Rising from the Ashes of Plague: Music for Violin & Basso from 17th-Century Italy

September 27, 2020

“The Merry Fiddler” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1623, pandemic-ready thanks to John Ott Sr. Click the image above to watch the concert replay.

• 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern, Sunday September 27, Live on YouTube
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• To watch: click here, look for Guts Baroque in the YouTube app on your mobile or television streaming device, or use this link https://youtu.be/d5eqTE_bAeU.
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One of the great silver linings of this time for us has been putting together an entirely new-to-us program every month. It is unprecedented in the history of our ensemble to have the time available to prepare that much new material so quickly! Another wonderful thing is our ability to reach listeners who are far away from any of our previous in-person concerts, and even to see old friends reconnecting with each other across geographic divides in the live chat of our YouTube streams as they enjoy our music.

Our September livestream revisits repertoire from our first-ever Guts concert, with a few new additions. We are hoping to record these beautiful works as our debut album in the future, and look forward to revisiting them and sharing them with our online listeners!

In 1630-31, the bubonic plague ripped its way through Europe, taking with it three of the promising young composers who open our program. Before disaster struck, these Venetian musicians were enjoying the new freedom that Silk Road economic prosperity afforded them to perform and compose outside of a single court. The recent invention of movable type for music enabled them to earn money from publishing their compositions. In this exciting world of possibility, these enterprising young musicians forged a new instrumental form, the sonata, inspired by the vocal canzonas of generations before them. 

These sonatas grew increasingly idiomatic for the violin, showcasing the vocal virtuosity of the 17th-century playing style. While the first cohort of sonata composers met tragically untimely ends at the hands of the plague, falling into comparative (undeserved) obscurity, their surviving colleagues took the form forward throughout the rest of the century. Some of them managed to find their own more scandalous untimely ends, while others survived to a ripe old age as revered musicians in their own times. 


Giovanni Paolo Cima: Sonata 48 for Violin and Violone
Girolamo Frescobaldi: Canzon Terza
Biagio Marini: La Gardana
Dario Castello: Sonata Prima
Giovanni Battista Fontana: Sonata Terza
Biagio Marini: Sonata Terza — Variata per il Violino
Giovanni Battista Buonamente: Canzon Prima a 2. Violino & Basso
Marco Uccellini: Sonata Quarta a violino solo detta la Hortensia virtuosa
Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli: Sonata Prima — La Stella
Alessandro Stradella: Sinfonia 3 in e
Isabella Leonarda: Sonata 12
Antonio Bertali: Ciaccona

Here’s the program! Available as a full booklet or 1-page PDF: