October 27, 2018: Music of the Underworld

Music of the Underworld Colored Square Web Final-01

Journey with us through the Underworld! Join L’Esprit Baroque for an evening in the Underworld with the music of Clérambault, Monteverdi, and Handel. We’ll make our journey with Orphée to retrieve Eurydice, endure the mourning and vengeance of Lucrezia, and hear the rage of a woman banished to hell for refusing a man. Our instrumental pieces will be in the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day with appropriately mournful and melancholy tunes, with joyful endings.

Saturday, October 27, 2018, 7:30 PM:
Concert at Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church
1314 N Angelina Dr, Placentia, CA 92870

Admission is $20 suggested donation, $15 or $10 for students/low-income/SCEMS members. 
No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Please reserve tickets, with or without a donation, by clicking the button below.
To make a donation in advance, select the paid level you desire.
To reserve a free ticket, or to reserve tickets now and make a donation at the door, choose Ticket Reservation Only. The form asks for an address but you will not be billed.


Can’t come but wish to support? Donate via PayPal:
Please note donations are not tax-deductible at this time.

Orphee by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault
Lucrezia by GF Handel
Trio Sonata in A Minor for Flute, Violin, and Continuo, Wq 148 by CPE Bach
Sonata in D Minor for Flute, Violin, Viola Da Gamba, and Continuo by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain
Ahi Troppo e duro by Claudio Monteverdi
Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully by Marin Marais
program notes below


Elysha Massatt, soprano
Sarah Vay Kerns, recorder & baroque flute
Sylvia Schwartz, baroque violin
John Ott, baroque cello & viola da gamba
Heriberto Ramos, cello
Janice Massatt, historical keyboards

Program Notes:

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was born in Cremona, and studied composition with the local maestro di cappella, Marc’Antonio Ingegneri. He published his first book of madrigals at age 15, and at age 23 he was hired by Duke Vincenzio Gonzaga of Mantua. His many published works quickly spread throughout Europe, and Monteverdi continued to seek greater positions until in 1613 he was appointed the maestro di cappella at the Basilica de San Marco in Venice, then one of the greatest music establishments in Europe. His many compositions encompassed every existing genre of vocal music, though he is most famous for his madrigals and for pioneering the development of the Italian opera. His compositional style epitomized the Seconda Practica, prioritizing text expression over principles of music theory, which got him into a number of legendary disputes with music theorists. This practice, combined with the introduction of the basso continuo line, marked the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque era of composition.

Il Ballo delle Ingrate (The dance of the ungrateful) was composed in 1608 as a dance for the wedding of Francesco Gonzaga to Margaret of Savoy. Both Francesco and his father Vicenzio, Monteverdi’s patron, participated in the dance. Monteverdi later published this in 1638 as part of his Eighth Book of Madrigals. The libretto is by Ottavio Rinuccini, depicting Venus and Cupid visiting Pluto in the underworld, asking him to send up the tormented spirits of women who rejected love, to convince the women of Mantua not to scorn their lovers. The aria, “Ahi troppo è dure” depicts a woman from the underworld who is reluctant to return there from the world above.

Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach (1714-1788) was the second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara, and Georg Philipp Telemann stood as his godfather. Despite his musical pedigree, he initially had trouble securing a job. His appointment to Prince Frederick’s court in 1740 was initially very welcome. However, Bach quickly became dissatisfied with the Berlin life, where he received little recognition next to Johann Joachim Quantz, Johann Gottlieb Graun and Quantz’s student Johann Friedrich Agricola, and repeatedly petitioned to leave Frederick’s service. Finally, after more than two decades, Frederick allowed Bach to leave in 1768, to take over Telemann’s former job as the director of sacred music in Hamburg, where he continued to write music until his death. His musical style is very idiomatic to stile galant, with lyrical melodies set above simple harmony, and frequent sudden changes of dynamic and character. Though often criticized as being “too emotional,” his works have an endearing quality of closeness and emotional vulnerability that sets him apart from his contemporaries.

His Trio Sonata in a minor, H. 572, was first composed in 1735, when he was studying at the University at Frankfurt an der Oder. It was then revised in 1747 for publication. Unlike many trio sonatas where the treble instruments are unspecified, this was specifically written for flute and violin.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born in Halle, then part of the duchy of Magdeburg. Though he initially studied law to please his father, his musical skill was quickly recognized. In Hamburg he met and studied with the great composer and theorist Johann Matheson, and soon after he had several job offers as a keyboardist, violinist, and composer. From 1706 to 1709 Handel traveled through Italy, performing and composing while absorbing Italianate musical styles. In 1710 he took a post as composer for the Elector in Hanover, but obtained leave to travel to London the same year. He fell in love with London; the feeling was mutual, and by 1713 he had decided to remain in England. Though he visited the mainland several times, he spent the rest of his career in London, and became a major part of the music scene there. He composed 42 operas, 28 oratorios, numerous cantatas, many concerti for keyboard or other instrument and orchestra, and countless other vocal and instrumental works. Lucrezia, or O Numi Eterni, was composed in 1706 while Handel was in Florence, presenting himself to Duke Ferdinando de Medici. It was composed in Italian, based on a story from the founding of the Roman republic. Lucretia, a Roman woman, was attacked and raped by an Etruscan prince, and her subsequent suicide sparked the revolution that overthrew the Tarquin kings of Rome.

Louis-Gabriel Guillemain (1705-1770) was brought up in the household of the Count of Rochechouart, a close friend and ally of Louis XIV. He received the best education and training in music, including a trip to Italy to take lessons with the renowned violin teacher Giovanni Battista Somis. Upon his return he quickly gained a position in the royal court, playing in the legendary 24 Violons du Roy. He gained a reputation as one of the best violinists in France. However, he developed habits of drinking heavily and spending money extravagantly, and frequently found himself in debt. Contemporary accounts attribute his death to suicide by stabbing.

In 1743 Guillemain published a collection of 6 Sonates en quatours, op. 12, written for flute, violin, viol and basso continuo. Since he himself was a violinist, the violin part is the most prominent and most difficult. Tonight’s program features the third of this set, in D minor.

Marin Marais (1656-1728) was a gifted virtuoso on the viola da gamba, and one of the most important composers of the French Baroque era. He studied viola da gamba with Jean de Sainte-Colombe, and by age 19 he was playing with the Opera orchestra in Paris under Jean-Baptiste Lully. He soon started composing, under the tutelage of Lully, and was appointed as a royal chamber musician to Louis XIV. By 1690 he also conducted and composed for the Opera, a post he inherited after the premature death of Lully. Marais had a great reputation as a teacher, and many of the next generation of viol players, such as Charles Dollé, Louis de Caix-d’Hervelois, Jacques Morel, and Marais’s son Roland are believed to have studied with him.

The movement performed tonight is from the sixth suite in Book 2 of his Pièces de Viole, a huge collection in five volumes of pieces written for viola da gamba and continuo. Book 2 was published in 1701, near the height of his career. Though many of the suites are merely collections of pieces in the same key, the B minor suite features a lot of common thematic threads, which culminate in the last movement, the Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully. M. Lully had died in 1687 of gangrene, after having accidentally smashed his toe with his conducting staff. Marais composed this suite to honor his friend and teacher, with whom he had worked so closely.
Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749) was widely regarded as one of France’s best organists, though as a composer of French cantatas his reputation soared beyond all others. He learned violin and harpsichord from his father, studied organ with André Raison, and composition and singing with Jean-Baptiste Moreau. Clérambault became organist of the Grands-Augustins in Paris in 1707, and in 1714  organist and voice teacher at St. Cyr, a school for poor but well-born girls run strictly on religious lines. When Raison died in 1719, Clérambault became his successor at the Jacobins in Rue St. Jacques in Paris. Clérambault’s compositions brought together French and Italian styles, most fruitfully in his cantatas, which appeared in the earliest years of the form. He published 25 cantatas in five volumes between 1710 and 1726. Tonight’s cantata comes from Clérambault’s first volume of cantatas from 1710. Orphée shows what heights of eloquence could be reached when Gallic lyricism was infused with Italianate warmth and brilliance, qualities which Clérambault was able to bring together in a wholly convincing and natural way, absorbing foreign techniques into a personal style.

%d bloggers like this: