Christmas Concertos by Candlelight
December 6, 7, & 8, 2019
Lisa Marie Lawson, violin and Music Director
Cathie Apple, traverso
Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo, Naomi Rogers-Hefley, Shannon Houston, violins
Kim LaSavio, viola
Michael Lawson, cello and violone
Alexandra Roedder, cello
Faythe Vollrath, harpsichord and organ
Patapan: Music by Bernard de
la Monnoye, c. 1700.
This tune is Burgundian France’s predecessor to today’s “The Little Drummer Boy.” Two little boys are encouraged to play their flute and drum in praise.
Good King Wenceslas: Music 13th century German spring carol.
The carol pays homage to the 10th century Duke Vaclav of Bohemia, noted for his piety and devotion to Christianity and honored as the patron saint of Bohemia.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: Traditional English, 18th century.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) - Concerto for Two Violins and Two Cellos, RV 564
Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice, the son of a professional violinist at St. Mark’s. He held the position of violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pieta, a girl’s orphanage in Venice, from 1703 to 1738, also taking on the post of “maestro de concerti”. In this position he wrote over 400 concertos to be performed by his students at weekly Sunday concerts. By 1709 his concertos were famous throughout Europe and Vivaldi soon spent much of his time traveling. He was a highly virtuostic violinist, applying this virtuosity to his concertos which heavily influenced violin technique as well as the concerto form. Vivaldi brought a dramatic simplicity to the form, creating a three-movement structure which led to the classical concerto.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (c. 1645 - 1702) - Noëls sur lés instruments
Marc-Antoine Charpentier was born in Paris, and in his early 20s went to Rome where he studied music with Carissimi. Upon his return he became house composer to Marie de Lorraine, Duchesse of Guise, and composed music for her for seventeen years. Due to her love of Italian music, Charpentier was able to include the Italianisms he had learned in Rome. During this time, Lully had a monopoly on music in Paris, and had created regulations which limited the number of musicians available to perform Charpentier's works. Under these restrictions Charpentier wrote music for Moliere's theater for as long as he was able, but eventually was prevented this activity. After Mme de Guises' death, he had a brief stint writing for the Dauphin, but became ill and had to resign, after which he was employed by the Jesuits. Noëls sur lés instruments, written around 1690, is Charpentier's arrangements of six traditional French Christmas carols for organ and instruments, a popular form of the time.
Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella – Music traditional French carol, words by Émile Blémont 1901.
The tune to this carol has been known since the 14th century as a lively dance, first appearing in print in 1553 as a dance for the French nobility.
Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043 by J.S. Bach
The Concerto for Two Violins was probably composed during Bach’s appointment to the court at Köthen, between 1717 and 1723. Though Bach is revered for his religious compositions, at this time he mainly wrote instrumental music, as the court at Cöthen was Calvinist and did not use instrumental music in services. Bach’s patron, Prince Leopold, was a great music lover and maintained a small orchestra which was at Bach’s disposal, thus we are fortunate to have such great instrumental works as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Solo Cello Suites. The Concerto for Two Violins represents a beautiful synthesis between the old and the new in Baroque music, with intricate contrapuntal writing superimposed on the Italianate ritornello style, following the fast-slow-fast concerto form perfected by Vivaldi. Unlike the concertos of Vivaldi, Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins has a constant rhythmic imitative pulse underpinning broad sweeping phrase gestures. The two energetic outer movements frame a slow inner movement of the utmost beauty.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) - Concerto Grosso in g minor “Christmas Concerto”
Roger North spoke of Corelli’s works, “wch are to ye musitians like ye bread of life.” Corelli was the founder of a Roman school whose influence touched practically every violinist in Europe. He had widespread fame as a composer and was the teacher of Geminiani, Locatelli, Veracini, and Somis, who taught Leclair. His works were published repeatedly throughout Europe and were seen as models of style for their purity and poise. Corelli was a favorite in Roman society, where his lifelong patron was Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. His importance has sustained to the present, both as a violinist who laid a firm foundation for all future development of violin technique, and as a composer who advanced the progress of composition. He chose to publish only a few select opuses of compositions, including solo sonatas, trio sonatas, and concerti grossi, which he only allowed to be published after his death. His compositions were characterized by a conciseness and clarity of thought and form, and by a dignity of style. Corelli’s concerti grossi resemble trio sonatas with orchestral reinforcement and echo effects. In many ways the concerto grosso was the precursor of the solo concerto, as it was the opposition of a solo trio against an orchestra. The Concerto Grosso we hear tonight, written for Christmas eve, may have been composed as early as 1690. It is in church sonata form with the addition of the beautiful “Pastorale” movement.
The Twelve Days of Christmas – Traditional English, 18th century. Though the song was first published in England in 1780, it may be French in origin. The carol may have begun as a “memories and forfeits” game, and was published as such in its original printing in the 1780 children’s book, Mirth without Mischief.
--Notes by Lisa Marie Lawson