Korkyra baroque festival

2021 | The Atrium of the City Hall, Korčula – WATERMUSIC


Time: September 03, 2021 21:00
Location: Trg Antuna i Stjepana Radića, Ulica Korčulanskog statuta 1214, Korčula
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Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767)
Concerto for 3 Trumpets, Timpani, 2 Oboes, Strings and Continuo in D major, TWV 54:D3
Intrada – Grave

George Friedrich Händel (1685 – 1759)
Water Music, HWV 348-350 (a selection)
[Allegro] – Andante – [Allegro] da capo
[Allegro] – Adagio
Alla Hornpipe
[Rigaudon I & II]

The second part of the 1710s was particularly fruitful for the three great German composers of then established baroque – Bach, Handel and Telemmann. This is clearly reflected in the works that will be performed tonight, which were all composed within few years – Telemann’s in 1716, Handel’s in 1717, and Bach’s in 1718 and 1719.
In early April 1716, the premiere of Telemann’s Brockes Passion (the same text was put to music by Handel three years later) was received with exuberance, confirming Telemann’s dominance in the music life of Frankfurt. The premiere was also attended by Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, from whose favor the composer had multiple benefits, including a month after the premiere of Brockes Passion. Namely, on April 13, a son and heir Leopol Johann was born to the Emperor Charles VI. News travelled fast to Frankfurt where a spectacular celebration was organized on May 17, for which Telemann quickly composed three works – two cantatas and a serenade. The latter, Deutschland grünt und blüht im Frieden, is a typical example of bombastic music composed for special occasions during baroque period which fell into oblivion soon after its premiere. (A similar work is Bach’s birthday cantata Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erchallet Trompeten!, which escaped oblivion only because it was “recycled” for the Christmas Oratorio.) The pragmatic Telemann was aware that there were not enough quality musicians in Frankfurt to play the demanding instrumental parts, so he “borrowed” musicians from Darmstadt for the occasion.
The Darmstadt Court Archives hold a transcript of the entire cantata, as well as of the Concerto for 3 Trumpets, Timpani, 2 Oboes, Strings and Continuo from tonight’s program, which is nothing else but the introductory symphony of the cantata. The spectacular nature of the occasion is first noticed in the ensemble, but also in the character of the introductory Intrada. Telemann, however, was intelligent enough to know that the luxurious sound of the full ensemble should be dosed carefully – the trumpets and timpani dominate only the first and final movements; in the skillfully (although, somewhat too “formally”) formed fugue of the second movement they make only few appearances, while they are completely absent in the inspired Largo and finally allow the oboes to come to the foreground.
It turned out, however, that the celebration in Frankfurt was premature. The crown prince Leopold Johann died in November of the same year; Charles VI was left without a male heir, and his eldest daughter, Maria Theresa, despite the provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction, ascended the Habsburg throne only after winning the War of the Austrian Succession. This, however, did not secure her the German crown, which went to her husband, Francis of Lorraine.
In the eighteenth century, the child mortality rate was very high, which, unfortunately, was also very well known to Johann Sebastian Bach. In the final period of composing the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (1719) he had already lost three children from his first marriage with Maria Barbara Bach. Despite this, there was no lack of joy in his home – the Köthen period was one of the happiest times of his life, both professionally and privately. The four surviving children followed the musical steps of his father and their later stepmother Anna Magdalena: Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel (Telemann’s godson) were composers and virtuosos on keyboard instruments, Catharina Dorothea was a soprano singer, and Johann Gottfried Bernhard an organ player.
In Köthen, Bach had a relatively small orchestra on his disposal, but all the members were excellent musicians. One of them was Johann Ludwig Schreiber, the best candidate for the first interpreter of the extremely demanding trumpet part of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. However, we still cannot say definitively whether the part was originally intended for the instrument. The assumption is that the concerto was actually an adaptation of a lost Quintet for Horn, Recorder, Oboe, Violin, and Continuo (BWV 1047R); a later transcript by Friedrich Penzel in Leipzig states that the part was intended for a trumpet or horn. The arguments in favor of the horn are plentiful – it ensures a better balance within the concertino group, and the main F major key is definitely more typical for the horn than for the trumpet. The high trumpet in F does not appear anywhere else within Bach’s (preserved) oeuvre, although it should be noted that Bach was not a stranger to one-time or infrequent excursions into “exotic” instruments.
Bach’s treatment of the instrument in no way helps resolve this mystery: namely, just like Vivaldi (and unlike Telemann or Handel), Bach was less interested in idiomatic composition adapted to the specific characteristics of individual instruments, and more fascinated with the kaleidoscopic changes of their sound color within the concerto structure. This was definitely the basic idea of the first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 – Ripieno string parts (a later addition to the presumed Quintet) have a secondary role, similar to the wind parts in the Leipzig adaptation of the first movement of Concerto No. 3. This “kaleidoscopic” concept continues in the slow movement in which not only the ripieno strings were left out, but also the trumpet (or horn). The final movement brings Bach’s favorite synthesis of the fugue and concerto forms, which we also find in the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. The accompanying strings once again confirm that the parts were added later – they join the soloists only in measure 47 and then have no pretentions to become anything else but mere accompaniment.
While Charles VI, the King of Austria and the Emperor of Germany, lost his first-born son after only seven months, George I, the King of England and the Elector of Hanover had major problems with his adult heir who was in a hurry to sit on his throne. The dispute between the king and the Prince of Wales culminated in 1717 when the heir to the throne was banished from the royal palace. Even before that, the king was aware that he had no friends among the high society circles in London – the future king George II turned the aristocrats to his favor with a series of luxurious parties, so the prodigal son’s father was left with no other option than to do the same. The king’s travel down the Thames on July 17, 1717 hit the bullseye – his barge was followed by another barge holding about fifty musicians for whom George Friedrich Handel composed, as the press called it, “brand new music”. As was usually the case with Handel, the music, of course, was not really “brand new” – the first version of the Suite in F was most probably composed two years earlier for a similar (although less spectacular) royal travel down the Thames, while one of the movements was taken over from an even earlier, Roman oratorio called The Resurrection.
Nevertheless, Water Music was a hit from day one, so the king insisted it would be performed in its entirety tree times: twice while sailing upstream, and once while sailing downstream. Some of the movements started appearing soon in various adapted forms; still, the first printed edition, called The Famous Water Music, did not appear until 1734, and then it was a significantly shorter adaptation for a smaller ensemble (two horns, two oboes, and strings). Tonight’s performance follows the selection (but not the order) of movements from that edition, with the addition of the Minuet from the Suite in F major. The entire composition was published in 1743, this time adapted for the harpsichord, while the orchestral score in its entirety was not published until 1788, almost thirty years after the composer’s death.
Since Handel’s autograph has not been preserved, the exact order of the movements has not nor will ever be established. On the one hand, if we respect the standard form of the suites by key, the Water Music consists of three separate suites (in F major, in D major, and in G major). The sources contemporary to Handel, however, point to the conclusion that the movements of those three suites were combined differently, depending on the occasion. Today’s practice is a compromise of the two approaches – the Suite in F major is performed separately, while the Suites in D major and G major are combined. Water Music thus “pours out” in a sort of an open form, just like the Drottningholm Music, which was composed by Handel’s (alleged) student from Sweden Johan Helmich Roman, using the Water Music as an inspiration. Water Music eventually did not help make peace between father and son (nor was it intended to), but Handel did not stay indebted to the son. Ten years later, he composed the music used at his coronation. The spectacular show in 1749 tried to outdo his father’s Thames travel with great fireworks which, unfortunately failed, but was accompanied with another hit composition from Handel’s music book – The Royal Fireworks Music that again featured timpani and trumpets in all their glory.

Trpimir Matasović

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