Bach was a versatile composer. He reworked many of his instrumental concerti for harpsichord, and vice-versa (the two violin concerti, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 and this concerto for oboe and violin are notable examples).
After considerable research, this three-movement work was reconstructed from Bach’s concerto for two harpsichords in C minor, the original violin-oboe version having been lost.
The first movement opens with an eighth-note theme with stated by the orchestra and answered by the violin and oboe. While the solo lines are prominent, they are interwoven with the orchestra, including delicate contrapuntal textures. The second movement is a lovely duet, with spun-out solo melodies juxtaposed against a muted, mostly plucked orchestral accompaniment. The vigorous last movement features sharp dynamic contrasts and florid solo passages before its resounding end.
The life of William Boyce (1711-1779) spanned the flowering of the baroque era through early classicism. Boyce was active in official London music circles, becoming Composer to the Chapel Royal in 1736 and Master of the King’s Musick in 1755.
He composed a number of symphonies, concerti grossi and overtures for various combinations of strings and winds (although his best-known work is the song “Heart of Oak” which he wrote for a theatrical pantomime).
He published his twelve overtures in 1770, still mostly in high baroque style. They are based largely on celebratory Odes for royal birthdays which Boyce was required to write as part of his official duties.
Overture No. 11 is based on the 1766 Birthday Ode and features strings, oboes, bassoon, trumpets and timpani. The trumpets and timpani play a prominent role, particularly in the formal introduction and the fugue which follows.
When Charles II mounted the throne in 1660, one of his first acts was to lift the ban on theatrical performances, imposed by the Puritans during the Commonwealth years after the Civil War of 1642. Very soon, the ‘masque’ entertainment, involving music, spectacle, dance and drama, was again a thriving business.
Indeed, Purcell himself wrote incidental music (‘incidental’ as it was not part of the action, but occurred in the intermissions and interludes) for 43 plays in all. Several of these were preserved in the Orpheus Britannicus collection, thanks to which we still have many of these wonderful pieces today.
Although the original play of 1690 is now lost, these lovely dance movements remain, here orchestrated by another great English composer, Gustav Holst. They all display Purcell’s delight in harmonic pungency, wonderfully independent contrapuntal writing and endless inventiveness (the Jig is actually an ingenious arrangement of the popular tune Lilliburlero, with the melody in the bass).
Bach composed this cantata in Leipzig in 1724 “for the 14th Sunday after Trinity.”
The cantata is in seven parts. It opens with a majestic chorus based upon a chromatic descending bass line. The choral passages are an interplay between the alto, tenor and bass lines, with the sopranos joining in with the choral melody. The initial orchestral motif is in turn taken up by the chorus; other themes that Bach first gives to the chorus are then taken up by the strings and winds. T
he following movement is a soprano-alto aria (sung today by the women’s chorus), the text beseeching help from above and the music charming in its dance-like motifs. Tenor and bass recitatives and arias follow, with initial forebodings ending in religious affirmations. The closing chorale ends this work on a note of hope.
This Suite unites music from the dramatic output of Purcell. Barbirolli, the famous English conductor, took excerpts from “The Gordian Knot Untied,” “Dido and Aeneas” and “King Arthur” and re-orchestrated them slightly, mostly by giving the sung lines of arias to solo instruments.
Bach’s four Suites (or “ouvertures”) were probably written between 1725 and 1738 in Leipzig and performed at the famous coffeehouse concerts by the Collegium Musicum, directed by the composer.
The fourth suite begins with a magnificent overture, consisting of a resplendent, processional introduction followed by a fuga alla gigue in 9/8 meter which displays Bach’s supreme mastery of counterpoint as well as brilliant virtuoso writing for the whole orchestra.
There are then a lively Bourrée, a sturdy Gavotte, and a graceful Minuet, the last having a central section scored for solo strings. The suite ends with a show-stopping finale entitled “rejouissance,” which bubbles over with joyous high spirits.
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) was born in Nuremberg and served as court organist in a number of churches in central and southern Germany. He influenced many composers of his generation and later, including Johann Sebastian Bach.
Aside from his well-known Canon in D Major, Pachelbel wrote quite a few instrumental and keyboard works. The Suite in G Major is scored for 5 string parts (2 violins, 2 violas and continuo). It consists of a short, majestic overture with dynamic contrasts, followed by 5 dance movements.