Baroque ‘n’ Roll
Aisslinn Nosky’s reputation as one of Canada’s foremost violinists certainly preceded her 2017 debut with the MCO. She was, after all, a member of the exceptional Tafelmusik Baroque Ensemble before focusing on her solo career, which has taken so many interesting directions.
However, we’re not sure audiences seeing her perform for the first time were quite prepared for her uniquely dramatic stage presence. The charismatic performer practically bourrée’d, chaconne’d, and danced her way through the tempestuous music of Haydn and other Baroque masters. Clearly, it’s not only her technical virtuosity that makes her “Toronto’s Eric Clapton of the violin,” (Toronto Star) but also her rock and roll approach to the Baroque.
Spellbound audiences at that concert now also know her as a crack orchestra leader, and she’s back in October to play-conduct more megahits of the Baroque era.
Among them is Handel’s Water Music suite, composed in 1717 to satisfy King George I’s request for a soundtrack to accompany his gallivants by royal barge down the Thames. Apparently George was so pleased with the effervescent piece that he decreed that the musicians, tailing him in another boat, play it on repeat while he drifted towards his destination in Chelsea. Unpopular though this German-born king may have been with his English subjects, we imagine the strains of Handel inspiring hundreds of London’s shopkeepers to leave their stores for the embankment to admire this most baroque scene.
With dazzling works by Vivaldi, Haydn, and composer-cum-troubadour Glenn Buhr also on the program, our October concert is guaranteed to be truly baroque ‘n’ roll!
Recognized as one of today’s top baroque violinists, Aisslinn Nosky is also immediately recognizable for her stylish red locks. A fan of Metallica, a player of the banjolele (a cross between the banjo and the ukulele), and a champion of contemporary music, Aisslinn reminds the world that the Baroque ain’t broke.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on October 10th 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), are available at McNally Robinson, Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave), and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
10 October 2018
Aisslinn Nosky, violin
George Frideric Handel
Concerto grosso in a minor, op. 6, no. 4 / HWV 322
- Larghetto affettuoso
- Largo, e piano
Three Pieces for Strings
- Omaggio à Monk
Violin Concerto in g major, H.VIIa:4
- Allegro moderato
George Frideric Handel
Water Music suite
- Ouverture, hwv 348 / 1
- Adagio e staccato, hwv 348 / 2
- Allegro, hwv 348 / 3
- Menuet I & II, hwv 350 / 19 & 350 / 20
- Allegro, hwv 348 / 5
- Air, hwv 348 / 6
- Bourrée, hwv 348 / 8
- Hornpipe, hwv 348 / 9
- Gigue I & II, hwv 350 / 21 & 350 / 22
- Allegro, hwv 349 / 11
- Sarabande, hwv 350 / 16
- Rigaudon I & II, hwv 350 / 17 & 350 / 18
- À la Hornpipe, hwv 349 / 12
- Menuet, hwv 349 / 13
Hailed as “a fearsomely powerful musician” by the Toronto Star, Canadian-born violinist Aisslinn Nosky is one of today’s most versatile and dynamic violinists. She is in demand internationally as a soloist and director, and was appointed Concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society in 2011. She has performed in solo and chamber music recitals across North America, Europe, and Asia. Recent engagements as soloist and director include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Charlotte Symphony, Holland Baroque, the Calgary Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. In 2016 Aisslinn was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony Orchestra.
As Co-Artistic Director of I FURIOSI Baroque Ensemble, Aisslinn has helped bring an enthusiastic new audience to Baroque music. For nearly two decades, I FURIOSI has presented its own flamboyant and inventive concert series in Toronto, and they have toured North America and Europe with appearances at Tage Alter Musik (Regensburg, Germany), Galway Early Music Festival, Lamèque International Baroque Festival, Mosel Musikfestival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and Montréal Baroque Festival.
As a founding member of the Eybler Quartet, Nosky explores repertoire from the early quartet literature of period instruments. The Eybler Quartet’s recording of Beethoven’s Op.18 string quartet was released in 2018 on the CORO label. Gramaphone Magazine mused “… they make no bones about treating Beethoven as a radical. … This set might delight you or it might infuriate you: either way, I suspect, Beethoven would have been more than happy.”
Aisslinn began playing violin at three and received her early training at the Nanaimo Conservatory with Heilwig von Konigslow. At eight, Aisslinn made her solo debut with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. When she was 15, Nosky began studying in Toronto with Lorand Fenyves at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School. Further studies included both solo and chamber music for several summers at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and chamber music at the Steans Music Institute of the Ravinia Festival as a member of the Metro String Quartet.
Glenn Buhr is a composer, pianist, guitarist, music curator and producer, songwriter and band leader. He became well known in Canada in the mid-80s when the Toronto and Montréal Symphony Orchestras first championed his work, and in the mid-90s as front man—with conductor Bramwell Tovey—of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival. He was Composer-in-Residence with the WSO and curator of the New Music Festival from 1990 to 1996.
Buhr has received commissions from many important performers and ensembles including the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the Penderecki String Quartet, the Detroit Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Verdi String Quartet, pianist Janina Fialkowska, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Children’s Chorus and the Esprit Orchestra. His music has been performed all over the world by such diverse ensembles as the London Sinfonia, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, pianist Louis Lortie, soprano Tracy Dahl and many others. His 3rd Symphony (a choral symphony) was premiered by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2008 with pop singer Sarah Slean as soloist.
Buhr performed as soloist at the premiere of his jazz-oriented Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Esprit Orchestra in 2006. The work was remounted by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2008, again with the composer at the piano. He has toured Canada twice as a jazz pianist/composer, and he released his 3rd jazz CD in March 2007 on the Marquis label. He works with novelist, playwright, and lyricist Margaret Sweatman as musical director of their group, The Broken Songs Band; that ensemble released its second CD in the fall of 2010. Sweatman and Buhr won a Genie Award for their song “When Wintertime” from the film Seven Times Lucky.
In 2003, his full length ballet Beauty and the Beast was premiered by the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England. The work has since toured the UK three times for a total of more than 125 performances. The ballet has also toured to Hong Kong (2005), Japan (2008) and to mainland China (2009). He has also composed a number of scores for film and theatre, and has collaborated on several other dance projects. Glenn Buhr’s work and his performances are featured regularly on the CBC. His book Our Native Song, a collection of essays on music, was published in 2013.
Dr. Buhr is Professor of Music Composition and Improvisation in the Contemporary Music Program at Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1998 he was awarded the University Research Professor Fellowship; it was the first time the award was given to a creative artist. He is also the founding Artistic Director of the Music in the Ruins Festival at the St. Norbert Arts Centre in Manitoba and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony’s New Orchestra Series. He was the Artistic Director of NUMUS Concerts in Kitchener-Waterloo from 2009 to 2013.
Concerto grosso in A Minor, Op. 6 No. 4/HWV 322
George Frideric Handel
The concerto grosso (grand concerto) became one of the most popular musical forms of the Baroque era. In contrast to the solo concerto, it is founded on the interplay between two groups of performers: the smaller concertino (most often, as here, two violins and a cello), and the ripieno, a larger group consisting of strings and continuo. The brilliant Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) played a major role in its development.
Handel’s first set of concerti grossi, the six pieces making up his Opus 3, was published in 1734. He scored them for string orchestra and winds. The twelve-concerto Opus 6 collection, in contrast, was written for strings alone. He created it quite quickly, between September 29th and October 30th, 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 concertos 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 concertos, that assures them of a place alongside Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, 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. 4 is one of the briefest and least elaborate in the set: just two pairs of movements alternating between slow and fast tempos. The opening Larghetto affettuoso has all the pathos of a lament from a Handel opera, and a brisk, fugal Allegro follows. The gracefully flowing second slow movement is much warmer in tone than the first. Handel concludes the concerto with a rather restrained Allegro containing numerous shifts in dynamics.
Three Pieces for Strings
The composer has provided the following note:
Three Pieces for Strings was commissioned by the CBC for a performance by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in February 1992.
The first piece, Cantus, is in the style of a medieval chant with organum. This is very gentle and expressive music in which the cellos and basses play a long drone pitch throughout that is intended to allude to the drone accompaniment in India’s classical music.
The second, Omaggio à Monk, is an homage to the great jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk. The style is fast and wild. It opens with the basses and cellos playing in a walking jazz bass style with free pitch material. The upper strings enter with quick dissonant phrases with a sound drawn from the melodic style in some of the experimental jazz that appeared in the 1950s and `60s. This is eventually inverted, with the walking bass in the upper strings and improvisational melody in the cellos and basses. The piece closes with a brief statement of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.”
The final movement, Nocturne, is a set of variations on a short instrumental section of my work Lure of the Fallen Seraphim. The work begins with the first variation which is an unfolding of the material in one voice first by the solo violin, then gradually by all of the other violins, then the violas and eventually full string orchestra. The final variation returns to the solo violin texture before a statement of the theme which closes the work.
Violin Concerto No. 4 in G Major, H.VIIa:4
In the latter portion of Haydn’s career, he played the role of musical innovator, contributing a tremendous amount to the history and development of the art. During his early days, when he wrote this concerto, he was content for the most part to carry on, with great skill, the traditions he had inherited from earlier composers.
He is credited with four violin concertos, one of which (referred to as ‘No. 2’) is known solely through an entry he made in the catalogue he kept of his compositions; the score itself is lost. The G major concerto does not appear in the catalogue, raising doubts about its authenticity, but surviving scores from as early as 1769 point to it being a genuine Haydn creation. Technical demands upon the soloist are lower than those found in the other concertos, suggesting that it may be the earliest of them.
All the concertos appear to date from the 1760s, shortly after he had taken up the position of musical director for an extremely wealthy, imperial Hungarian family, the Esterházys. He may have intended them for violinist Luigi Tomasini, Concertmaster of the Esterházy orchestra. Haydn held this Italian-born artist in high regard, praising his playing of Haydn’s string quartets in particular.
Haydn scored this Concerto in G Major for solo violin and string orchestra. When someone called it “uniquely beautiful,” he remarked, “I was no wizard on any instrument, but I knew the potentialities and effects of all. I was not a bad pianist and singer and was also able to play a violin concerto.”
The first movement unfolds with unhurried grace, bathed in sunshine save for brief passages mid-way through. Following a gentle orchestral introduction, the soloist enters with the sweet, aria-like principal theme of the slow second movement. A fleet, dashing finale concludes the concerto.
Water Music Suite
George Frideric Handel
The history of this utterly delightful music—the result of one of those heavenly occasions when a first-rate artist brings all his skills to bear strictly upon providing entertainment—is clouded with uncertainty and legend. Its precise origin may never be known, but such matters pale in comparison with the sheer joy that hearing it brings.
Here is one familiar version. Handel secured the prestigious post of Music Director to the German court of Georg, Elector of Hanover, in 1710. Winning huge successes in England around the same time, however, led him to turn his back on his obligations and relocate to London instead. The death of England’s Queen Anne in 1714 threw a wrench into his not-altogether-admirable plans. Through a tangled web of trans‑channel relationships, her successor proved to be none other than the employer Handel had abandoned in Germany. Handel came to fear that Elector Georg—now King George I—might justifiably hold a grudge against his wandering, unreliable maestro. He took care to avoid contact with the King for as long as possible.
According to John Mainwaring, Handel’s first biographer, an international pair of the King’s courtiers, Englishman Lord Burlington and Baron Kilmansegge of Germany (who had been Handel’s protector in Hanover), devised a scheme to reconcile composer and monarch. They persuaded the King to stage an elaborate boating party on the River Thames, to take place on the evening of 22 August 1715.
“Handel was apprised of the design, and advised to prepare some music for the occasion,” Mainwaring wrote. “It was performed and conducted by himself, unknown to His Majesty, whose pleasure on hearing it was equal to his surprise. He was impatient to know whose it was. The Baron then produced the delinquent, and asked leave to present him to His Majesty as one who was too conscious of his fault to attempt an excuse for it. This intercession was accepted without difficulty. Handel was restored to favour.”
The Water Music collection is quite varied in character, from a rather formal and substantial overture to numerous sprightly dances and sweet, relaxed airs. Handel everywhere demonstrates a keen ear for instrumental colour. Together, these qualities keep the music fresh, inventive and diverting from first bar to last.
Handel’s manuscript score has not survived. The music as it is known today was drawn from printed editions dating from the 1720s through the 1740s. In some early versions, the full score is divided into three suites. Each is dominated by the sounds of particular instruments: No. 1 in F Major by horns; No. 2 in D Major by trumpets; and No. 3 in G Major by flutes. At this concert you will enjoy a generous selection from all three, as chosen by Aisslinn Nosky.