BAROQUE CHAMBER MUSIC
SATURdAY, DECEMBER 4 AT 8 P.M., THE HUNTINGTON
CARLOS SEIXAS Concerto in A Major for Harpsichord and Strings
ANTONIO VIVALDI Oboe Concerto in F Major RV 455
GIOVANNI BATTISTA PERGOLESI Violin Concerto in B-flat Major
JOSEPH HAYDN String Quartet Op. 1 No. 1
GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN Concerto in A minor for Violin, Flute, Oboe and Continuo
The history of Western art music is full of composers looking for opportunities to spotlight the unique characteristics of a solo instrument or showcase the talent of an individual—to celebrate another’s gifts or their own. A Concerto is the perfect genre for featuring a soloist (or small group of soloists) while still having the harmonic and textural support of an ensemble. Sometimes described as conversational or even adversarial, a concerto allows for a soloist to display technical virtuosity or melodic expressiveness, all while interacting with a larger instrumental group. Our program, curated by concertmaster Margaret Batjer, features one string quartet from the early Classical and four concertos from the late Baroque period. This collection of works encourages the listener to compare various approaches to the genre of the concerto, including different national and personal styles.
Most of the composers on this program may be familiar, but one of the lesser-known names belongs to Carlos Seixas (1704-1742). A keyboard virtuoso and composer, Seixas spent his career in his native Portugal. At the age of sixteen, he moved to Lisbon, where he would serve as organist in the royal chapel of John V. He crossed paths with Domenico Scarlatti and gave harpsichord lessons to members of nobility. The delightful three-movement of Concerto in A Major is one of just a handful of ensemble compositions by Seixas that survived a 1755 earthquake in Portugal.
A collection of Baroque concertos would not be complete without the inclusion of at least one by Antonio Vivaldi, the prolific “red” priest from Venice. This Concerto for Oboe in F major is just one of hundreds of concertos penned by Vivaldi, and one of more than two dozen that feature the oboe as the main soloist or as one of a group of soloists. The oboe also appears as one of the soloists in Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in A minor for Violin, Flute, Oboe and Continuo. In the Baroque period, a concerto that featured multiple soloists was known as a concerto grosso. The small group—called the ripieno—might play together as a single entity or have spotlight moments for each member.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s life and career were cut extremely short by illness. He is best remembered for the two-act opera buffa, La serva padrona, but he composed some lovely sacred vocal works as well as numerous Sinfonias and concertos. The Violin Concerto you will hear this evening is one a few works of his that feature the violin as a soloist. The slow central movement of this concerto suggests an expressive aria, reminding the listener of Pergolesi’s operatic experience.
Finally, it is worth noting that the only work on the program that is not a concerto is Joseph Haydn’s very first String Quartet. Haydn, you may know, has been called “The Father of the String Quartet,” and through his nearly seventy examples of the genre, we see the development not only of string quartets, but the evolution of Haydn’s style as well. This five-movement work provides a snapshot of the hallmarks of Classicism as it stood in the 1750s and 60s. There are five movements in this piece, nodding to the influence of the Divertimento, and Haydn arranged them in a symmetrical way; the first and last movements are both marked Presto, and the second and fourth are both Menuetto. The central Adagio is the emotional heart of the work. When Haydn composed this string quartet, the intended players were not professional musicians, but instead amateurs who wanted something to play together. The result was a piece with a refreshing clarity of form and melody. Although the string quartet grew to be a genre capable of incredible complexity and even experimentation, its origin lies in home musicmaking with friends.
–Christine Lee Gengaro, Ph.D.
Dr. Christine Lee Gengaro has been program annotator for LACO since 2007. She is a Professor of Music at Los Angeles City College and the author of two books.