Baroque Chamber Music

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goofyfoot wrote:...but I

goofyfoot wrote:

...but I couldn't begin to say which pieces are strongest and which recordings are the most desirable..

 

I think that could be said for the whole repertoire, and it is maybe the main reason why I wanted to start this thread: the repertoire is so vast and to an extent unexplored that it is hard to establish a canon within it. The other issue is, that without a question, all Bach’s works in this field are so far removed from his peer’s, in terms of scope and quality, that we might as well just leave him out of it.

So what would be core canon within this world (other than Bach’s works)? Biber’s sonatas come straight to mind, but my first suggestion would be Zelenka’s 6 sonatas for 2 oboes and continuo, beautifully dense in their counterpoint, ambitious in scope, intense in expression.

Parla has highlighted correctly all these beautiful collections by Telemann that deserve to be known and enjoyed: the parisian quartets, the table music, the fantasias for violin solo.

Still Confused

Thanks Parla, that gets this topic moving along and I'll look for your suggested Telemann recordings.

I'm still a bit confused however as to what we can consider to be a chamber ensemble. So by today's standards, does this mean a six piece chamber orchestra would not fall into the chamber definition?

goofyfoot

Baroque Chamber Music?

I believe that the term we have to define (or clarify) is "Chamber Music", not the "chamber ensemble" (or orchestra). In this regard, anything written for two or more individual instruments going normally up to ten voices (the decet) can be considered as a work of Chamber Music. So, all these Sonatas for one solo instrument and b.c or simply a Harpsichord (or in the transitional period for a Forttepiano), Trio Sonatas, the Quadri or Quartets, Quintets and Sextets (in Bach's Sons cases) are good examples of Chamber Music in Baroque and the Trasition to Classical era.

The "grey" zone is whether Concertos or more "orchestral" works performed with one instrument per part. Then, we have all the Concertos by Bach performed as -more or less- Concertante Quintets! Even the Brandemburg Concertos (with the exception of the First, which requires thirteen instrumentalists) can be considered as an expanded form of Chamber Music (with a soloist per part).

In any case, I think we have to explore the huge area of the Sonatas for one intrument and continuo up to the usual Trios, Quartets etc. (normally up to six or seven parts), leaving aside the "grey" area(s).

Parla

P.S.: Basic repertory of the highest order: Corelli's Sonatas from Op.1 to the celebrated Op.5 (Sonatas da camera and da chiesa as well, for one or two violins and a rich basso continuo).

 

Well, there is "chamber" and

Well, there is "chamber" and there is "ensemble". Chamber meant a space for playing music that was not the church (music for the service), nor the theatre (opera). It could be private (a prince's mansion) or public (a cafe). The number of players involved does not affect the definition.

In order to limit the scope of the thread I specified music made with one or several musicians, but leaving out concertos and suites, which is what Karajan would play with a Mahler orchestra. Even if the actual concertos can be played one per part they still have built into the music the "ripieno" idea: episodes where most of the musicians in the ensemble play in unison, cast against solo episodes. In Corelli this difference is completely structural, and his concertos seem almost exclusively about this constant alternation. To me particularly his music sounds really episodic and loose in structure. Vivaldi's use of ripieno is really different, since it is unified thematically (and comes to be known as ritornello). Bach takes it one further and subtracts the ritornellos from the ripienos.

 

Not sure it is any clearer now...

parla wrote:Basic repertory

parla wrote:

Basic repertory of the highest order: Corelli's Sonatas from Op.1 to the celebrated Op.5 (Sonatas da camera and da chiesa as well, for one or two violins and a rich basso continuo).

 

Yes Parla, they have to be right up there: Corelli's sonata trios and violin sonatas seem to have been the most influential of the first half of the 18th century. My experience of Corelli is to have played randomly some of his chamber music, every now and again, but never systematically. I tend to find him a bit dull, but that is just probably me struggling with a musical aesthetics I'm not familiar with. Do you know him any better?

Corelli - Sonate da Chiesa - Sonate da Camera.

Well, I have all of his output. There are officially works published with only 6 Opus numbers. The five of them are Sonatas (the first four Op. numbers are Sonatas for two Violins and the most celebrated Op.5 is for solo Violin and Continuo). However, even the Concerti Grossi (Op.6) are expanded Chamber works, with the addition of ripieno parts for the Chamber Ensemble.

I find the Sonatas for two Violins quite inventive and creative, going much beyond the era they were written, very idiomatic for the Violin and susceptible for a rich continuo. The Op.5 is more pivotal in the repertory of the Violin, while the Op.6 Concerti Grossi are of the finest quality in providing full music, in a brilliant concise manner.

Fortunately, both Arcana, sometime ago, and, more recently, Linn have provided some of the most blessed recordings of Corelli's works (particularly the Opp. 1-5), while Brilliant have realesed the whole output in one box, in fairly good performances and recordings. Particularly with Linn's brilliant performances with the Avison Ensemble and in state of the art SACD recordings, one can simply have to listen...

Based on the fact that about half of these Sonatas are called Sonate da Chiesa, while the others Sonate da Camera, this indicates that works of "chamber" features were performed for church "purposes" or even in the church (for any possible reason).

Parla

Yes, I do have his hole opus

Yes, I do have his whole opus too, I’ve just not explored it as much as I could. I’ve always had this feeling that interpreters have not really got Corelli yet, and that could be part of the reasons why I don’t enjoy him more. If I remember correctly it was in the booklet from Ensemble 451 recording of his Op. 6 that they quoted Georg Muffat. Muffat (who also has some chamber collections), like many european musicians of the time, travelled through Italy in order to learn from the Italian Masters. In Rome he met Corelli and heard him play his concerti grossi. He reported back on the way they were interpreted: the slow sections were very slow and the fast sections were very, very fast. The amazing thing is that then, in their recording, Ensemble 451 don’t play the fast bits fast at all! In fact I don’t think anyone does.

As for the chamber/church thing… from our point of view it would not make sense to leave out sonatas da chiesa and focus on sonatas da camera, one more reason why I adopted our current understanding of what chamber music is. But it is worth noting the differences though, as they can be in fact, quite different. The church sonata is typified by a slow/fast/slow/fast structure, with the movements having the “abstract” labels “allegro”, “adagio” etc. The church sonata is a group of dances, basicly.

More on this maybe later.

The problem with trying to follow these distinctions from our point of view is that they are constantly blurred, more so in the late Baroque. Bach’s collection of sonatas for violin and harpsichord obbligato,  follow on the whole the da chiesa model, but often individual movements are more closely related with the ritornello/vivaldian form.

Corelli - Sonate da chiesa.

I do not believe, Camaron, that "interpreters have not really got Corelli yet". I found, at least the Avison Ensemble, in spectacular and immaculate recordings, on Linn) and Enrico Gatti with the Ensemble Aurora (on Arcana), have reached a very good level in realising Corelli's greatness, beauty and inventiveness in his music. The latter have recently released the 12 "Assisi" Soantas, on Glossa this time, some "extra" works to the known Op. numbers. Excellent production and very idiomatic performances throughout.

In Opus 5, Stefano Montanari with the Accademia Byzantina are very convincing, in a brilliant recording on Arts, as well.

I never implied to exclude the Sonate da chiesa from our deliberations. I just wanted to make the point that Chamber Music works intended to be performed, at that time, even in churches, for various reasons (including facilitating religious ones, as interludes in masses etc.).

Parla

I'm happy that you happy with

I'm happy that are you happy with your Corelli Parla. On my side I'm still looking for the right recordings. I've sampled quite a few of them over the years and I've not been particularly impressed by any. I believe the Avison Ensemble was one of them, but I don't think I've listened to Ensemble Aurora yet. I might try to do that.
More fine music! Buxtehude is -in these days- remembered as Bach's greatest youthful inspiration, and provides one of the great man's most endearing biographical anecdotes: his 260 miles pilgrimage on foot to hear Buxtehude play the organ.
Buxtehude was mainly a composer of vocal/church works and organ/keyboard. I know some of his harpsichord suites, toccatas, etc and it is very fine music. He is only known to have published two collections of trio sonatas. On top of this there are just a few others without opus number, and which I know from a recording with John Holloway. This group in particular, and even more so than his published collections, are some of my very favourite baroque chamber music. They predate Corelli's own publications and so are related to older Italian forms. Refreshingly the two soloists are violin and cello, over a continuo group. They tend to have a greater number of movements, and there is plenty of imitative counterpoint, but the textures tend to be fairly clear, and much thinner than say Zelenka's trios sonatas. What sets them apart thouth is a sort of intimate lyricism and great melodic invention. Good music!

I'm happy that you happy with

repeated post!

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