Saturday, February 5, 2005 at 19.00 Pärnu Concert Hall
Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 18.00 Estonia Concert Hall
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts (United Kingdom)
Conductor PAUL HILLIER
Giovanni Gabrieli – Kyrie
– Canzon Noni toni a 8 (His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts)
Andrea Gabrieli – Gloria
Giovanni Gabrieli – Canzona Prima toni a 8
– Canzon Septimi toni a 8
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Heinrich Schütz – Herr unser Herrscher
Claudio Monteverdi – Zefiro torna
– Beatus Vir
Francesco Usper – Sonata a 8
Claudio Monteverdi – Zefiro torna
Biagio Marini – Sinfonia Grave “La Zorzi”
Heinrich Schütz – Deutsches Magnificat
Additional instrumentalists: Peter Spissky (violin, Denmark), Lasma Meldere (violin, Latvia), Imre Eenmaa (violone, Estonia) and Imbi Tarum (organ, Estonia)
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The Venice Connection
Everyone has their own private version of Venice, even if they’ve never been there, but for a musician it has special associations, some historical, others much more recent. Among the latter are, for example, Britten’s last opera, Death in Venice, based on the Thomas Mann novella, and several works by Stravinsky that were premiered there – including Canticum Sacrum and his opera The Rake’s Progress – and the composer himself lies buried in the unique island cemetery of San Michele.
But in tonight’s concert we celebrate a more distant piece of history. In the late 16th century the basilica of San Marco, with its famous musical traditions, attracted a series of brilliant organist-composers, who included the madrigalist Adrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Claudio Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Croce, and Claudio Monteverdi. For the same reason, Venice was also the destination of numerous northern composers who wanted to learn the most modern style of the day; and of these the greatest was Heinrich Schütz.
Setting aside the dazzling maturity of the Italian madrigal, the rise of solo declamation, and the development of opera – all of which had their place in Venice, but also in other Italian cities of the time – it is the practice of cori spezzati which became particularly associated with Venice. The expression means broken choirs, in the sense of breaking up the ensemble of performers into smaller groups or ‘choirs’ (instrumental as well as vocal) and distributing them in two or more positions in the building – thus creating a music which exploited space as well as time. This was not unique to Venice of course – Lassus in Munich made considerable use of this device as well – and it really can be traced back to the earliest traditions of psalmody chanted in alternation by two groups of singers. But in late 16th-century Venice it became a kind of house-style, reinforced by the opportunities provided by San Marco itself, with its numerous balconies and galleries.
Among the techniques which were refined by the Venetians was the use of contrasting choirs, one of high voices, and one of low; the creation of echo effects; and varied textures of solo voice(s) with instruments answered by full choir. Some of these variations are specified by the composer, while in other circumstances it is the performer who must decide how best to deploy the forces he has available. As we shall hear tonight, Giovanni Gabrieli also successfully adapted the methods of cori spezzati to the instrumental canzona, creating a truly instrumental idiom of composition.
In the Spring of 1609, the young Schütz came to Venice and studied with Giovanni Gabrieli for four years (Gabrieli died in 1612). He published a book of Italian madrigals while he was still there, and then returned north to begin his long and illustrious career. Schütz paid homage to the cori spezzati model most evidently in his Psalms of David of 1619 (which includes Herr unser Herrscher), and again at the end of his career in his Schwanengesang (including the Magnificat) published in 1671, when he was in his 86th year.
Not all the works in tonight’s concert use this cori spezzati technique. In order to provide some variation we shall also hear three pieces by Monteverdi which are altogether more lyrical in style. These include two settings of texts, each beginning Zefiro torna and having very similar messages (the contrast between the happy arrival of Spring and the unhappy lover’s wretchedness), but in quite distinct musical styles: one in the traditonal madrigal idiom of imitative polyphony sung by five voices in consort, and one in the newer virtuoso style (in this case, a tenor duet with continuo accompanment), of which Monteverdi was the supreme master.
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His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts (HMSC to its friends) is a group of virtuoso wind players who specialise in playing early music in authentic styles on original instruments.
The noble sound of cornetts and sackbuts was among the most versatile instrumental colours available to composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was heard in many musical contexts: in consort or in alternation with voices in the extravagant liturgy of the great Italian and Spanish churches – above all the Basilica of St Mark’s in Venice; in aristocratic entertainments such as the intermedii of northern Italy or the masques of Jacobean England; and in the ceremonial and devotional music for the courts and free cities of Lutheran Germany.
Our basic ensemble consists of two cornetts and four sackbuts with chamber organ (usually also doubling on harpsichord). This core line-up expands – or, occasionally, contracts – according to the requirements of the wide range of colourful programmes that we now perform.
The original incarnation of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts was founded in 1516, and for almost three centuries was the jewel in the crown of the English royal musical establishment. Some of the superb pieces written for this famous ensemble – including Matthew Locke’s celebrated music “For His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts” – can be heard in HMSC’s concert and CD programme of the same name.
The modern reincarnation of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts was formed in 1982 and quickly established itself as the leading ensemble of its kind. The group was immediately in demand with festivals and concert societies throughout the British Isles and in continental Europe. HMSC subsequently toured Australia and South-East Asia and to date has performed in more than a dozen European countries. The group has appeared on television and video, has broadcast live on radio, and has 15 recordings to its credit. Since 1994 the group has recorded regularly for Hyperion, and the following year they were appointed an ensemble in residence at the Royal College of Music, London.
His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts has played at, for, in, on or with all of the following… and many more: Athens, BBC radio and television, Canterbury Cathedral, Deutsche Gramophon, Edinburgh, Finland, Granada, Hong Kong, Ireland, John Eliot Gardiner, King’s College Cambridge, Lufthansa Festival London, Melbourne, Nigel Rogers, Opera House Sydney, Paris and Prague, Queen’s University Belfast, Roger Norrington, Salzburg Festival, Tallis Scholars, Utrecht Festival, Venice, Westminster Abbey, EXeter Cathedral, York, Zaragoza.