Il Favorito

Il Favorito

Riccardo Minasi, Guest Director

FRI FEB 16 & SAT FEB 17 7:30PM
SUN FEB 18 3:00PM

It is perhaps surprising that the earliest usage of the word concerto in a description of music comes not from the secular or instrumental realm, but is rather used to describe sacred vocal music. The phrase ‘a concerto’ is found in a publication of motets where instrumental doubling of the vocal lines is described, a practice known more commonly as colla parte. We see the term used first in Rome around 1520, and by 1565 there is evidence that it has come to mean music which is accompanied (rather than doubled) by instruments. Concerto comes from the Latin concertare [to contend, dispute, debate] and rather than a specific reference to a soloist, the sixteenth century meaning merely notes a division within the performing forces. Initially this division was between singers and instrumentalists, but during the seventeenth century its usage evolved to describe the division between a small group of performers [concertato] and the full/tutti group [ripieni]. Around the middle of the seventeenth century we begin to see two categories of sacred music composition, namely the stile pieno [tutti throughout] and the stile concertato [soloists juxtaposed with the full ensemble]. The latter served as the model for nearly all choral-orchestral composition from Handel to Bernstein.

The instrumental concerto, as we now know it, came into being during the last two decades of the seventeenth century, chiefly developed in Rome and Bologna. The characteristics of the genre are derived largely from the instrumental sonata, including a three-movement fast/slow/fast structure, dialogue between the solo line and accompaniment, and a prominent display of virtuosity. Antonio Vivaldi, the most prolific and acclaimed composer of this genre, wrote over 500 concerti and nearly 450 of those compositions survive. Of the extant works, over 200 were written for solo violin, with bassoon coming a distant second at 39. Vivaldi, though he was in demand as a virtuoso violinist, opera director, and composer, spent 37 years as the director of music at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a convent and conservatory for orphaned girls. Many of his compositions were written for, and performed by members of this community.

The Concerto for Violin in C Major RV 181a is one of the twelve pieces published as Opus 9 in 1727. The two-volume collection, titled ‘la cetre,’ was dedicated to Emperor Charles VI. La cetre can be translated as ‘scepter’ or ‘lyre,’ and musicologists have speculated that the dual meaning was intended as an acknowledgment of the Emperor’s great influence as both political leader and musical patron.

Like Vivaldi, Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello was a composer and virtuoso violinist. Born in Bologna around 1690, he came to fame in 1715 when the Electress of Bavaria brought him from Venice to Munich as a violinist. In 1716 he was promoted to music director of chamber music at the Württemberg court in Stuttgart. Duke Eberhard Ludwig valued a strong Hofkapelle, and spent freely to acquire some of the most talented musicians from around Europe. Brescianello’s surviving works are mainly violin sonatas and concertos. The Concerto for Violin and Bassoon in B-flat Major comes from his only published work, the twelve Concerti e Sinphonie Op. 1, published in Amsterdam in 1727.

The opening movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Bassoon in F Major RV 485 oscillates between the stately motives of its opening tutti, and a somewhat playful tone which is introduced by the bassoon. The beginning of the Andante returns to the solemn feeling of the first movement and is amplified by the solo part. The tutti of the final Allegro molto eventually returns to the light-hearted feeling from the opening movement and the concerto ends with a joyous turn.

While Vivaldi’s fame casts a shadow over the other composers on this program by modern standards, Baldassarre Galuppi enjoyed an equal amount of fame during the eighteenth century. Known as one of the most important opera composers of the mid- eighteenth century, he is partially responsible for the success of comic opera in Italy and beyond. Galuppi’s career benefited directly from Vivaldi’s death in 1741. Up to that point he had found little success in the opera world, but in the year following Vivaldi’s death two successful productions, Oronte and Berenice appeared. These successes directly led to an invitation to travel to London, where he supervised eleven opera productions over the next year and a half, including four of his own works. His return to Venice coincided with arrival of the comic opera, which had been gaining popularity in Naples and Rome for some time. Galuppi was successful at adapting these works for the Venetian audience, and the remainder of his life was spent adapting and directing operas [both comic and serious] in Venice, Milan, Prague, and Dresden. Charles Burney, the famous chronicler of music history, remarked that Galuppi was an impressive orchestra leader and that the orchestra at St. Marks whom he regularly conducted was the most skilled in all of Italy. The opening of Concerto a quattro, with its stately dotted motive, followed quickly by a fugue-like section, resembles the opening of an opera overture.

Giovanni Mossi is yet another composer known in his own time as a virtuoso violinist. He hails from a Roman family of musicians, father and brother being viola players, and another brother who was a tenor at the papal chapel. Up until 1715 Mossi appears mainly as a violinist at private chapels of cardinals and princes around Rome. The period between 1716-33 shows a shift in focus to composition. During this time, he published three sets of sonatas, and three of concerti. His Concerto grosso in E Minor Op. 4 No. 11 remains faithful to the Roman practice of having four violin parts, two of them solo and two ‘di concerto grosso.’ Even so, the first violin part is given a more important role as the chief soloist, a sort of concerto within a concerto.

Lorenzo Zavateri was born in Bologna and received training as a violinist and composer with Torelli, one of the pioneers of concerto composition in the late seventeenth century. Zavateri played with the orchestra at San Petronio in Bologna and was a member of the famed Accademia Filarmonica. His Concerto Pastorale in D Major, Op. 1 No. 10 is so named because the final movement is a traditional pastorale dance, in 12/8.

This program ends with Vivaldi’s famous Concerto in E Minor RV 277, ‘Il Favorito.’ This concerto the second of a set of six presented to Emperor Charles VI in 1728. A year later the set was published in Amsterdam as Vivaldi’s Op.11. The nickname was not originally attached to the piece, but as many have noted, this concerto stands out for its brilliant fast movements framing a sublime andante. Sadly, Vivaldi’s fate was tied to that of Charles VI. After many years in hopes of entering the service of the Emperor, Vivaldi moved to Vienna in 1740 while in the process of securing a position. Charles VI died suddenly in October of 1740, and Vivaldi’s source of income and security died with him. The great composer died, in poverty, less than a year later.

—John K. Cox

Riccardo Minasi

Riccardo Minasi, guest director and violin

Described by the Guardian as “an outstanding musician”, conductor and violinist Riccardo Minasi has quickly established a reputation as one of the most exciting talents to emerge on the European scene in recent years.

Having been Associate Conductor of the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra from 2008 - 2011, Minasi co-founded the ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro in 2012 and has worked in several of the top opera houses across Europe. Last season’s highlights included Don Giovanni for Opernhaus Zürich and Iphigénie en Tauride for Hamburgische Staatsoper. Minasi is returning to these opera houses in 2018 with productions of Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Alcina respectively.

Alongside being Chief Conductor of Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, this season’s conducting and directing engagements include debuts with PRJCT Amsterdam, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Zürcher Kammerorchester, Orchestre du Chambre de Lausanne, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and NDR Radiophilharmonie. This season also sees Minasi returning to work with Stavanger Symfoniorkester, Ensemble Resonanz and La Scintilla.

Minasi has a wealth of recording experience alongside the world’s top artists, having recorded with the likes of Joyce DiDonato, Ann Hallenberg and Philippe Jaroussky. The 2016/2017 season saw Minasi feature on four ECHO Klassik award-winning albums, one of which included his ‘Leonardo Vinci: Catone in Utica’ with Max Emanuel Cencic (Opera Recording - 17th/18th century music category). Minasi’s own recordings gain critical acclaim, with his Biber Rosenkranz Sonatas featuring as a finalist in the Midem Classical Awards. 

His performances are steeped in musicological integrity, and he has acted as historical advisor for the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, as well as curator and editor (alongside Maurizio Biondi) of the 2016 Bärenreiter critical edition of Norma. Minasi was a professor at Vincenzo Bellini of Palermo for six years, and has given historically informed performance lectures and master classes at world renowned establishments such as the Juilliard School and the Sibelius Academy.

As soloist and concertmaster, Minasi has performed with the likes of Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Accademia Bizantina, Il Giardino Armonico, Le Concert des Nations, Al Ayre Español, Orquesta Barroca de Sevilla and Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid; and collaborated with, amongst others, Veronika Eberle, Bryn Terfel, Franco Fagioli, Jean –Guihen Queyras, Victoria Mullova, Reinhard Goebel, Luca Pianca, Christophe Coin and Albrecht Mayer.

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