after baritones. He has performed across North America and Europe as a soloist with renowned ensembles such as Concerto Palatino, Tafelmusik, Apollo’s Fire, Les Boréades de Montréal, Les Voix Baroques, the King’s Noyse, Mercury Baroque, and the symphony orchestras of Charlotte, Memphis, and Phoenix. Recent highlights include Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and the new Vespers of 1640 with the Green Mountain Project; Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with Les Voix Baroques and Houston’s Mercury Baroque; Mozart’s Requiem at St. Thomas Church in New York City; a tour of Japan with Joshua Rifkin and the Cambridge Concentus; and Britten’s War Requiem with the New England Philharmonic. He most recently appeared with EMV last year in From War to Peace: Heinrich Schurz and His Time (November) and Festive Cantatas: JS Bach Magnificat (December).
Surrey, BC-born Majka Demcak started her violin studies with teacher Sergei Olikhovski at the age of seven. In her time at university, Majka discovered Early and Baroque music, playing with the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme (BOMP). Through BOMP, she studied with Chloe Meyers, Alexander Weimann, and Kati Debretzeni in a masterclass. She has also participated in masterclasses with world-renowned musicians such as Midori, Rachel Barton-Pine, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Elizabeth Wallfish, Martin Beaver and Corey Cerovsek. During her studies at UBC, Majka excelled in orchestral performance under conductor Dr. Jonathan Girard, acting as concertmaster with the UBC Symphony Orchestra for many concerts.
In 2017 she was invited to play with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Currently, Majka is playing with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, the Surrey City Orchestra, and is freelancing around the lower mainland. In the future, she hopes to continue her studies in Baroque Performance.