THE MUSIC & THE PAINTINGS
The program of this CD invites us to leave for a while our occupations and to move with our imaginations into the realm of the Italian Baroque era through aural and visual art from that time and place: a program of organ works accompanied visually by splendid paintings preserved in the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. The organ pieces on the program, played here on the original full-size Italian Baroque organ at Rochester, span about 120 years, from Frescobaldi to Platti, and have been selected in order to be a musical commentary to the pictures. Sometimes the connection between music and painting is very evident, sometimes not—but in those cases it is up to the listener to discover it. A note on the musical interludes, or “promenades”: These “promenades,” improvised by the artist, are based on one very simple theme. They act as a separation between the different pieces as a “refresher” for the listener, and also give the entire program a sense of continuity.
Music: Giovanni Salvatore (c. 1610 – c. 1675): Toccata Seconda del Nono tuono naturale
Giovanni Salvatore represents the second generation of Neapolitan organists of the Baroque. The content of his music, as well as the music of the first generation (Giovanni De Macque, Giovanni Maria Trabaci, Ascanio Majone), reflects the typical elements of the Neapolitan school, particularly the exploration of hard harmonic connections typical of the Madrigal tradition exemplified in the music of Gesualdo da Venosa. Salvatore’s collection Ricercari, Canzoni e Toccate (Naples, 1641) includes free pieces and, like Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali (1635), the complete set of Verses for the three Masses (Sunday Mass, Apostles Mass and Virgin Mary Mass). The Toccata recorded here is the ideal introduction to the world of Baroque keyboard music, wherein the principle aims of the performer are the contrasting affects and the communication of different emotions. The piece is performed with the full Ripieno (from Principale 8 to XXIX) and the Contrabassi at the pedal.
Music: Gregorio Strozzi (1615 – c. 1690): Capriccio primo con partite sopra Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La
Painting: Italian, late 1500s? | An Allegory of Hearing (Oil on panel)
Music: The six notes of the musical hexachord (Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La) were symbolically associated with the six days of the Creation. Many musicians opened collections with a piece based on these notes. This work by Gregorio Strozzi, who worked in Naples in the second half of the seventeenth century, is on one hand a retrospective homage to Frescobaldi’s Capriccio Primo, and on the other hand a deeper exploration of the contrapuntal possibilities offered by the Creation theme. The composition consists of rhythmical patterns which increase in intensity, culminating in the last section which is full of virtuosic sixteenth-notes passages. The piece offers up the opportunity to showcase many of the Italian organ’s different colors. In the central section, where we find the same calm polyphonic texture of the opening section, the Flauto in ottava is played an octave lower, creating a sweet and melancholic atmosphere. In the last sections, the crescendo returns, with the addition to the Flauto, Principale, and ripieno ranks. Particularly amazing is the chromatic section, where the overlapping of the voices creates an effect of strong dissonance in which the tonality seems quite lost.
Painting: The term allegory in literature and art refers to the expression of human experience through the use of symbolic human or animal figures and actions. In this painting, the experience of hearing is characterized by a young woman in classical dress, surrounded by various musical instruments and playing a lute. Because of its keen ears, painters often used the image of the stag, seen here near the musician, to allude to the experience of hearing.
Music: Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583 – 1643): Toccata Terza per l’organo, da sonarsi all’elevatione
Painting: Luca Giordano, Italian, (1634-1705): The Entombment, 1650-1653 (Oil on canvas)
Music: In the Catholic service, the “Elevation” is a central theme. At the altar during the Elevation point in the service, Christ’s death is represented, and, to convey the mood, the organist must move the feeling of the audience to deep devotion and sadness. Frescobald’s very dramatic Toccata Terza per l’organo, da sonarsi all’elevatione probably could not have been used during Elevation: eight minutes are too long even for a patient priest! But this piece is a perfect model of “Stilo affettuoso,” following as it does the rules of Rhetoric: the first part is a real “exordium,” the central part is the “ipsius corpus carminis,” and the final part, with a “reprise” of the beginning, is the “finis.” The three parts are divided by perfect cadences. The drama of the rhetorical conceit is expressed through the use of dissonances, chromatic passages, and surprising changes of tonality: Frescobaldi combines the old “Durezze e ligature” style—a piece based on the exploration of hard harmonic connection as in the Neapolitan school—and the new “Stylus monodicus,” in which a solo part embellished with extemporary passages and ornamentation is accompanied by a thorough bass. In this Toccata, Frescobaldi alternates between “solo” and “tutti,” of counterpointal and monodic sections, as is found in the vocal church music of the time. Dissonance without solution, avoided cadences, pauses, vocal figures such as “accento, cascata, ribattuta di gola” (all these codified in Giulo Caccini’s Nuove Musiche), and ascending and descending scales, combine to create the sort of dark chaotic atmosphere similar to that depicted in Giordano’s Entombment.
The piece is played here with Principale alone, the typical sweet Italian sound, and in the first and third parts, the Voce Umana is added. The Voce Umana is like a Principale with a higher pitch, creating a natural vibration very similar to that of the human voice.
Painting: Originally an altarpiece, this painting illustrates the New Testament scene of the Entombment of Christ. Joseph of Arimathea, who is holding Jesus and clasping him in a shroud, and Nicodemus, who supports Jesus’ legs, are placing him in a stone sarcophagus. Saint John the Evangelist, cloaked in red, is in the foreground with his back to the viewer. Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, dressed in a blue robe, collapses in despair at the left. She is surrounded by Holy Women, including Mary Magdalene who wrings her hands in sorrow. Other grieving figures in the background of the painting engage each other in conversation, enhancing both the devotional and dramatic character of the painting.
Music: Bernardo Pasquini (1637 – 1710) Partite diverse di Follia
Painting: School of Jan Both, Dutch, (1618-1652): Roman Ruins with Card Players (Oil on canvas)
Music:The Follia was a traditional “ostinato” dance from the Iberian region. During the seventeenth century, it was often danced to “theme and variations” settings for keyboard, lute, and mixed instrumental consorts. Among the most famous is Corelli’s Follia for violin and continuo, published in Rome in 1700. Pasquini’s Follia was written at around the same time. Bernardo Pasquini was one of the most celebrated keyboard virtuosos and teachers of the day; he worked in Rome very closely with Corelli and had many students from all over Europe. The Berlin State Library preserves a large collection of Pasquini’s keyboard works which represent the bridge between the Roman school (strongly connected to Frescobaldi’s heritage) and the early eighteenth-century’s new aesthetic.
In this set of variations, Pasquini uses a surprising variety of rhythmical patterns but, in contrast from other composers of this style, he often varied the harmonic texture and the melodic line. This freedom offers more possibility in the treatment of the ostinato and in the research of always new atmospheres and affects. In this performance, many combinations of stops are used—various flutes, principale, ripieno ranks, and reeds (tromboncini)—demonstrating the many colors available on an Italian instrument with few stops.
Painting: As an independent subject of painting, landscape first emerged in Europe during the 1600s. Its development reflects changes in the views commonly held at that time on the universe and man’s relation to it. As landscape painting developed, the Dutch were quick to acquire a taste for Italian settings and motifs. In this painting, Both uses Italian motifs, such as ruins, as pictorial elements; he then combines them with the typical genre scene of a group of men playing cards. Also called The Ruins of the Temple of Saturn, this painting is a version of the original Jan Both painting of the same subject that is owned by the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. It was probably painted by either Jan Both or his brother, Andries.
Music: Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741): Concerto La Notte(“The Night”)
Painting: Alessandro Magnasco, Italian, (1662-1749): The Exorcism of the Waves, after 1735 (Oil on canvas)
Music: Throughout the ages, artists have attempted to imitate nature, or incorporate its characteristics into their art. In the Baroque era, composers strove to imitate the contrasts inherent in the natural world: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the most famous examples. But Vivaldi’s music is not only an imitation of nature, it is a deep investigation into the effect of nature upon the human soul. The Concerto La Notte (“the Night”) is a score in which Vivaldi tries to describe the psychological effects of darkness, with all its ghosts and tormented dreams. One of Vivaldi’s masterpieces, the piece was originally written for flute and orchestra, and is here performed from an organ transcription in the very common baroque tradition of adapting works of any instrumentation to the keyboard.
After a short introduction, the first Allegro immediately creates an atmosphere of tension and excitement that the following short Largo tries to soften. Suddenly, though the Presto. Fantasmi movement breaks in with its roiling atmosphere that can easily be compared with Magnasco’s dramatic tempest. The next movement, “Il sonno,” bespeaks an uneasy calm, the tension and apprehension of the “night rest” conveyed by the jarring modulations. Finally, the violent forces of nature explode in the last movement, where mankind is seemingly overcome and can see no possibility of escape from the storm.
The main stop used in this piece is Flauto in duodecima (flute XII), combined with Principale and Decimanona: in some passages the “tamburo” effect is used to increase the dramatic atmosphere.
Painting: Lit by lightning flashes and painted to emphasize the effect of violent motion, this work shows the fierce struggle of man against the fury of the elements. Dominating the center of the painting, tumultuous waves threaten to capsize and crush a small boat; its helpless passengers struggle to escape sea monsters and reach safety in a rockbound cove. In the foreground, two survivors flee with their belongings; on the left, a Franciscan monk kneels in prayer. His companion raises a crucifix in a desperate effort to quell the storm.
Magnasco worked in Genoa and Florence, where his melodramatic technique and hallucinatory landscapes appealed especially to the Medici rulers. His highly personal style is typified by the staccato brushwork and intense color contrasts seen in this painting.
Music: Giovanni Benedetto Platti (c. 1690 – 1763): Sonata III, Op. 2
Painting: Francesco Guardi, Italian (1712-1793): San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (Oil on canvas)
Music: Platti’s Sonata, published in 1742, combines traditional Baroque elements with many aspects of the incoming “Galant style,” which include simplification of the contrapuntal texture, reduction of the voices, an emphasis on the melodic line, and an overall balance and symmetry. But, as in paintings of the time, the apparent tranquillity in this incoming style of music belies an ever-present drama. In Platti’s Sontata, this underlying mood reveals itself particularly in the last movement, a very simple Gigue in which dissonances and unexpected modulations evoke an atmosphere that oscillates between dream and waking. In the Sonata’s second movement, the “cantabile” is performed with Flauto in XVII and Tromboncini; the Menuet is played with Flauto in ottava with the addition of “Uccelliera” to create a sweet and brilliant atmosphere. In the final Gigue, the full Ripieno with reeds is employed in order to show the tension of the harmonies.
Painting:This painting shows a view of San Giorgio Maggiore on its island in the lagoon in Venice. Designed in the 1500s by the well-known architect Andrea Palladio, it was one of the most visited tourist sites in Venice during the 1700s. An important part of any European gentleman’s education was the “Grand Tour,” or a journey through the principle cities and sights of Europe and particularly Italy. Topographical painting, sometimes called the “portraiture of places,” and veduta, or view paintings, filled the desire of tourists for pictorial souvenirs of their travels.
Music: J. S. Bach (1685-1750): Concerto BWV 976 (after Vivaldi)
Painting:William James, British (active 1754-1771): The Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, Looking West (Oil on canvas)
Music: Due to the influence of the young Duke Johann Erst of Saxe- Weimar, Bach made 21 transcriptions of Italian Concertos, particularly after Vivaldi. For Bach was a good opportunity to explore the Italian style. Concerto in Do maggiore is a transcription from Vivaldi’s “L’Estro armonico” (Op.3, no.12), and it is interesting to note the ways in which Bach elaborates on the original material, in particular filling in Vivaldi’s unexpected interruptions and pauses with virtuosic passages and scales, giving to the score a more symmetrical, balanced structure. Bach’s final interpretation is quite different from Vivaldi’s orginal. The same can be said of William James’s view of Venice, wherein the “lagoon-city” is reinterpreted through the eyes of a North European.
In the first movement the registration is 8, 4, 2 in an attempt to imitate an orchestral sound, while the Largo is performed with the solo Principale whose sweetness effectively reproduces the sound of a violin. The brilliant final movement requires more sound; hence along with the ripieno ranks are added Flauto XVII and tromboncini.
Painting: The waterfront promenade of the Riva degli Schiavoni, or River of the Slavs, has long been one of the most picturesque and popular in Venice. Paintings by the great Canaletto and his British followers like William James show the bustling of gondolas, sailing boats, and barges; the promenade itself is equally lively with travelers, merchants, and townspeople actively engaged in commerce and recreation.
Music: Francesco Feroci (1673 – 1750): Toccata in D
Painting: Bernardo Strozzi, Italian (1581-1644): Two Musicians, 1630-35 (Oil on canvas)
Music: Francesco Feroci was a pupil of Giovanni Maria Casini in Florence and organist in the Florentine church of San Maria del Fiore. Like the works of his contemporary, Domenico Zipoli, Feroci’s organ music represents the final development of the Roman tradition in which the old contrapuntal style is balanced with the modern “concertato” style and the influences of the new “bel canto.” This Toccata is a virtuosic piece based on fast violin-style figurations flowing incessantly in the right hand from beginning to end! The harmonic ground, as in Frescobaldi’s “Toccate sopra i pedali,” is based on long pedal notes, while the left hand plays a more simple accompaniment with some occasional imitations. And, as in the opening of Salvatore’s Toccata, Feroci’s piece is performed with the whole Ripieno and the Contrabassi in the pedal.
Painting: This scene of a middle-aged lute player and young violinist illustrates many qualities of Baroque art. Both musicians look directly out from the painting, their eye contact and lively expressions establishing a sympathetic psychological relationship with their audience. Dramatic lighting, naturalistic details, and richly saturated colors all merge to intensify the viewer’s visual experience.
The meaning of Two Musicians leaves much to the imagination. The two figures here could suggest a contrast between naïve youth and experienced age, whereas the violin and the lute both refer to ideas of balance and harmony. Concert scenes sometimes symbolized the sense of hearing or the idea of harmony and love. Whatever the interpretation, these paintings of concerts were, like the music they represent, extremely popular with their public during the Baroque period.