I was asked to devise a Baroque program to be part of this year’s Professional Performance Program, so I thought about what pedagogical or experiential goals would be useful to achieve with this. As those who know me will already be aware, I love to discover and present lesser known masterpieces alongside the tried and true, so that is a goal in itself! I was keen for the ANAM musicians to experience, and get to know from the inside, national and personal baroque compositional styles, with a “bleed” from late Renaissance as well as the pre-classical Sturm und Drang, to give a bit of context. I am more than a little obsessed with the building blocks of musical language, and how these are used in both similar and idiosyncratic ways across the ages. So I have largely chosen works by composers writing in a style not of their place of residence, truly “international” composers if you will. So we have Handel out-Frenching the French in his Jephtha overture, the Prague-based Vejvanovský composing in the Venetian style, and Schmelzer giving us a joyous gypsy ride.
Baroque music had so much to do with spectacle and pageantry, so I have bookended the program with foot-stomping dances by Praetorius and excerpts from Handel’s Water Music to give our evening a sense of fun and occasion. Muffat was, like JS Bach and Handel after him, a true European, composing in all current national styles. We meet him here wearing his Italian hat and the haunting and lively results are both memorable and original. Jan Dismas Zelenka deserves special mention as one of the most truly individual voices of his time. Born near Prague, he was an exceptional bass player, and again studying various national compositional styles both directly and indirectly, settled in Dresden as Kapellmeister and developed his own unique voice, earning him the genuine respect of his colleagues including JS Bach, and the friendship of other such titans as Telemann. His strong and inventive counterpoint, and the truly wacky twists of harmony, became signature characteristics of his style. We will meet him in two works, one which gets the prize for most original title I believe, for its remarkably original music – Hypocondrie – and the other a shocking soundscape of dread, the overture to the Penitenti.
It seemed churlish not to include something by JS Bach, so I have chosen an instrumental interlude from the Christmas Oratorio – a pastoral scene of transcendent beauty, and a favourite of our Artistic Director as it happens! (something to do with showcasing four oboes, I wonder?…) In terms of originality, I was very keen to explore one of the symphonies by Bach’s extraordinarily talented son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, declared by both Mozart and Beethoven as the father of their own not inconsiderable invention. In its 11 minutes we encounter such forward-looking music that we can understand them.
For the musicians, getting their hands dirty with the huge and varied instrumental and musical demands of this repertoire will be both challenging and I hope seminal for their thinking about music in general. For the audience it should be a great night out, and proof that Baroque music is so much more than nice background music to listen to while doing the ironing!
Words by Howard Penny, ANAM Head of Strings
Fri 18 May 7.30pm
PRAETORIUS Dances from Terpsichore
VEJVANOVSKÝ Sonata a 10
MUFFAT Sonata no. 2 in G minor from Armonico Tributo
ZELENKA Hypocondrie a 7 in A major
SCHMELZER Balletto no. 1 ‘Di Zingari’
HANDEL Concerto a due cori no.2 in F major
HANDEL Overture from Jephtha
ZELENKA Overture from I Penitenti al sepolcro del Redentore
JS BACH Sinfonia Part 2 from Christmas Oratorio
CPE BACH Symphony no.3 in F major
HANDEL Water Music selections 11 and 12
Howard Penny cello/director
Tickets Full $60 / Senior $47 / Concession $35
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