Four Sacred Cantatas by J S Bach

“Four Sacred Cantatas by J S Bach”
February 28, 2016, 3 pm
Village Lutheran Church, 9237 Clayton Rd, 63124
Pre-concert lecture by Music Director, Dr. Bruce Carvell – 2:30 pm
Free Admission
Ample parking on the adjacent church lot

Collegium Vocale of Saint Louis
1996 – 2016
Celebrating 20 Years!

Program Notes on Buried Treasure: Unpublished Gems of the German Courts, 1700-1750

Program Notes — Sunday, October 25, 2015

Baroque Chamber Ensemble
A staggering amount of music was composed during the eighteenth century. While much of what was written by Vivaldi, J. S. Bach, and G. F. Handel has been edited and issued in academic editions, other pieces by them and their contemporaries have continued to exist only in library-held manuscripts. The digital age has brought new life to some of this music as copies become available on the Internet. All of the music heard on today’s program has been transcribed and edited from these digital reproductions of the autograph and manuscript copies currently available on the Internet. The principal source for these works is the University and State Library in Darmstadt, Germany. The Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, Ernst Ludwig (1667-1739), having aspirations of rivaling the cultural circumstances of Louis XIV of France at Versailles, hired some of the best musicians in Germany for his musical establishment and, as a side benefit, accumulated one of the most important music manuscript collections in Germany. However, these have not been heard since because the tendency of many musicologists is to focus on major figures of that time.

The cantata, “Posa d’un faggio all’ ombra,” was composed by Giovanni Alberto Ristori at the command of the Princess Anne Amalia, daughter of Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, and was sung by her to celebrate the Name Day of the King, her father. It probably was composed around 1735. Ristori was a noted Italian harpsichordist who spent most of his professional life working for the rulers of Saxony, who held court in Dresden and Warsaw. This work is unusual in that much of the harpsichord part is written out – chiefly preludes, postludes, and interludes – features that were customarily left for the keyboard player to improvise. This may have been done to accommodate the Princess, who was still a teenager and not a veteran singer. Ristori himself undoubtedly played the harpsichord part at the first Royal performance. The edition we are using today is drawn from the autograph copy held by the State and University Library in Dresden.

In 1709, Ernst Ludwig hired Christoph Graupner (1683-1760), a famous harpsichord player, away from the Hamburg Opera. Graupner then served as Director of Music at the Darmstadt court from 1711 until his death. Along with composing an enormous quantity of music that is just now being brought to wider attention, Graupner was responsible for organizing chamber music concerts every Sunday afternoon and on other occasions when requested by the Landgrave. It was also his responsibility to provide music for festive occasions, such as the Landgrave’s Name Day and Birthday. His cantata, “M’invita a la caccia,” was composed as a Prologue to a 1719 revival of the pastoral opera, “La constanza vince l’Inganno,” perhaps for such an occasion. The two arias we are performing today, are fully in the Italian style popular throughout Europe in the 18th century. The characters are drawn from Classical mythology and each aria is written in the da capo form that is in two sections, the first of which is repeated.

Johann Gottlieb Graun was one of the best violinists of his time in Germany. He was the brother of Karl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759), who was one of the premier opera composers in Germany, a contemporary of Handel and Hasse. J. G. Graun studied violin with J. G. Pisendl (1687-1775), who was the concertmaster of the famous orchestra in Dresden and who had studied violin with Giuseppe Tartini(1692-1770) in Italy. Graun’s cantata, “Ecco à voi, cari sassi,” heard on our program today, must have been held in some regard, for it exists in several manuscript copies from the 18th century, chiefly in libraries at Berlin, Dresden, and Darmstadt. The text was also set earlier in the 18th century both by Francesco Mancini, a Neapolitan composer, and by Emanuele, Baron d’Astora, another Italian composer. Graun’s cantata was probably composed sometime around 1750, based on its stylistic qualities, and was premiered in Dresden. Our performance edition is drawn from a copy held in the archives at Darmstadt.

The cantata by Antonio Caldara, “Non v’e pena ne l’amore,” was written and probably first performed in courts where Caldara was employed, either in Vienna or Dresden. It only survives only as a manuscript copy held in Darmstadt, upon which our edition is based. It was originally scored for voice, basso continuo, flute, and chalumeau, an early forerunner of the clarinet; however, it will be performed today with a violin playing the chalumeau part. Such substitutions were not uncommon during the 18th century. The chalumeau enjoyed its greatest popularity in Vienna and northern Germany, although Vivaldi also composed pieces for it. The form of this cantata is typical of the Italian cantata at this time: recitative, aria, recitative, aria.

The composer of Apollo in Tempe is uncertain and is probably not Giovanni Porta, as cited. However, one of only two manuscript copies of this work that exist, the one in Dresden, attributes this work to Porta, who was a Neapolitan composer working in Rome and Venice. It is clearly an Italian work. Its subject matter revolves around the arrival of the Greek God, Apollo, in the Valley of Tempe in Greece. Its intent is to flatter the cultural achievements and power of the Landgrave. Both surviving editions have been closely examined for this concert and interesting edits can be observed. The Darmstadt copy, the source of our edition, seems to have been reworked in the 18th century. A lengthy overture has been added; one of the characters has been rewritten from an alto to a high soprano and was given three new arias. Also the quartet has been extended by an extra 100 measures or so, a full third longer than its original length. In the opera of this period, any duet, trio, or quartet is very rare, especially one of this length. The most likely source of these revisions is Ernst Christian Hesse (1676-1762), a noted viola da gamba player hired by the Landgrave in 1698. Hesse served as Director of Music at court from 1707 to 1709. Trained as a lawyer, he also served as Secretary to the War Council for the Landgrave.

The Landgrave paid for Hesse to study in Paris and sent him to Italy for further study as well. Hesse’s second wife, Johanna Elisabeth Döbricht, a high soprano, was regarded as the best in Germany. While it was not unusual at that time to rewrite opera parts to suit a particular cast of singers, the fact that the part of Dorinda is the part that gains the most in opportunity for display in the revisions suggests that Hesse was looking out for his wife’s interests. One more interesting feature is that the words of the opening chorus are changed from, “Viva Apollo” to “Viva Ernesto.” There is a note in the Darmstadt archive that the work was performed as part of a celebration on the Landgrave’s Name Day, although which year is not mentioned. It may have been intended for 1724. A number of mysteries about this long-buried piece remain.

From manuscript to music…

There are two very interesting features found in the scores of today’s program. In the Graun cantata, the string parts for the opening accompanied recitative include vocal cues to help the ensemble stay more closely together. This is something often done in modern editions, but it is very rare to see it in original parts of this period. It is unknown whether this is a feature of Graun’s original composition or something added for the performance in Darmstadt. The pitches of the vocal part are notated on the upper staff in soprano clef.

Equally interesting is the written-out keyboard part for the Ristori cantata. As mentioned above, such matters were usually left to be improvised on the spot. Note that both the right hand of the keyboard part and the voice part are found on the upper staff of the score and that when the voice comes in, the keyboard has only a bass part over which he improvises the accompaniment. Additionally, the right hand part is notated in treble clef, while the voice part is in soprano clef.

© Dr. Bruce Carvell, Oct 2015

Buried Treasure: Unpublished Gems from the German Courts, 1700-1735

The COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF ST. LOUIS is proud to present “Buried Treasure: Unpublished Gems from the German Courts, 1700-1750,” a concert of spectacular secular cantatas and arias newly edited for this performance. The concert will be performed on Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of St. Louis, 6501 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, MO, 63105. Free admission and free parking on the adjacent church lot.

This program highlights vocal chamber music composed and performed in several important German courts in the early and mid-18th century that may not have been presented since the composers themselves were the performers. The concert will feature solo cantatas by Antonio Caldara, Johann Gottlieb Graun, and Giovanni Alberto Ristori, which represent some of the finest music composed and performed at the imperial court in Vienna and the royal courts in Berlin and Dresden, all important musical centers of the time.

This is a rare opportunity to hear this music performed live in concert for the first time in over 200 hundred years. The singers will be accompanied by an ensemble of period-appropriate instruments in a beautiful venue that offers a glorious acoustic in which to experience this fine repertory.

» St. Louis Post Dispatch: Collegium Vocale performs Baroque treasures rescued from obscurity

Celebrate St. Louis!

Press Release October 26, 2014

The COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF ST. LOUIS is proud to present ”Celebrate St. Louis!” a concert of sacred French music in honor of the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Louis. The concert will be presented on Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. at Basilica of St. Louis (The Old Cathedral), 209 Walnut St. St. Louis 63102.

The program highlights vocal chamber music composed and performed in the French court in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. When the city of St. Louis was founded in 1764, Louis XV was king of France. The city was named in honor of him and of St. Louis IX, the patron saint of France. Throughout France, the Feast of St. Louis was celebrated on every August 25 and, in honor of the occasion, the most celebrated composers of the day competed with one another by writing special music, including pieces we will be performing.

Included on our program are settings by Moulinié, Boismortier, and Bernier of “Domine salvum fac regem,” a special prayer for the well-being of the king that was included in every service sung at court; psalm settings by Charpentier and Campra; and a solo cantata by Rameau only discovered in 1969. The singers will be accompanied by an ensemble of period-appropriate instruments.

We are excited to be performing this program in the resplendent beauty of the newly renovated Old Cathedral, which itself holds a special place in our local history. The recent nine million dollar renovation of the Basilica of St. Louis (The Old Cathedral), on the Mississippi riverfront, included careful repairs and replacement of interior and exterior treatments with special attention to original design elements.

We look forward to having you join us to hear this special music and see the beauty of one of St. Louis’ most important landmarks, as we celebrate the 250th birthday of our fine city.

Admission to the concert is free and there is ample free parking in the church lot.

PROGRAM NOTES ON The Passion of Princes…

A Baroque composer had several available paths to success: the opera house, the church, or the courts of the wealthy and powerful. Of these, perhaps the most certain path to success and fame, if it was to be attained, was the one that led to the courts of the mighty. Among the many ruling families of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors in Vienna were second to none in creating this milieu characterized by wealth and power. Most important for our purposes is the fact that the Habsburgs were very important patrons of the arts, especially music. The Habsburg dynasty, one of the great European ruling families, ruled Austria from 1262 until 1918. In 1452, Frederick III (1415–1493) was named Holy Roman Emperor, beginning a succession of Habsburg Emperors that lasted until the death of Charles VI in 1740.

Writing in 1949, H. V. F. Somerset pointed out that there were three major impacts that the Habsburgs had in furthering the development of music in Vienna: their expansion of the imperial chapel (the corps of court musicians), their patronage of foreign musicians, especially Italians, and their own participation as practicing musicians and composers. Ferdinand III (reigned 1637–1658), his son, Leopold I (reigned 1658–1705), and his grandsons, Joseph I (reigned 1705–1711) and Charles VI (reigned 1711–1740) were particularly devoted musicians. Of these, Leopold, who was an accomplished performer on harpsichord and recorder, was the most prolific composer; his extant output totaling eight operas, 108 balletti, and numerous sacred pieces. Joseph I was also well regarded as an able singer, dancer, and performer on harpsichord, and recorder, among other instruments, and his compositions show a mastery of the contemporary style as exemplified by the works of Alessandro Scarlatti.

Today’s program features music composed by Italian composers associated with the Habsburg court in Vienna in the early 18th century who benefited directly from the support of the Imperial Court. Badia, Bononcini, Caldara, and Porsile each held the title of Court Composer at one time or another. These composers, along with other Italians such as Ariosti, played an important part in introducing the more progressive Italian styles to the more conservative Viennese musical establishment. As such, they created a large and significant body of work that is well deserving of being heard today.

Although fairly unknown today, Carlo Agostino Badia was the favorite composer of Leopold I and, as such, was the first to hold the title of Court Composer when he was appointed to that position by Leopold I in July of 1694. Likely a native of Verona, Badia, along with Bononcini and others, was among that group of Northern Italian composers who introduced the progressive Italian styles to the more conservative Viennese court. Badia composed 24 operas and 36 large-scale sacred works for the court. He also composed 53 cantatas, including “La Fenice,” a cantata on today’s program that played an important part in re-establishing the popularity of the cantata form at court. This cantata, composed in 1699 and comprised of several arias, separated by recitative sections, was first performed in court by members of the aristocracy; the vocal part was sung by a Madame Sousin, a lady of the court, while the first recorder part was most likely played by Joseph, heir to the throne. This charming work uses exalted poetic language to first establish the rare and marvelous qualities of the legendary phoenix, and then to express how much more wonderful than the phoenix was the Emperor Leopold. The general avian atmosphere of this piece is reinforced by the presence of the recorders in the ensemble. This cantata is one of several by Badia that were published during the period.

Giovanni Bononcini, one of the most popular and prolific composers in the 18th century, was born into a renowned family of composers and string players. He published three collections of instrumental works at the age of 15. In 1691, he established himself in Rome. While in Rome, Bononcini composed and performed several operas and sacred works that were very well received, which provided the foundation of his international reputation. In 1697, Bononcini moved to Vienna and soon became the favorite composer of Joseph. From 1720 to 1732, Bononcini was in London, where his fame as an opera composer rivaled that of Handel. A plagiarism scandal forced Bononcini to leave London and move to France. He eventually returned to Italy where he died in poverty.

Bononcini’s Duetti da camera, Op. 8, first published in 1691 and dedicated to Leopold I were very popular throughout Europe and were reprinted in 1701. Charles Burney, the noted 18th century historian, stated that these were the first such works to be composed. These pieces consist of alternating arias and recitatives and show Bononcini’s impressive command of melodic invention and intricate counterpoint. The texts are typical of their time in that they present many common images of the uncertain nature of love and the dangers of a flirtatious glance. A cellist himself, Bononcini makes the instrumental bass an equal partner with the voices in many of these movements. These duets have been newly edited from a late 17th century manuscript for this concert by our artistic director.

Antonio Caldara, a Venetian singer and composer, was one of the most respected composers of the period. His association with the Habsburgs as a chamber composer to Charles VI began in 1705, while Charles was in Barcelona. After a spell in Rome writing operas, Caldara was named a Court Composer in Vienna in 1716 during the reign of Charles VI. Best known as a composer of chamber cantatas (around 300) and sacred music, Caldara is also among the last to compose madrigals. Probably as the result of a commission, Caldara composed a set of 13 madrigals to texts by Antonio Luccini, the Dresden Court librettist, in late 1731 and early 1732. We open today’s program with one of these madrigals and close with another. These pieces are noteworthy for their high quality of inventiveness, well-wrought counterpoint, and sophisticated harmonies. For our performance, we returned to Caldara’s original autograph manuscript as the basis of our edition. Both texts are of a moralizing nature with “Fugge di Lot la moglie,” drawing upon the story of Lot’s wife from the Bible and using it as a warning of the dangers of an unrepentant life, while “Fra pioggie, nevi e gelo” suggests that we should enjoy good things while we have them.

Another neglected musician we share with you today, Giuseppe Porsile was a Neapolitan composer and singing teacher. Trained in Naples, Porsile’s ability earned him a position in the Royal Court in Barcelona, serving Charles II and, later, Charles III, who became the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV in 1711. He was the singing teacher to Joseph’s wife, the dowager Empress Wilhelmina Amalia, and composed several birthday odes for her, which were performed by her daughters. Porsile’s music is typical of the Neapolitan style of the day, which was unusual in Vienna, where most of the Italians were from the North of Italy. The unique source for the cantata, “A piè d’ameno colle,” is found in a collection of cantatas by several composers, many of whom associated with the Imperial Court at Vienna, bound together in the State Library at Darmstadt. This collection is also one of the two known sources for the Ariosti cantata heard on today’s program. The existence of these manuscripts in Darmstadt is highly suggestive of the influence of these composers who were based in Vienna and of their works for their period. This cantata, set in the idyllic Arcadian past, tells of the unhappy young man, Eurillo, and his beloved Mitilde and their misunderstandings. It is not so much a narrative as it is a scenario within which typical emotions and poetic conceits are set to music. The image in the final aria of the soul compared to a small boat tossed on a stormy sea is one often encountered in the music of this period.

Attilio Ariosti was not an official member of the Viennese court establishment, although he often performed there and composed for court functions. A native of Bologna, Ariosti had a career as composer and organist that took him to many cities in Europe during the course of his lifetime, including Berlin and London. He is best remembered today as an early advocate for the viola d’amore, as well as the premier virtuoso on this instrument in the early 18th century. This remarkable instrument features 6 or 7 strings that are played upon directly, as well as a number of strings that would resonate sympathetically. The cantata we are performing, “Pur al fin, gentil Viola,” was most likely composed while Ariosti was in Berlin. This charming piece allows the viola d’amore full play to demonstrate its many virtues in concert with the lively vocal writing.

© Dr. Bruce Carvell, April 2014

Program Notes on Johann Sebastian Bach: Faith in the Time of Tribulation

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is universally regarded as one of the supreme masters of Western music history. His compositions are well known for their technical mastery and emotional complexity. Bach composed in nearly all of the available musical styles and genres of his day except for opera, and that was due only to a lack of opportunity. As one of the defining composers of the Baroque Period, his large-scale vocal works, such as the B Minor Mass, the Passions of St. Matthew and St. John, and the Christmas Oratorio are well known. Less familiar are the delights of most of his church cantatas. It is the aim of today’s program to provide you with the opportunity to experience a few of these splendid, but less familiar cantatas.

Born into a musical family at Eisenach, Germany, Bach received a thorough training that included exposure to music of the most important German, French, and Italian composers of his day. He exhibited exceptional skill as an organist and his first professional position was as the organist at St. Boniface’s in Arnstadt beginning in 1703. It was during this period that Bach made the 250 mile trip to Lübeck, where he spent three months visiting the great organist and composer, Dietrich Buxtehude.

Dissatisfied with the conditions at Arnstadt, Bach accepted a position in 1706 at St. Blasius’ church in Mühlhausen, where he met and married his first wife, Maria Barbara. Two years later, in 1708, Bach had the opportunity to accept a position as organist and concertmaster at the ducal court in Weimar. He spent the next nine years playing and composing chiefly keyboard and instrumental music, but also composed a few sacred cantatas. Most of his other 200 surviving cantatas were composed while Bach was at Leipzig (1723-1750) where his duties required that he produce a cantata a week.

The title of this concert, “Faith in the Time of Tribulation,” represents the struggle of the soul to maintain its faith in God and in Jesus in spite of life’s trials and the fear of suffering and death. This theme runs through many of Bach’s sacred works, but seemed to be particularly characteristic of this selection of cantatas. In all his sacred works, Bach’s personal faith allows him to express, with great immediacy, a persistent longing for God’s presence and an abiding trust in God’s protection through life’s trials and a fierce determination to abide with Jesus throughout his life. It is this undercurrent of Bach’s own faith that allows this music to speak so clearly to listeners of every age and faith.

We know from written records that Bach composed five cycles of cantatas for the liturgical year, but, sadly, most of these are lost. Of the ones that remain, perhaps the most significant ones are those composed for the years 1724-1725. Here Bach refined the previously existing ‘chorale cantata,’ that is, a cantata in which the first and last movements are based on the first and last stanzas of the hymn text and the inner movements are based on paraphrases of the inner stanzas, providing the necessary freedom for expansion on the themes and emotions inherent in the chosen text.

Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115, a chorale cantata, is written for four voices, flute, oboe d’amore, two violins, viola, bassoon, cello, and organ. It was first performed on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity on November 5, 1724. It sets forth the theme of the Soul’s duty to be watchful and to resist the world’s temptations. The opening movement is a chorale prelude, which features a statement of the chorale, the anonymous 1681 folk dance melody, “Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn” (Do not punish me in your anger) within the context of an elaborate instrumental texture. The alto aria that follows is set as a gentle lullaby depicting the sleeping soul that is suddenly awakened by a punishing Angel of Death. The aria closes with a return to its gentler opening mood and a suggestion of the Eternal Sleep of the Soul. The bass recitative assures us that God watches over us, but expects us to be equally watchful and to resist the world’s temptations. The soprano aria, featuring the flute and violincello piccolo, underlines this sense of the Soul’s prayerful watchfulness.

Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange?, BWV 155 was composed for the Second Sunday of Epiphany and was originally performed in Weimar on January 19, 1716. Bach also performed it again in Leipzig on January 16, 1724. It is written for four voices, strings, bassoon, and organ. This intimate cantata encourages us to understand the joy one experiences when holding fast to Jesus and not fearing death. The opening accompanied recitative sets forth the anxiety and despair of the Soul, thinking that God has abandoned it. The following duet for alto and tenor, which emphasizes that the Soul must continue to hope and maintain faith despite whatever trials befall it, seems meant to quell any anxiety and despair. This duet is accompanied by a remarkable virtuoso bassoon obbligato, a feature rarely heard in Bach’s works. As in Cantata 115, the bass voice offers assurance and consolation in his recitative. The Soul’s response to this is expressed in the next enthusiastic soprano aria with strings. The cantata concludes with a confident chorale.

Wachet, betet, seid bereit allezeit, BWV 70, focuses on the determination to hold fast to Jesus, who will support the believer through all of life’s trials. It was composed for the 26th Sunday after Trinity and was first performed in Leipzig on November 21, 1723. Based on an earlier cantata from Bach’s Weimar period, it is written for trumpet, oboe, bassoon, strings, and organ. The opening movement exhorts the Soul to be watchful and ready for the Final Judgment, a sense that is evoked by the presence of the “Last Trumpet.” Throughout the remainder of the cantata, in a series of recitatives and arias, a mood of dreadful expectancy alternates with the assurance of faith in Jesus and the goodness of God. This appears in a particularly dramatic manner in the bass recitative and aria near the end of the cantata, where the bass asks if the end of the world should not awaken fear and trembling in all who contemplate it. As this text unfolds, amid the fury of the strings depicting the wrath and destruction of the world, the trumpet sounds forth the chorale tune, “Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit,” which would have been familiar to Bach’s congregation and would have brought to mind its text: “Indeed the time is here when God’s Son will come; then laughter will be rare, when everything goes up in flames.” This is truly a hair-raising moment in the piece, however the following bass aria assures us that Jesus will lead the faithful into a life of eternal peace. The cantata concludes with a verse of the hymn set in pure chorale style.

Thirty years ago, Joshua Rifkin jolted the musicological world with a thesis that Bach’s cantatas, passions, and oratorios were performed under his direction by a single singer on each part, instead of three or four, as many believed. This stirred a furious debate at the time and these discussions continue to this day. However, the evidence for this practice is quite convincing and the practice is becoming more widely accepted. While there is no question that performances of Bach’s cantatas and passions with choirs of 12, 24, or 100 or more singers are tremendously moving and inspirational, we believe that there is much to be gained from the more intimate approach that is the result of performing these pieces with only one singer or player to a part. Not only does this practice reflect the experience of Bach’s original audience, but the resulting musical texture offers greater clarity in the interplay of the voices and instruments and enlivens the music-making among the participants by bringing the music to a more personal and individual level.

It was the practice in Bach’s day to perform a cantata both before and after the sermon, a practice clearly seen in Cantata 70, which is composed in two parts. We will present one of the readings prescribed for the 26th Sunday after Trinity between Parts One and Two in place of a sermon.

Several of the instruments heard on today’s program may be unfamiliar to you. The oboe d’amore, featured in Cantata 115, was a uniquely German instrument, despite the fact that in Bach’s day it was most often called hautbois d’amour. It is not known how this instrument came to be called “d’amore.” It was developed sometime around 1710, most likely in Leipzig, by local players and instrument makers. The oboe d’amore had a relatively short life in the eighteenth century. Bruce Haynes states that two-thirds of the repertory of the oboe d’amore was composed between 1717-1730, most of the remaining third between 1730 and 1760, and less than two percent after 1760. The instrument was revived in a modern form later in the 19th century, appearing in Verdi’s Aida and works of Richard Strauss, Ravel, and others. The oboe d’amore is pitched a minor third lower than the regular oboe, which allows it to play more easily in keys that would otherwise be highly problematic. Its distinctive sound, darker and richer than the higher oboe, makes it a wonderful solo instrument.

Bach used the ‘violoncello piccolo‘ in nine cantatas, always as a solo instrument. There is some discussion in musicological circles about what exactly this instrument was. One of the possibilities is the viola da spalla, the ‘shoulder viola’ heard on today’s program. Halfway in size between a regular cello and a viola, it was played while holding it on the shoulder, often with a ribbon or strap to help hold it in place. Developed in Italy, it may have been used by violinists to play bass lines when other instruments were not available. In recent years, Sigiswald Kuijken, one of today’s pre-eminent Baroque violinists has become the modern champion of the violincello da spalla, a similar instrument, and has recorded Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello on it.

One of our principal goals in presenting our concerts is to bring to our listeners an enhanced musical experience, through our programming of little-heard music in as an historically informed manner as possible, and through the use of appropriate instruments. It is our heartfelt hope that our performances will open an exciting new world of sonorities and sensibilities to you, our listeners and supporters.

© Dr. Bruce Carvell, February 2014

Progam Notes on Jewish Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries

From biblical times, music has played a significant role in Jewish worship services. However, there are very few descriptions of the music for these services. The Mishnah, the first major work of rabbinic literature, compiled between 200 and 220 CE, reports on historic musical practices at the Temple in Jerusalem, which was the most important center of Jewish worship at that time. It describes music being performed at the Temple by a choir of 12 men and 12 instruments. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, worship services were held in the synagogues and music was chiefly performed in the recitation of prayers and the cantillation of psalms by a single cantor with no instrumental participation allowed. This practice continued unchanged for centuries. During the Italian Renaissance, some Jewish scholars began to contemplate what the music of the Temple might have been and whether contemporary musical styles might be able to restore what they perceived to be the glories of historic times.

In 1622, Salamone Rossi (1570-1630) published the earliest polyphonic settings of Jewish liturgical texts. This collection of Hebrew sacred compositions, Ha-shirim asher l’Shlomo (The Songs of Solomon), was produced in Venice by a prominent Jewish scholar and publisher, Leon da Modena. Leon da Modena was also the author of a book on Jewish customs and rituals, seemingly the first Jewish book meant to be read by non-Jewish readers since the first century CE, suggesting that he wanted people of other faiths to become familiar with Jewish practices, including music.

Rossi was a celebrated violinist who was associated with the court of Mantua and who is thought to have played at the premiere of Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo in 1609. He was also a notable composer of instrumental music and madrigals. Musically, his settings show that he was greatly influenced by Giovanni Palestrina and had mastered the style of the leading composers of his day, Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Gabrieli. However, Rossi’s music and influence seemed to have little impact on music in worship in Jewish services until much later. It was only with the discovery of Rossi’s Hebrew works in Paris by Samuel Naumbourg (1817-1880) in the mid- nineteenth century, some two hundred years after Rossi’s death, that his compositions began to have an influence on other composers of Jewish liturgical music. Naumbourg, a Bavarian cantor and musician living in Paris, was so moved by his discovery that it led him to publish his own edition of Rossi’s Hebrew works and to increase his own efforts to reform the music of the Jewish liturgy. At the same time, two composers, Samuel Sulzer (1804-1891) in Vienna and Louis Lewandowski (1821-1894) in Berlin, were working on similar efforts.

The music you will be hearing today is only rarely performed in worship or in concerts. One of the challenges musicians encounter is the matter of text underlay; music is usually read from left to right, while Hebrew is read from right to left. The solution in Rossi’s original publication was to print the music normally, while printing the Hebrew from right to left with each word beginning underneath the last note of the related musical phrase. While not ideal, this solution served to underlay the text, more successfully in his syllabic sections than in his florid ones

Rossi’s Hebrew settings are composed for combinations of voices ranging from three to eight singers. His three-part setting of the Barechu heard on today’s program shows two significant elements of Rossi’s approach to text setting: the use of a florid style to heighten the musical impact of the particular words or phrases and a simpler style in which all the voices sing the same text simultaneously, which increases the clarity of the text. The opening section in this piece is in the florid style, while the second section is composed in the simpler, more homophonic style. The florid style is also employed to great effect in the opening and closing sections of Rossi’s setting of Keter yitenu lakh, also on today’s program, a version of the Great Kedusha used in the Italiani liturgy that was customarily used in Jewish worship in Italy. In this piece, Rossi sets only the odd-numbered verses, an indication that these pieces were meant for use in services, where the even-numbered verses would be recited by the congregation and the odd-numbered sung by the singers.

The familiar words of Psalm 137 – “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept” – are set by Rossi for four voices, in the syllabic style. The most striking feature of his setting being performed today is the remarkable harmonic shifts between major and minor, which he uses to underscore the strong emotional impact of this lament.

Rossi sets the three verses of Psalm 80 that comprise the Elohim Hashivenu in a three-part structure: the first verse opens with a florid invocation of the name of God for two lower voices, which are then joined by the upper voices for the remainder of the verse; the setting of the second verse reverses this pattern, with the two upper voices singing the opening word and the lower voices joining in with a more elaborate response than in the first verse; the third and final verse, begins with all four voices in a chordal statement that expands into a florid, ecstatic conclusion of this prayer.

As in Keter yitenu lakh, Rossi sets only the odd-numbered verses of the Kaddish, one of the most important prayers in the Jewish liturgy, with the expectation that the congregation would recite the even-numbered ones during a service. In our performance, only Rossi’s settings will be performed.

In order to provide some additional context for listening to Rossi’s sacred works, we are including examples of two important and influential contemporaries: Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554-1612). Gabrieli was one of the foremost Venetian composers, a master of the polychoral style cultivated at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. His setting of Psalm 96, Cantata Domino, is written for eight voices used as two four-part choirs. Monteverdi’s setting of Psalm 113, Laudate, pueri, Dominum, for five voices illustrates his mastery of the contrapuntal style and provides a contrast to both of Rossi’s styles: the florid and syllabic.

The influence of Gabrieli is most easily seen in Rossi’s setting of Adon Olam for eight voices that concludes the first half of today’s program. These eight voices are treated as two choirs, in alternation and together, creating a lively setting of this ancient text.

The remainder of today’s program presents rarely heard music composed for the dedication of the Synagogue in Siena in 1786. While this music is modest in its aims and achievements, it nevertheless represents a sincere attempt to adapt a contemporary musical style to music intended to enhance and elevate an important moment in the lives of the Jews in Siena at that time.

The history of Jews in Siena began in 1229, when a community was established around the banking industry. In 1555, laws were enacted requiring the establishment of a ghetto. All Jewish citizens were to wear an identifying yellow cap or scarf, although Jewish banks prospered and Jewish students were allowed to attend the university. These restrictions were eased in the eighteenth century and the new Synagogue in Siena was designed and built in 1786. Its dedication was held on May 27, 28, and 29, 1786. The music for the dedication of the Synagogue in Siena was composed by Volunio Gallichi and Francesco Drei, two otherwise unknown musicians. The manuscript identifies Volunio Gallichi as one of the tenors who sang at the dedication and his son, Elia, who sang several of the soprano solos. The music is composed in the Rococo style, emphasizing a graceful simplicity that is evocative of the music of the young Wolfgang Mozart. This charming music is typical of the type of occasional music that was heard in the Siennese ghetto in the late eighteenth century.

Sadly, in 1799, rioters burned the ghetto and killed 19 Jews. From that time forward, the Jewish community in Siena grew smaller as many left the city. While the synagogue, for which this dedication music was composed, remains to this day, there are few other outward signs left of this once thriving community. We can, however, enjoy the charming musical compositions of Gallichi and Drei and recall better times.

© Dr. Bruce Carvell, Oct 2013

Shiru l’Adonai – Sing to the Lord…

For immediate release: October 1, 2013
Contact: Bruce Carvell, CVSL Artistic Director

(314) 650-3817,

What: The COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF SAINT LOUIS will perform “Shiru l’Adonai – Sing to the Lord: Jewish Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries”, including an introductory lecture presented by Dr. Bruce Carvell, Artistic Director.

When: Sunday, October 13, 2013 Concert at 3:00 p.m.

Introductory lecture at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Central Reform Congregation
5020 Waterman Boulevard at Kingshighway Boulevard Saint Louis, Missouri, 63108

Cost: Free admission, free parking

The COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF ST. LOUIS is proud to present ”Shiru l’Adonai – Sing to the Lord: Jewish Music of the 17th & 18th Centuries,” a concert of Baroque sacred music on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. The concert will be presented at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd, St Louis, MO 63108. Admission is free; ample free parking is available.

The Collegium will perform several historic compositions by Salamone Rossi (1570-1630), along with his contemporaries, Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Gabrieli who had an important influence on Rossi. Working in Mantua, Italy as a celebrated violinist with Monteverdi, Rossi published a collection of polyphonic settings of Jewish liturgical texts in 1622. While the rich musical tradition of the Jewish faith stretches back centuries, this is the earliest known attempt at merging the European polyphonic tradition with the Jewish liturgy. Another program highlight will be the ceremonial music performed at the dedication of the Synagogue in Siena in 1786. Composed by two local Jewish musicians, Volunio Gallichi and Francesco Drei, this music represents another step in the integration of contemporaneous musical styles with the Jewish liturgy. Written for voices and a small instrumental ensemble, this is music of great charm and expression.

Founded in 1996, THE COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF ST. LOUIS is an ensemble devoted to exploring the diverse and wide- ranging repertory of 17th and 18th century music for voices and instruments through historically informed performance. Its members are Nancy Luetzow, soprano, Roberta Hmiel, contralto, Willard Cobb, tenor, Bruce Carvell, tenor, and David Berger, bass-baritone. Funding for the concert is provided by MAC, RAC, Edward Chase Garvey Memorial Foundation, and private donations.

2013 Letter from William Seibert, CVSL Board President

Dear Friends and Supporters of Collegium Vocale,

The Collegium Vocale of St. Louis is pleased to announce its 17th season. We invite you to attend our 2013-2014 concert series featuring music rarely or never before performed in St. Louis. As you know, CVSL’s focus on vocal chamber music of the 17th and 18th centuries is unique to the area. To enhance your experience at CVSL concerts, we again perform this exceptional music in historically significant and architecturally inspiring spaces. Your generous renewed and, if possible, increased financial support is critical at a time when the regional economy remains weak and public support for the performing arts is limited. Your patronage enables us to continue to offer these enriching musical events to St. Louis area audiences free of charge.

The 2013-14 concert series promises you more opportunities to enjoy music rarely performed anywhere else.

CVSL 2013-14 Concert Season:

October 13, 2012 3:00 p.m.

Shiru l’adonai – Sing to the Lord: Hebrew Music Of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Featuring music of Salamone Rossi (1570-1630) and Ceremonial Music for the Dedication of the Synagogue of Siena (1786)

Central Reform Congregation, Central West End

February 2, 2014 3:00 p.m.

Sacred Cantatas of J.S. Bach

Cantatas 115, 155, and 70

Featuring Joyce Alper, Baroque Oboe and John Korak, Baroque Trumpet

First Congregational Church of St. Louis, Clayton

April 27, 2014 (Tentative)

Chamber Music of the Viennese Court, 1700-1725

Featuring music of Antonio Caldara (1670-1735) and his contemporaries

St. Louis Abbey, Town & Country

To supplement the generous assistance of our donors, we also actively pursue sources of grant funding, both new and continuing. Since grant awards are often announced months after the applications are made, we rely on our faithful donors to maintain a healthy fiscal flow. Your continuing generosity allows us to continue bringing talented early music musicians to St. Louis for this unique series of early vocal music repertory, accompanied by instruments of the period and performed in the style of the time.

Please join us for our 2013-2014 season. We look forward to your continuing help in making these unique musical events possible and also to seeing you at the concerts and visiting with you afterwards. Please tell your friends and acquaintances who enjoy early music – or who have never heard it! – to join us for the upcoming series. Thank you for your kind interest in CVSL and your valued and much appreciated support.


William Seibert, President

Opera in Hamburg, 1704-1705

Collegium Vocale of Saint Louis
A Not-for-profit 501(c)(3) Organization
5112 Westminster Place
Saint Louis, Missouri, 63108

Press Release

For Immediate Release: October 9, 2012

Contact: Bruce Carvell, CVSL Artistic Director, (314) 650-3817,

Collegium Vocale of Saint Louis to Perform “Opera in Hamburg, 1704-1705”

St. Louis, Missouri – The COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF SAINT LOUIS is proud to present “Opera in Hamburg, 1704-1705,” a selection of arias and duets from three operas produced at the Oper am Gänsemarkt (Goose Market Theatre) of Hamburg, Germany. The operas are Cleopatra by Johann Mattheson, Octavia by Reinhard Keiser, and G. F. Handel’s first opera, Almira. The concert will be presented at Koburg Hall, Concordia Seminary, Clayton, Missouri on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Who: COLLEGIUM VOCALE OF SAINT LOUIS — one of St. Louis’ premier vocal chamber music ensembles specializing in historically informed performance of music of the Baroque period

What: “Opera in Hamburg, 1704-1705”
When: Sunday, October 21, 2012
3:00 p.m.
Where: Concordia Seminary – Koburg Hall
801 Seminary Place
Clayton, Missouri, 63105

Supported by the wealthy commercial class in Hamburg, the Goose Market Theatre was the first public opera house outside of Italy. Between its opening in 1678 and closing in 1750, German and Italian operas were performed there two or three days a week during the season. The selections chosen for this program are representative of the works produced there and reflect the beautiful melodies and colorful instrumentation of this style. Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739) was director of the orchestra (1695-1718) and the theatre (1703-1707), as well as a prolific composer. Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) is best remembered as a theoretician and writer on music, but was well respected in his day as a composer. Georg Friderich Händel (1685-1759) came to Hamburg to play in the theatre orchestra and began composing opera at Hamburg under the influence of Keiser and Mattheson, among others. The Collegium Vocale will be supported in this concert by an ensemble of excellent Baroque instrumentalists from the Midwest.

The concert venue, Koburg Hall, features ornamental stone and glass related to the history of Christianity and Lutheranism outside of the United States, particularly the painted glass medallions that link to the great confession of the Lutheran Church, the Augsburg Confession, adopted at Augsburg, Germany, while Luther was being protected at the Koburg Castle by his friends. The original buildings on the Concordia Seminary campus, Koburg among them, were built between 1924-1926 when the campus was dedicated in the presence of some 75,000 Lutherans, many of whom had traveled great distances to attend. While Koburg was originally a dining facility and still serves that purpose today, in the 1960s and 70s, it served also as a venue for musical events featuring the American Kantorei and other groups.

The Collegium Vocale of St. Louis is an ensemble devoted to presenting historically informed performances of a diverse and wide-ranging repertory of seventeenth and eighteenth century music. Its members are Christine Johnson and Nancy Luetzow, sopranos, Roberta Hmiel, contralto, Bruce Carvell and Willard Cobb, tenors, David Berger, bass, and Liz Horsley, harpsichord. Bruce Carvell, Ph.D., is the Artistic Director.