The Musical Instrument Museum presents

BAROQUE TO THE FUTURE

MusicaNova Orchestra

Warren Cohen, Conductor

 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

2:30 p.m.

MIM Music Theater

PROGRAM

Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)

Battalia a 10

 

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Suite: Les Nations

Le Mezzen

L’espérance de Mississippi

 

INTERMISSION

 

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)

Selections from Les Indes Galantes

Selections from Les Boréades

GreenPOACLogoCropped

This performance is made possible in part by a
grant from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

Startling examples of experimentation

By Warren Cohen, music director

Few music lovers think of the Baroque era as a hotbed of musical experimentation. Familiar Baroque formulas are readily recognized, and various national styles seem little more than musical stereotypes. But the national identities — the recognizable French style of Couperin and Rameau, the German style of Bach and Graupner, the Italian of Corelli and Scarlatti — suggest something else as well.

Take Handel, who was German but lived in Italy and England and wrote music that broadly moved between the styles popular there. Or Domenico Scarlatti, who moved to Spain and incorporated Spanish music into his vocabulary. Or Bach, who never went anywhere but wrote English and French suites and Italian concertos as an intellectual exercise.

The composers of this time were increasingly aware of the world beyond their own confines, increasingly curious about it, and increasingly influenced by it. The influences may have passed through the filter of their own backgrounds, but they also include startling examples of experimentation.

This concert is dedicated to this spirit of exploration.

 

Heinrich Biber

     Battalia a 10

Heinrich Biber, a violin virtuoso, was one of the great innovators of his time. His violin and viola writing extended the technical limits of the instruments, and he experimented with various tunings of the strings. Virtually all his Mystery Sonatas tune the violin in nonstandard ways.

In Battalia, he experimented with new sounds and combinations of sounds in ways that were shocking for the times. Baroque composers often used the idea of war or battle for musical experimentation, but no one took it as far as Biber.

The second movement describes a bunch of drunks in a pub singing in four different keys simultaneously. “Here dissonance is everywhere, for the drunks are accustomed to bellow out different songs,” Biber noted in the score.

To imitate cannon shots, the strings play a pizzicato that snaps against the fingerboard – known today as “the Bartok pizzicato,” which tells you which century we associate the effect with! Biber has the bass player place a piece of paper between the strings to imitate a snare drum, while the solo violin imitates a fife. He makes use of the col legno effect, where the players use the wood rather than the hair of the bow to produce a rattling sound.

The music is richly evocative, painting as colorful a picture as possible of the battle before ending with a lament, as Biber was not trying to glorify war.

 

Georg Philipp Teleman

     Suite: Les Nations

     Le Mezzen

     L’espérance de Mississippi

Telemann, like his friend J.S. Bach, was a man of extraordinary intellectual and musical curiosity. He wrote music in every style, for every combination of instruments and continued to find musical inspiration from remote sources as he composed well into his 80s. Some of his most fascinating and experimental music stems from his final decade, when he took an interest in Polish folk music and Turkish music.

The suite Les Nations depicts Swiss, Turkish, Portugese and “Moscovites,” although the latter is not a depiction of the inhabitants but of the city itself. It sounds for all the world like it could have been written by a 21st-century minimalist composer.

Le Mezzetin en Turc demonstrates Telemann’s fascination with the characteristic odd scales and rhythms of Turkish music. The distinctly exotic feel to the music is astonishing to anyone who holds the bewigged stereotypes of the Baroque composer.

Hope of the Mississippi comes from a suite called The Stock Exchange (La Bourse). Telemann’s apartment in Frankfurt was right above the Stock Exchange, and he wrote the suite as an ironic comment on living in uncertain times, perhaps reflecting on how the volatility of the stock market plays into people’s hopes and fears (some things never change!). With titles like War in Peacetime and Victors Vanquished, you get an idea of where he is going with this.

Hope of the Mississippi, the final movement, references one of the most famous (and stupidest) bubbles ever created. The French government sold shares in American real estate to raise badly needed cash. The operation was an incompetent disaster, leading to rampant inflation and a spectacular crash of markets all over Europe in 1720. Many people lost everything. The title is thus doubly ironic, and the music, which comes to a crashing stop halfway through before picking itself up again, is a wonderful comment on both the situation and human nature.

 

Jean-Philippe Rameau

     Selections from Les Indes Galantes

     Selections from Les Boréades

Staying with the themes of the Americas, Rameau’s opera Les Indes Galantes was another 18th century travelogue in music. It also was his first great operatic hit.

Rameau had a reputation as a ferocious arbiter of musical correctness, having written a text on harmony that became the basis for our understanding of baroque harmonic practice. Yet, ironically, Rameau was arguably the most radical composer of the 18th century. He who created the rules was the one who most defiantly ignored them. In Les Indes Galantes he does all sorts of harmonically naughty things.

The dances from the opera reflect Rameau’s diversity of inspiration. The Bostangis were members of the Imperial Guard of the Ottoman Empire, so we are back to “Turkish” music again. The polonaises vaguely suggest the style Chopin would make popular 100 years later.

The opera moves from Europe to America with the dance of the African slaves, which has a fiercely pent-up character and odd rhythmic quality. Dances from the Inca section suggest the supernatural quality of their adoration of the sun. The startling clashes in the music resolve in a most evocative way.

The Dance of the Peace Pipe takes its inspiration from Native American dancers and musicians brought to Paris in the 1720s. Rameau, upon seeing them, was inspired to write a harpsichord piece that he reused for the opera. It swings something fierce, making it almost impossible to not want to get up and dance.

The program ends with music from Les Boreades, Rameau’s final opera composed when he was 80. Like Telemann, Rameau in his old age became ever more experimental and wildly imaginative. No composer before Rameau made such a startling use of the colors of the instruments, and it is apparent throughout the overture that he was writing with the sounds of individual instruments in mind.

The music that opens Act IV includes six to seven minutes of music where the great arbiter of harmonic correctness revels in harmonies that would not be out of place in the music of Debussy, to say nothing of the glorious use of orchestral colors or the beauty of the melodic material.

The concert concludes with two folksy contradances. The first begins with a startling descending pattern that undermines your sense of key, which is then “corrected” by a scale pattern that seems to suggest that nothing was amiss. The second seems lifted from the vocabulary of 19th century “gypsy” music – but 100 years before the conventions of that style existed.

The Orchestra

Violin

Julian Nguyen, concertmaster

   Liz & John McKinnon chair

Priscilla Benitez

Eva Dove

Spencer Ekenes

Emilio Vazquez

Sunny Xia

 

Viola

Janet Quiroz, principal

Dominique van de Stadt
and Octavio Pàjaro chair

Jill Osborne

Allyson Wuenschel

Dana Zhou

 

Cello

Jennifer Son

Cindy Leger

 

Bass

Nathaniel De La Cruz

Flute

Jeanie Pierce, principal

     John & Kathleen Cleveland chair

Lisa Tharp

 

Oboe

Diego Espinoza, principal

      Nina Gurin memorial chair

Tiffany Pan

 

Bassoon

Kristilyn Woods

 

Horns

Lauralyn Padglick, principal

Gail Rittenhouse

 

Percussion

Sonja Branch

      Leger Strategies, LLC chair

 

 Harpsichord

Chuck Sedgwick

About Maestro Warren Cohen ....

Warren Cohen has been music director of MusicaNova Orchestra since its founding in 2003. Under his leadership the orchestra has developed an international reputation for its performances and recordings of new and unjustly neglected music.

Cohen began his musical career as a pianist and composer. His early positions included a stint as a ballet accompanist for Honolulu City Ballet and as music director of the Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu, where his work in theater and opera led to his becoming a conductor. Over the past two decades he has conducted more than 1,000 orchestral, operatic, and choral works.

In addition to his work with MusicaNova, Cohen is artistic director of the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestras. He previously was music director of the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, the Fine Arts String Orchestra, and the Southern Arizona Orchestra, where he was appointed music director laureate in 2005.

He divides his time between New Jersey and Arizona with his wife, soprano Carolyn Whitaker, and his 22-year-old son Graham, an award-winning composer and violist (and frequent presenter on MNO educational outreach visits), entering the master’s program at the Juilliard School in New York.

 

... and MusicaNova Orchestra

MusicaNova Orchestra plays the greatest music you’ve never heard – yet. Our professional ensemble features new music, unjustly neglected music, and fresh interpretations of the classics. We engage, enthuse, and educate through musical partnerships with diverse communities, artists, and students.

MusicaNova is supported by grants from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Arizona Commission on the Arts, City of Tempe, Scottsdale Arts, Selznick Tikkun Olam Foundation, and donations from generous corporate and individual donors.

For more information: MusicaNovaAz.org

Thank you to our generous supporters

Grants and Foundations     

City of Tempe Arts Grants    

Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture  

Arizona Commission on the Arts     

Gannett Foundation  

Scottsdale Arts          

Intel Foundation        

Selznick Tikkun Olam Foundation    

 

Corporate sponsors

Hannah’s Oboes LLC

Ocotillo Music           

ZipSprout      

Fry’s Community Rewards    

Amazon Smile Foundation   

Hannah’s Oboes, LLC

Bruckner Society of America

 

MusicaNova Circle — $10,000 and above

Robert Altizer & Dr. Deborah DeSimone     

Warren Cohen & Carolyn Whitaker  

Jill Forsyth-Koritala    

John A. & Elizabeth Longo McKinnon         

Ann B. Ritt      

Hannah Selznick        

 

Conductor Circle, $2,500-$9,999

Gloria Pulido 

Dominique van de Stadt and Octavio Pàjaro

James & Rita Whitaker          

 

Concertmaster Circle, $1,000 to $2,499 

David and Michelle Aristazabal        

John & Kathleen Cleveland  

David Connell

Andrea Gass  

Cindy and Robert Leger

Marjorie Sherman

Musicians Circle, $500 to $999    

Edward & Cynthia DuBrow   

Kasumi Kubota

Kevin Leger

Gail Rittenhouse        

Michelle Wang          

           

Patrons, $100 to $499       

Leonard Avdey          

Lee Chivers

Douglas Cohen         

Camille Conforti        

Henry Flurry   

Kristin Fray

John Friedeman

Ethel J. Harris

John Hinderer

Mark Hoover 

Meehae Jang

Elaine Jasperson

Bruce and Laurie Johnson    

William and Carolyn Krueger           

Dwight Lear   

Kate Lee         

Susan Morris 

Gary Moss     

Nokuthula Ngwenyama

Kristine Nguyen

Jill Osborne

Kate Park        

Christine Parker

Doris Marie Provine  

Nancy Ramirez

Christiano Rodrigues

Blair Snyder   

Pat Snyder

Carolyn White-Kruger           

Annette Vigil  

Fei Xu and Hong Zhu