Past Concerts

October 13, 2019, Sunday 6pm, Les Maîtres du violon: The Rise of the French Violin Sonata on the concert series at Hoson House, Tustin, CA. Sponsored by Phil and Katie Friedel. Click for program details and notes!


Concert Poster: Finding a Voice Dec. 9, 2019

August 11, 2019, 2pm, Finding a Voice: Music from the Streets of Venice to the Courts of France at Flight Deck Brewing, Brunswick, ME. We had a great time with our longtime fans and new friends alike! Thanks again to Flight Deck for hosting us.

Program:

Biagio Marini: La Gardana, symfonia per un violino o cornetto solo
Dario Castello: Sonata Prima à sopran solo
Giovanni Battista Fontana: Sonata Terza à violino solo
Marco Uccellini: Sonata Quarta à violino solo detta la Hortensia virtuosa
Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli: Sonata Prima “La Stella”
Alessandro Stradella: Sinfonia 3 a voce sola
Isabella Leonarda: Sonata duodecima (12) a violino solo
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonata quarta
Antonio Bertali: Ciaccona à violino solo
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Sonata 1 from Sonates pour le viollon
Marin Marais: Sonate a la Maresienne

Complete program available for download here:

To read more details about the music, click here


August 3, 2019, 7:30pm, Les Maîtres du violon: The Rise of the French Violin Sonata, our second concert at Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, Maine. Thank you so much to everyone who attended and enjoyed with us the thunderstorm’s contribution to the first half!

Here’s our complete concert recording, including John’s commentary on each piece and composer! The thunderstorm that timed itself exactly with our first three pieces makes occasional cameos as well…
Looking for music only without commentary? Click here.

Complete program available as a PDF here:


“A Tour of Italy”

on the Fringe of the Boston Early Music Festival!
1pm Tuesday, June 11, First Lutheran Church of Boston
Hear us as part of L’Esprit Baroque! Details and tickets on their website.

Here is a preview of one of the pieces we performed, from a concert in California:

Ciaccona in C by Antonio Bertali, performed April 2017

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre by
Teresa Cabanillas Gutiérrez

Virtuosic French violin sonatas on the leafy patio of an historic home

Sunday, June 3, 2019, 3:30pm
A Groupmuse house concert in Miracle Mile, Los Angeles

Program:

Rebel Violin Sonata Book 2 #2
Leclair Violin Sonata Book 1 #3
Francoeur Violin Sonata Book 1 #2
Jacquet de la Guerre Violin Sonata #2

Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747) was the son of a singer, employed in the French court. He studied violin and composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, who soon granted him a position in the Opera and in the 24 Violons du Roy. He soon became the concertmaster of both groups. He dedicated many of his sonatas to his powerful patrons, including a Tombeau for his teacher Lully, who died tragically of gangrene in 1687. Upon the death of Louis XIV, Rebel gained the title of court composer for Louis XV, and soon after directed the Concert Spirituel, a concert series of sacred music for performance during Lent, when the Opera was closed. As Rebel grew older, he gave his positions as a court musician to his son François, also a talented violinist. He edited and published his compositions in collections later in life.

His second collection of violin pieces, published in 1713, was surprisingly forward-looking, resembling more the Italian sonatas of the late Baroque than the dance suites of his French contemporaries. They feature four individual movements which are not dances, each a complete idea. Today’s program features the second of this set, in G major.

Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) was born in Lyons, and trained as a child in violin, dancing and lacemaking. As a young man, he traveled to Turin, where he took lessons with the great Italian violinist Giovanni Battista Somis. He traveled to Paris at least twice to publish collections of violin sonatas. Finally in 1733 he was appointed ordinaire de la musique du roi to Louis XV. By 1737, though, he quarreled with another violinist, Pierre Guignon, and left the court rather than having to work under him. He was quickly hired by the court at Orange in the Netherlands, where he spent five years before returning to Paris. He then spent the next few years in the service of the Duc de Gramont, a former pupil. In 1764 he was murdered, apparently by his nephew, violinist Guillame-François Vial. His legacy remains as one of the first great violinists and composers for the violin in France.

His violin sonatas are influenced heavily by those of Arcangelo Corelli and his Italian contemporaries, but with a distinctive French sound, mixing the two styles into what would become the standard for French violin writing in the early 18th century. Today’s program features the third sonata from Leclair’s op. 1 collection, published in 1723.

François Francoeur (1698-1787) was born into a musical family, as his father Joseph played bass violin (cello) in the 24 violons du roi. He and his older brother Louis both excelled at the violin, and quickly gained spots in the Opera, in the Musique de la Chambre du Roi and in the 24 violons. There he met and started working with François Rebel, the son of Jean-Féry. The two violinists became close friends and worked together for their entire careers until Rebel’s death in 1775. By 1739 Francoeur was the master of the Opera, and he and Rebel joint-composed several operas. Though his career at the Opera was full of major successes and major failures, his work was recognized to the point where Louis XV raised him to the rank of nobility in 1764. He continued composing for the Opera until his retirement following the death of his friend Rebel.

Francoeur published two books of violin sonatas in 1720, right when he received the royal privilege to publish music. His sonatas are more in keeping with the French style, featuring five dance movements rather than the typical four of an Italian sonata da chiesa. Today’s program features the second sonata of op.1. It contains a dark Adagio, an Allemande, a Sarabande, a Rondeau and a Presto last movement.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) was born to the Jacquet family, a family of musicians. By the age of 5 she was adopted into the household of Madame de Montespan, Louis XIV’s most famous mistress, and sang and played harpsichord for the court until 1684, when she left the court to marry the organist Marin de la Guerre. She was given the Royal Privilege to compose and publish music, a rare honor in France, and was the first French woman to compose operas. She also published two volumes of cantatas, two volumes of keyboard music and one book each of solo and trio sonatas for the violin. Her works are revolutionary and forward-thinking, combining the Italian styles of her teachers with the tastes of the French high Baroque.

Her six violin sonatas were published inside her second volume of keyboard pieces, in 1707. They are some of the earliest and most celebrated French violin sonatas. They are composed in the Italian style, with different movements with contrasting tempos, rather than in the French suite of dances that was popular at the time. Sonata 2 is in D major, though it freely changes from major to minor between movements. One of the shortest sonatas of this set, it has four movements, Presto, Largo, Presto and Presto.
—John Ott


Guts ventured forth to Maine to present:

Finding a Voice: Music from the Streets of Venice to the Courts of France

A lively concert of violin sonatas by 17th-century Italian and French composers, showcasing the distinct regional styles and historically-accurate violin bows used to perform them. Dazzling virtuosity of decorated melodies gives way to flowing lyricism, the height of French baroque music under the Sun King, Louis XIV. Sylvia Schwartz, baroque violin, and John Ott, viola da gamba.

The concert was presented as a fundraiser toward purchase of the historically-informed violin on generous loan to Sylvia by maker Douglas Cox of Brattleboro, Vermont. Admission was pay-what-you-decide donation. The fundraiser is still going on. If you would like to contribute, please click here!

Saturday, December 9th, 7:00pm, Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick.
Meet the musicians at the intermission reception.

More about the Music

Program:

Biagio Marini: La Gardana, symfonia per un violino o cornetto solo
Dario Castello: Sonata Prima à sopran solo
Giovanni Battista Fontana: Sonata Terza à violino solo
Marco Uccellini: Sonata Quarta à violino solo detta la Hortensia virtuosa
Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli: Sonata Prima “La Stella”
Alessandro Stradella: Sinfonia 3 a voce sola
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonata quarta
Antonio Bertali: Ciaccona à violino solo
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Sonata 1 from Sonates pour le viollon
Marin Marais: Sonate a la Maresienne

Our concert begins on the streets of Venice, around 1620. The city is prosperous and happy, fed by the riches that come in via the Silk Road, or by sea. Aside from the nobility, there is a rapidly-growing class of wealthy, educated craftsmen and specialists pursuing independent careers. The music is vibrant and virtuosic, and it is everywhere. It echoes from the Basilica de San Marco, where the great Claudio Monteverdi presides over as great an orchestra as has ever existed before. It resounds from the halls of the Ducal Palace, and from the churches, and from the companies of piffari (marching bands of wind and brass instruments) parading down the streets. Even more so, it spills to the streets from the homes of amateur and aspiring musicians, who now have access to this music through publishing.

Though many published editions of vocal works, especially madrigals, had been printed for generations, collections of instrumental music were comparatively rare. But Venice suddenly had a wealth of great musicians plying their trade, and it was lucrative to compose a collection of music and sell it to a publisher. Many of these collections continued to be printed and distributed throughout Europe long after their composers’ death. These printed works laid out the foundation for many instrumental music forms, including the solo violin sonata.

In 1617, Biagio Marini, one of the lead violinists of San Marco, published his first collection of instrumental works, which featured La Gardana, the first piece ever published for violin and continuo. In 1621 the itinerant wind player Dario Castello, also a musician at San Marco, published the first of two collections of instrumental music, which feature the first solo sonatas for treble instrument and continuo. By the 1640s Venetian publishers also printed music from composers outside Venice, like the violinists Giovanni Battista Fontana from Brescia and Marco Uccellini from Modena, who pushed the violin sonata to higher levels of virtuosity.

Life in Italy was often rife with intrigue, and sometimes that spilled over into music. In the 1660s, Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli had to flee justice after killing a famous singer in a duel, finally taking his career to France and Spain. His collection of violin sonatas published in 1660 became his last. Another frequent fugitive from justice was Alessandro Stradella. After establishing himself as a composer in Rome in 1676, he had to flee to Venice after becoming involved in a scheme to marry off an “ugly old” noblewoman for money. He later eloped to Turin with a young woman he was supposed to be teaching, the mistress of the Duke of Venice. The Duke caught up with him in Turin, and after ordering him to marry the girl, had him stabbed and left for dead. He recovered, composing music all the while, and finished his career in Genoa, where after writing a few successful operas, he was finally assassinated in 1682. During his short career, he left behind many works, including collections of sinfonias for one or two violins and continuo.

The influence of the Italians extended to Vienna, where the Hapsburg courts sought the best musicians of Europe, such as the great violinist Antonio Bertali, originally from Verona, who arrived in 1631. He shared the Italian style of sonata writing with his pupils, including the native Austrian, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. Both of them experimented freely with common ostinato (repeating) bass lines, writing elaborate flourishes, variations and divisions over these unchanging note patterns in the bass.

At the turn of the 18th century we arrive in France, in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Italianate sonatas have arrived in France, and a new generation of French composers are exploring how to fit them into the delicate, refined and ornamented French style. Key among these composers are Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, once a child prodigy adopted by the court, and now a successful composer, one of a select few granted the Royal privilege to publish music, and Marin Marais, master of the viola da gamba and protege of the great Jean Baptiste Lully, the founder of the French Opera.

Complete program available as a PDF here:


Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre by
Teresa Cabanillas Gutiérrez

Les Maîtres du violon: The Rise of the French Violin Sonata

Right around the beginning of the eighteenth century, a change was beginning to happen in the music of France. The graceful dance suite of Lully’s time, so beloved by the late Louis XIV, was slowly being supplanted by the Italian sonata. The great Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli had enriched and expanded the capabilities of the violin. His collections of sonatas had become staples in the repertoire of every violinist in Europe, and his students had become the dominant violinists of Italy. Many French violinists and other musicians traveled to Italy to study with the great masters, then returned to France, bringing with them Italian aesthetics and musical forms. As a result, the solo music written for violin gradually shifted towards the Corellian sonata, while still retaining the sublimely intricate and delicate ideas of the French Baroque. This program shows the gradual development of the genre of the French violin sonata.

Program:

Jean-Fery Rebel: Sonate 2 in G from Sonates à violon seul
François Francoeur: Sonate 2 in e from Sonates à violon seul, Livre I
François Bouvard: Sonate 1 in B-flat from Sonates à violon seul, Livre II
De Machy: Suite 4 in G Major from Pieces de violle
Jean-Marie Leclair: Sonate 3 in Bb Major from Premier Livre de Sonates
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Sonate 2 in D from Sonates pour le viollon

Program Notes:

Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747) was the son of a singer, employed in the French court. He studied violin and composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, who soon granted him a position in the Opera and in the 24 Violons du Roy. He soon became the concertmaster of both groups. He dedicated many of his sonatas to his powerful patrons, including a Tombeau for his teacher Lully, who died tragically of gangrene in 1687. Upon the death of Louis XIV, Rebel gained the title of court composer for Louis XV, and soon after directed the Concert Spirituel, a concert series of sacred music for performance during Lent, when the Opera was closed. As Rebel grew older, he gave his positions as a court musician to his son François, also a talented violinist. He edited and published his compositions in collections later in life.

His second collection of violin pieces, published in 1713, was surprisingly forward-looking, resembling more the Italian sonatas of the late Baroque than the dance suites of his French contemporaries. They feature four individual movements which are not dances, each a complete idea. Today’s program features the second of this set, in G major.

François Bouvard (1683-1760) as a child was a very gifted singer, and sang in the Opera in Paris from a young age until his voice broke. After that he spent some time training in Italy before returning to Paris as a composer. He wrote two operas and a number of smaller publications before returning to Italy in 1711. Though it is unknown what he did there, he apparently became a count of St. John Lateran, a title he referred to in his subsequent publications. By 1723 he returned to Paris, where he continued publishing music until 1750. After that he fell into ill health and died a pauper.

Bouvard’s 8 violin sonatas were published in 1723, upon his return from Italy. Similar to Leclair’s earlier that year, Bouvard’s sonatas show a mix of Italian and French styles. His movements have Italian names but French delicacy and character, and there are five of them, labeled Adagio, Largo, Allegro, Largo and Prestissimo.

Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) was born in Lyons, and trained as a child in violin, dancing and lacemaking. As a young man, he traveled to Turin, where he took lessons with the great Italian violinist Giovanni Battista Somis. He traveled to Paris at least twice to publish collections of violin sonatas. Finally in 1733 he was appointed ordinaire de la musique du roi to Louis XV. By 1737, though, he quarreled with another violinist, Pierre Guignon, and left the court rather than having to work under him. He was quickly hired by the court at Orange in the Netherlands, where he spent five years before returning to Paris. He then spent the next few years in the service of the Duc de Gramont, a former pupil. In 1764 he was murdered, apparently by his nephew, violinist Guillame-François Vial. His legacy remains as one of the first great violinists and composers for the violin in France.

His violin sonatas are influenced heavily by those of Arcangelo Corelli and his Italian contemporaries, but with a distinctive French sound, mixing the two styles into what would become the standard for French violin writing in the early 18th century. Today’s program features the third sonata from Leclair’s op. 1 collection, published in 1723.

François Francoeur (1698-1787) was born into a musical family, as his father Joseph played bass violin (cello) in the 24 violons du roi. He and his older brother Louis both excelled at the violin, and quickly gained spots in the Opera, in the Musique de la Chambre du Roi and in the 24 violons. There he met and started working with François Rebel, the son of Jean-Féry. The two violinists became close friends and worked together for their entire careers until Rebel’s death in 1775. By 1739 Francoeur was the master of the Opera, and he and Rebel joint-composed several operas. Though his career at the Opera was full of major successes and major failures, his work was recognized to the point where Louis XV raised him to the rank of nobility in 1764. He continued composing for the Opera until his retirement following the death of his friend Rebel.

Francoeur published two books of violin sonatas in 1720, right when he received the royal privilege to publish music. His sonatas are more in keeping with the French style, featuring five dance movements rather than the typical four of an Italian sonata da chiesa. Today’s program features the second sonata of op.1. It contains a dark Adagio, an Allemande, a Sarabande, a Rondeau and a Presto last movement.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) was born to the Jacquet family, a family of musicians. By the age of 5 she was adopted into the household of Madame de Montespan, Louis XIV’s most famous mistress, and sang and played harpsichord for the court until 1684, when she left the court to marry the organist Marin de la Guerre. She was given the Royal Privilege to compose and publish music, a rare honor in France, and was the first French woman to compose operas. She also published two volumes of cantatas, two volumes of keyboard music and one book each of solo and trio sonatas for the violin. Her works are revolutionary and forward-thinking, combining the Italian styles of her teachers with the tastes of the French high Baroque.

Her six violin sonatas were published inside her second volume of keyboard pieces, in 1707. They are some of the earliest and most celebrated French violin solo pieces. They are composed in the Italian style, with different movements with contrasting tempos, rather than in the French suite of dances that was popular at the time. Sonata 2 is in D major, though it freely changes from major to minor between movements. One of the shortest sonatas of this set, it has four movements, Presto, Largo, Presto and Presto.

John Ott

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