Sunday, November 25, 2012, 4pm
Saint Anthony Park United Church of Christ
Pre-concert Discussion • 3pm
Christopher Krueger, flute traverso
Marc Schachman, baroque oboe
Linda Quan, baroque violin
Myron Lutzke, baroque cello
Arthur Haas, harpsichord
Dominique Labelle, soprano
Formed in 1973 by five Juilliard graduates, the Aulos Ensemble was at the forefront of a movement that has captured the imagination of the American listening public. Invitations from some of the most prestigious chamber music presenters in the U.S. soon followed. The group's first recording for the Musical Heritage Society, Original Telemann, was released in 1981 in connection with the composer's tercentenary, and was universally hailed as one of the most accomplished and significant early-music recordings ever, receiving the Critic's Choice Award of High Fidelity/Musical America Magazine. Since then, the ensemble has released over a dozen recordings on the same label, including two-CD sets of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, as well as the complete "Essercizii Musici" of Telemann on 5 CDs, and 2010's The Bach Family Album, a collection of excerpts from the "Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach" interspersed with chamber music by his sons. This discography is unique among American period-instrument chamber groups.
In the group's early years, they created a wonderful tradition for New York concertgoers: the Aulos' Christmas concerts in front of the Neapolitan Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These concerts – of which The New York Times said "if it has to be just one Christmas concert, this is it!" – were for many years given annually in the magical setting of the Medieval Sculpture Court and featured a variety of guest artists. A recording of one such program, entitled "A Baroque Christmas" and featuring the soprano Julianne Baird, was recorded for MHS/ Musicmasters. The popularity of these concerts and the recording encouraged Aulos to begin to offer the program on tour, bringing the special affinity of this repertoire and the seasonal festivities to audiences throughout the country. Recently the group has expanded its repertoire, and has added programming with additional guest artists, enabling performances of the complete Brandenburg Concerti, Handel's Water Music, and Acis and Galatea. These projects have been met with critical acclaim: The New York Times wrote of their Acis and Galatea performance at the Metropolitan Museum, "It was an utter delight." Now in its fourth decade, Aulos continues to explore new projects and develop outlets for its music-making. The group has continued to give master classes and lecture-demonstrations in 17th - and 18th-century performance practice at colleges and universities throughout the country. With its members serving on faculties of various schools of music and institutes specializing in historically informed performance, the Ensemble is responsible for training a new generation of American early-music performers.
Soprano Dominique Labelle, whose voice has been called “angelic,” “silvery,” and “vibrant,” could easily lay claim to the title “diva.” Instead, she simply calls herself a musician, and takes greatest pride not in her rave reviews, but in her work with colleagues and in her probing explorations of the repertoire from the Baroque to new music.
Throughout her career she has fearlessly plumbed the technical and emotional depths of music, turning in performances of “almost alarming ferocity” (San Francisco Chronicle), possessed of “conviction but without exhibitionism” (De Telegraf), that have “the audience hanging on every note” (Boston Globe). Her legendary musicianship and passionate commitment to music-making have led to close and enduring collaborations with a number of the world’s most respected conductors and composers, most recently Nicholas McGegan, Iván Fischer, Jos van Veldhoven, and the Pulitzer Prize winning composer Yehudi Wyner. She also treasures her long association with the late Robert Shaw.
Recent engagements include Handel’s Messiah with Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, and with Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; Yehudi Wyner’s Fragments from Antiquity with the Lexington Symphony; Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915 with the Boston Classical Orchestra; and ten performances in the spring of 2011 at the Göttingen Festival in Germany with Nicholas McGegan, including a Handel Gala that celebrated his 20-year tenure as the festival’s artistic director. She and Mr. McGegan, with whom she has recorded and performed extensively, are also collaborating in performances of Handel’s Orlando and Alexander’s Feast, with San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Her recent appearances with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer include the Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro at Teatro Perez Galdos in Las Palmas and in Budapest, a Bach B-minor Mass in Washington, D.C., and a Bach St. Matthew Passion with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.
In addition to her renowned Handel, Mozart, and Bach interpretations, she is drawn to contemporary music. She sang Seven Romances on Poetry of Alexander Blok by one of her favorite modern composers, Shostakovich, at the Mt. Desert Festival of Chamber Music in Maine in the summer of 2011. Her recent performance of Britten’s Les Illuminations with the New England String Ensemble and Susan Daveny Wyner was called “heated” and “voluptuous” by the Boston Globe. She has performed and recorded John Harbison’s The Rewaking with the Lydian String Quartet.
Dominique Labelle first came to international prominence as Donna Anna in Peter Sellar’s daring production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, set in Spanish Harlem, which she performed in New York, Paris, and Vienna. She has also won great acclaim for her portrayal of Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen: “You would have to go back to the young Mirella Freni to find a Micaela to rival the golden-throated Labelle… her singing is enough to give you religion,” wrote Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe.
Among her numerous recordings of opera and concert repertoire is Monsigny’s Le Déserteur, with Opera Lafayette and Ryan Brown (Naxos), with whom she also performed in Gluck’s Armide at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Of her performance in the title role, Anthony Tommasini wrote in the New York Times, “Singing with tender longing one moment and steely determination the next, Ms. Labelle conveyed Armide’s aching conflicts.” She can also be heard on recordings on the Virgin Veritas, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, RCA Victor Red Seal, Koss, Denon, New World, Carus and Muisica Omnia labels. Her recording of Handel’s Arminio (Virgin Classics) won the 2002 Handel Prize.
Born in Montreal and trained at McGill and Boston Universities, Ms. Labelle enjoys sharing her technical and musical insights with young singers, and has taught master classes at Harvard University, McGill, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts with more being planned. She lives in central Massachusetts with her husband and two children.
The Aulos Ensemble has been at the forefront of the Early Music movement in America since its founding in 1973 by Christopher Krueger, flute, Marc Schachman, oboe, Linda Quan, violin, Myron Lutzke, cello, and Arthur Haas, harpsichord. As one of the first American "original instrument" ensembles, its accomplishments have given it pre-eminence in the early music movement. The Ensemble performs throughout America and Europe, often collaborating with guest artists in order to present unusual and rarely performed repertoire. For their Music in the Park Series concert, the Aulos Ensemble is joined by the renowned Canadian soprano Dominique Labelle. With a voice that has been described as “angelic,” “silvery,” and “vibrant,” Ms. Labelle is lauded for her probing explorations of repertoire from the Baroque to new music. Together they usher in the Holiday season with a program titled "A Baroque Christmas."
|Concerto in D major, RV 94||Antonio Vivaldi
|Traditional German Carols
|Arias from the Cantatas
||J. S. Bach
- Intermission -
|Quatrieme symphonie de Noël
|"Vous qui désirez sans fin"
Musettes from Les Fêtes d'hébé
"Chrétiens quie suivez l'église"
Rigaudons from Les Fêtes d'hébé
"Grâce soit renduë"
Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1683-1764)
Of all the holidays in our western culture, Christmas, more than any other, transcends
its religious origins and implications. It has become for almost all of us a time to
celebrate; an opportunity to rejoice. Thus it is not surprising that Christmas is the inspiration for an unequalled wealth of musical composition, both vocal and instrumental,
secular and non-secular. This body of literature spans all periods of musical history, from the Middle Ages to the present. The spirit of Christmas has become such a part of our lives that the month of December sees easily twice as many concerts as any other month of the year, for the inherent festive quality of music-making has become synonymous with celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is in this spirit that we offer "A BAROQUE CHRISTMAS", a concert of vocal and instrumental works from the 16th to 18th-centuries, some with obvious references to the holiday, others with less direct connections, and one work (Concerto in D major) by Vivaldi , that has nothing at all to do with Christmas and with which we open our program.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) lived in Venice and earned his living teaching at the Ospedale della Pieta, a foundling home for girls. His duties, in addition to teaching the violin, consisted of organizing the spectacular concerts presented by the Ospedale. For these concerts Vivaldi composed hundreds of concerti which ultimately gained him an international reputation as a composer, and which helped crystallize the concerto form throughout Europe. Although smaller in number than his solo concerti, Vivaldi explored the idiom of the chamber concerto, where instead of a ripieno or "back-up band" the soloists themselves function as the orchestral tutti and then take turns playing the solos. These works are in the traditional three movement mold (fast-slow-fast) with the middle movement typically allowing a certain freedom for improvisation. In the concerto we present tonight, this movement will be familiar to many because of its resemblance to the slow movement of the "Winter" concerto from the Four Seasons.
The carols on tonight's program all date from between 1500 and 1700 (thus some predate the theoretical beginning of the Baroque period and belong in that historical period known as the Renaissance). These works come to us in a variety of sources, and we have chosen to orchestrate them, using our baroque instruments, according to our tastes, attempting to capture the affect of each piece in an appropriate manner. Similar performing decisions have been made regarding texts and number of verses, since there are no definitive answers as to the authenticity of any particular version. A recurring characteristic of these carols is the harmonic feature of the drone commonly associated with the bagpipe or musette-instruments that evoke the images of shepherds that have come to be identified with Christmas.
We include a group of Bach arias on all our Christmas concerts. All of us have our favorite Bach works and each of us has different reasons for regarding him as one of history's greatest composers. It is interesting to note, however, that this universal acclaim was not accorded Bach during his lifetime, and that he spent most of his career (and made perhaps his most significant contributions) as a church composer at Saint Thomas' Church in Leipzig, where he composed a cantata for each Sunday of the year. These works were never intended as concert pieces, but rather as part of a religious observance (Bach saw himself as a true servant of God) and although only one of the three arias is specifically about Christmas, all share in the spirit of love and devotion that is associated with this holiday. "Ich esse mit Freuden" (BWV 84) is a dance-like aria with an obbligato of oboe and violin. The text speaks of eating one's bread with a cheerful spirit and a grateful heart. "Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kommt" (from Cantata 151-written for Christmas) states "Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes, Jesus is now born." It is a gorgeous lullaby, sung instrumentally at first by the oboe d'amore, crowned with a flowing flute obbligato representing the holy spirit." In "Mein Glaubiges Herze" (from Cantata 68), the text speaks of "My believing heart, be glad, sing, make merry, for thy Jesus is near." The aria begins with a virtuosic obbligato for solo cello and when the soprano is finished, the cello is joined by oboe and violin for a fully worked out "quartet" movement which brings the aria to its joyous conclusion.
Michel Corrette was a church organist for most of his long life, but that doesn't begin to give an idea of his indefatigable and multifaceted activities on behalf of French music. He was the author of countless treatises and tutors for just about every instrument played in his time, from the flute to the double bass. He was a leader in furnishing simple music to bourgeois homes and in supplying brilliant concerti for the burgeoning public concert business. In short, he was France's leading "popularizer" of music. Perhaps his best known works were his Concerto Comiques, in which the tunes all Paris hummed- -many of them first heard at the Opera Comique (hence the name)--were paraphrased in vivaciously embellished instrumental settings. In a similar vein is a group of six compositions entitled Symphonies en Quartuor contenant les plus beaux Noëls François et Etranger avec des Variations. The work we perform tonight includes many of the most lovely and most recognized French carols of the period, along with their dazzling variations.
The French, with their attraction to all things pastoral and their predilection for dance music, made an especially colorful contribution to this literature. We close our program with several musette settings and rigaudons interspersed with French Christmas carols, or noels. The musette was a type of French bagpipe that gave rise to an entire genre of pastorally evocative pieces that were very popular in the 18th century. The Rigaudon was a quick and lively dance, originally from Provençe, danced by "peasants and sailors," according to Johann Mattheson. French noëls, some lively, some serious, were meant not only to tell the Christmas story, and to give insight into the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, but also to provide moral instruction. Thus, in "Grâce soit renduë," the text informs us that Adam put us in danger of eternal damnation by eating the apple, but God sent us salvation in the form of His son. "Vous qui désirez sans fin" tells us that God will always listen to our songs of praise and is always ready to pardon our sins. "Chrétiens qui suivez l'église" shows the importance of being a practicing Christian. This grand closing group of interwoven vocal and instrumental pieces is designed to show a French 18th - century Christmas in all its facets: dances, poignant melodies, pastoral elements, and an exquisite moral rendering of the Christmas story.