The “Fringe” festival has been going on for a while and it’s been nice that there’s even more music in the city. Although the annoying part is the shortage of parking space, I love festivals: the international food, the street plays, the people rush and the happy spirits, . This reminds me the Fiddler’s fair I went a month ago. Music music!
Besides my ASE programme at the UofR, during a year and one month study at Eastman Community Music School (ECMS), the music has never stopped. From classical to jazz, from baroque to folk, every style has its own charms. This year I got into more theory, composition and history classes, still lots to be learnt.
Just next door to ECMS, there’s a JAVA’s cafe. I’d recommend it to anyone who comes to Rochester, great chatting and meeting place.
To finish it up, here’s a concert report for my history class, lots of fun:
From playing in the Baroque ensemble at ECMS, I started to know more about the Baroque style of playing: no/less vibrato, inégale, ornaments, etc. Although our instructors have been playing in lots of concerts, I have not yet been able to attend and I only wish I had time. But today, a baroque concert on Sunday, in the afternoon with a proper autumn temperature and without any other schedules, I made it!
The concert name is Barbara’s Venice, one of the Pegasus early music series. It was nice to know this organisation who has been organising early time music for 12 years. The composer under the spotlight is Barbara Strozzi, also called Barbara Valle, who was an Italian singer and composer. Her Baroque compositions were published in her lifetime under her own name, and she was the most prolific composer in mid-17th century Venice. The concert is on the theme of showcasing her unique passionate voice along with music of her mate contemporaries. There are sacred, secular, vocal and instrumental music by Strozzi, her teacher Cavalli, Vastello, Marine, and others.
Her father, Giulia Strozzi, is a poet and librettist. He recognised Barbara as his adopted daughter. However, she was most likely to be the illegitimate daughter of Strozzi and Isabella Garzoni, his long-time servant and heir . He encouraged Barbara’s music talent and helped her exhibiting her vocal talent to a wider audience by creating an academy in which her performances could be validated and displayed. He also arranged her to study with composer Francesco Cavalli (the most influential composer in the rising genre of public opera in mid-17th century Venice ) since she was also compositionally gifted. His texts appears in her early pieces many times; later texts were written by her father’s colleagues; Barbara may have written her own texts in many other pieces.
She led a quiet life: 6 August1619 – 11 November 1677. She was the mother of four children, three out of whom were fathered by Giovanni Paolo Vidman. Vidman was a patron of the arts and supported early opera. Vidman did not leave anything to her or her children in his will, so Strozzi supported herself by her investments and compositions. She died without leaving a will and her son Giulia Pietro claimed her inheritance.
Her composition contains lots of secular vocal music with the exception of one volume of sacred songs. She was also known for her poetic ability and her lyrics were often well-articulated. Out of her printed works, >75% were written for soprano. Her composition are of the seconda practical tradition, which literally means “second practice” and is the counterpart to prima practica. The word seconda practica was coined by Claudio Monterverdi and encourages more freedom from the rigorous limitations of dissonances and ounterpoint characteristics of the prima practica. Her music evokes the spirit of her teacher Cavalli, heir of Monterverdi, with a more lyrical style and depend more on sheer vocal sound.
Back to the concert, the location is the downtown united presbyterian church in Rochester. It’s a rather beautiful red brick architecture. The pre-concert talk starts at 3:15pm, and sorry we were late for about 5 minutes. Some information in the pre-concert talk but didn’t show up in the internet includes: besides singing, she also played instruments, but she didn’t write any instrumental music. An interesting instrument was introduced: lira da gamba. It has a tuning of the circle of fifth and the bridge is very flat, so in the continuo part the chord can be played easier. The keys used in the music was asked by the audience. The interpreter said the keys are not too far off in general, but there are dissonance like F sharp major (also because the tuning is different so the diss), or Eb – Gb change. And it was said that a great new editions, the Richard Kolb for Cor Donato Editions would be used. One question was left to be contemplated on during the concert: whether we can heard that the music was written by a woman.
We were then given the programme, the lyrics of the songs, the information on the series of convert. One of the performers, Boel Gidholm is one of the violin instructor in the Baroque ensemble. Other performers include Laura Hermes on soprano, Luthien Brackett on Alto; Andrew Fuchs on tenor, Andrew Padgett on bass; Mary Riccardo on Violin; David Morris on gamba/lirone; Dan Swenberg and Deborah Fox on theorbos.
The programme include her famous and soulful lament Lagrime Mie, a sacred cantat for alto called In medio maris and dedicated to St. Peter, the duet for soprano and bass Morso e bacio dati in un tempo (Bite and kiss at the same time), and several vocal quartets including L’Usignuolo (the Nightingale). The instrumental pieces are by her contemporaries in Venice, music she most certainly have known, which include a Canzon by Cavalli (her teacher), Sonata 12 from book 2 of Dario Castello, a musician at St. Mark’s, pieces by Cazzati and Legrenzi, entitled La Strozza and La Strozzi, which are possibly in homage to Barbara herself.
I sit on the second floor balcony on right hand side to get a better view on the violin and singers section. It was a shame that I couldn’t see lyre da gamba from this angle and the lutes weren’t clear. The church was almost full on the first floor, more than half full on the second: a very good turn out rate. People dressed more or less formally.
The first half of the concert consists of Silentio nocivo (4 voices), La Strozza (instrumental by Cazzati) and Il Ritorno (voice), Sonata 12, libro2 (instrumental, by Castello), Lamento: Lagirme mie (voice), Sonata duodecima a due (not played), la crudele che non sente (voice), balletto e corrente quarta (instrumental), con le belle non ci voul fretta (voice). In the Strozzi songs, there was a high contrast between the happy and the sad emotion. Certain motives evoke a strong sense of emotion in me. Also there were two kinds of sadness in Lamento and la crudele: the first one was very chromatic, the second was more diatonic but with dissonance.
The intermission was about 15 mins after which we resumed to the second section. The pieces are La Strozzi (instrumental) and L’Usignuolo (voice), Cantona (instrumental) and In mediomaris (voice), Sonata sopra Fuggi dolente (instrumental) and Tradimento (voice) and Morso e bacio dati un tempo (voice), and Vecchio amante che rende la piazza (voice). Now, one sentence from the pre-concert talk was definitely hitting me: I’m getting lots of whining about love! It was quite an experience just imagining people has been singing so differently about the same topic through such a long time in history! In the Morso e bacio dati un tempo piece, there was acting between the soprano and the bass which was very amusing. There was one encore piece at the end. I believe they sung the first piece, and amazingly, it was a very different experience from the first time I listened to it at the beginning of the concert. For some reason, I could hear the bass clearer and the whole group more harmoniously.
After the concert, there was a reception and I talked to the violinists, the alto singer and an audience who graduated from U of R. It was very interesting that from Boel and Luthien I learnt that the alto solo piece had a similar section with Cavalli’s piece. It’s not clear who cited whom. But it was an musically interesting point that I’m afraid I missed in the first time listening to it. I’m glad that I learnt this in the reception! I also learnt that the performers actually came from different cities and rehearsed for 3 days for the show and had 3 concerts in Syracuse, Ithaca and Rochester. The professional speed is quite amazing to me!
To sum up, the music at the concert was great, and I learnt a lot more about Baroque, especially Barbara Strozzi’s music. I would very much like to go to one of Pegasus’s concerts again if the time allows.