ARTEK


"Arie Antiche"

Sat., April 26, 1997, 8:00 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church, 5300 Main
Houston, Texas

Hear sumptuous sounds, delicious lyrics, astonishing
improvisations, plus the stunning beauty of Drew
Minter's voice in a festive program of Italian baroque
music for spring.

"Italian Baroque Art"

Pre-concert Lecture: 7:00 p.m., Chapel

The Program

"Io vidi in terra" Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643)

Lettera Amorosa, "Sei languidi miei sguardi" Monteverdi

Intermission

The Performers

ARTEK is a musical organization reflecting the artistic vision of founding director Gwendolyn Toth. ARTEK began in 1986 as a modest series of chamber music concerts with Ms. Toth and her friends and colleagues. Now, ARTEK has grown into one of America's premier early music organizations. ARTEK's yearly series of orchestra, dance, theater, and chamber music events in New York City regularly receives high acclaim from the New York Times, and ARTEK's first compact disk release of Monteverdi's opera Orfeo on the Lyrichord Early Music Series label has garnered rave reviews. Ms. Toth has guided ARTEK to prominence through her unerring ability to create outstanding programs both of well-known masterpieces presented in a fresh, creative setting and rarely-heard gems from the seventeenth and eighteenth century newly presented to twentieth-century audiences. 458 Strings is an ensemble of the continuo and bass players of ARTEK, the players who form the backbone of the group. The unique sound of the many plucked instruments, keyboard instruments, and bass instruments is special not only to the 458 Strings concerts but to all ARTEK concerts.

Gwendolyn Toth is recognized as one of America's leading early music conductors and keyboard performers. She has won prizes in the Magnum Opus Harpsichord competition and in American Guild of Organist competitions, and she was selected as an "Outstanding Young Conductor" by Opera News in 1989. She has been heard in concert throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, and on radio networks in Holland, Germany, France, and America's National Public Radio. Currently she is preparing a recording of solo organ works of Heinrich Scheidemann, recorded on the meantone organ in Zeerijp, Holland.

Drew Minter, countertenor

Among the world's premier countertenors, Drew Minter is also an accomplished stage director. In addition to countless recitals in America and Europe, his engagements have included the opera companies of Brussels, Boston, Washington, Nice, Marseilles, Toulouse, Wolf Trap, Santa Fe, and Glimmerglass. He has frequented the music festivals of Boston, Edinburgh, Spoleto/USA, Next Wave at BAM, Regensburg, and others. He has often appeared with such renowned early music ensembles as the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Handel/Haydn Society, American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Theatre of Voices, the Folger Consort, and Les Arts Florissants. He is a founding member of the Newberry Consort and of Ensemble Five/One which he also directs, and he has appeared regularly with ARTEK since its inception in 1986. A specialist in the works of Handel, Drew Minter has appeared often at the Handel festivals of Göttingen, Halle, Karlsruhe, and Maryland. He is especially well-remembered for his portrayal of Tolomeo in Peter Sellars' production of Giulio Cesare, which was also filmed for Decca/London. His more than forty recordings are to be found on the Harmonia Mundi, Hungaroton, Koch, and other labels. With ARTEK, he has recorded a critically acclaimed CD of seventeenth-century Italian vocal music, Love Letters from Italy, on the Lyrichord Early Music Series label.

458 Strings

 

Grant Herreid, in addition to performing with ARTEK, is a member of the early music quartet Ex Umbris and the Philadelphia Wind Band, and is a regular guest with Hesperus and LiveOak & Co. He has been music director for many productions of the Mannes Camerata, and has arranged and composed music for several of the comedies of William Shakespeare.

Astrid Nielsch concertizes regularly in Europe and America as a specialist on medieval, Renaissance, and baroque harps. She has performed at the Fringe series of the Utrecht Early Music Festival, the Tage Alte Musik Berlin, and at the World Harp Congress in Copenhagen. She is currently studying for her doctorate in musicology at the Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Paul Shipper performs as actor, singer, and instrumentalist. In addition to performing with ARTEK he is a member of New York's Ensemble for Early Music, Nottingham Fair, the Mannes Camerata, the New York Alta Band, and is a founding member of Ex Umbris. He has also performed and recorded with Pomerium, the Baltimore Consort, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and others. His discography includes RCA, Harmonia Mundi, Musical Heritage Society, Newport Classic, and Lyrichord.

Richard Stone has performed with the Taverner Players, the Consort of Musicke, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, ARTEK, and Glimmerglass Opera. His solo performance of German baroque lute repertoire won him a prize at the 1990 Early Music Competition at the Festival of Flanders in Bruges. In 1995 he made his operatic directorial debut in the Orlando Opera Company production of Monteverdi's L'lncoronazione di Poppea, which he led from the theorbo. Recording credits include Deutsche Grammophon, Lyrichord, Musical Heritage, Bridge, NPR and the BBC, as well as a debut solo CD on the Titanic label of lute music by Silvius Leopold Weiss.

Lisa Terry enjoys an active career as a viola da gambist and baroque cellist. She performs regularly with Concert Royal, Parthenia, New York Consort of Viols, Dryden Ensemble, Four Nations and Grande Bande in addition to ARTEK. She is a founding member of the viol consort Oriana. Currently she is on the music faculty of Columbia University.

Notes

One of the great innovations of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century was the rise of the concept of the "virtuoso" singer and instrumentalist. Before the innovations of monody, the predominance of polyphony ensured that each voice in a composition was functionally equal to all others. Two reform movements were to effect a great change in the musical environment: the Council of Trent, 1542, and the Camerata in Florence between 1573 and 1587. The Council of Trent was a reaction to the textual confusion in sacred music resulting from the polyphonic style of Palestrina then prevalent. The Council issued a proclamation that the words of the liturgy must be clearly intelligible. The Camerata, primarily a literary and philosophical movement, strove to discover the principles of ancient Greek music and came to the conclusion that music should above all express the affect of the text and that this goal is best accomplished in solo vocal writing. Out of this movement came the invention of opera and the style we know as monody, and, ultimately, the birth of a new style in music history, the Baroque style.

The importance of the words in the musical settings of texts had the logical effect of increasing the importance of the solo singer as a poetic declaimer; early texts in the monody style were written by the best poets of the age and are of extremely high quality. With the rise of the importance of the soloist came a new emphasis on solo virtuosity. The first true "divas" of singing were Italian singers such as Vittoria Archilei, Francesco Rasi, Giovanni Gualberto Magli, and others. As the practice of virtuosic singing became widespread, instrumentalists, in imitation of the voice, also began to enjoy a role as soloists of importance.

The music heard on this concert represents a cross-section of styles in the seventeenth century. Through-composed music typical of the Florentine Camerata ideal is represented by several works. "Io vidi la terra" is a text by a major Italian poet (Petrarch) set by the composer Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643), who also was the composer of one of the earliest operas, Dafne (1608). "Odi quel rosignuolo", by Sigismondo d'India (c.1582-1629), is nearly a dictionary of every type of vocal affect possible. The great master, Claudio Monteverdi, (1567-1643) is represented by "Lettera amorosa", an example of stile recitativo in which the music goes even further in the direction of sung speech and away from traditional melody, and "Pianto della Madonna", Monteverdi's Latin sacred setting of the more famous "Lamento d'Arianna" from his lost opera Arianna. The Latin setting handily fulfills the admonitions of the Council of Trent; the secular origins of the setting were not considered sacrilegious. "La Madalena ricorre alle lagrime" is a sacred piece set to an Italian text by the composer Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665). Mazzocchi uses unusual chromatic harmonies in this lament, venturing into extremely distant keys for the seventeenth century, to express the anguish and torment of the text.

Vocal music based on existing ground-bass patterns was another favorite form in the seventeenth century. Two pieces are based on various types of the passacaglia (I-IV-V-I) ground. The "Aria di passacaglia" (1583-1643) of Girolamo Frescobaldi utilizes several different passacaglia variations throughout the piece. Giovanni Felice Sances (c.1600-1679) is the composer of "Cantada a voca sola sopra il passacaglio", one of several pieces of vocal music he wrote based on one of the most famous passacaglia patterns, the descending tetrachord (well known from other works such as Monteverdi's "Lamento della Ninfa" and the final duet, probably by Ferrari, in the opera L'incoronazione di Poppea).

Frescobaldi's "Aria di passacaglia", Sances' "Cantada a voca sola sopra il passacaglio" and D'India's "Odi quel rosignuolo" are all also early examples of the recitative-aria format that by the mid-seventeenth century had become the primary musical form in operatic and vocal chamber music. The cantata "Rimbombava d'intorno" by Antonio Cesti (1623-1669) combines clear-cut recitative, aria, and arioso into a large chamber cantata. Notable is the re-introduction of purer melody in both bass line and vocal line in the arias reflecting the changing musical taste of the second half of the seventeenth century.

Instrumental music heard tonight utilizes the unique virtuosity of different members of our 458 Strings ensemble. We include two toccatas, the toccata form being the primary instrumental vehicle for virtuosity in the seventeenth century. Our arrangement of Frescobaldi's Toccata per violino e spinettino shares the solo lines with many different instruments: harp, theorbo, harpsichord, guitar, lute. Frescobaldi's Toccata per liuto displays the talents of our two theorbists, Richard Stone and Grant Herreid in a form of musical dialogue, with a bowed bass (viola da gamba) reinforcing the bass line. Lisa Terry performs one of the earliest known solo cello works, a Ricercar for cello and basso continuo by Domenico Gabrielli (1651-1690). Despite the title of Ricercar, usually an archaic fugal form, the piece is actually a cello sonata in four movements: prelude, allemande, sarabande, presto. It is an early example of the high baroque dance suite so well known from the works of J.S. Bach and many others, and calls for a typical early cello scordatura tuning, C-G-D-G.

Two temperaments are used in the performance of these pieces. The earlier seventeenth century works by Frescobaldi, Monteverdi, D'India, Gagliano, and Sances are performed in 1/4-comma meantone. In this tuning, the Mazzochi lament would require the famous 19-note keyboard of Zarlino; therefore, necessity demanded we use 1/5-comma tuning. The Cesti cantata and the Gabrielli Ricercar also clearly require a tuning system able to handle all keys, and thus they also were performed in 1/5-comma meantone. We change tunings during intermission; thus, for purely pragmatic reasons, the Monteverdi "Pianto della Madonna" is also performed in 1/5-comma tuning.


Copyright 1996-9 by Houston Early Music 
P.O. Box 271193 | Houston TX 77277-1193 | Phone 713-432-1744 |