Baroque & Beyond
Ellen Connors, bassoon
Victoria Moreira, violin
John Pellegrino, bass
Aya Hamada, harpsichord
ProMusica musicians Donna Conaty, Ellen Connors, Victoria Moreira, John Pellegrino, and Aya Hamada come together for an evening of baroque favorites and more.
Corelli – Sonate da Chiesa in D Minor, Op. 1 No. 11
Boismortier – Sonata in C Minor, Op. 50 No. 5
Fasch – Quartet in F Major, WV N:F2
Bach – Toccata in D Major, BWV 912
Zelenka – Trio Sonata 3 in Bb Major, ZWV 181
The composers featured on this afternoon’s program offer up a generous and attractive swath of the musical Baroque era, the name historians have ascribed to the years 1600-1750. It was during this time that instrumental music truly came into its own; (the prior “Renaissance” era was largely dominated by vocal music and instrumental compositions, more often than not, sprang from vocal influences).
Among the most pioneering of the era’s instrumental composers was Arcangelo Corelli, an Italian violin virtuoso who, despite a somewhat limited compositional output, actually exercised an unparalleled influence on generations of violinists and composers who followed. Born in the vicinity of Bologna, Corelli made his first formal appearance in 1675, when he appeared in Rome as a violinist hired for a church oratorio performance. The fact suggests that Corelli, whose ability would soon thrust him to the forefront of the day’s concert violinists, was a relative newcomer to Rome and still under the radar. Corelli went on to spend the bulk of his professional violin career performing with various church orchestras (where work was probably most steady) until 1687, when he signed on as music master for Cardinal Ottoboni (later Pope Alexander VIII) and in whose palace he later lived. Around 1708 the violinist retired from public view and dedicated himself to composition.
Corelli’s is remembered both for his pioneering contributions to violin writing—the instrument was just coming into its own during Corelli’s lifetime—and his series of church and chamber sonatas (along with his larger-scaled chamber orchestra concerti). For Corelli, though his chamber works were abstract instrumental compositions, a distinction existed between the two settings, at least in theory: those sonatas intended for the chamber, or “Camera,” tended to be lighter in style and included dance types of the day (gigues, allemandes, and so on) while those compositions composed for the church, or “Chiesa,” such as the D minor trio heard on this program, were somewhat more serious in nature, tended to revolve around slow movements and typically involved contrapuntal writing (the art of setting independent voices against one another and a hallmark of the Baroque). As time went on, however, the church and chamber styles become less individual and more blended. Regardless, Corelli’s sonatas, such as today’s work which was scored originally for two violins and accompaniment, were among the first instrumental classics; they were reprinted often and so frequently imitated that Corelli’s originals came to be thought of as almost flat and stale. Today we hear and understand Corelli’s masterpieces quite differently: the Italian’s violins sparkle with unmistakable Italian grace and flair and his scores provide a window into the world of virtuoso violin writing that Corelli did so much to propel forward.
The music of Frenchman Joseph Bodin de Boismortier represents, along with J.S. Bach and Fasch, the musical high Baroque. Also a music publisher, Boismortier composed primarily for amateur performers, no doubt an attempt to find a wider audience for his considerable output. Though transverse flute was among the composer’s favorites, Boismortier wrote for nearly every instrument of the day, be it cello (as with the sonatas heard here), bassoon or even hurdy-gurdy, and his diverse portfolio includes great quantities of chamber music, concerti, stage works and vocal cantatas. As will be plainly evident, his melodies were attractive and his style deeply influenced by the Italians (think back to Corelli’s influence) and always designed to please to his listeners. This is not to suggest his music lacks merit, however. To the contrary, as one of his fellow French composers put it, “anyone who will take the trouble to excavate this abandoned mine might find enough gold dust there to make up an ingot.”
Though a figure long overshadowed by J.S. Bach (an almost exact contemporary), Weimar-born Johann Friedrich Fasch was nevertheless among the most significant composers of his day. Fasch had no regular instruction in composition, yet his talent was recognized early on and quickly earned him commissions from royal patrons. Fasch eventually held positions as a court violinist in Bayreuth and later as a Kapellmeister, or music director, in Prague, though he ultimately ended up in the provincial town of Zerbst, where he spent the remaining thirty-six years of his life. Though he earned his living composing church cantatas and festival music, none of his music was actually published during his lifetime. Yet by trading music with established composers elsewhere, his reputation spread far beyond his adopted city.
Fasch’s style reflects a composer moving from the high Baroque to the early Classical style. As to the former, Fasch made liberal use of Italian Baroque structures and he could write fugues with the best of them, save perhaps J.S. Bach, whose abilities seemed to surpass the mortal. Yet we also note, for example, Fasch’s balanced phrasing (one musical idea seems to answer that which came before), so typical of the encroaching Classical era. If the slow-fast-slow-fast outlines of his F major Sonata (originally scored for two oboes) and his predictable harmonies reflect Fasch’s conservative approach, the charm of his melodic lines will appeal to many who may regard Bach’s music as overly serious. Here again we note the Italian influence on this all-but-forgotten German composer, whose musical vocabulary signaled the coming age of Haydn and Mozart.
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach represents both the high Baroque and a high water mark in western music. Like the sculptures of Michelangelo or the stage works of Shakespeare, Bach raised his art to unprecedented heights and his brilliant counterpoint, the ingenuity of his solo instrumental works and the depth of expression achieved in his religious works were never to be surpassed. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that during his lifetime Bach was known almost entirely as an organist (albeit a brilliant one); it wasn’t until after his death that the power and extent of his compositions were truly understood and appreciated. Bach’s D major keyboard Toccata provides a brilliant summation of his musical vocabulary and approach. As with Toccatas in general, this one is built of several unrelated sections. The work opens in a fluid, improvisatory style—one can almost hear Bach at the harpsichord warming to his task—before giving way to a jaunty, lyrical Allegro. An extended, reflective Adagio follows, itself comprised of several sections: the first, characterized by its dotted rhythms; the second, a chromatically dense and harmonically daring fugue in F sharp minor; and a concluding section characterized by rapid flourishes that Bach could have improvised on the spot. Without pause, Bach then launches into a concluding fugue, an almost quaint, 6/8 dance that whisks this well-known Toccata to its uplifting final bars.
Today’s program concludes with music by a friend of Bach, the immensely talented Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka. Actually a double bass player by training, Zelenka left a position with the royal orchestra of Dresden to study composition in Vienna and Venice. After returning to Vienna and gathering up a collection of music by great composers, he returned to Dresden, where he lived out his life. Matters did not end happily for the gifted composer, for he was passed over for a significant post, which went to the well-known composer J.A. Hasse, and Zelenka spent his final years regretting his lack of recognition. Among those who admired the composer’s work, however, were both Bach and Telemann, particularly on account of Zelenka’s contrapuntal mastery—which, given Bach’s abilities in this domain, speaks volumes—and harmonic inventiveness. As his Trio for oboe, violin and bassoon (and continuo accompaniment) bears out, Zelenka struck an ideal balance between all the aspects of Baroque composition—charming melodies, engaging rhythms, pleasing counterpoint and expressive harmonies. And although not a name often associated with “the greats” of the Baroque, in truth Zelenka’s scores masterly incorporated many of the era’s most significant aspects, and did so at the highest level. More the pity, then, that the composer died lonely, believing that his contributions would be forgotten.
© Marc Moskovitz
The Lee Shackelford Chair
Donna Conaty has performed as principal oboe of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra since 1991. Other performance credits include the San Diego Symphony, seven seasons in the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop; principal oboe of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra; Artist Fellow in the Bach Aria Festival, NY, NY; Spoleto Festival Orchestra; principal oboe of the Evansville Philharmonic; and principal oboe of the Breckenridge Music Institute Orchestra (now known as Breckenridge Music Festival), Breckenridge, CO. A versatile performer, her background ranges from orchestral and chamber ensemble to solo and recital appearances presented throughout the United States and abroad. Her artistic interests are particularly geared toward new works and chamber music.
Donna has performed or presented master classes for numerous professional music conferences, international double reed conferences, university audiences, and at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Many of her oboe students are active as leading performers, university faculty, teachers, and arts professionals throughout the U.S. and abroad. She is Associate Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University. Prior to this role, she served for six years as Director of the School of Music and Dance at SDSU. Before joining the San Diego State faculty in 2007, she was Associate Dean for graduate studies, research, and curriculum in the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University where she had also achieved the faculty rank of professor of oboe after joining the music faculty in 1989.
Conaty holds performance degrees from Yale University (M.M.) and the University of Northern Colorado (summa cum laude). Other faculty affiliations have included the State University of New York at Purchase and University of Evansville. She is an active arts advocate and is an ongoing panelist with the Ohio Arts Council reviewing organizations with budgets over $2M.
Violinist Victoria Moreira, founding member of the Kaia String Quartet (WFMT 2017 Ensemble-in-Residence) has performed extensively throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia and South America. First Prizewinner of Viva El Tango Agustin Carlevaro Competition and Music Director of the American Tango Institute, Moreira’s diverse musical background keeps her involved internationally in the Tango scene.
Her latest recording projects include Quartango, an album of tango for string quartet; Latinoamerica, a CD of all Latin-American works and a co-production with Mark Sonksen Vicisitudes with Tangata Ensemble. Previous projects include Sonksen’s Postales del Sur and Argentina Tango on Stage, with Carlos Marzan and his ensemble in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Moreira has been involved as a solo, chamber and orchestral musician in Chicago as concertmistress of Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra and Assistant Concertmaster of Northbrook Symphony. She has also performed in the Chicago Latino Music Festival since 2007 and at the Chicago Tango Festival since 2006. She performs as a soloist with West Suburban Symphony in Illinois yearly.
In addition to her membership with the Kaia String Quartet, she has also collaborated with Rush Hour Concerts, Ondas Ensemble, Intersection from Nashville, the MAVerik Ensemble and the national Chamber Ensemble of Uruguay. She was also winner of the 2010 DePaul Concerto Competition.
Moreira is a faculty member at DePaul University Community Music Division and has a private studio in the Chicago area. She is a passionate Suzuki teacher and devoted educator through her string quartet, including KAIA KIDS, an initiative through WFMT and PBS Kids. Other projects include Tango workshops for violinists at Old Town School of Folk Music, outreach concerts through Ravinia, Evanston in School Music Association, and Promotora de las Bellas Artes in Mexico.
Moreira studied at Escuela Universitaria de Musica, Montevideo Uruguay under Jorge Risi, received her Bachelor of Music at Roosevelt University under Vadim Gluzman and her Master of Music and Artist Certificate at DePaul University under Ilya Kaler. She also did a residency at Northern Illinois University with the KAIA String Quartet under the tutelage of the Avalon String Quartet.
The Loann W. Crane Chair
Ellen Connors has played principal bassoon with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra since 2011. Previously, she served as principal bassoon of the Knoxville Symphony, and spent one year playing 2nd bassoon with the Baltimore Symphony. In 2018, she will play her first season as principal bassoon of the Sarasota Opera Orchestra. Connors has appeared with both ProMusica and the Knoxville Symphony as soloist, performing Vivaldi, Mozart and Schickele. She has been a member of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony since 2011, and is former principal bassoon of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra in Fayetteville, Arkansas. A lover of new music, Connors has spent several summers performing 20thand 21st century works at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. She has toured with the Saint Louis Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, and most recently with the Cincinnati Symphony as guest associate principal on their 2017 Asia tour.
Connors completed her undergraduate studies at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, studying with Benjamin Kamins. While at Rice, she won a prestigious Watson Fellowship and spent the following year studying folk music in China, Mongolia, Laos, Bulgaria and Norway. Connors received her Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music where she was a student of Frank Morelli. A Michigan native, Connors resides in Saint Louis.
Praised for her “graceful” (The New York Times) performance, Japanese-American harpsichordist Aya Hamada is an active recitalist, concerto soloist and continuo player. Currently she plays principal harpsichord for ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus and serves as organist at the L’Église Française du Saint Esprit.
Aya has given numerous recitals in major venues throughout Japan as well as the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, England, France, Spain and Italy, including a recital at the Peñíscola International Festival of Medieval and Baroque Music, and at the International Conference of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America (Montreal). She has made over three dozen appearances as concerto soloist on four continents. She has performed with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Berkshire Opera Company, Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra (Japan), Sinfonietta Cracovia (Poland), Juilliard415, Juilliard Symphony, appearing under conductors such as Jordi Savall, Nicolas McGegan, Harry Bicket and Masaaki Suzuki. The New York Times proclaimed, “Ms. Hamada gave a deft account of Handel’s Concerto” about her performance with conductor William Christie in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. She “defined the torrent of notes beautifully for the ear, while never sacrificing virtuosity; her illuminating playing drew well-deserved cheers” (The Columbus Dispatch). Others have praised her “flawless technique” (The Boston Globe), and “superb command of the harpsichord” (The Springfield Republican). She premiered “Virginal” by Harold Meltzer with the New Juilliard Ensemble in 2010.
Her debut album “Jacques Duphly: Pièces de clavecin” was chosen as “Recording of the Month” in the Music Web International (July 2015) and the Record Geijutsu Magazine (June 2015), and received highly favorable reviews in The Early Music America Magazine (Fall 2015) and The Fanfare Magazine (Nov/Dec 2015).
Aya won first prize in the London Music Festival Competition and second prize in the Josef Hofmann Piano Competition, and earned her master of music degree in the inaugural class of Historical Performance from the Juilliard School. She studied under Kenneth Weiss in New York and Skip Sempé in Paris, and has received additional coaching from Pierre Hantaï and Christophe Rousset. She resides in New York City.
John Pellegrino is Artistic Director of Music on the Hill, Principal Bass of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and the Peninsula Music Festival, Assistant Principal of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as well as a member of the Grand Teton Music Festival. As a chamber musician John has collaborated with such artists as Joseph Kalichstein, William Preucil, Ronald Leonard and James Dunham as well as the Miami String Quartet and the Apple Hill String Quartet. Other chamber music performances have included concerts at the Roycroft, Sarasota, Aspen, Waterloo, Grand Teton festivals as well as OSU’s Contemporary Music Festival, the Sunday at Central recital series in Columbus, OH and at the OWU•//•NOW contemporary music festival in Delaware, OH. In 2007 John was named Artistic Director of Music on the Hill, a chamber music festival located in the Ocean State. Before moving to Ohio in 1989, John was a section member of the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. Prior to joining the NOSO John earned degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School. Mr. Pellegrino has served on the faculties of Ohio Wesleyan University, the Eastern Music Festival (NC), the Warwick Music Festival (RI), Kinhaven Music Camp (VT) and the Chamber Music Connection in Worthington, Ohio. In 2008, John was the recipient of the Ohio Private/Studio Teacher of the Year award given by the Ohio String Teacher’s Association. His students have won competitions held by the International Society of Bassists, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, Ohio String Teachers Association, Interlochen Arts Camp and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
John was born and raised in Warwick, RI and owes much to his family of music educators/performers, private teachers, the public-school music program in Warwick and to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra program under the direction of Nedo Pandolfi.