October 26, 2019: Music of Birds and Angels

A concert featuring music for recorder consort!

October 26, 2019, 7:00pm

St Wilfrid’s Episcopal Church
18631 Chapel Ln,
Huntington Beach, CA 92646

L’Esprit Baroque celebrates the uniquely beautiful sound of music written for recorders, from the consort music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras to solo features in Baroque sonatas.

Featured guest artists:

John Robinson, recorders and bass dulcian
Wendell Ballantyne, recorders and cornetto
Heather Moore, recorders

and L’Esprit Baroque’s core members:

Elysha Massatt, soprano
Sarah Vay Kerns, recorders
Sylvia Schwartz, baroque violin
John Ott, viola da gamba
Janice Massatt, historical keyboards


Byrd: Queen’s Alman
Obrecht: Tsat een meskin
Anonymous (from Odhecaton collection): Dit le burguygnon
Hayne van Ghizeghem: De tous biens playne
Bertali: Sonatella I, II, IV
Brade: Selections from “Paduanen/Galliarden/Cantzonen/Allmand und Coranten”, 1609
Byrd: La Verginella, Come Woeful Orpheus, and Though Amaryllis Dance in Green
Fux: Sonata a Quattro for violin, cornetto and dulcian
Cantata: Nel dolce obblio, by Handel
Jean-Baptiste Loeillet de Gant – Sonata in d minor, Opus 3, no. 10
Telemann TWV 42:B1 Trio sonata for violin & flauto taillo
Cantata: So d’essermi d’amor, by Lotti

L’Esprit Baroque proudly presents our fall concert, a program featuring our woodwind contingent. Our program will explore the variety and uses of the recorder family from the Medieval through the Baroque eras. In addition, we will hear two other woodwind instruments popular during the 17th century, the cornetto and the dulcian. We will present consort music from Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque composers, some consort songs and an organ solo by William Byrd, a solo recorder sonata by J.B. Loeillet de Gant, a trio sonata by G.P. Telemann, a very unusual quartet sonata by J.J. Fux, and cantatas by G.F. Handel and A. Lotti. Come hear us play and sing in the intimacy of St. Wilfrid’s chapel while we share with you this smorgasbord of music!

The recorder family of instruments has a long history in Europe, with the first documented use of them dating back to 1388, though they certainly existed before that. Their name comes from a common practice of musicians using the recorder to mark the notes of a song and thus record them into memory. They were also commonly referred to as flutes until the 18th century, when the transverse flute gained popularity. There have been many sizes of recorders used, including the soprano, alto, tenor and bass, plus the even higher sopranino and gar klein, and the great bass, contrabass and subcontrabass on the lower pitches. These various sizes of recorder all played together in consorts.

Consort music was the most popular form of instrumental music from the middle ages through the beginning of the Baroque period. The music was composed in 3-6 parts, each at a different range, and was usually performed on instruments of the same family. The music was polyphonic, meaning each instrument played an equally important part, trading melodic and thematic material back and forth. Consort music was highly prized for publication because it was equally well suited for court music, as most nobles employed consorts of musicians, and for groups of amateur musicians to play for their own entertainment.
Our Medieval set contains three pieces taken from the Harmonicae Musices Odhecaton, the first printed collection of polyphonic music. Compiled by Ottaviano Petrucci in 1501, it contains almost 100 works by composers from all over Europe, including Josquin des Prez, Johannes Ockegem, and many other 15th-century composers, most of whom were Franco-Flemish, from what is now the Netherlands. We selected three works, Tsat een mesken (A maiden sat) by Jacob Obrecht, De tous biens playne (Of every virtue) by Hayne van Ghizeghem and Dit le burguygnon (After the Burgundian), whose composer was not credited in the collection.

Our Renaissance set is by William Brade, an English composer who made his living in Germany right at the turn of the 17th century. Known primarily as a violinist, Brade worked for several German courts, demanding a high salary. He ended up settling in Hamburg, where there were ample opportunities to supplement his salary with outside performances. From 1609 until his death he published several volumes of dances for consort, starting with English pavans and galliards but later incorporating the fashionable Italian and French dances as well.
Our Baroque consort set was written by Antonio Bertali, an Italian violinist who worked for the Viennese imperial court in the mid-17th century. Besides his violin playing, which gained him international fame, he became court composer, and wrote several operas as well as a large quantity of instrumental music. Most of Bertali’s music was not published, but several works were preserved in manuscripts, or copied into contemporary collections. The works we selected come from the Partirbuch Ludwig, a hand-copied collection of music presented by Jakob Ludwig to his patron, Duke August II of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, in 1662. This collection includes hundreds of contemporary works by many different composers, for many different combinations of instruments. Several of Bertali’s works are featured in this collection, as he was one of the most prominent composers of that time.

To round out our consort set, we have prepared three secular consort songs by William Byrd, La Verginella, Come Woeful Orpheus and Though Amaryllis Dance in Green. Byrd started his career as an organist in Lincolnshire, composing and publishing music, primarily madrigals and other vocal music. He was quickly noticed and brought to London under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I, where he established himself as a composer. However, his refusal to attend Catholic Mass led to problems, and he was never able to establish a court position. He made money by publishing his own works, working with Thomas Tallis to set up a publishing company. Many of his early works are consort songs, intended for one voice and a consort of viols, though he later texted the viol parts so they could be sung as madrigals. We will be performing them on recorders instead of viols, featuring some of our larger and lower recorders. Also, Janice Massatt will perform Byrd’s organ solo, The Queen’s Almyn, on St. Wilfrid’s organ.

During the Baroque era, consort music became less popular, and parts were increasingly written for specific instruments. Improvements in instrument making led to three-piece recorders, fitted together for easier tuning and with more holes for playing in different keys. Different sizes of recorders became used as solo and chamber instruments. The sound of the recorder was prized, and often used to represent birds, or angels.

The recorder as soloist will be featured in a sonata by Jean-Baptiste Loeillet de Gant. Unlike his more famous cousin, John Loeillet of London, Loeillet de Gant stayed in France, and published several collections of sonatas for one and two recorders. Wendell Ballantyne will perform the Sonata in d minor, No. 10 in the opus 3 collection of solo sonatas.

Juxtaposing the sonority of the flauto taillo recorder with that of the violin, we will perform Georg Philipp Telemann’s Trio Sonata TWV42:B1. Though trained as a lawyer, Telemann quickly discovered he was in demand as an organist and composer. After a few court appointments, he was hired as the music director for the city of Frankfurt, where he was responsible for all the church music in the city. He was among the most prolific composers in history, with over a thousand surviving works. In addition, he published his own works, becoming one of the first composers to do so. Telemann also championed the idea that composers retained the rights to their works even after publication. Tonight’s sonata was composed originally for violin and oboe, but John Robinson is performing the oboe part on the flauto taillo, or baroque tenor recorder, which was often used interchangeably with the oboe.

Of course, composers also frequently used the recorder to accompany voices in cantatas, as George Friderich Handel did in Nel dolce dell’oblio (In the sweetness of sleep). Handel was a very successful composer, who avoided patronage but preferred to make a living by himself as a performer and composer. After touring Italy, Handel settled in Hanover, but soon thereafter traveled to London, where he met such success that he never returned. Instead he started an opera company and enjoyed favored status as England’s most famous composer. Nel dolce dell’oblio, otherwise known as Pensieri notturni di Filli (Phyllis’s nighttime thoughts), was composed in Venice in the final year of Handel’s tour in Italy. The text describes a lover’s sleep being disturbed by thoughts of her beloved. Sarah Vay Kerns will play baroque alto recorder while Elysha Massatt sings.

The Sonata a Quattro by Johann Joseph Fux is a truly unique piece. Though composed in 1701, its style and instrumentation are throwbacks to the early 17th century. Fux worked for the Austrian court for more than three decades, playing organ and composing. His works are the culmination of the style started by Bertali almost a century previous. He was known as a traditionalist and as a music theorist, and his treatise Gradus ad Parnassum has been used to teach composition ever since, including famously to Mozart and Beethoven. His Sonata a Quattro was originally scored for violin, cornetto, sackbut, dulcian and organ. We will be replacing the sackbut (baroque trombone) with a bass viol, but Wendell Ballantyne will perform on cornetto, an early wooden instrument played similar to today’s brass instruments, and John Robinson will play dulcian, a baroque ancestor of the bassoon.

We will finish our program with a cantata by Antonio Lotti. Lotti was at the center of Viennese musical life. Trained by Giovanni Legrenzi, his first job was singing alto in the choir at S Petronio. He continued to be promoted to organist and then maestro di cappella. In addition, he taught and composed for the Ospidale degli Incurabili, a prominent women’s choir, and composed for the opera. His operas were very successful, as were his published compositions. So d’essermi d’amor (I know I am in love) is a secular cantata, written for soprano, violin and basso continuo, with a beautiful cello obbligato part in the second aria. Though it does not fit our theme of featuring our woodwind instruments, we love it and want to share it with you!

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