Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Bach Break! & Back to Bach!

A Bach Break!

Time out for the Chorale Bel Canto Annual Gala Fundraiser

On March 5, 2016, we held our annual fundraiser at Hacienda Golf Club—a dinner with wine pairings and a show—“Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman,” starring Linden Waddell and accompanied by Marjorie Poe.

Many thanks to all who sponsored, donated, contributed time and energy, and attended.
The evening was a great success, including the “wine grab,” with great bargains on fine wines!

Back to Bach!

On March 5, 2016, had you not been at the Hacienda Golf Club, you could have heard the Phoenix Chamber Music Society play Peter Schickele’s Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet. Although a serious composer as well, Mr. Schickele is perhaps most famous as PDQ Bach, his name parodying the three names of the Bach family often reduced to initials, such as CPE Bach. You can read more about him in Bach Bagatelles.

PDQ Bach

Peter Schickele

On this same day, you might also have heard the opening concert of the Complete Bach Organ Series at St. Thomas Church in New York, or Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the First Lutheran Church in Ellicott City, Maryland. You can also read more about Bach’s Passions in Bach Bagetelles.

On March 6, 2016, you could have attended a performance of George Frideric Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare as part of the Handel Week Festival in Oak Park, Illinois, the same production by Julius Rudel that propelled a young Beverly Sills to international stardom.

George Frideric Handel

Why Handel in a Bach series? They were contemporaries born in the same area of Germany, towering figures of their period. There is the Handel Hendrix House in London where G.F. Handel and guitarist Jimi Hendrix once lived. Jimi Hendrix ties, in a weird way, into the theme of the 79th Annual Bach Festival Theme, Bach and the Guitar. More on this later.

On March 7, 1706, Johann Pachelbel died. Pachelbel is one of “Bach and the Band,” a Thuringian musician. You undoubtedly know him through his famous “Canon in D,” often simply called “Pachelbel’s Canon,” a piece that is still popular three centuries later! You can read more about this relationship in Bach Bagatelles.

Johann Pachelbel

March 8
On this date in 1714, Sebastian’s fifth child, Carl Philipp Emanuel, was born in Weimar. His godfather was the composer Georg Philipp Telemann, about whom you can read more in Bach Bagatelles.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, 302 years old today

C.P.E. was the second surviving son of Sebastian and first wife Maria Barbara. Besides being the primary conservator of his father’s legacy, he was an important composer in his own right, providing a bridge between the Baroque and Classical periods in music.

Typical of so many musicians of the period, CPE studied law, first at the University of Leipzig, then at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder. Upon graduation, however, he almost immediately turned his full attention to music and accepted a position with Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia in Berlin. When the prince became king (Frederick “the Great”) in 1740, CPE, one of the leading harpsichord players in Europe, became a member of the royal orchestra. He was 26 years old.

In this capital city, he mixed with the cultural elite of German society, becoming a lifelong friend of the literary giant Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. He also continued composing, which he had begun in 1731. His primary influences were his father Sebastian Bach, his godfather Telemann, and their friend George Frideric Handel. C.P.E. composed mainly for the keyboard in Berlin, where he published his widely influential book, An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, still used today. C.G. Neefe used CPE’s book when teaching Beethoven.

While in Berlin, he married Johanna Maria Dannemann. Three of their children lived to adulthood but none was a musician.

In 1768 CPE succeeded his godfather, Telemann, as director of music at Hamburg, where he began to turn his energies more toward the composition of choral music. Ultimately, he composed in every genre except opera. He died in Hamburg on December 14, 1788 and was buried in St. Michael’s Church.

Classical Music

In the middle of the 18th century taste began to move toward a new style, a style that came to be called Classicism, as artists sought to copy the ideals of Classical Greece.

This new taste reflected changes in society such as the rejection of absolute monarchies in favor of the independent individual, an emphasis on reason and skepticism that led to the rise of science and the rise of the middle class with its new-found wealth.

Consequently, the new style in music favored simplicity over complexity. It shifted from polyphony (two or more lines of simultaneous independent melody) to homophony (one dominant melody accompanied by subordinate chords).

Variety of key, melody, rhythm, and dynamics became more pronounced, as did changes in mood and timbre. The harpsichord was replaced by the piano (called the fortepiano initially, because it could play both loudly and softly, which a harpsichord could not). Melodies were marked by clear-cut phrases and cadences (pauses at the end of a section of music).

The most important composers in the transition from Baroque to Classical were the Italian Domenico Scarlatti, the Viennese master Christoph Willibald Gluck, and C.P.E. Bach. Sebastian’s son was held in high esteem both for his ability to master the older forms and to present them in a new guise.

Many stylistic sub-groups arose within Classical style, so you also find the period also referred to as rococo (from rocaille, a form of home and landscape decoration using shells), meaning highly decorative and fanciful.

Another term was stil gallant, or Empfindsamer Stil. C.P.E. practiced this “sensitive style,” which emphasized simplicity, immediacy of appeal, and elegance. In contrast to the Baroque Doctrine of Affections in which a piece maintained the same emotion throughout its length, sensitive style aimed to express “true and natural” feelings with melodies and rhythms patterned after speech, and featured abrupt contrasts in mood. To achieve his highly dramatic style, C.P.E. recommended free improvisation and the elimination of the bar line in a score!

The giants of the fully-evolved Classical style are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn of the Vienna School, both of whom were highly influenced by C.P.E. Bach. Mozart said of him, “He is the father; we are the children.” Currently, there is a project underway to record his complete works.

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