Cantatas, Sonatas and Moral Tales: Songs and Instrumental Music from 18th-century Germany

Last night I went to another concert in the Viols
and Friends series.
This one was of eighteenth
century music, which we’re on the whole more familiar with than
we are the seventeenth
century music
that I heard last October. Although the
performance included composers as familiar as Telemann and
Handel, it was in general the same kind of exploration of
little-known and delightful byways that characterizes this
series. Lutenist Olav Chris Hendriksen and Gambist Carol Lewis
were joined by mezzo-soprano Pam Dellal.

The first half included a humorous song by Telemann about
Fortune, written to be performed in the parlors of Hamburg. I
was reminded that the last concert I heard with Telemann parlour
songs had made me want to look them up, but I hadn’t yet gotten
around to it. There was also a lute-viol duet reconstructed by
Chris Hendriksen from the lute part. Again I marveled at how
well Chris and Carol Lewis (his wife) play together.

The second half ended with pieces from the end of writing for
viol and lute. Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) was the last well-known
composer to write for (and play) viol. One of the pieces was
written for Thomas Gainsborough, better known as a portrait
painter, but apparently also an impressive amateur musician.
When I was in school, they skipped from Bach to Haydn when they
taught music history, leaving you to wonder what there must have
been in between. The music on this half of the program is part
of the answer.

[Gainsborough portrait of Abel]

The program ended on a note of hillarity, with Die Schlauen Mägdchen
by Johann Christian Beyer, who is known only because he
published one of the last treatises on the lute before modern
times in 1760. This piece is a humorous song about two girls
who are tired of being woken by their elderly aunt when the
rooster crows, so they kill the rooster. Their wicked plot
fails to benefit them, because the aunt, not being able to count
on the rooster waking her, wakes up at all hours of the night
and awakens her nieces. The piece was published entirely in
lute tablature, so probably originally performed with the
lutenist singing it.

You still have one more chance to appreciate this series, when
they perform French Renaissance music from the court of Louis
XIII with guest soprano Anne Azéma on April 17th and 18th.

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