2012 Festival Newsletter
Issue 10, March 2012
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Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music now tweets! With something like 300 million tweeters worldwide, we reckon there must be at least a few Baroque aficionados among them, so please do follow us @lufthansafest. We aim to be dedicated followers of the like-minded.
LES NATIONS - COUPERIN THE INTERNATIONALIST
Jed Wentz writes...
Performers of Early Music today usually present themselves as musicians with a deep respect for the composer's intentions. When it comes to performing French Baroque music, this often plays out in a particularly unfortunate way.
The performer has two basic cultural/historical templates to choose from: an imposing, impersonal and rationalized performance style associated with Louis XIV, and a pretty, pastoral and pastel performance style associated with the Regency and with the reign of Louis XV. This leaves the poor musician, who has set sail for a far-distant musical Parnassus in the rickety boat of authenticity, somewhere between the Scylla of dullness and the Charybdis of insignificance, with the wind of inspiration taken right out of his sails.
While it is not my intention to deny the basic truths behind the templates, I would like to place this evolution in style against a backdrop that allows performers today more voice, greater compass and an historical paradigm for personal, emotional engagement.
This backdrop is a theatrical one, for if a new lightness of style developed during the Regency, it did so in contrast to the triumphant performing arts of Louis XIV's reign, the tragédie and the tragédie en musique. It was the acknowledged superiority or these genres and the continued performance style associated with them that gave the pastoral fantasies and peepshow eroticism of the Regency and Rococo their chic.
In order to understand how this may have functioned it is important to remember that the Louis XIV performance style was not at all dull and purely formal, but rather fiery, personal and hyper-emotional. We know this because the French themselves placed a strong emphasis on the power of the actors to move the audience. The performer was co-author together with the poet, and for him a good performance did not rehash the words on the page, but rather added brilliance and lustre to the original work. This occurred through the injection of the actor's own personality into the performance.
This may seem a misplaced introduction to a programme that contains not a single piece of tragic music: our Festival programme tends towards the light, the graceful and the charming. Yet it is my firm belief that the transition in compositional style from tragic to pastoral did not result in a change in performance style from bombastic to insipid: the Rococo, too, needs to be interpreted, performed and projected outwards in order to charm and move the audience.
François Couperin was a composer with an appreciation for the past, though all the while pushing musical style forward towards a new lightness. This can nowhere better be seen than in the Apotheosis of Corelli. By blending Italianate and French styles, galant lightness with Baroque learning, Couperin created the most complex and rich piece in our programme.
In contrast, Colin de Blamont's Venus Adorned ('La toilette de Vénus') is entirely in the Rococo spirit, as befits a composer of a newer generation.
And having pleaded passionately the case for passionate pleading, we will do our best to project the passions we find in the works performed, and find in ourselves some fire, some soul and perhaps even a fleeting moment of the tragic.
A creative blend of German, French, and Italian national styles in some of Europe's finest Baroque chamber music, or to quote the 18th-century Danish composer Johann Adolph Scheibe: "Good German hard work, Italian gallantry and French fire together do the best!"
In their Festival programme, Ensemble Meridiana present Telemann at his most beguiling, as well as works from the two countries that inspired him most, Italy and France, at the time still the most important centres of European music.
Indeed, Georg Philipp Telemann captured better than anyone the eclectic sentiment of the age with his compositions in the "mixed taste", combining Italian, French, German and even Polish national styles in colourful and highly inventive forms.
Antonio Vivaldi became famous throughout Europe for brilliantly virtuosic writing for all instruments in his chamber concertos and for introducing the "ritornello form" into the Italian concerto. Telemann, as he said himself, dressed the last movement of his concerto in A minor "in an Italian suit", reproducing this typically Italian characteristic.
The French "fire" referred to by Scheibe is represented in the Festival programme by Jean-Féry Rebel who was chamber composer at the French court and was greatly influenced by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
And Polish folk music, in "its barbaric beauty" (to quote Telemann), shimmers through the programme in the work of the relatively unknown Pierre Prowo.
Multi award-winning and multi-national Ensemble Meridiana is one of the leading Baroque ensembles of our time. Its five members met during their studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland.
Buy a ticket for both concerts on Sunday 20 May and receive a voucher for a free glass of wine.