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Dress rehearsal tonight, been practising like a mad fool.  We have a full line up. Starting with Rheinberger’s lovely Stabat Mater:

Then a Schubert Mass :

Some Mendelssohn:

And some Mozart :

It is going to be a great concert. :)

Very serious selection here today. Let us appreciate the solemn nature of this composition by PDQ Bach.

The streaming semiquavers of BWV 998 and BWV 999 provide a rich tapestry of sound; Bach uses this device to great effect in several of his preludes as well as the Allemande in A Minor for flute (see these works here on our channel). By arbitrarily ignoring the title “Pour le luth o Cembal[o],” the Wikipedia article dismisses the possibility that Bach wrote solo music for lute. In fact, these works have at their compositional center the style luthé–a style of music that influenced music of all kinds in the baroque period. Both BWV 998 and BWV 999 can be played on the lute, but also sound superb on the harpsichord, clavichord and lautenwerck.

A nice, nuanced performance.

Or, the Coffee Cantata. Need to find someone to arrange this for tenor. :)

Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be still, stop chattering), BWV 211,[a] also known as the Coffee Cantata, is a secular cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it probably between 1732 and 1735. Although classified as a cantata, it is essentially a miniature comic opera. In a satirical commentary, the cantata amusingly tells of an addiction to coffee.

The work is scored lightly, for three solo voices (soprano, tenor, and bass), strings, flute, and continuo. Only in the final number, which bears the designation “coro” (usually indicating chorus), do all voices and instrumentalists participate. The use of the term “coro” was a common device in operatic works of the time; could Bach have been thinking of this as a miniature opera?

More than his other works, Bach’s Coffee Cantata presents a little drama. It begins with a recitative, rather than a concerted, melodic work, for solo tenor and continuo. The tenor, our narrator, appears only in this first and final numbers. He begins with the text:
Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht
und höret, was jetzund geschieht! Be quiet, stop chattering
And listen to what will happen now!

This serves the role of an overture, fanfare, or theatre bell; the narrator appears to be speaking to the invisible patrons in the coffee house, but his announcement helps quiet the audience and focus their attention on the drama about to unfold. The narrator then announces the arrival of Herr Schlendrian (solo bass) and his daughter, Lieschen (solo soprano). But the continuo serves as another character here, with its dotted rhythms (marked “con pompa” – with pomp) mocking Herr Schlendrian as he approaches the coffee house.

The drama unfolds between Schlendrian and his daughter. She will not obey him, he reveals in no. 2; in the following recitative (no. 3), we discover that the culprit, the vice causing her disobedience, is coffee, which fuses together two other genres with the solo aria: the trio sonata and the minuet. It is a trio sonata in that Bach includes two independent and equal melodic lines with continuo. The obbligato flute is completely independent of the soprano, sometimes standing entirely on its own (as at the beginning, the ending, and in transitions between verses); it never takes the deferential role of resorting to playing in parallel thirds or sixths with the voice. At the same time, this piece is a minuet (as identified by Little and Jenne, in Dean and the Music of J.S. Bach); that is, it is a medium tempo, triple meter movement which symbolizes elegance and nobility (the minuet may have started in the lower classes,but it eventually became strongly associated with the aristocracy). What is unusual, however, is that the phrases here are grouped in threes, where we are conditioned (by the Viennese Classicists, primarily) to expect four-measure phrases.

 

Libretto

Aria Lieschen
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
mellower than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee I must have,
and if someone wishes to give me a treat,
ah, then pour me out some coffee!

History and context

Monteverdi’s Marian Vespers of 1610 was his first sacred work after his first publication twenty-eight years prior, and stands out for its assimilation of both old and new styles, although it cannot be specifically classified as prima pratica or seconda pratica, per se. The Vespers were published in July 1610, in combination with a six-voice mass which parodied a motet of Nicolas Gombert; In illo tempore loquante Jesu. Today, over four hundred years later, the precise intentions of this large work are not clearly known or understood. This has been a great topic of debate among musicologists for decades, and it has even been suggested by Graham Dixon that Monteverdi’s setting of the Vespers is more suited towards use for the feast of Saint Barbara, claiming, for example, that the texts taken from Song of Songs are applicable to any female saint. He goes on to write that formatting the Vespers to fit a Marian feast made the work more “marketable”. There are several facts that support this view: there are just two Marian songs in the whole work (Audi Coelum and Ave Maris Stella); the sonata could very easily be rearranged to any saint’s name; and the text of the Duo Seraphim is connected with Saint Barbara (because she is generally connected with Trinity).

The Vespers was first printed in Venice in 1610 when the composer was working at the ducal court in Mantua. Historical record does not indicate whether Monteverdi actually performed the Vespers in either city; the work may have been written as an audition piece for posts at Venice (Monteverdi became maestro di cappella at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice in 1613) and Rome (where the composer was not offered a post).

The Vespers is monumental in scale, and requires a choir large enough and skillful enough to cover up to 10 vocal parts in some movements and split into separate choirs in others while accompanying seven different soloists during the course of the piece. Interestingly, solo parts are included for violin and cornett, but the ripieno instrumentation is not specified by Monteverdi. Additionally, he did not specify a set of plainchant antiphons to insert before each psalm and the concluding Magnificat. This allows the performers to tailor the music according to the available instrumental forces and the occasion of the performance (the particular feast day’s liturgy would have included suggested antiphons that could be chanted before Monteverdi’s psalm settings). Another example of tailoring to the forces available is the fact that the collection includes two versions of the Magnificat, one of which is scored for a smaller group of musicians than the other. Some scholars have argued that this suggests that the Vespers was not intended as a single work, but it is generally performed as such.

Monteverdi’s unique approach to each movement of the Vespers earned the work a place in history. The work not only presents intimate, prayerful moments within its monumental scale, but it also incorporates secular music in this decidedly religious performance and its individual movements present an array of musical forms – sonata, motet, hymn, and psalm – without losing focus. The Vespers achieves overall unity by building each movement on the traditional Gregorian plainchant for each text, which becomes a cantus firmus in Monteverdi’s setting.

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