and the Age of Reason
and the Age of Reason
Goethe once described chamber music, an invention of the Age of Reason, as “rational people conversing.” And arguably no chamber music is as orderly and dialectical as the great works of the baroque and classical eras.
At our October concert, the MCO performs three masterworks from these periods with the help of two gifted soloists: violinist Aisslinn Nosky (“Toronto’s Eric Clapton of the violin,” Toronto Star) and violist Max Mandel, who is one of most acclaimed chamber musicians of the day. What a musical exchange it will be!
The concert begins with a piece by the father of modern chamber music, Joseph Haydn. Composed at the tail end of the Enlightenment, his highly emotive 44th symphony is a masterpiece of classical counterpoint, an elaborate conversation between instruments with hints of the Romanticism that would flourish in the following decades.
Next up is Telemann’s popular Viola Concerto in G Major, a synthesis of baroque and galant style. Then onto Oesterle’s Snow White; a musical ode to mathematician Alan Turing, commissioned by Tafelmusik. Musical Toronto describes the remarkable work as “a showpiece for Nosky, written so that she was constantly playing.”
Finally, our two rational interlocutors will take the stage to perform a duet together: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra. The iconic work has been described as a constant dialogue between viola and violin, with each instrument given the same importance throughout.
It is, certainly, among Mozart’s most beautiful in an oeuvre that has become synonymous with musical beauty itself.
Aisslin and Max
Recognized as one of today’s foremost 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 baroque ain’t broke. Max Mandel, who like Aisslinn has a long history with Tafelmusik, is principal violist of the UK’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He comments: “One of the challenges of our art is that it happens over a given period of time and then disappears. That’s one of the reasons it’s so magical.”
The concert begins at 7:30 pm on October 17th 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
17 October 2017
Aisslin Nosky, violin
Max Mandel, viola
Symphony No. 44 in E minor, ‘Trauer-Symphonie’ (Hob. I/44)
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Viola Concerto (TWV 51:G9)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major (K. 364/320d)
This concert made possible in part thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.
Concert sponsor / Angela B. Ross
Guest artist sponsor / The De Fehr Foundation
Music Director sponsor / The Prolific Group
Violist Max Mandel enjoys a varied and acclaimed career as a chamber musician, soloist, orchestral musician and speaker. He is the Co-Principal Viola of The Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment. He is also a member of the trailblazing ensembles The FLUX quartet and The Knights.
He has appeared as guest Principal with, among others, The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and the Handel and Haydn Society. Other group affiliations include The Smithsonian Chamber Players, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and The Silk Road Ensemble.His most recent record with FLUX Quartet features the work of Morton Feldman on Mode Records.
Mr. Mandel’s newest venture is his lecture series Chamber Talk. Born and raised in Toronto, he divides his time between New York and London.
Hailed as “a fearsomely powerful musician” by the Toronto Star, Canadian-born violinist Aisslinn Nosky is one of the most versatile and dynamic violinists today. 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 collaborations include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Utah Symphony, Holland Baroque, the Calgary Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. In 2016 Aisslinn was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony.
As Co-Artistic Director of I FURIOSI Baroque Ensemble, Aisslinn has helped bring an enthusiastic new audience to Baroque music. Since 2001, I FURIOSI has presented its own flamboyant and inventive concert series in Toronto, and they have toured North America and Europe with engagements at Tage Alter Musik (Regensburg, Germany), the Galway Early Music Festival, the Lamèque International Baroque Festival, the Mosel Musikfestival, the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and the Montréal Baroque Festival.
As a founding member of the Eybler quartet, Nosky explores repertoire from early quartet literature on period instruments. The Eybler Quartet’s recording of Haydn’s Opus 33 string quartets was released in 2012 on the Analekta label. The Globe and Mail mused: “Many a great string quartet annihilates Haydn with incorrect tempos, intense legato, and a general misunderstanding of classical syntax. Here we have them as the composer might have heard them himself. In fact, maybe even better.”
Ms. Nosky’s latest recording, of Haydn’s Violin Concerto in A Major with the Handel and Haydn Society, was released in 2017 on the CORO label.
Symphony No. 44, in E Minor, ‘Trauer-Symphonie’ (Tragic Symphony)
When Haydn began composing symphonies in the late 1750s, little distinction existed between opera overtures and symphonies written for performance at concerts. One of his primary accomplishments was to chart a separate, independent course for the symphony. In his more than 100 examples, he raised it to the first summit of its artistic value.
He composed his initial symphonies during the three-year period he spent with his first employer, the Bohemian nobleman Count Karl Joseph Franz von Morzin. In 1761, after Morzin disbanded his orchestra due to financial difficulties, Haydn took up the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the even wealthier and more influential Esterházys, a dynastic family of Hungarian nobles. His numerous responsibilities included composing operas, symphonies, chamber and vocal music, and maintaining the court orchestra and library.
Between 1768 and 1772, he composed a number of urgent, dramatic works in minor keys, including Symphony No. 44. This is often referred to as his Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period, mirroring an emotionally similar and slightly later movement in German-language literature. This symphony’s subtitle or nickname is said to have originated with Haydn himself. He requested that the third movement be performed at his funeral.
“Full of passionate fire in the outer movements and a gaunt contrapuntal severity in the strictly canonic minuet (offset by a radiant trio with a shining horn solo), this is the Sturm und Drang symphony at its most characteristic,” wrote the noted Classical-period scholar, H.C. Robbins Landon. “Haydn’s language has darkened and a new mood of drama and rhetoric prevails.” Another notable element is the placing of the minuet before the slow movement. Haydn employed this practice frequently in his string quartets, but on only six occasions in a symphony.
Viola Concerto in G Major
Georg Philipp Telemann
Even in an era known for its composers’ productivity, Telemann was exceptional. A rough estimate of his output numbers several thousand pieces. Estimating is all that can be done so far; the publishing firm of Barenreiter began cataloguing his music in 1950, and its editors have still not completed the project.
Such efforts would be meaningless if Telemann’s music did not deserve them, but clearly it does. The skill, imagination, and vitality that his finest works display are qualities too precious to ignore. During his lifetime, his music earned him the reputation as the finest German composer of the day, superior even to J.S. Bach, and his popularity rivaled that of Handel.
Telemann stated that he was no great lover of concertos, but his many examples of the form belie that view. His Viola Concerto is among the earliest to be composed for this instrument, created at a time when the viola was beginning to emerge from its place within the string ensemble to take on an individual identity. The concerto has yet to be dated precisely but he probably composed it before 1720. Rather than following the three-movement chamber sonata form favoured by Vivaldi, his contemporary, Telemann cast the concerto in the four-movement layout of the Baroque church sonata, with movements in alternating slow and quick tempos.
Snow White 2014 | 2017
The composer has provided the following note:
Many of my works are about my fascination with the lives of scientists. In these compositions I don’t attempt to give a precise outline or demonstration of any specific scientific theorem. They are simply the result of having been inspired by the force of concentration and creativity of scientists, their method of work and the frequency with which they meet society’s opposition. Snow White continues a series of works about the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954).
Alan Turing took a second-hand violin and a sextant to Princeton University: the violin, to be like Einstein, the sextant to chart his course while aboard the ship that carried him there. He never learned to play the violin well, (his brother referred to his playing as “excruciating”) but he loved to play and played for those he loved. He played his favourite melody Molly Malone for his lover and later, for the officers who arrested him. He played as a declaration of faith in civilization and the need to strive towards greatness of both heart and mind.
I cannot fathom this curious, chatty, sporty, caring, playful, brilliant, man choosing to end his life with a bite from a poisoned apple. Yet he frequently chanted the morbid couplet of Snow White’s evil queen:
Dip the apple in the brew
Let the sleeping Death seep through
—Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney Productions, 1937
The animated film Snow White shocked the graphically naive audiences of the 1930s. A queen, alchemy, numeracy, friendships forged under duress, an apple, injustice, and transformation—this fairytale struck at the hearts of those heading into their own great battle between good and evil. For those who chose knowledge above all else, as Turing did, the apple held a special ambiguity.
Snow White was commissioned in 2014 by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The 2017 version was written for Holland Baroque. Both versions have been premiered by violinist Aisslinn Nosky.
Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat Major, K. 364
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart felt unappreciated in his native city, Salzburg, so in 1777 he set out in search of a position worthy of his talents. The main stops in his two-year odyssey were Paris and Mannheim. He didn’t find what he was looking for in either city. He returned to Salzburg an unhappy man, but one enormously stimulated by the music he had heard. Mannheim, with its acclaimed court orchestra and circle of innovative composers, proved to be a major source of inspiration.
A type of piece that was popular in Mannheim and Paris alike was the symphonie concertante. It combined featured roles for several solo instruments, with the weight and richness of thought of a symphony. Both during and after Mozart’s trip, he composed several works in this vein. They include this magnificent piece for violin and viola, which probably dates from the summer or early autumn of 1779.
Knowing his usual practice, it is likely that Mozart composed it with specific solo performers in mind. Given his expertise on both featured instruments, he may have been thinking of himself! No record remains of either the date of the premiere or the identities of the musicians who took part in it. It was only published ten years after his death, and was hardly played at all during the following century.
The spacious first movement bears a confident, almost heroic nature, and is the most ingeniously conceived of the three. The dignified pathos of the slow movement shifts the mood dramatically. The recent death of Mozart’s mother, in Paris, may have influenced its tone. The viola really comes into its own here, Mozart using its darker tone to enhance the music’s melancholy spirit. These emotional clouds are blown quickly away by the finale, as impish a rustic romp as Mozart ever created.