A Baroque Double Bill
One of the special pleasures of performing Baroque music is that its ‘contrapuntal’ nature—a fancy term for a dialogue between musical voices—often yields multiple soloists. Please note: tickets purchased on this page are for the 1-hour matinee (evening concert here).
And so for the second occasion in a few years, the great Canadian baroque n’ roller Aisslinn Nosky is featured at an MCO concert on a double-bill. This time her interlocutor is the remarkable American cellist Guy Fishman. A musician whose playing is described as “electrifying” by the New York Times and as “beautiful” by the Boston Herald, Fishman is formerly principal cellist of the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Now he is principal cellist of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston and graces audiences across North America with his unique gifts as a soloist.
Formerly a member of Tafelmusik, Aisslinn Nosky is now the Concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society and focuses on her solo career, which has taken so many interesting directions. At her last two MCO concerts, 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 MCO audiences also know her as a crack orchestra leader, and at this concert she reprises her role as player-conductor.
Goethe once described chamber music, an invention of the Age of Reason, as “rational people conversing.” Like black coffee, this conversation may be so stimulating you have trouble sleeping afterwards.
It’s considered a major oversight of the Western canon that for some 200 years JS Bach’s music lay in obscurity while his son Carl Philipp Emanuel enjoyed great fame. After all, it was not JS but CPE to whom Mozart was referring when he called Bach “the father of us all.” But it seems equally unfair that Bach’s renewed stature should come at the expense of CPE (not to be confused with PDQ, as we suspect he often is). In any case, the MCO is only too glad to perform from the anointed son’s great oeuvre at this concert.
The 1-hour matinee begins at 1.00pm on May 13th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. (Click here for evening concert details.) Tickets, at $36 for adults, $34 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
13 May 2020
Aisslinn Nosky, violin
Guy Fishman, cello
One-hour matinee includes excerpts from the following:
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Cello Concerto in A Major (H 439)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Major (K 211)
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, director, and conductor and was appointed Concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston in 2011. Recent collaborations include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Holland Baroque, the Calgary Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. From 2016-19 Aisslinn served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony.
As a member 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 Montreal 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 Beethoven’s Op. 18 string quartets, Volume II, was released to critical acclaim in 2019 on the CORO label.
Ms. Nosky has recorded the complete Haydn violin concertos with the Handel and Haydn Society for the CORO label and her most recent recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violist Max Mandel was released on the same label in January 2019.
Guy Fishman is principal cellist of Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, with which he made his Symphony Hall solo debut in 2005. He has appeared in recital with Dawn Upshaw, Mark Peskanov, Eliot Fisk, Richard Eggar, Lara St. John, Gil Kalish, Kim Kashkashian, and Natalie Merchant. His playing has been praised as “plangent” by the Boston Globe, “electrifying” by the New York Times, and “beautiful … noble” by the Boston Herald, and “dazzling” by the Portland Press Herald. The Boston Musical Intelligencer related a Fishman performance of Haydn’s C-major concert as having “… heard greater depth in this work than I have in quite some time,” and called a recent appearance of his “spectacular.”
Mr. Fishman has recorded for the CORO, Telarc, Centaur, Titanic, and Newport Classics labels. Recordings of sonatas by Andrea Caporale (world premiere, Centaur) and duos for cello & bass (Centaur) were warmly received. His release of Vivaldi cello concerti with members of the Handel and Haydn Society (Old Focus Recordings) was called “brilliant” by the Huffington Post and “a feast for the ears” by Early Music America. It was voted among ‘Top 10 Releases of 2017’ by WRTI in Philadelphia. A new recording of the concerti by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach has just been released to wide acclaim.
Mr. Fishman started playing the cello at age 12, and at 16 began his Baccalaureate studies with David Soyer at the Manhattan School of Music. He subsequently worked with Peter Wiley, Julia Lichten, and Laurence Lesser, with whom he completed Doctoral studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he is now faculty. In addition, he is a Fulbright Fellow, having worked with famed Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma in Amsterdam. He plays a rare cello made in Rome in 1704 by David Tecchler.
Symphony in G Minor, Op. 6 No. 6
Johann Christian Bach
The youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian studied with his father, his half-brother Carl, and with Italian master Padre Martini in Bologna. He arrived in London in 1762, intending to stay only a short time. It remained his base of operations for the rest of his life. In 1764, he and fellow composer Carl Friedrich Abel established a long-running series of concerts. He composed most of his purely instrumental music for them.
The six symphonies that make up his Op. 6 were published in 1770. The last of them, this piece in G Minor, stands apart from its five light, gracious siblings. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians calls it “the most serious of all Bach’s symphonies, with its fiery, energetic outer movements and its sombre Andante. It is one of the most significant of the remarkable series of G Minor symphonies written about this time by Haydn, Mozart, Rosetti and Vanhal.”
During the 18 years following the publication of J. C. Bach’s Op. 6, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart each composed two symphonies in G Minor. Haydn: Nos. 39 (1770) & 83 (1785); Mozart: Nos. 25 (1773) & 40 (1788).
Cello Concerto in A Major, H. 439
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
C.P.E. Bach and his younger half-brother, Johann Christian, were the most professionally successful offspring of Johann Sebastian Bach, perpetuating the lofty musical reputation the family had known (and would continue to know) across three centuries. He became the most important composer in Germany during the second half of the eighteenth century.
In his sixty-year composing career he created one thousand works, ranging from keyboard miniatures and songs to full-length oratorios and orchestral symphonies. His was a restless creative spirit, continually pushing the boundaries of the baroque style he inherited from his father, toward what would become the classical school of Haydn and Mozart. His music won the admiration of those two illustrious musicians, while Beethoven believed that his works “should be in the possession of every true artist, not only for the sake of real enjoyment but also for the purpose of study.”
Naturally, his father was his principal teacher. He probably studied with his godfather, the distinguished composer Georg Philipp Telemann, as well. By the age of 15 he was taking part in performances directed by his father, both in the cathedrals of Leipzig and at the collegium musicum public concerts. After graduating from Leipzig University, he continued his studies in Frankfurt, where he frequently took part in performances of music by his father, and of his own works.
In 1740 he was appointed resident harpsichordist to the Berlin court of Frederick, the young King of Prussia. He remained there for 27 years. This was a productive period but not an altogether happy one, because he felt that the monarch never fully acknowledged his abilities. In 1768 he relocated to Hamburg, where he occupied a highly responsible and very productive position in charge of music for the city’s major churches. He also organized several concerts of instrumental music, and continued composing virtually to the end of his life.
His three concertos for cello and string orchestra appear to be transcriptions of pieces that he selected from the more than 50 concertos he originally conceived to feature the harpsichord. He created these attractive works during the early 1750s, in Prussia. In the opening movement of the Concerto in A Major, Bach called upon the soloist to produce a refreshing blend of agility and lyricism. Strong contrast arrives in the second movement, an emotionally desolate piece in which Bach fully mines the cello’s expressive side. The concerto concludes with a brisk, good-humoured finale.
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart, probably the greatest of all child prodigies in music, received from his father Leopold a thorough education in composition and performance. The latter included piano, harpsichord and violin. In his maturity he focused his performing skills on the piano, but the young artist appeared most often as a soloist on the violin, beginning with the concert tours his family made during the 1760s. In 1769, he was awarded the post of Honorary Concertmaster in the Salzburg Court Orchestra. His duties included leading it from the first desk of violins (this being before the rise of the conductor, as we know the role), playing solos, and writing new music for the Orchestra to perform.
Between April and December 1775, he composed the last four of the five violin concertos that can be unquestionably attributed to him. No. 4 appeared in October. He modeled it on a work in the same key, written 10 years previously by Italian composer Luigi Boccherini. It opens with a bold, almost military declamation, setting the stage for the soloist’s entry. From then on, the music radiates grace, good humour, and perfect taste. The slow movement offers warmth and serenity. Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein called it “an uninterrupted song, an avowal of love.” The finale opens gently, then breaks happily into a rustic dance tune. The appealing sequence of varied episodes that follows includes references to several popular airs of the day, a practice that Mozart knew would increase his audiences’ enjoyment.
Symphony No. 94 in G Major, ‘Surprise’
Haydn made two trips to England, in 1791-92 and 1794-95. For them, he composed 12 new symphonies (Nos. 93 through 104), six for each season. They have become known as his ‘London’ Symphonies. During and immediately after his lifetime, two of them won unequalled popularity: the ‘Surprise’ (94) and ‘Military’ (100) Symphonies. Neither nickname originated with him. In the case of the ‘Surprise’ (which premiered at the Hanover Square concert room in London in March 1792, the story goes (whether it’s true scarcely matters) that he made the loud, unanticipated chord in the sixteenth bar of the second movement to startle into wakefulness any audience members who might be dozing. It gets the job done, in the genteel manner of the day, and never fails to raise a smile, even today.
In the opening movement, a restful introduction precedes a main Allegro whose basic good cheer survives an almost stormy development section to emerge once more into the sun. Haydn based the variations that make up the second movement on one of those artless, nursery-rhyme tunes that seemed to come to him effortlessly. His unending inventiveness ensured that he explored every possible facet of it—from pomposity through puckishness to pathos—with brilliant, self-effacing skill. Although the third movement is labeled a minuet, its hearty, clumping steps would be much more at home in a country tavern than a big city ballroom. A racing galop of a comic-opera finale brings the symphony home.