Thursday 9th October @ 12.30pm
Geminiani - Adagio e Fuga in Eb major
Geminiani was born at Lucca. He received lessons in music from Alessandro Scarlatti, and studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and afterwards under Arcangelo Corelli. From 1711, he led the opera orchestra at Naples, as Leader of the Opera Orchestra and concertmaster, which gave him many opportunities for contact with Alessandro Scarlatti. In 1714, with the reputation of a virtuoso violinist, he arrived in London, where he was taken under the special protection of William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a consistent patron. In 1715 he played his violin concerti with Handel at the keyboard, for the court of George I. Geminiani made a living by teaching and writing music, and tried to keep pace with his passion for collecting by dealing in art, not always successfully.
After visiting Paris and residing there for some time, he returned to England in 1755. In 1761, on one of his sojourns in Dublin, a servant robbed him of a musical manuscript on which he had bestowed much time and labour. His vexation at this loss is said to have hastened his death.
He appears to have been a first-rate violinist. His Italian pupils reportedly called him Il Furibondo, the Madman, because of his expressive rhythms. He is best known for three sets of concerti grossi, his Opus 2 (1732), Opus 3 (1733) and Opus 7 (1746), (there are 42 concerti in all) which introduce the viola as a member of the concertino group of soloists, making them essentially concerti for string quartet.
The work to be performed is based on a manuscript collection preserved in the Saxon Regional Library, in Dresden. The original form of the Adagio movement comprises, from the third bar on, only a sketch of the harmonic progression, the rhythmic indicatin of the first three parts suggesting an arpeggio style.
J S Bach - Suite No 2 in D minor BXV 1008
Prelude - Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Menuetto - Gigue
Bach composed the six unaccompanied suites for cello between 1720 and 1725, a period that straddles his Köthen and Leipzig years. Out of Köthen, where Bach lived from 1717 and 1723, come his greatest instrumental works: the trio sonatas, concertos including the Brandenburg Concerti, solo string works, keyboard works including Book I of the Well Tempered Klavier, and more. Unfortunately, the prince of Köthen later married a woman who did not share her husband’s propensity for good music. She sent Bach on his way and by doing so, the witch robbed the world of untold musical treasures. Bach then found a job in Leipzig, where he had to write and perform almost weekly vocal church Cantatas. In addition, he had to train unruly choirboys and bother with church bureaucracy. These burdens probably dampened his artistic output. Still, he found time to complete his cycle of six cello suites. (Like others of his sets of six, representing the six days of the working week.)
The “cello suites” are a standard part of the viola repertoire, played an octave higher. It was very common for Bach to create transcriptions of his or others’ pieces on different instruments. Bach was a pretty good violinist, but both Spitta’s and Samford’s biographies of the composer indicate that he preferred to play the viola. The suites, like their violin counterparts (sonatas & partitas) were over a century ahead of their time. It was not until the late 1800’s that they made their way into the standard repertoire, advanced by the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim. Up until then they were considered unplayable due to the frequency of triple and quadruple-stops (4 string chords) and their polyphonic nature on an instrument that is essentially monophonic.
Every suite consists of a prelude and 5 dances. The prelude usually features virtuosic scales and arpeggios around the home key. The dances are a mixture of international styles. For example: the German Allemande, the French Courante and Minuets, the Spanish Sarabande, and the English Gigue. Each dance form has its characteristic rhythms, tempos, weak beats, melodic styles, characters, and organization. The suites can be said to have been modeled after Renaissance traveling folk musicians. In the prelude, the instrumentalists would warm up, show off their technique, and gather a crowd with scales and arpeggios. Then, they would play the popular dances that they have learned in their travels. Although Bach’s suites were not meant for dance, that is the basis on which they are constructed.
Reger - Suite in G minor No 1 op 131d
Molto sostenuto - Vivace - Andante sostenuto - Molto vivace
Max Reger was one of the leading composers during the turn of the 19th to 20th century. In only 25 years of active composition, he produced 146 opus numbers, as well as many works without opus. His oeuvre includes lieder, organ works, chamber and orchestral music, but no official symphony. In his own time, Reger’s music was frequently performed and he was considered the rival of Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner. Prokofiev, Hindemith, and Bartòk all admired him, and Schöenberg programmed his music more frequently than any other composer’s in his Society for the Performance of Music.
“I can say with good conscience,” he once proclaimed, “that of all living composers, I am probably the one who is in closest touch with the great masters of our rich past.” He was referring of course to the line of composers that traces back through Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, all the way back to Bach. This is the line that maintained solid counterpoint, harmony conventions, and structure, and touted its music as “absolute”; as opposed to the enchanting “programmatic” and more unconventional music of the line that goes through Berlioz to Liszt and Wagner, who’s music Reger denounced as “perverted rubbish”.
Reger admired and strove to emulate Bach. Although he was Catholic, Reger worked in Protestant churches (like Bach) and was a renowned organist and improviser (like Bach). In the 1890’s, Reger systematically studied all of Bach’s keyboard works, and eventually became one of the leading Bach interpreters of his time. In 1911, he was the feature of a Bach-Reger festival at a German resort. His fascination with Bach helped to steer him away from programmatic music to concentrate on the absolute. The resulting style, combined with the chromatic trends of his time may be described as Brahmsian Baroque.Reger’s musical style relies on a sturdy architecture for foundation, creative and daring harmonic landscapes for color, and intellectual ingenuity for content.
On a personal level, Reger had a tough skin and a good sense of humor. Replying to a particularly scathing review of his music, Reger wrote, “I am sitting the smallest room in my house, and I have your review before me. In a moment, it will be behind me.” He was said to be a man of overindulgence-- he “smoke, drank, and composed in excess.” In a London restaurant he is remembered to have ordered “two hours’ worth of food and drink.” There are also dubious claims that he only composed while under the influence of alcohol, but this is especially unlikely given the academic character of his music.
“I have finished composing a seventh violin sonata. Bach only wrote six.” The opus 131 viola suites are part of a set that also included solo violin and cello music, as well as a couple of violin duos. Reger’s solo music is clearly modeled on Bach, in forms such as Chaconne, Prelude, and Fugue. On a smaller scale, the construction of the solo line is similar. As similar as the two composers’ music is, the two should never be mistaken for each other. Reger’s harmonies are more chromatic and modulatory, while the gestures and conceptions are more romantic in spirit.