Arts Listings

Bach Soloists at 1st Congregational This Saturday

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Plane
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

Baroque trumpeter John Thiessen joins the American Bach Soloists, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, Saturday, 8 p.m., at the First Congregational Church, Channing Way at Dana, for an end of season program that pays tribute to two contemporaries of Bach—Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758) and Guiseppe Torelli (1658-1709)— and also playing “Mr. Handel’s Water Piece,” as well as Telemann’s own Water Music, celebrating seafaring life in 18th century Hamburg, and Bach’s Sixth Brandenburg Concerto, “a virtual quadruple concerto for violas and violas da gamba.” 

Featured musicians, besides Thiessen on natural trumpet, include Carla Moore, solo violin; Katherine Kyme and Aaron Westman, violas; Joanna Blenduff, violincello; William Skeen and Elizabeth Reed, violas da gamba; Steven Lehning, violone and Jeffrey Thomas, harpsichord. 

The program will begin with Torelli’s Concerto in D Major for Trumpet, Strings and Continuo, followed by Concerto in A Major “Die Relinge” (The Frogs) by Telemann, Fasch’s Trumpet Concerto in D Major; Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat Major—and after intermission, Handel’s Water Music (1733) and Telemann’s Overture in C Major “Wassermusik” (1723). 

Trumpet, like violin, emerged during the 17th century in Italy as a solo instrument, especially through the efforts of the Bologna School, centered around the Basilica of San Petronio, where the libraries held 183 manuscripts of instrumental music scored specifically for trumpet or trumpet with strings, written by 14 composers, Torelli the most prolific with 32 works for trumpet. The Bach Soloists will play the only trumpet composition of his not found in San Petronio, instead published in Amsterdam in 1715. 

In Northern Europe in the 18th century, trumpeters gravitated to the court at Weissenfels, where Fasch, the scion of cantors and theologians, was trained as a boy soprano, later becoming a friend of Telemann. He founded the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, where Bach became director in 1729. Fasch became court composer in Zerbst in 1722, composing cantatas, operas, symphonies, sonatas, suites and at least 61 concertos. Most of his vocal music has been lost; much of his instrumental music survives, but none of it was published in his lifetime. Disinterested in polyphony, Fasch composed more in the vein of the new Classical style, with French and Italian influences. 

Telemann’s “Die Relinge” employs a Venetian ritornello concerto style with suite. The strings rely on technique that imitates croaking sounds.  

By 1721, Bach—then 56—had “encountered, emulated and finally assimilated” contemporary Italian concerto style, the early definitions of which, as genre, swing between “disputation” and “agreement.” No two Brandenburg concertos share the same orchestral complement. 

Handel’s Water Piece was published in 1733 by Daniel Wright in London. Three of the five pieces are known, in one form or another, to be Handel’s. The other two, a gigue and a minuet, were most likely scored by another composer, perhaps Wright. A common 18th century practice, often without the composer’s approval, was to publish arrangements, rather than transcriptions, in formats that could be played outside the concert hall. 

In 1723, Hamburg celebrated a century since the founding of its Admiralty, during which Telemann performed his “Wassermusik” at a feast, with movements named allegorically after different mythical aquatic personalities: Neptune, Triton, Thetis, Aeolus and Zephyr. 

The Bach Soloists will also perform this program Friday night in Belvedere, Sunday in San Francisco and Monday in Davis.