To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, this gala concert will begin and end with the triumphant and heraldic sound of trumpets and drums combined with the brilliance of oboes and strings. Each half of the program includes two concertos in Italian style and one orchestral suite in the French style. The first half consists of three disparate works by Telemann. The second continues with two flute concertos by Vivaldi, and concludes with J.S. Bach’s Fourth orchestral suite, the final movement of which is entitled “Rejoicing.”
Telemann’s Concerto in D for 3 trumpets, 2 oboes, timpani, strings and continuo was composed in 1716, and performed that year at the festivities celebrating the birth of Prince Leopold, heir to Emperor Charles VI in Frankfurt. It is an unusually brilliant sounding work for an orchestra of three distinctive choirs: brass, woodwind, and strings, reinforced by drums and keyboard. With the exception of the Largo movement, which is an arietta for oboe solo accompanied by strings, none of the three choirs emerges as the solo group, for no choir possesses its own distinctive thematic material. All are in concert in their goal to provide contrasts in sonorities and richness in orchestral palette. This work is in four movements. As the title Intrada suggests, the first movement is a piece of pomp and splendor that accompanies the entrance of an important personage. The second movement is a fugue, the third movement a lovely arietta for oboe solo, and the last a gigue-like dance.
Although the French orchestral suite originated with the music from opera and ballets by Jean-Baptiste de Lully and his contemporaries in the mid-seventeenth century, its popularity as a genre of concert music was earned primarily by the works of later German composers such as Telemann and Bach. A suite is usually composed of an overture and a series of dances, hence it is also called an Ouverture or Ouverture suite. In the French tradition, the overture movement consists of a slow majestic introduction, a fast fugal section, and a repeat of the introduction or a return to its musical ideas. The movements that follow are usually stylized dances, and the sequence of dances is commonly allemande, courante, sarabande, followed by other dances in less rigid order. However, the two suites in today’s program do not conform to this common mold.
The Orchestral Suite in G Minor by Telemann is unusual in its instrumentation and musical content. With the four-part double-reed choir of three oboes and bassoon and the four-part string orchestra at his disposal, Telemann accentuates throughout this work the contrast between antiphonal poly-choral texture and homogeneous doubling of winds and strings. The surprising aspect of the musical content is that the seven dances that follow the overture consist of four dances and the characterization of three personalities: the irresolute, the capricious, and the braggart. The pair of Menuets that ends the suite displays the composer’s masterful invertible counterpoint. Here the melodic line in Menuet I becomes the bass line in Menuet II, and the bass line in Menuet I becomes the melodic line in Menuet II.
The Concerto in D Major, TWV 53:D2 is a concerto grosso that has a concertino of three trumpets and timpani, with a concerto grosso of strings and continuo. In the slow first movement and the fast second movement, the thematic material of the string orchestra consists largely of conspicuous broken-chord figures while the trumpets answer with fast stepwise figures. The slow third movement is for strings alone, with the theme introduced by the violins canonically. The last movement is a very fast gavotte in rondeau form: ABACADAEA.
Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for solo flute, strings and continuo, RV 428, is known as “Il Gardellino.” Of Vivaldi’s works that bear descriptive titles, this is one of the most popular. All three movements of this concerto call to mind the presence of the goldfinch by different means: in the first and last movements by the extensive imitation of bird-calls in the solo sections, and in the second by the birdsong-like serenity of the flute melody. This successful evocation of the goldfinch is Vivaldi’s second version of an earlier work, which bears the same title, is in the same key, and is scored for flute, oboe, violin, and bassoon.
The next work, also by Vivaldi, is a carefree and joyful Concerto in C Major for two flutes accompanied by strings and continuo. The first and last movements are in the ritornello form, with clear alternation of tutti and solo sections, while the second movement is a short tuneful movement in binary form, but without repeats. The solo sections throughout this concerto are all duets, and full of interesting melodic imitations, both simultaneous and sequential.
The four orchestral suites by J.S. Bach, bearing the French title Ouverture are among his most popular and best-known orchestral works. They were composed between 1717 and 1723, during the years when he was in the service of Prince Leopold of Cöthen. The fourth suite as we know it today, whose instrumentation calls for three distinct four-part choirs (the first consists of three trumpets and timpani, the second of three oboes and bassoon, and the third of strings), is the second version of this work. The first version was scored for only strings, oboes, and bassoon. It is likely that the composer was inspired to re-orchestrate this suite after recycling the music of the overture as the opening chorus of Cantata 110, Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, in 1725, which also calls for the same three choirs of instruments plus two flutes. It is indeed the addition of trumpets and drums that gives this suite its festive nature.
The first movement, Ouverture, is a piece of musical contrasts and mixed designs. The rich harmonies in the slow majestic music at the beginning and end of the movement are pitted against the dense counterpoint of the main gigue-like fast section, which in concept is at once a fugue and a concerto movement in ritornello form. Here the alternation of the expositions and episodes of the fugue coincides with the alternation of tutti and solo sonorities of the ritornello form. The first episode features the oboe/bassoon choir as the solo ensemble, and the last episode the strings, while the middle episodes present both these choirs in duet and all three choirs in sequence.
Thereafter come two bourrées, a gavotte, and 2 menuets, without the precedence of the usual allemande, courante, and sarabande. This group of pieces is orchestrated colorfully for the various dances. Bourrée I and Gavotte are scored for all instruments. Bourrée II is for only the oboes with bassoon obligato. Menuet I calls for the doubling of the woodwind and string choirs, and Menuet II for the strings alone. The suite concludes, appropriately for this occasion, with a high-spirited “Rejoicing” by the entire orchestra.
©2007 John Hsu