“Baroque Pairings” will be performed in Longmont, Boulder and Denver
By Peter Alexander Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m.
Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director of Seicento Baroque Ensemble, hopes you will pay attention to the words.
Seicento’s next concert program, titled “Baroque Pairings: Violins and Voice,” includes several different types of texts, sacred and secular, all set with care and expression. The music comes mostly from the 17thcentury—“Seicento” means 1600s—divided among pieces by German composers and pieces by Venetian and northern Italian composers, including two works from convents in Milan and Novara, Italy.
Performances will be Friday in Longmont, Saturday in Boulder, and in a particularly informal setting Sunday in Denver. The Denver performance will be preceded by a social event with wine available for sale (see details below).
As a singer with a degree in languages, Balestrieri always takes deep interest in the words she sings or directs. For her, what she calls “the marriage of the text” with the music is paramount. “The poet wrote the text, then a composer chooses a text. How do they set this text, and what does this text mean?
“I feel that the text is integral. I’m always involved in the translations, and I am completely on the choir’s case constantly, not only about what the words are, but (the context)—are we in religious fervor, are we in the throes of passion?”
To help direct the listener’s attention to the text, Balestrieri and Seicento came up with an unusual way of laying out the program. The cover lists all the pieces in order—titles and composers—but not the performers. That makes it easy to get an overview of the concert.
Inside the program, every piece is listed again in order, with all the details, including soloists, the text and translation for each piece. “I felt that if we could incorporate the text within the program it would make a lot more sense to people rather than flipping backward and forward all the time through the performance,” she says.
The concert’s theme was suggested by the standard Baroque-era texture of two treble parts and bass. “Around (the 1600s) the violin was becoming a very prominent instrument, and two violins with continuo (bass) was becoming more popular,” Balestrieri says. “It seemed to make sense that first we have the pairing of two violins, and then we have the violins with voices.”
Balestrieri started with music that she knew, and expanded to some new pieces that she found to fit the program. To provide variety, there will be pieces that are instrumental, vocal solos, and choral pieces. Guest performers will be Stacey Brady and Brune Macary, on Baroque violin; Sandra Miller on Baroque cello; and Gerald Holbrook on harpsichord and organ. Vocal soloists will be guests and members of Seicento.
The program will be presented in three parts,: “The Germans,” featuring music by Heinrich Schütz, Franz Tunder and Dietrich Buxtehude; “The Nuns of Milan and Novara,” with one piece each by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani and Isabella Leonarda; and “The Venetian School,” with music by Biagio Marini, Claudio Monteverdi, Salamone Rossi and Tarquinio Rossi.
“In the German set, what you hear is the solid faith of the Lutheran church set to music, along with a much more human style,” Balestrieri says. “For example, the Tunder is a solo piece (for voice), ‘Awake Wise Virgins,’ and it’s got the giddy excitement of the bride. You really hear this in the music.
“For the nuns, what’s interesting to listen for is how it might have been sung by all women. This music is quite theatrical, but it’s also very much close harmony. It’s very beautiful in that way.”
In the 17thcentury Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe and was known for its brilliant art and music. It was a center for great experimentation in secular musical styles including the madrigal, as well as brilliant sacred music.
“It’s the sacred and secular cross-over,” Balestrieri says. “You have this beautiful writing, going from violin solo (at the beginning of the set) that’s very experimental and fluid, into the madrigals by Monteverdi—he’s going to be a little more out there.”
The set includes music by Rossi, one of the most remarkable figures of the era. A Jewish violinist/composer who served as concertmaster at the Catholic court in Mantua, Rossi wrote in the style of the period, very much like Monteverdi. “One of the things that is really interesting is that (Rossi) was writing music on a par with all of these other composers,” Balestrieri says.
“He lived through a period of cultural exchange where you have someone who’s forced to live in a ghetto who’s also out doing music and was inducted into court society.”
One of Rossi’s great accomplishments was an extensive set of Jewish liturgical music, Ha-shirim asher li-Shlomo (The Songs of Solomon, after his name and not based on the Biblical Song of Solomon), published in 1623. Three pieces of that collection will close the concert.
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Baroque Pairings: Voices and Violins
Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Amanda Balestrieri, artistic director
Music of The Germans, The Nuns of Milan and Novara, and The Venetian School
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, First Evangelical Church, 805 Third Ave., Longmont
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruces St., Boulder
3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, The Studios at Overland Crossing, 2201 Delaware St., Denver (preceded by 2 p.m. pre-concert mixer and wine bar)
I like programs with translations, sometimes though they can distract an audience to read the text rather than watch the performance.