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A collaboration with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Baroque superstar Monica Huggett leads the full Pacific Baroque Orchestra and guest soloist Gonzalo Ruiz in a performance of some of Bach’s most beloved works for orchestra.
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ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO.1 IN C MAJOR (BWV 1066)
Gavotte I & II
Menuet I & II
Bourrée I & II
Passepied I & II
ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO.2 IN B MINOR (BWV 1067)
Bourrée I & II
ORCHESTRQAL SUITE NO.3 IN D MAJOR (BWV 1068)
Gavotte I & II
ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO.4 IN D MAJOR (BWV 1069)
Bourrée I & II
Menuet I & II
There is quite a lot of academic chatter regarding time and place of the composition of the Orchestral Suites. In my opinion, although the extant versions date from Bach’s post-Köthen years, the compositional style places the Suites definitely in his pre-Leipzig years. I am also very convinced by the thesis that Bach recycled and embellished earlier instrumental music when he was Kantor in Leipzig and had larger, more diverse instrumental resources at his disposal. In Köthen, Prince Leopold’s court orchestra consisted of strings, oboes, bassoon, and harpsichord -which is the size of orchestra used for there performances and my recent recording.
Prince Leopold was only 23 years old when he hired Bach. Leopold had studied violin in Berlin, done the customary aristocratic Grand Tour, and returned to his princely duties in Köthen with a passion for music. We know that he spent a quarter of his annual court budget on music and that he paid Bach the handsome salary of 400 thalers a year. Later, in Leipzig, Bach’s salary was 100 thalers a year.
– Monica Huggett
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Four Orchestral Suites have traditionally been viewed as a collection in spite of not having been composed as a set (like the six English Suites) or even compiled by the composer from existing works (like the six Brandenburg Concertos). In all likelihood Bach composed many more such Ouvertures, as he called them, but these are regrettably lost. In fact, recent examination of the four we do have reveal that three of them have come down to us not in their original form but in later re-orchestrations. These concerts and Ensemble Sonnerie’s recent recording of the works are based on extensive musicological research to perform them in what are, arguably, their original versions.
The German Overture is a genre adapted from French models going back to Lully’s operas. He set the formal mold that would be followed for generations: a grand stately opening with prominent dotted figures, followed by a fast contrapuntal section, often leading back to a closing passage recalling the opening stylistically, and then followed by a suite of dances. Bach’s contemporaries, Fasch, Graupner, and above all Telemann, wrote so many orchestral suites so as to shape a distinctly German style of the form. The main features that distinguish the German orchestral suite from earlier French models are the use of the four- rather than five-part string texture and perhaps more importantly the introduction of concerto grosso elements, whereby one or more soloists are highlighted both in the overture and in the following dances.
The First Suite in C major BWV 1066 is the only one of the four that has survived in what we can surmise is its original version. The earliest material (probably dating from 1725) calls for “2 Hautbois 2 Violini Viola Fagotto con Cembalo,” as it has been performed consistently. In recent years, scholars such as Joshua Rifkin, Werner Breig, and Siegbert Rampe have confirmed that the Second Suite in B minor for flute and strings BWV 1067 was derived from an existing work in A minor. Bach, assisted by four anonymous copyists, transcribed the work from the lost original, and numerous transposition mistakes in each of the parts are proof. When the process is reversed, returning the work to A minor, the string parts become much more comfortable to play and all extend to the lowest note of each instrument. The solo part, however, becomes too low to be playable on a flute of Bach’s time. Even in its traditional B minor version (one tone higher) the work has always been plagued by a dual balance problem: the solo line is still very low in the flute’s range, with the violin above it most the time, and performers are forever at pains to play very softly in order for the flute to be heard.
All the scholars mentioned above have proposed that the original solo instrument is the violin, even though this change does not begin to address the balance problems. Furthermore as a violin solo, the part has a curiously limited range, avoiding the g string almost entirely. When returned to A minor, BWV 1067 suits the oboe perfectly. The range of the solos, c to d”, is exactly the range of Bach’s oboe, and the figurations are very similar to those found in many oboe works of the period. The solo passages are relatively brief, as befits the instrument, and lie well under the fingers in the tactile way that distinguishes the work of great composers who know the oboe intimately. The orchestration practice of placing the oboe in the middle of the string texture was universal in the eighteenth century, a standard technique used by composers from Vivaldi to Mozart. The oboe’s character allows it to come through, while the flute or the violin must be placed at the top of the texture to be properly heard.
There were always more flutists than oboists, especially among amateurs and published flute music sold in much larger numbers than oboe music. Many volumes of oboe music written by lesser known oboist-composers (Philidor, Sammartini, Besozzi, Fischer) were published in an upward transposition for flute, as were two of Handel’s oboe sonatas. Mozart once tried to pass off his C major oboe concerto, which had already received several performances, as a new D major flute concerto. The most relevant example of this practice, however, comes from none other than J.S. Bach. The cantata Ich Habe Genug BWV 82 is a sublime work for bass voice, oboe, and strings that was later transposed by Bach without substantial changes for a performance using soprano and flute. In my opinion, this is exactly the pattern he applied to BWV 1067. The philosophical principal of “Occam’s Razor” demands that when competing theories explain the facts, the simpler one be preferred. In this case, the simplest explanation points squarely and unambiguously to the oboe.
The Third Suite BWV 1068 and the Fourth Suite BWV 1069, both in D major, are known as the “trumpet suites”. However, Rifkin has argued convincingly that the trumpets and drums, which do lend the works an undeniable majesty, are later accretions. In the case of BWV 1068, the trumpets and drums (as well as two oboes) were added by C.P.E. Bach, while in BWV 1069 they were added by Bach himself when he adapted the overture to serve as the opening movement of the cantata BWV 110. Once examined, this theory is irresistible and supported by considerable internal evidence. The resulting loss of grandeur is more than compensated by the lighter more dancing character these works acquire in their original orchestrations.
– Gonzalo X. Ruiz
Gonzalo’s complete essay is included in the 2009 Grammy™-nominated recording “Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince” Avie 2171, available for purchase at these performances. Monica and Gonzalo will be available following the concerts to sign CDs.
Pacific Baroque Orchestra
The ‘house band’ of Early Music Vancouver, The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO) is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles performing “early music for modern ears.” Formed in 1990, the orchestra quickly established itself as a force in Vancouver’s burgeoning music scene with the ongoing support of Early Music Vancouver. In 2009, PBO welcomed Alexander Weimann as Director. His imaginative programming, creativity and engaging musicianship have carved out a unique and vital place in the cultural landscape of Vancouver.
PBO regularly joins forces with internationally-celebrated Canadian guest artists, providing performance opportunities for Canadian musicians while exposing West Coast audiences to a spectacular variety of talent. The Orchestra has also toured throughout BC, the northern United States, and across Canada. Their 2019 East Coast Canadian tour with Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin culminated in a critically acclaimed album, Nuit Blanches, released by Atma Classique.
Monica Huggett, guest music director
From age seventeen, beginning as a freelance violinist in London, Monica Hugget has earned her living solely as a violinist and artistic director and, in 2008, was appointed inaugural artistic director of The Juilliard School’s Historical Performance Program, where she continues as artistic advisor. Monica’s expertise in the musical and social history of the Baroque era is unparalleled among performing musicians today. This huge body of knowledge and understanding, coupled with her unforced and expressive musicality, has made her an invaluable resource to students of baroque violin and period performance practice through the 19th century.
Over the last 40 years, Monica co-founded, with Ton Koopman, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra; founded her own London-based ensemble, Sonnerie; worked with Christopher Hogwood at the Academy of Ancient Music and Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert; toured the United States in concert with James Galway; co-founded, in 2004, the Montana Baroque Festival; and has served as artistic director of Portland Baroque Orchestra since 1994, where she made her first appearance in 1992 playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. From 2006 to 2017, she was also the artistic director for Irish Baroque Orchestra, where she recorded Flights of Fantasy, named by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as Classical Recording of the Year for 2010.
Monica’s recordings, numbering well over 100, have won numerous prizes and acclaim throughout her career. In addition to her baroque violin recordings, she recorded “Angie” with The Rolling Stones in 1972. Monica lives in Portland, where she enjoys cycling and gardening (somewhat compulsively).
Gonzalo Ruiz, oboe soloist
Gonzalo X. Ruiz is one of America’s most acclaimed historical instrument soloists. He is joined by the sublime continuo team of cellist Joanna Blendulf and harpsichordist Katherine Shao. The ensemble is named after Francois LaRiche, one of the first great oboists, and a Zelig-like character. He influenced the writing of Purcell, Handel, Telemann, Bach, and Vivaldi, and was a bit of a Johnny Appleseed for the oboe. LaRiche & Co. is committed to reviving and preserving the legacy of the oboe’s 18th Century Golden Age. The San Francisco Classical Voice raved about LaRiche’s debut: “…a spellbinding program. Though the members of LaRiche shone individually, it was their ensemble playing that made the afternoon truly remarkable”.
Gonzalo Xavier Ruiz has appeared both as principal oboist and concerto soloist with most of the leading period instrument groups in America and has performed widely in the U.S. and Europe under conductors such as Christopher Hogwood, Nicholas McGegan, Jordi Savall, Gustav Leonhardt, Reinhard Goebbel and Mark Minkowski. His playing is featured on numerous recordings of solo, chamber, and orchestral repertoire. Equally accomplished on the modern instrument, he has performed as principal oboist of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, New Century Chamber Orchestra and the Pacific Chamber Symphony among others. Mr. Ruiz was a prizewinner at the Brugges Early Music Competition in Belgium and for many years has been professor of oboe at the Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute. He has also taught at the Longy School in Cambridge and given master classes at Indiana University. An active chamber musician, he has made numerous reconstructions and arrangements, notably from the works of Bach and Rameau. Twice he’s been a featured recitalist at the annual convention of the International Double Reed Society. Mr. Ruiz is an acknowledged expert in historical reedmaking techniques, and over two dozen of his pieces are on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With his ensemble American Baroque Mr. Ruiz is also active in the field of contemporary music and was awarded the 2000 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Ruiz also performs with American Baroque.