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Johann Sebastian Bach

Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C

Richard Egarr, director and harpsichord

Bach probably composed the Orchestral Suite No. 1 during his early years in Leipzig, when he first started participating with the Collegium Musicum, an ensemble mainly comprised of university students. With most concerts held at a coffee house, this amateur ensemble provided Bach relief from his rigid church position, letting him experiment with secular music like the four surviving Orchestral Suites inspired by French dance music.

Suites in the French style had become fashionable in Germany, where such a work would have been described as an Ouverture (to use the French spelling), taking the name from the substantial opening movement. The subsequent movements employed dance styles popularized during the reign of Louis XIV, an avid dancer himself. Orchestral suites by Bach and his contemporaries were not intended to accompany actual dancing, but the familiar rhythms and patterns would have contributed to their entertainment value.

Aaron Grad ©2019

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Georg Philipp Telemann

Overture and Conclusion in E from Tafelmusik 1

Richard Egarr, director and harpsichord

Under the banner of Tafelmusik or “table music” — meaning the kind of music fit to entertain guests while dining — Telemann collected three “productions” that each combined orchestral suites, concertos and chamber music into a readymade dinner party playlist. This ambitious publication from 1733 was another example of how Telemann capitalized on his international reputation to bolster his church salary, attracting subscribers from Germany and beyond who pre-ordered this Musique de table, as its original title page labeled it.

Telemann’s musical approach was as international as his appeal. In true French style, each production of Tafelmusik begins with an Overture, and the first one in E minor is a quintessential model of the form, with slow outer sections surrounding a fast, fugal episode. In that time, the term Overture encompassed not just the large opening movement, but also the shorter dance forms that followed it, including a particularly festive number in this suite labeled Rejouissance, or “rejoicing” (a heading that Handel recycled 16 years later in his Music for the Royal Fireworks).

Aaron Grad ©2019

Intermission
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Georg Philipp Telemann

Quartet in A Minor

Richard Egarr, director and harpsichord

Telemann was the most respected German composer during his lifetime, influencing and overshadowing his slightly younger colleague, J. S. Bach. During Telemann’s years as a law student in Leipzig, he founded the Collegium Musicum that Bach eventually directed, and that hands-on practice with instrumental forms helped Telemann secure one of his first jobs with a duke in Eisenach, the same town where Bach had been born. Telemann eventually landed what was arguably the most prestigious post in all of Germany, directing music for the principal churches of Hamburg from 1721 until his death 46 years later. (Bach only lucked into the equivalent job in Leipzig in 1723 because the hiring committee couldn’t get Telemann.)

Telemann probably composed this quartet in the 1730s. Blending the Italian sonata tradition with rigorous, German-style counterpoint, this quartet featuring flute, oboe and violin accompanied by basso continuo demonstrates Telemann’s ability to write attractive music that never gets weighed down by contrapuntal complexity.

Aaron Grad ©2019

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Harpsichord Concerto No. 1

Richard Egarr, director and harpsichord

Bach ended up directing Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum from 1729 to 1741, and to generate enough repertoire for the weekly concerts, he mined his catalog of pre-Leipzig instrumental music. His decision to rework at least six old concertos for various instruments into harpsichord concertos reflected recent advances in instrumental design that made the keyboard instrument louder than ever, and it also allowed him to showcase some of the ensemble’s most talented members: his own sons. The forerunner of the Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 is lost, but it seems clear that the solo part originated on the violin, based on the patterns of repeated notes that correspond to the violin’s open strings.

Aaron Grad ©2019

About This Program

Approximate length 1:44

Our first Baroque program of the season features the music of the two masters of the German Baroque, Bach and Telemann, who were friends and mutual admirers. For his official Artistic Partner debut, Richard Egarr selected an orchestral suite by each, both of which showcase the SPCO winds, as well as some intimate chamber music by Telemann. Egarr solos on Bach’s dramatic D Minor Harpsichord Concerto to bring the concert to a fiery conclusion.

Can't attend any of these performances? Join us for an open rehearsal on Thursday, October 17 at 2:30pm