Guy Few with the MCO
— a Baroque Pageant
— a Baroque Pageant
Guy Few is not only an outrageously gifted musician, he’s also a consummate showman. The press have looked upon his performances with astonishment, proclaiming them “simply phenomenal” (Le Devoir, Montreal) and “sheer brilliance” (LA Times).
One probably shouldn’t expect Few to don a costume or play two instruments simultaneously at this concert (not unusual tricks for Few), but the program’s baroque selections add a dash of extravagance to the event. Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto is widely regarded as among the best orchestral compositions of the period. Presented originally as a gift to an aristocratic military officer, it’s also one of the period’s most delightfully pompous; a three-movement piece bejewelled with ornamental flourishes and perilously high trumpet lines.
Neruda’s E-flat horn concerto, arguably his most significant work, was written at the tail end of the baroque era, and is teeming with infectious, Mozartian melodies. Few will have a lot to dig into. The baroque portion of our evening is rounded off with music by Handel and Corelli.
David Raphael Scott
Scott is a celebrated Canadian composer, and well known to MCO audiences. The former artistic co-director of GroundSwell has written over forty pieces of classical instrumental and vocal music,which have been presented throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and the former Soviet Union. He lives and works in Winnipeg with his wife, two children, quasi-beagle, and two freshwater snails.
The concert begins at 7:30 pm on December 13th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets, at $35 for adults, $33 for seniors and $15 for students and those under-30 (incl. GST), will be available 28 July 2017, at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave) or MCO’s Ticketline (204-783-7377).
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
13 December 2017
Alexander Weimann, harpsichord and leader
Guy Few, trumpet
Johann Baptist Georg Neruda
Concerto in E-flat for corno da caccia, strings and b.c.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, in F major (BWV1047)
Concerto grosso in G minor,
Fatto per la Notte di Natale, Op.6 No.8 (Christmas Concerto)
David Raphael Scott
New composition, Manitoba Arts Council commission, World premiere performance
Georg Frideric Handel
Concerto Grosso in C minor (HWV 326)
Concert sponsor / Pollard Banknote
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, piano soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles such as Tragicomedia, and as frequent guest with Cantus Köln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as conductor of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver and Artistic Director of Seattle Baroque. He is also the musical force behind Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato.
Heard on some 100 CDs, the Munich-native made his North American recording debut with Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio, and won worldwide acclaim from both the public and critics for the release of Handel’s Gloria. Volume 1 of his recordings of the complete keyboard works by Alessandro Scarlatti was praised around the world, and the disc was nominated for an Opus prize as the best Canadian early-music recording. His recording of Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu with Les Voix Baroques won an Opus prize as did his recording of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin. Further recordings include Bach’s St. John Passion, Caldara’s Clodoveo, Handel’s Orlando and his album with Karina Gauvin, Prima Donna, which won the JUNO in 2013.
From 1990 to 1995, Weimann taught music theory, improvisation, and jazz at the Munich Musikhochschule and has been given master classes in harpsichord and historical performance practice at the Bremen Musikhochschule, Berkeley (University of California), Dartmouth College, McGill, and Mount Allison.
Alexander Weimann lives with his wife, three children and pets in Vancouver, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.
Guy Few’s instrumental versatility and fearless interpretations have been noted by the international press, “outrageous … simply phenomenal” (Le Devoir) and “sheer brilliance” (LA Times). He has performed with many Canadian and American orchestras as a trumpet, piano, corno, and vocal soloist.
Guy has premiered concerti by well-known composers including Melissa Hui, Glenn Buhr, Mathieu Lussier, Michael Occhipinti, and Jacques Hétu. Throughout 2017 and 2018, he will present multiple performances of a new trumpet concerto by John Estacio.
A prolific recording artist, Guy has released CDs on numerous labels including S.N.E., Arsis Classics, CBC SM5000, Naxos, Hänssler Classics and MSR Classics. Recording awards include a JUNO nomination, (CCP / Paetkau / MSR), a Grammy for Penderecki Credo (OBF principal trumpet / Rilling / Hänssler), Best Classical Orchestral Album from Just Plain Folks Music Awards (TCO / Kevin Mallon / MSR) and a 2017 JPF nomination in the Contemporary Classical category (CCP Vol 1 / MSR).
Guy has appeared on CBC-TV, CTV, BRAVO, TV5, and European television broadcasts and is heard regularly on CBC Radio and NPR. In addition to his active career as a soloist, Guy remains a committed and prolific chamber artist in a range of ensembles including Few Mara Duo, Bellows and Brass, Few and Fewer, and Project Aria. He has been a featured guest at acclaimed summer festivals including Festival of the Sound, Tanglewood, Takefu International Music Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Sweetwater, Elora Festival, and Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.
Dedicated to fostering the next generation of classical musicians, he is a sessional lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he coaches chamber music and teaches trumpet. Guy Few is a Yamaha artist.
David Raphael Scott
David Raphael Scott has had a varied and active career in the arts as a freelance composer, teacher, arts administrator, and producer. He has showcased his work with many professional ensembles and soloists in Canada, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Europe. David has also worked directly with young people on collaborative creative music projects, given master-classes and taught theory, history and composition at all levels—from grade school through graduate school. He worked for a number of years as a freelance producer for the CBC, taught at the universities of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Canadian Mennonite, and Brandon, and spent 12 years in public arts funding at the Manitoba Arts Council, most recently as Associate Director of Granting Programs (2008-16).
Selected performances and commissions include those by the symphony orchestras of Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, and Toronto; the Penderecki, Molinari, Cassatt, and St. Lawrence string quartets; the Brandon Chamber Players, the Winnipeg Youth Symphony, Arraymusic, Duo Concertante, Tapestry New Opera, and the Hammerhead Consort. David is currently writing his fourth string quartet, which will be premiered at the 2018 Agassiz Music Festival in Winnipeg.
David has been fortunate to receive support for his work through grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, CBC Radio Music, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and DuMaurier Arts. As a young composer, he earned prizes from BMI (New York), SOCAN (Canada), and Music Inter Alia (Winnipeg). He is a member of the Canadian League of Composers, an Associate of the Canadian Music Centre and was one of the Artistic Co-Directors of GroundSwell from 2001 to 2008. David has degrees from the Universities of Manitoba and Alberta and received his Doctorate from the University of British Columbia in 2000. He lives and works in Winnipeg.
JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a talent for combining idiosyncratic textures into large-scale works, often including influences such as non-Western folk music, Tibetan chant, and Brazilian rhythms. Recent works include Aqua, commissioned by the Chicago Sinfonietta and inspired by Chicago’s iconic Aqua Tower; Violin Concerto No. 2, commissioned and premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with Jonathan Crow, violin; and Biennale Snapshots, a 25-minute work for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, premiered in the VSO’s 2015/16 season-opening concerts.
Among her upcoming commissions are a new work for the Daedalus Quartet and clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, co-commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Chamber Music Northwest; Humanoid for cello and electronics, for a consortium of cellists in Canada and the U.S.; Baroque Melting for the San José Chamber Orchestra; and a new orchestral work commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
Born in Edmonton, Fung received her doctorate from the Juilliard School in New York. She was a faculty member at Juilliard from 2002 to 2010, and currently lives in California with her husband Charles Boudreau, their son Julian, and their Shiba Inu Mulan.
David Raphael Scott
The composer has provided the following note:
Ritornello is intended as a companion piece to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. The second Brandenburg is an example of the Baroque concerto grosso genre, which features the interplay between small and large groups of instruments. A distinctive feature of the second Brandenburg is the use of the high virtuosic trumpet, heard only in the first and third movements. As a marked contrast, the second movement omits both the trumpet and the orchestral accompaniment.
Because the instrumentation for Ritornello does not include trumpet, I turned to the second movement of Brandenburg No. 2 as my starting point. All of the pitch material in this new work is derived from the first six notes of the violin line from Bach’s second movement.
Many Baroque concertos make use of ritornello form. In this form, a repeated section of music, the ritornello (literally, ‘the little thing that returns’) alternates with freer episodes. I wanted to be true to my source and explore some aspects of Baroque figuration, gesture, technique and, to some extent, harmony and texture. This new work is therefore rooted in this earlier music but develops into a more modern aesthetic as the piece unfolds. The title, Ritornello, refers to the idea of a return: to the wonderful music of Bach as well as my own ‘return’ to composition after a five-year absence. It is in one movement with three contrasting sections and is approximately 10 minutes in duration.
Concerto for Corno da caccia in E-flat Major
Johann Baptist Georg Neruda
This Bohemian (Czech) musician first made a name for himself as a performer on the violin and cello. After spending several years performing in a theatre orchestra in Prague, he moved to Dresden, Germany in 1741 or 1742. He eventually became a violinist in the city’s Court Orchestra. Dresden remained the centre of his activities for the rest of his life. Two of his sons, who also studied violin with him, became members of that same orchestra.
Neruda also made his mark as a composer. He created nearly 100 works, some of which were advertised in the catalogues of major publishing houses during the eighteenth century, and many of which are lost. His catalogue of music includes more than 30 symphonies, a variety of concertos, (including 10 for violin), and numerous chamber pieces. His music offers a pleasing mixture of Baroque and Classical period elements, in which sturdy German craftsmanship joins hands with warm Italian lyricism.
This attractive concerto is Neruda’s best-known work. Guy Few will be performing it on the instrument for which Neruda intended it, the corno da caccia, a type of hunting horn that preceded the modern orchestral horn. His instrument was built by the Thein company of Bremen, Germany, and is generously on loan to him from the University of Oregon.
The vigorous and tuneful opening movement has a martial tone. Neruda calls upon the soloist to display increasing virtuosity as the movement unfolds. The composer follows it with a noble and stately second movement in which the soloist must produce a lyrical, smooth, almost aria-like sound. The finale is bright and cheerful, with the soloist dancing merrily along.
Concerto grosso in G Minor, Op. 6 No. 8, ‘Christmas’
Corelli’s reputation and influence extended through much of Europe. He was one of the leading violin soloists of the Baroque era, as well as a composer of music that is both appealing and historically significant. His sonatas for violin, for example, helped establish this instrument as the most important non-vocal element in music.
Although he didn’t invent the concerto grosso (grand concerto), one of the Baroque era’s most popular forms, he played a crucial role in the establishment of its popularity. It is founded on the interplay between two bodies of strings: a small concertino (usually two violins and a cello), and a larger group, the ripieno. Corelli’s Op. 6 (1714), his final published work, is a set of 12 concerti grossi. No. 8 has long been the best-known of the set. All of the movements except the last present the array of brief sections in contrasting moods and tempos that was typical of the concerto grosso. It is only the soothing, almost lullaby-like concluding pastorale that has specific associations with Christmas.
Concerto grosso in C Minor, Op. 6 No. 8
Georg Frideric Handel
Handel’s first set of concerti grossi—six pieces making up his Opus 3—appeared in 1734. He scored them for an orchestra of winds and strings. The 12-concerto Opus 6 collection, in contrast, is written for strings alone. He created it quite quickly, between 29 September and 30 October 1739, aided by heavy borrowings from previous compositions and fueled by a dire shortage of cash.
Baroque scholar Nicholas Anderson has written of them, “His Opus 6 concerti were old-fashioned for the late 1730s. In England, however, this was the taste of the time, and although Handel’s technique is often similar to Corelli’s, in few senses can they be regarded as backward-looking. Indeed, Handel’s terms of reference are impressively wide, embracing features of both the suite and of the concerto; but it is, above all, the level of inspiration, the Handelian stamp which is imprinted on every one of these concerti, that assures them of a place alongside Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, establishing the high-water mark of the Baroque concerto. Hand-in-hand with the wide range of Handel’s musical idioms is a rich variety of expressive language developed through his experience in the theatre, and often reflecting his own temperament — sometimes imperious, sometimes witty, often humorous and always diverting.”
Concerto No. 8 is rather dark in sound and character. It has six compact movements. The first and the fifth are examples of character dances, while the others are headed simply with tempo markings. The first movement is a stately court dance, the allemande. Such other major figures of the Baroque period as Bach, Couperin and Purcell composed examples of it. In the fifth movement, Handel offered an example of the lilting, moderately-paced Italian step known as the siciliana. Bach, Vivaldi, Tartini, Alessandro Scarlatti and other Baroque composers wrote examples of it, as did such later figures as Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Verdi, Stravinsky and Respighi.
Baroque Melting was commissioned by California’s San José Chamber Orchestra, who premiered it in October 2017 with Barbara Day Turner conducting. The composer has provided the following note:
Imagine music ‘melting,’ an aural experience equivalent to the melting clocks in Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, for example. This is the heart of Baroque Melting, in which I take familiar baroque musical ideas and motives, recognizable elements accentuated by the harpsichord, and contort them, bending pitches and phrases out of shape, and then twist them back again into focus. The apotheosis occurs at the end, when a quotation of a Bach chorale, War Gott Nicht mit uns diese Zeit, from his Cantata BWV 14 is warped, ushering the work to its quiet and contemplative ending.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach arrived in the German town of Anhalt-Cöthen in 1717, to take up the position of Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold. This enlightened young monarch not only enjoyed hearing music but was himself a gifted amateur performer on the violin, bass viol and harpsichord. He loved instrumental music more than any other kind, and Bach was only too happy to provide him with many outstanding examples, including his first major outpouring of concertos. The ink would hardly have dried on the manuscript paper before the ensemble of 17 players, which the prince had founded at his court just a few years earlier, would give the premiere.
In 1719, Prince Leopold sent Bach to Berlin, to bring back a harpsichord he had purchased there. During Bach’s visit, he made the acquaintance of Christian Ludwig (1677-1734), Margrave (or ruler) of Brandenburg, a town in Prussia. That gentleman asked Bach to send him some examples of his music.
After two years’ delay, during which Bach composed a good deal of new music, he finally replied to this request. He did so by assembling a set of six concertos for various instruments. The circumstances of their creation have yet to be established conclusively, but it’s likely that he had composed some of them for Prince Leopold’s ensemble, while others may date to before his arrival in Anhalt-Cöthen. After revising and polishing them, Bach sent them off to Brandenburg, a lavish dedication attached. The inscription—which demonstrates that lengthy, flowery thank-yous to wealthy patrons are nothing new!—has earned them the nickname Brandenburg Concertos. It reads:
To His Royal Highness
Marggraf de Brandenbourg &c. &c. &c.
As I had the pleasure a couple of years ago of being heard by Your Royal Highness, in accordance with your commands, and of observing that you took some delight in the small musical talent that Heaven has granted me, and as, when I took my leave of Your Royal Highness, you did the honour of requesting that I send you some of my compositions, I have therefore followed your most gracious commands and taken the liberty of discharging my humble obligation to Your Royal Highness with the present concertos which I have adapted to several instruments, begging you most humbly not to judge their imperfections by the standards of that refined and delicate taste in music that everyone knows you to possess, but rather to accept, with benign consideration, the profound respect and most humble devotion that I attempt to show by this means. For the rest, Monseigneur, I most humbly beg Your Royal Highness to be so kind as to continue your good grace towards me, and to be assured that I desire nothing more than to be employed on occasions more worthy of you and your service, being with unparalleled zeal,
Your Royal Highness’s
most humble and obedient servant,
Jean Sebastien Bach
Cöthen, 24 March 1721
The Margrave showed little interest in the concertos, alas, and they passed, probably unplayed, into a library in Berlin following his death. They were published for the first time in 1850, in an edition marking the centenary of Bach’s birth. It took the recording industry to make them popular, beginning in the 1930s with performances by huge modern symphony orchestras. More recent discs and concert performances have given people the chance to hear the Brandenburgs in something like the bright, transparent form that Bach envisioned for them.
Each one has a different set of featured instruments. The solo instruments in the second concerto are flute, oboe, trumpet and violin. Bach divides the solo music among them very democratically, thus creating a rich, varied palette of colours. Displaying a grave, reserved beauty (and omitting the solo trumpet), the central andante provides the perfect foil for the joyous bustle of the outer sections.