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Since its formation in 2010, Arcangelo has risen to the top ranks of period instrument ensembles. The Grammy-nominated group performs instrumental works by Bach and Buxtehude, interspersed with Handel's Nine German Arias. Rarely heard, the arias feature some of Handel's most vibrant and joyous music for both voice and solo instruments.

Please note that it is expected that this concert will take place at Shriver Hall. Learn more here.

"The spirit is lively, the expression spontaneous, the musicianship a delight." Financial Times on Arcangelo

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    Arcangelo

    Arcangelo is one of the world’s leading ensembles, bringing together exceptional musicians who excel on both historical and modern instruments, brought together by founder and artistic director Jonathan Cohen. Its players believe that the collaboration required in chamber music, whether working in duos or as a chamber orchestra, is the highest expression of what it means to make music. Setting it apart from other ensembles, all performers are committed to this chamber ideal and as such Arcangelo attracts an outstanding calibre of performers who already have flourishing solo and chamber music careers. Their repertoire is principally from the early, baroque and classical periods, although there have been various successes with later repertoire and there are plans to develop in this direction in the future.

    Formed in 2010, Arcangelo has exploded onto the musical scene with verve and energy and has since enjoyed numerous invitations to appear at major festivals and concert halls in Europe and America. In August 2015 the Lachrminae Tour with Anna Prohaska was extremely well received by audiences across the UK, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Spain:

    Later that year, Arcangelo appeared at the Dresden Arts Festival with music by Bach and Pergolesi, as well in the UK and Belgium with a tour of Three Bach Magnificats. In February 2016, the group toured with young and upcoming Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, performing Mozart violin concertos at the Oslo Opera House and Zurich’s Tonhalle, where it was described by the Swiss newspaper Neue Zücher Zinder as ‘an ideal Mozart orchestra’.

    Arcangelo has also won great critical acclaim for its CD releases. Arcangelo’s debut CD was released with Hyperion Records in 2011 and featured cantatas by Porpora with star countertenor Iestyn Davies and was met with great success. According to The Guardian, ‘the musicianship is exquisite … and the embellishments are gorgeous’. Since this first recording, Arcangelo has collaborated with soloists both well-known and less well-known, cast at the highest level for each individual artistic project. Arcangelo’s subsequent albums have included partnerships with soprano Christiane Karg for a selection of stage arias in a disc entitled Scene!and Christopher Purves in a recording Finest Arias for Base Voice. This was selected by BBC Radio 3 as one of the outstanding recordings of the year and nominated for a 2013 Gramophone Award. In February 2015, Arcangelo’s recording of Mozart concertos with Vilde Frang on Warner Classics reached No. 1 in the UK specialist classical chart, was awarded an Echo Klassik Concert Recording of the Year and The Sunday Times Classical album of the week. Scene! won an Echo Klassik award in 2016. In 2017 it won a BBC Music Magazine award and a Gramophone Award, and in 2018 was shortlisted for a Grammy and a BBC Music Magazine award once again.

    Together with the collaboration with Christiane Karg in Scene!, Arcangelo’s CD Arias for Benucci with Matthew Rose was nominated for the 2016 International Opera Awards. In November 2015, a recording of Bach Violin Concerti with Alina Ibragimova was chosen as Classic FM’s Drive Time Album and BBC Music Magazine’s Recording of the Month.

    Arcangelo are delighted to have had a Residency with London’s Wigmore Hall in 2016-17 season, beginning with a concert in celebration of the Wigmore Hall’s 115th Anniversary. Widely recognised as producing a quality of musicianship that has made the ensemble in high demand as a partner for soloists, Arcangelo has reached a crucial stage as a young ensemble and is beginning to take on bigger repertoire challenges. Taking such artistic risks as Britten’s Phaedra, a Mendelssohn cantata with Christiane Karg on Scene!, and large-scale choral projects such as the Three Bach Magnificats project (disc launched in 2018), is an important part of the ensemble’s diversity and sets it among the many long-established early music ensembles.

    "Arcangelo…also breathe the music, capturing the frequent storminess but also bringing substantial dignity, their zing coming from their actual tone and lucid textural balance." —Gramophone

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    Joélle Harvey

    American soprano Joélle Harvey is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most promising young talents of her generation. Harvey began the 2018-19 season with a return to Glyndebourne Festival Opera for a “stunning” (Express, U.K.) role debut as Cleopatra in Sir David McVicar’s production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, conducted by William Christie. Other season highlights include a recital at Carnegie Hall, as well as performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Edo de Waart and the San Diego Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem with Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

    Recent operatic engagements include Almirena in Rinaldo on tour with The English Concert led by Harry Bicket, Servilia in La clemenza di Tito for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Pat Nixon in Nixon in China with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, her Pittsburgh Opera debut as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Sicle in L’Ormindo with London’s Royal Opera House, Galatea in Acis and Galatea at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice and for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and Zerlina in a revival of Dmitri Tcherniakov’s production of Don Giovanni for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. In previous seasons she has appeared as Serpetta in La finta giardiniera and Juno in The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro for Glyndebourne Festival Touring Company, and Michal in Saul with the Handel & Haydn Society.

    In concert, Harvey recently appeared with the Mostly Mozart Festival for both Mozart’s Mass in C minor and his Requiem; New York Philharmonic for Handel’s Messiah and the magnificats of Mendelssohn and Bach; San Francisco Symphony for Mahler’s Das klagende Lied led by Michael Tilson Thomas; Cleveland Orchestra for Bach’s Mass in B minor; the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis; The English Concert for Bach’s Mass in B minor at the BBC Proms; and the London Symphony and Concertgebouw orchestras for John Adams’ El Niño. Harvey sang the roles of Tigrane in performances of Handel’s Radamisto at Carnegie Hall with The English Concert and Michal in a performance of Handel’s Saul at the Barbican with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen choir, which she recorded with the company.

    A native of Bolivar, N.Y., Harvey’s website is joelleharvey.com.

    "Harvey is a name to watch, a soprano with presence, pose and silvery top notes." —The New York Times

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Die ihr aus dunklen Grüften” from Nine German Arias, HWV 208

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

“Die ihr aus dunklen Grüften” (You who from dark caves), HWV 208, sounds one of Brockes’ central themes: the blessings God has bestowed on mankind are all around us, even if we choose to bury ourselves in careerism and material gain. The steady pulse of the ostinato moves the music ahead sturdily, and the instrumental obbligato introduces the central theme, which the soprano picks up on her entrance. The instrument can respond to the voice, sing briefly in canon, and sometimes is in unison with the voice. The central episode (“Spreche nicht”) is built on the theme of the opening section, but here it sounds more resolute as Brockes warns his reader of the dangers of materialism.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Künft’ger Zeiten eitler Kummer” from Nine German Arias, HWV 202

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

The obbligato instrument leads the way in “Künft’ger Zeiten eitler Kummer” (Idle worry over future times), HWV 202, with its flowing, noble melody in 3/4, and it rounds off the opening section with a long postlude, but it is the soprano who leads the way in the second section, which lays out the “moral” of the song explicitly.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Das zitternde Glänzen der spielenden Wellen” from Nine German Arias, HWV 203

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

In “Das zitternde Glänzen der spielenden Wellen” (The shimmering brightness of the sporting waves), HWV 203, Handel keeps the obbligato instrument and voice separate for extended periods. The obbligato announces the spirited, angular opening theme, but it steps aside when the soprano makes her entrance, and while Handel combines them at points, each has lengthy solo passages. The “message” of the second section does not contrast with the opening stanza but only extends the shimmering imagery of the opening lines.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Sonata sopr'il Soggetto Reale from "The Musical Offering", BWV 1079

View Notes

In the spring of 1747, Johann Sebastian Bach, then 62 years old, went to visit his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Potsdam, where the young Bach was a court musician to Frederick the Great of Prussia. Frederick, a flutist and keen musical enthusiast, learned of the aging composer’s visit and asked to meet him. J. S. Bach was famous enough by this point that such a meeting was an occasion, and the Berlin News of May 11 published an account:

“We hear from Potsdam that last Sunday the famous capellmeister from Leipzig, Mr. Bach, arrived with the intention of hearing the excellent Royal music at that place. In the evening, at about the time when the regular chamber music in the Royal apartments usually begins, His Majesty was informed that Capellmeister Bach had arrived at Potsdam and was waiting in His Majesty’s ante-chamber for His Majesty’s most gracious permission to listen to the music. His August Self immediately gave orders that Bach be admitted, and went, at his entrance, to the so-called “forte and piano,” condescending also to play, in person and without any preparation, a theme to be executed by Capellmeister Bach in a fugue. This was done so hap­pily by the aforementioned capellmeister that not only His Majesty was pleased to show his satisfaction thereat, but also all those present were seized with astonishment.”

In fact, Frederick played a theme of his own composition and asked Bach to extemporize a six-part fugue on it. Bach begged off doing something as complicated as that, but he extemporized a three-part fugue on the theme, playing it on the piano (the “forte and piano”) in Frederick’s chambers, one of the earliest examples of that instrument.

Once back in Leipzig, Bach decided to press ahead with further contrapuntal treatment of Frederick’s theme. Over the next several months, he wrote a series of 13 pieces that treat the “royal” theme in a number of ways. Proud of this music, Bach had it engraved and bound in leather as a handsome presentation copy for Frederick; he titled this work A Musical Offering, suggesting that this was his offering or gift to the king. The 13 pieces in A Musical Offering (often played in varying order and instrumentation) treat Frederick’s theme in a number of ways. There are two complex ricercars, as well as a series of ten equally complex canons. 

In addition, Bach composed a trio sonata in four movements for flute, violin, and continuo, also based on Frederick’s theme. The sonata is in the slow-fast-slow-fast sequence of movements of the sonata di chiesa, and its treatment of the royal theme is less rigorous than in the other movements of A Musical Offering. Nevertheless, the strongly-chromatic original theme appears here in a number of guises, and its contrapuntal extension—even in music as genial as this—is impressive. Here and throughout A Musical Offering, the prominent use of the flute is a nod toward Frederick, who was that rare thing: a great statesmen who was also a discriminating musician.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Süße Stille, sanfte Quelle” from Nine German Arias, HWV 205

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

The topic of “Süβe Stille, sanfte Quelle” (Sweet stillness, gentle source), HWV 205, is gentle, and Handel gives this aria a most gentle setting. The pace is slow, the voice leads the way this time, and the obbligato instrument rounds off the opening section with a graceful cantilena. The long middle section sustains the contemplative mood of the first part as Brockes’ lines look ahead to the consolation of eternal peace.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

Dieterech Buxtehude (1637-1707)

Sonata in A minor for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo, BuxWV 254

View Notes

Very little is known about the early life of Dieterich Buxtehude. The year of his birth is a guess, as is his birthplace. His father Johannes served as organist in Helsingborg (now in Sweden), in Oldesloe (now in Germany near the border with Denmark), and in Helsingør in Denmark, and it is likely that Dieterich was born in one of those first two cities–a notice at the time of his death reported that “he recognized Denmark as his native country, whence he came to our region.” The boy learned to play the organ from his father and soon became one of the finest organists in Europe. In 1668, or around the time of his 30th birthday, Buxtehude was named organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and he remained in that position for the final 40 years of his life. (That beautiful cathedral, constructed in the 14th century of brick and topped with copper spires, was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1942, and the organ Buxtehude played, the Totentanzorgel, or Danse Macabre organ, was destroyed along with it. The cathedral was completely rebuilt after the war.) 

Buxtehude’s duties at the Marienkirche extended far beyond playing the organ. His official title was Werkmeister, a position roughly equivalent to general manager: essentially he served as music director and business manager of the cathedral. But it was Buxtehude’s abilities as an organist that spread his fame and attracted a number of musicians to Lübeck. In 1703, when Buxtehude was nearing retirement, George Frideric Handel and Johann Mattheson journeyed to Lübeck to hear him play and to play the organ themselves; it is thought that Mattheson was auditioning to replace Buxtehude, but when he learned that one of the requirements for the position was that he marry Buxtehude’s daughter, he lost interest. Another visitor came to Lübeck came two years later. In 1705 the 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach walked 200 miles from Arnstadt to hear Buxtehude play, to play the Marienkirche organ himself, and to experience the musical life that Buxtehude had created in the cathedral. Bach’s visit was supposed to last only two weeks, but he was so impressed that he stayed in Lübeck for three months before making the long walk back to Arnstadt. 

Not surprisingly, Buxtehude composed primarily for the organ and voice, and most of this was intended for liturgical use. But he did compose some purely instrumental music, including works for the harpsichord and several pieces of chamber music. In fact, the only music Buxtehude published during his lifetime was two sets of violin sonatas: each consisted of seven sonatas, and they were published in Hamburg, the first (probably) in 1694, the second in 1696. 

The Italian trio sonata of that era consisted of two melodic instruments—usually but not always violins—and a continuo part that might consist of a keyboard and low stringed instruments. Buxtehude’s “violin” sonatas differ from that model in that they are scored for violin, viola da gamba, and continuo, and the viola da gamba—instead of functioning as part of the continuo—is a melodic participant equal to the violin, making these works essentially duo-sonatas. Buxtehude’s violin sonatas require a capable technique, but they are by no means virtuoso music. Only rarely must the violinist play above first position, and it may well be that Buxtehude published these sonatas for the growing number of amateur violinists of that era who might find them attractive. On a more practical level, these sonatas may also have been used as music to accompany communion in the Marienkirche. 

The present recital offers two sonatas from Buxtehude’s Op. 1. Buxtenhude’s sonatas are not in classical sonata form, which would not take shape until half a century after his death. That dramatic form, with its opposition of themes and keys, was unknown to Buxtehude, who understood the term “sonata” to mean simply an instrumental composition (sonata is Italian for “sounded”). His violin sonatas, often intensely contrapuntal, are in varying numbers of movements. 

The Sonata in A Minor opens with a long and solemn slow movement that functions as a prelude to the Allegro, which is fugal in construction and often features quick exchanges between violin and viola da gamba. The Lento leads to another fast fugal movement, this time marked Vivace, and this in turn leads—through long descending chromatic lines marked Largo—to a vigorous fugal Presto. Buxtehude rounds off this movement—and the entire sonata–by briefly recalling the chromatic tension of the Largo.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Flammende Rose, Zierde der Erden” from Nine German Arias, HWV 210

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

Handel sets “Flammende Rose, Zierde der Erden” (Rose aflame, ornament of the earth), HWV 210, in a quick 3/8. Brockes’ poem makes the perfection of the rose a symbol of the heavenly power that created it, and Handel gives the text a florid setting. The melodic instrument lays out a highly elaborated first statement, and the soprano enters with her own variant of this already-florid theme. The central section stays much in the character of the opening.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Singe Seele, Gott zum Preise” from Nine German Arias, HWV 206

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

Singe, Seele, Gott zum Preise (Sing, soul, in praise of God), HWV 206 also in 3/8, is a song of praise for the creator who makes the earth bloom. The obbligato line here is again elaborate, full of trills and dotted rhythms, and the vocal part soars–this aria feels like a great outpouring of rapt emotion.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“In den angenehmen Büschen” from Nine German Arias, HWV 209

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

In den angenehmen Büschen (In the pleasant bushes), HWV 209, is one of the most interesting of the nine arias, for it is the only one of the set not in da capo form. It is instead through-composed, but Handel repeats the text of the first stanza, then offers three statements of the second stanza. The music can be under considerable harmonic tension at moments, with the vocal and instrumental lines tightly interwoven.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

Dieterech Buxtehude (1637-1707)

Sonata in B-flat major for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo, BuxWV 255

View Notes

Very little is known about the early life of Dieterich Buxtehude. The year of his birth is a guess, as is his birthplace. His father Johannes served as organist in Helsingborg (now in Sweden), in Oldesloe (now in Germany near the border with Denmark), and in Helsingør in Denmark, and it is likely that Dieterich was born in one of those first two cities–a notice at the time of his death reported that “he recognized Denmark as his native country, whence he came to our region.” The boy learned to play the organ from his father and soon became one of the finest organists in Europe. In 1668, or around the time of his 30th birthday, Buxtehude was named organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and he remained in that position for the final 40 years of his life. (That beautiful cathedral, constructed in the 14th century of brick and topped with copper spires, was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1942, and the organ Buxtehude played, the Totentanzorgel, or Danse Macabre organ, was destroyed along with it. The cathedral was completely rebuilt after the war.) 

Buxtehude’s duties at the Marienkirche extended far beyond playing the organ. His official title was Werkmeister, a position roughly equivalent to general manager: essentially he served as music director and business manager of the cathedral. But it was Buxtehude’s abilities as an organist that spread his fame and attracted a number of musicians to Lübeck. In 1703, when Buxtehude was nearing retirement, George Frideric Handel and Johann Mattheson journeyed to Lübeck to hear him play and to play the organ themselves; it is thought that Mattheson was auditioning to replace Buxtehude, but when he learned that one of the requirements for the position was that he marry Buxtehude’s daughter, he lost interest. Another visitor came to Lübeck came two years later. In 1705 the 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach walked 200 miles from Arnstadt to hear Buxtehude play, to play the Marienkirche organ himself, and to experience the musical life that Buxtehude had created in the cathedral. Bach’s visit was supposed to last only two weeks, but he was so impressed that he stayed in Lübeck for three months before making the long walk back to Arnstadt.

Not surprisingly, Buxtehude composed primarily for the organ and voice, and most of this was intended for liturgical use. But he did compose some purely instrumental music, including works for the harpsichord and several pieces of chamber music. In fact, the only music Buxtehude published during his lifetime was two sets of violin sonatas: each consisted of seven sonatas, and they were published in Hamburg, the first (probably) in 1694, the second in 1696.

The Italian trio sonata of that era consisted of two melodic instruments—usually but not always violins—and a continuo part that might consist of a keyboard and low stringed instruments. Buxtehude’s “violin” sonatas differ from that model in that they are scored for violin, viola da gamba, and continuo, and the viola da gamba—instead of functioning as part of the continuo—is a melodic participant equal to the violin, making these works essentially duo-sonatas. Buxtehude’s violin sonatas require a capable technique, but they are by no means virtuoso music. Only rarely must the violinist play above first position, and it may well be that Buxtehude published these sonatas for the growing number of amateur violinists of that era who might find them attractive. On a more practical level, these sonatas may also have been used as music to accompany communion in the Marienkirche.

The present recital offers two sonatas from Buxtehude’s Op. 1. Buxtenhude’s sonatas are not in classical sonata form, which would not take shape until half a century after his death. That dramatic form, with its opposition of themes and keys, was unknown to Buxtehude, who understood the term “sonata” to mean simply an instrumental composition (sonata is Italian for “sounded”). His violin sonatas, often intensely contrapuntal, are in varying numbers of movements.

The Sonata in B-flat major is two sections, both in two parts. The opening Vivace makes its stately way along the harpsichord’s ostinato ground bass as the stringed instruments exchange melodic lines above it. This runs without pause into the Allegro section, which varies the opening material, now in triplet rhythms. The second section opens with a Lento in G minor, though this key is under considerable harmonic tension. Once again without pause, the music flows into the concluding Allegro, now firmly back in B-flat major and featuring brilliant parts for the two string players.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Süßer Blumen Ambraflocken” from Nine German Arias, HWV 204

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

In Süβer Blumen Ambraflocken (Sweet flowers’ amber petals), HWV 204, the fall of the silver, perfumed petal causes the poet’s heart to leap upward in praise of that doomed flower’s creator. It has been suggested that the falling and rising melodic lines of this aria mirror the poem’s imagery.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

“Meine Seele hört im Sehen” from Nine German Arias, HWV 207

View Notes

Handel made his career in three different countries. Born in Halle, in what is today central Germany, he grew up speaking German, learned to play the organ and violin, and made his first attempts to compose while living in Hamburg. In 1706, at the age of 21, Handel moved to Italy, fell in love with Italian opera, learned to speak Italian, and matured as a composer. Four years later, at age 25, he moved to England, where he would spend the remaining half-century of his life. In London he learned English (which he always spoke with a thick accent) and composed a magnificent sequence of operas in Italian and—later—an equally magnificent series of oratorios and anthems in English.

Handel may have written some of the greatest music ever composed on Italian and English texts, but—curiously—he wrote very little music on texts in his native German. Virtually all of Handel’s German settings were on texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), a German poet, enthusiast for the arts, and government official in Hamburg. In 1712 Brockes wrote a Passion libretto that drew on all four Gospels, and this attracted many different composers: Telemann, Fasch, Handel, and others composed Passion settings based on Brockes’ text, and Bach used part of it in his St. John Passion. But there was another, quite different side to Brockes’ art: he was one of the earliest Germans to write nature poetry, and in that sense he embodied Enlightenment ideals and to some extent prefigured the Romantic movement that would develop more fully in the decades after his death. His nature poems, written over a 30-year span, were eventually published in 1748 in a nine-volume collection titled Irdisches Vernügen in Gott (Earthly Pleasure in God), and a number of composers, including Telemann, set them to music. 

Handel and Brockes apparently met while they were both teenaged law students in Halle, and Handel eventually set nine of Brockes’ poems to music under the title Nine German Arias. These were composed in London, most likely during the years 1724-27, or at the same time Handel was composing his operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda, and he drew themes from all those operas for use in these arias. Handel was quite specific in his selection of Brockes’ poems—some of those poems depict a violent nature, but Handel took care to choose nine texts on particularly peaceful and reverent topics, and the general thrust of all nine settings is the same: in the natural world around us we see the truest reflection of our creator. The mood of this collection, therefore, is one of sustained calm, reverence, and gratitude—this is intentionally “non-dramatic” music. 

Handel scored the nine arias for soprano, a melodic instrument, and continuo line. He did not specify what the melodic instrument should be, and those parts can be taken by a variety of instruments, as they are at this concert. The nine arias are for the most part in da capo form: the opening section is followed by a second episode, sometimes in a different key and mood, and the aria concludes with a repeat of the opening section, which may be embellished on its return. At this recital, the nine arias are not sung in their published order but have been re-ordered by subject and to contrast with the instrumental works on the program.

Meine Seele hört im Sehen (My soul hears in seeing), HWV 207, makes a nice conclusion to this program: its propulsive continuo, jaunty instrumental line, and exultant setting of the text combine to produce an almost perfect distillation of the nine arias.

Note by Eric Bromberger, © 2018

Program Subject to Change Without Notice