Castello was a composer and woodwind player at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice during the first half of the 17th century, a time and place of rapid innovation. In 1621 and 1629, he published books of chamber music titled Sonate concertate in stil modern (Sonatas in a Modern Stile), and the many reprints of those two volumes attest to the impact of his diverse sonatas. The Sonata No. 15 stands out as one of two examples designed specifically for strings, with four string parts supported by a shared basso continuo line. The alternations of slow and fast sections, including passages of brisk counterpoint, show Castello’s fluency in the “modern style” that flowered in the Baroque era.
Aaron Grad ©2019
Georg Muffat was pivotal in spreading French and Italian musical styles into Germany, his adopted home. As a teenager, Muffat trained in Paris, where one of his teachers was Jean-Baptiste Lully. Muffat ventured to Rome in 1681, where he met Corelli. Before he left, Muffat was inspired to compose a collection that he published in 1682 under the title Armonico tributo, culminating in the Sonata No. 5 in G. With markings in the parts for solo and tutti, this sonata could be played as concerto grosso in the style that Corelli developed — a format so new to Northern European musicians that Muffat wrote a preface explaining how it worked. Besides adopting Corelli’s approach to instrumentation, Muffat also paid tribute to French dance suites in the style of Lully, as seen in the opening Allemanda (a French take on German folk dancing). The sonata closes with an expansive and regal Passacaglia, a form built on a repeating ground bass.
Aaron Grad ©
Dresden was a mighty capital city in the early eighteenth century. The Dresden court employed an enormous orchestra of some 40 players, and it maintained a world-class music library, including many published scores and unpublished manuscripts by Vivaldi. These were a treasured source for German composers who were eager to adopt the latest Italian trends, especially Bach. Vivaldi met many of the Dresden musicians when the court’s entourage visited Venice in 1716, and he agreed to give violin and composition lessons to Johann Georg Pisendel, the ensemble’s star violinist and director. The prominent violin part that Vivaldi wrote several years later in the Concerto in G Minor made the most of Pisendel’s talents, and the six woodwind parts that rise to the level of soloists demonstrate Vivaldi’s regard for the entire orchestra. The central slow movement exploited the talents of another Dresden virtuoso whom Vivaldi met in 1716, the oboist Christian Richter, supported by a bass line from a solo bassoon.
Aaron Grad ©2019
The solo concerto was already a specialty of northern Italy before Vivaldi, but he refined and advanced the art form, and in the process he did more than anyone else to spread it north of the Alps to Germany and beyond. In 1725, his publisher in Amsterdam released a set of twelve concertos under the title The Contest Between Harmony and Invention, starting with four concertos named after the seasons. Vivaldi organized the musical ideas to correspond to descriptive sonnets that he likely wrote himself, allowing for such word painting as the “birds in joyous song” that twitter through the first movement of Spring, represented by trilling violin motives. Summer opens under the scorching “heat of the burning sun,” matched by wilting musical figures, and the soloist elaborates the scene by impersonating a cuckoo, with the distinctive two-note call embedded within constant bow strokes. Peasants dancing and drinking in celebration of the harvest set the scene for Autumn, until they all settle into an inebriated slumber. After a sleepy slow movement, the finale wakes for a hunt, complete with imitations of hunting horns and barking dogs. Winter brings desolate cold and chattering teeth, offset by the indoor warmth of a cozy fire in the slow movement.
Aaron Grad ©2019
About This Program
SPCO violinists Steven Copes and Kyu-Young Kim will be featured as violin soloists for this weekend’s performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Artistic Partner Richard Egarr directing from the harpsichord. The spontaneity and creativity of these artists are sure to delight SPCO audiences. Egarr also explores lesser known Baroque works including an early 17th century sonata full of harmonic surprises by Italian composer Dario Castello and a beautiful sonata by German composer Georg Muffat from his Armonico tributo.