The Leipzig Audition
FRI MAY 4 & SAT MAY 5 7:30PM
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
SUN MAY 6 3:00PM
When the composer and writer Johann Kuhnau died in 1722, he left a vacancy for one of the most prestigious musical jobs in Germany, that of the Thomaskantor in Leipzig. The position was demanding, entailing the organization of services at the city’s four Lutheran churches as well as the provision of music for municipal and university functions; duties included composing, copying, teaching, auditioning, rehearsing, and performing. Naturally, the town council sought Germany’s most well-reputed musician, and offered the job to Georg Philipp Telemann, who then occupied the equivalent position in Hamburg, but Telemann declined after the authorities there raised his salary. They then turned to Kuhnau’s student Christoph Graupner, the Hofkapellmeister of the court of Hesse-Darmstadt, but he too secured a raise and a renegotiation of his contract, and stayed put. Finally, they settled on their third choice, Johann Sebastian Bach, who spent the remainder of his career as Thomaskantor until his death in 1750.
At the time, diverse styles were converging in the late Baroque, with the proliferation of sheet music and the increased mobility of composers and players around Europe. Few figures exemplify the trend better than Telemann and Bach (and of course their colleague and contemporary Georg Frideric Handel). Telemann spent a short time in his mid-twenties in Poland and later spent several months in France; like Bach, he also absorbed the Italian style spreading northward. He was adept on a wide range of instruments, from keyboard to strings to various winds (including the oboe) and his familiarity with them informed the technical and tonal aspects of his composing.
Among Telemann’s vast oeuvre in many genres are 135 orchestral suites for a wide variety of ensembles, mostly composed in Frankfurt, where he spent his thirties as Kapellmeister of the Baufüßkirche and city music director. Like the others catalogued as TWV 55, the Ouverture-Suite in A Minor follows a mostly French model, with a stately overture followed by a set of short movements, some derived from dance forms; in this case they include Louré (a slow gigue), Bourée, Rondeau, the exuberant La Réjouissance, and a Menuet and Trio. Also from Telemann’s time in Frankfurt comes the Concerto in E Minor (TWV 52:e2) one of a set of six scored for two transverse flutes, a bass instrument (bassoon or lute), strings and basso continuo. It exemplifies the confluence of styles in his music: formally, it follows the Italian sonata da chiesa, with four movements organized slow-fast-slowfast and including a fugal second movement (here with a Polish inflection). The opening features a limpid melody in the French style, the finale is a menuet en rondeau, and the work overall demonstrates Telemann’s balance of easy, charming tunes with driving, thrilling virtuoso passages.
At around the same time that Telemann was writing much of his chamber and orchestral works, Bach did likewise. For almost six years beginning in 1717, he served as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, a music enthusiast ten years his junior who maintained an 18-member orchestra. As the court was Calvinist, Bach was free of obligation to compose all but the most basic church music, and he produced many of his best-known secular works there, including the Brandenburg Concertos. The survival rate of his orchestral music is regrettably low, and the Concerto for Two Oboes and Bassoon, though sometimes called “rediscovered”, is a speculative reconstruction based on later material. His musical recycling is well-known, and the sinfonia of Cantata 42, composed for the Sunday after Easter in 1725 in Leipzig, is believed to be based on a lost work from his time in Cöthen.
The concerto uses that sinfonia, another from the Easter Oratorio, and the alto aria from Cantata 42; the later work would have involved adding text for church use, so the reconstruction puts the process in reverse. Given the Eastertide use of the music, and Bach’s mastery of religious symbolism, it’s tempting to hear the sacred pieces in the concerto. The opening movement sets the strings and solo group in separate themes that then coalesce, and in the central movement, to which Bach later applied the text “Where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’s name” the solo group of oboes and bassoon (perhaps representing the two Marys and Jesus in the cantata) similarly unify. The joyous concluding movement—the sinfonia from the Easter Oratorio, also used in an earlier secular cantata—offers the solo group in brilliant accord.
While Bach was in Leipzig, he enrolled his oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann at the Thomasschule, and son followed father in church work, including an early stint in Dresden, where instrumental music was incorporated into the Mass. He composed the Adagio and Fugue in D Minor as a Gradual, an interlude following the Epistle. Solemn, even haunting, the opening movement features ethereal slow melodies over subtle strings with exquisite suspensions; it leads directly into a tightly woven fugue, with faster rhythms and brighter textures bringing a bit of spryness and light.
As for Graupner himself, he was a friend of Telemann and Handel and equally celebrated in his day. He spent most of his career as Hofkapellmeister at Darmstadt, where he composed prolifically, but his work fell into obscurity after his death, partly owing to a legal dispute between his family and the court that kept it unpublished and out of the public ear for many years. This program provides an opportunity to rediscover him via the Ouverture in G Minor (GWV 471), which displays high contrasts and inventive use of instrumental sonorities in a blend of elegance and technical brilliance typical of the great musical confluence of his time.
– James McQuillen
STEPHEN BARD, OBOE
Stephen Bard has established himself as one of North America’s leading players of historical oboes and appears regularly with preeminent period instrument ensembles including Tafelmusik, Philharmonia Baroque, Portland Baroque, American Bach Soloists, Handel & Haydn Society, and Boston Baroque. His playing, “especially noteworthy for its sensuous lyricism” (Philadelphia Inquirer), has been lauded for “long, amber-tinted lines and pertly articulated phrases” (San Francisco Classical Voice). In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, his playing has been recorded with many of these fine ensembles on the Chandos, Naxos, CBC, and ATMA Classique labels. His festival appearances include the Oregon Bach Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, and at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He holds bachelor degrees in Music and in Computer Science from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. He is currently based in Philadelphia.
NATE HELGESON, BASSOON
Nate Helgeson is one of the West Coast’s leading specialists in historical bassoons. Born into a musical family in Eugene, Oregon (his brother, Aaron Helgeson, and uncle Stephen Gryc are both accomplished composers), Nate studied modern bassoon with Steve Vacchi and Richard Svoboda before taking up the baroque instrument, continuing his studies with Dominic Teresi at the Juilliard School.
Now based in Portland, Nate performs on stages large and small throughout North America. In addition to solo and orchestral appearances with premier period ensembles across the country, he can be heard on recordings by Apollo’s Fire, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra. Nate was a finalist in the 2016 Indianapolis Baroque Concerto Competition, and in 2012 was chosen to perform at the summer music festival, Dans les Jardins de William Christie, an outdoor festival of 18th century music in the west of France hosted and directed by the eminent French music specialist, William Christie.
Nate loves the diverse sound world of historical bassoons, performing on replica baroque and classical bassoons by the late Guntram Wolf (Kronach), an anonymous original instrument from the 1830s, and a 1960s modern bassoon by Heckel (Biebrich).
JOSHUA ROMATOWSKI, FLUTE
Joshua Romatowski, flutist, has been praised for his ability to “allow each note to sound with its own expressive qualities” (San Francisco Examiner). Joshua’s playing has been described as “elegantly shaped” (San Francisco Examiner) and possessing “graceful intimacy” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Joshua holds a MM in Flute Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a BM in Flute Performance from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as an Artist Diploma in Early Music from the Cornish College of the Arts. Joshua was a finalist in the National Flute Association’s Orchestral Excerpt Competition and a winner of the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle Frances Walton Competition.
As well as being a prize winner in the National Flute Association’s Baroque Artist Competition, Joshua has appeared in concert on baroque flute in every major city on the West Coast with the American Bach Soloists, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Byron Schenkman and Friends, Pacific Music Works, and other period ensembles. Joshua currently holds the 3rd Flute/Piccolo chair with Symphony Tacoma and is on faculty at Music Works Northwest. Joshua’s primary teachers have been Timothy Day, Marianne Gedigian, Jeffery Zook, and Janet See.
GONZALO X. RUIZ, OBOE
Born in La Plata, Argentina, Gonzalo X. Ruiz is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed baroque oboists. A member of Portland Baroque Orchestra for over twenty years, he performs as principal oboist and soloist with Philharmonia Baroque, Ensemble Sonnerie, Boston Early Music Festival, The English Concert, Wiener Akademie, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Carmel Bach Festival. He has collaborated with conductors McGegan, Savall, Pinnock, Rattle, Egarr, Manze, Hogwood, and Hassellböck, among others.
Ruiz’s playing is featured on dozens of recordings including his 2010 Grammy™-nominated recording of reconstructions of the four orchestral suites of J.S. Bach, with Monica Huggett and Ensemble Sonnerie. Ruiz was appointed to the faculty of The Juilliard School in 2009. He previously taught at Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute and at the Longy School’s International Baroque Institute. Ruiz is an acknowledged expert in reed design, and examples of his work are on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his free time he enjoys playing guitar and dancing tango.
JANET SEE, FLUTE
Janet See is one of today’s outstanding performers on baroque and classical flute. For over 35 years she has performed as soloist, in chamber music, and in orchestras throughout Europe and North America. In North America, Janet plays principal flute with Philharmonia Baroque, Pacific MusicWorks, Seattle Baroque, and Portland Baroque Orchestra. In London, Ms. See played principal flute for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s baroque and classical orchestras and with those groups recorded the complete Mozart Operas, Beethoven Symphonies, and numerous other discs.
Janet is an active and enthusiastic teacher of early flutes and also of interpreting the nuance and language of baroque and classical music on modern flute. She is director of the popular Seattle Baroque Flute Summer Workshop, which attracts students from all parts of the United States. Ms. See is a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, having trained in London with Walter Carrington.