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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): O qui caeli terraeque serenitas RV631

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January 30, 2014

Capranica Theatre - captionedVivaldi was in Rome for the carnival seasons of 1723 and 1724. While he was there he composed three operas for performance at the Capranica theatre –  Ercole su’l Termodonte, Il Tigrane and Giustino. From the manuscript's paper we know that O qui caeli terraeque serenitas (RV631) must have been composed during one or other of Vivaldi's carnival Roman sojourns and  based on this and his compositional activities it seems likely that he had in mind one or other of the leading ladies at the Capranica as the singer for this motet. I wish I knew who she was and a bit more about her because based on the evidence of this motet Vivaldi considered her to be a very good singer indeed.

It's another motet 'per ogni tempo'  ('for all seasons') whose text is a prayer that the believer be delivered from earthly pleasures and that she may instead long for heavenly ones. Its central key is E flat major and Vivaldi uses 'sighing appoggiaturas in the first aria to depict the tempations of the world. The second aria uses what's called a lamento bass  which is a descent by chromatic steps from tonic to dominant to depict the transitory nature of these mundane pleasures before a final exuberant Alleluia allows the singer to show us why she's a prima donna. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Feature: Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) — Missa in honorem BVM (Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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January 29, 2014

Haydn's Missa in honorem BVM - Hob. XXII-5 (Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary) which you'll sometimes hear called the 'Große Orgelmesse' (Great Organ Mass) because it contains several substantial organ solos is the second of two large-scale Masses that Haydn who was devoted to the Virgin Mary composed with a few years of each other.

It's a highly individual composition, in fact it's unique, amongst Haydn's Masses that contains some very fine fugal writing - for example in the Gloria and the Credo. Pastoralism - the Benedictus is quintessentialy pastoral and has a very nice organ solo to boot and to top it off Haydn indulged his love of  word-painting throughout for example the decending soprano line at 'descendit' and sudden hush at 'et mortuos'. Its uniqueness amongst his Masses can be seen in its key of E flat major which was very unusual for a Mass of this period. Then there's Haydn's use of the two cors anglais instead of oboes which although they're not particularly solistic nevertheless pervade the entire work with an earnestly reverential tone.

As to his use of the organ in the Mass this reflects a tradition in Austrian church music more than anything else although Haydn wouldn't be Haydn if he didn't give it his own twist. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland 

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George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): Salve Regina

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January 28, 2014

Kym Amps Handel's Salve Regina was written during 1707 for performance during a religious Festival most likely in the Marchese Ruspolis private chapel on Trinity Sunday. Like Handel's other Roman patron's Ruspoli was extremely wealthy, could afford the best singers available, and expected Handel to write accordingly. Handel who believed that the road to riches lay in giving the customer what wanted responded accordingly and the result is that this is very much a display piece with florid lines demanding considerable bravura. There are several good recordings of it available but one that I come back to time and time again is this version recorded by The Scholars Baroque Ensemble with Kym Amps (soprano) as soloist. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Benedictus Blessed be the Lord God of Israel

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January 27, 2014

Before going any further it is important for you to understand that there are two texts called 'the Benedictus' one is part of the Mass the other is called ''The Benedictus of Zechariah' or 'The Canticle of Zechariah' which gets its name from the first line of its text in the Vulgate:

"Benedictus Deus Israhel quia visitavit et fecit redemptionem plebi suae"

Tallissketch150x184In Tallis' time this canticle was sung at Lauds – the service of morning worship that was traditionally said or chanted at daybreak. But Tallis lived in turbulent times and the English Reformation abolished Lauds and substituted Mattins the protestant reformers also abolished the use of Latin stipulating that the texts to be used in the reformed rites were to be in English and the music was to be of sufficient plainness as not to distract the congregation from their prayers. While Tallis' sympathies were with the Catholic Church and against the reformers he nevertheless as a loyal subject of the English crown set English texts for use in the Anglican rites when required to do so.

One such text set by Tallis was Zechariah's canticle. Tallis' setting dates from 1546-8 and in common with other English texted settings by him can be found in the Wanley and Lumley partbooks. He faced several problems while setting this text which can be summarised in two words 'length' and 'interest'. How was he to avoid turning out monotonous musical stodge given the length of the text and the constraints imposed by the sobriety of style demanded by the reformers?

The first part of his solution to this problem was to create lots of contrasts throughout his setting of the text. The second was to divide the choir between tenors and basses and to provide this divided choir with lots of variation amongst the points of imitation. He also made some use of word-painting for example at 'And hath lifted up an horn' and varied homophony with counterpoint. Finally Tallis made a wonderfully effective and very innovative use of a change of chord at 'To give light to them that sit in darkness' to illustrate the sudden transition from the darkness of sin to the sunlit uplands of redemption. The result is a warm and sonorous piece that was much admired by his contemporaries including that other musical genius William Byrd who was so impressed by it that he re-used Tallis' melody of of 'which hath been since the world began' in his setting of the Great Service. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Claudio Abbado: June 26 1933 – January 20 2014

January 26, 2014

I've written elsewhere about Abbado's recent death but I didn't want to let it pass here without a mention.  It's seems almost unbelievable that he's dead. There's a good obituary of him here. He was such a giant of music that despite the fact that I knew he'd been desperately ill as a result of cancer that it seemed inconceivable that we would ever be without him. I particularly admired his Mahler interpretations and played them often (you'll find many of his fine interpretations of Mahler on YouTube). As well as Mahler's works Abbado, it seemed to me, had a particular sympathy for Pergolesi which is why I've picked this performance dating back to 1979 of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater for this Sunday's concert. I had the privilege of meeting Abbado briefly twice, once when I was a young man, and then once again in recent years. He was a beautifully polite but very reserved man who passionately loved the music he interpreted and who was deeply concerned that young musicians have every opportunity to realise their talents.

Of your charity pray for his soul.

markfromireland

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