BREVE presents Conversations - Baroque Sonatas from Italy, France, and Germany
Deborah Booth, recorder & traverso
Stephen Rapp, harpsichord & organ
Maxine Neuman, baroque cello
Lisa Terry, viola da gamba
Rachel Begley, baroque bassoon
Conversations explores music of the 17th and 18th centuries from Italy, France, and Germany on original instruments - recorders, flutes, harpsichord, organ, cello, viola da gamba, and bassoon.
Each piece has sparked a unique musical conversation of its own. Deborah Booth and Stephen Rapp perform as an organ-recorder duo, and also invite three other musicians to join in; the result is an intricate tapestry of sound combinations. Treble instruments are carefully chosen to enhance the music, picked from a selection of recorders and baroque flutes. Even the basso continuo is tailored to the repertoire to lend variety: cello and harpsichord for the Telemann works, viola da gamba and harpsichord (in deference to French practice of the time) for the Hotteterre, solo organ for the early 17th century Italian Castello, bassoon and harpsichord in the Mancini. This multifaceted approach provides a richly colorful realization of each score.
BREVE, the name of the ensemble, refers to the essence of great musicmaking—its heartbeat. (While the term is known nowadays primarily as a tempo marking, alla breve, it originally defined the tactus, or pulse, and was used as a single beat note in standard music notation (insert Breve).
Originally conceived as a duo, BREVE regularly includes additional performers, a flexibility that allows it to embrace a varied repertoire. Based in New York City since 1985, the group has toured the United States, Mexico, and Europe, offering unique programs of music from many eras on authentic instruments, in historically informed style. In addition to playing music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras, BREVE has commissioned new works by contemporary composers for its modern instrument combinations.
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific composer in history—over three thousand known compositions. After close to a century spent in near-obscurity, his popularity with modern audiences has steadily increased as the diversity and quality of his works becomes more known.
Officially, Telemann worked in a series of churches in Leipzig, Sorau (now Poland), Eisenach (where he very probably knew another choirmaster, a certain J. S. Bach), Frankfurt, and Hamburg. But his musical interests refused to remain in the sacred sphere: he presented secular concerts, organized student Collegiums, and juxtaposed his cantatas and oratorios with theatrical compositions, even opera. This repeatedly got him into trouble with church officials, who complained that such performances incited “lasciviousness.” His usual response was a threat to resign his post and go where he, and his musical activities, would be more welcome. This made him a trailblazer, helping to break down the barriers between sacred and secular music. Telemann also helped to redefine the role of the professional musician by self-publishing many of his own collections, setting an important precedent regarding music as the intellectual property of its creator.
The Trio in B♭ Major from Telemann’s Essercizii Musici, a collection of twelve solos and twelve trios, was published in 1740. The work is scored for recorder, harpsichord, and continuo, and is composed in a style that became known as the German mixed taste, blending German counterpoint with Italian, French, and Polish styles.
The Hotteterre family was a celebrated musical dynasty in Paris for several generations. Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (1673-1763) was the most prominent member of the family, and had a brilliant career as a performer, teacher, and composer. His music and theoretical works, including Principes de la Flûte (Principles of the Flute, Recorder, and Oboe), and L’Art de Préluder (Art of the Prelude) have been pivotal in providing a portrait of how music was made—and taught—in 18th-century France.
The Deuxiéme Suitte in G Major is from the second book of suites composed for flute and continuo, published in 1704. Several members of the Hotteterre family were instrument makers; they left a legacy in a generation of baroque flutes known as Hotteterre flutes, highly respected for their unique timbre and pitch. Deborah Booth plays a copy of a Hotteterre flute, aꞌ = 392, for this recording.
Little is known about Dario Castello (fl. 1600-1650), aside from the fact that he was listed as a composer and wind player at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, which would have placed him under the direction of the titanic Claudio Monteverdi.
The Sonata Prima is taken from Castello’s Sonate concertate in stile moderno, published in 1621. It is composed of a varying number of short contrasting sections, juxtaposing contrasting tempos and affects, and typical of the one-movement style of the early 17th century. The unusual number of reprints of these sonatas is an indication of the popularity and wide diffusion of Castello’s works. The piece is written for an unspecified soprano instrument (which may be recorder, violin, or cornetto) and basso continuo (keyboard or lute, often in combination with another low instrument). This performance employs a high recorder and organ.
The second Telemann piece is the only flute sonata in a very important collection called Tafelmusik (Music for the Table), a comprehensive collection of chamber and orchestral pieces. There are three sets of music called Productions, published in 1733. Each set consists of an overture and suite, a quartet, a concerto, a trio-sonata, a solo sonata, and a conclusion.
Francesco Mancini (1672-1737) was an Italian organist and composer based in Naples. He is known mostly for his contribution to sacred music and opera, and the wide distribution of his music in libraries throughout Europe reflects his popularity.
The Sonata in D Minor belongs to a set of twelve sonatas for alto recorder and continuo published in England by Walsh and Hare—a result of the rush of interest in Mancini’s work generated by the London production of his opera Idaspe fedele in 1710.
This piece wholly reflects the personality of the composer, who combines the strictly contrapuntal style typical of Alessandro Scarlatti’s generation with the cantabile and richly emotive style of Pergolesi. The counterpoint between the solo instrument and the bass line is softened by the melodic power of the themes themselves.