Posted in Listening for Part 3: Baroque Period, Uncategorized

Italian Sonatas and Concertos

In this post I will list the Italian baroque sonatas and concertos, which not only informed many Bach’s compositions, but also my own piece for Assignment 3.

Archangelo Corelli – Sonatas from Op. 1-5 and Twelve Concerti grossi Op. 6

Corelli was a key figure in the establishment of the standard forms for both the da camera and da chiesa sonatas, and the concerto grosso. It was interesting to read that honoring him, Telemann even composed Sonates corellisantes, explicitly showing this influence. Although there are multiple recordings for Op. 5 and Concerti grossi, the recordings of trio sonatas Op. 1-4 were a bit difficult to find.

Curiously, despite being a da chiesa set, Op. 1 is the least structured among all sonatas, since Corelli was beginning to experiment with the genre and the texture of the trio. I found this aspect very compelling to see – being able to follow this experimental aspect in the score, which is absent in the Op. 3, when the form became solidified. Generally, I enjoyed the slow, expressive movements the most in the da camera sonatas. From both cycles, Op. 1 No. 10 in G minor and Op. 3 No. 2 are among my favorite.

In terms of the da camera trio sonatas from Op. 2 and Op. 4, I was quite taken by how kaleidoscopic these pieces are in terms of using the different dance forms, both elegant and vigorous ones. There are even some interesting timbral effects, such as the trumpet-like fanfares in Allemanda from Op. 2 No. 10, and the descending parallel fifths created by the violins and bass in the Allemanda from Op. 2 No. 3. The one I really liked is Op. 4 No. 1 in C major, especially the prelude.

I was already well acquainted with Op. 5, since I have played some excerpts myself a few years ago. Still, it was interesting to revisit these sonatas, since I feel like a lot has changed about my knowledge on the baroque period, and my position on the notation. Looking again at the score and listening to some different interpretations, I realised there was a good deal of non-notated ornamentation. It never occurred to me back in the day that I could add these little improvisatory flourishes, while now it seems very logical. In this sense, La Folia variations, one which I played the most, was perhaps the most curious to experience anew.

Unlike Op. 5, I have never encountered Op. 6. As such, I was slightly surprised that they were also structures as either concerti da chiesa or concerti da camera. What I also learned through listening and looking at the score is that there are two distinct stylistic features present in the concerti – one exemplified by the succession of homophonic chords and the other by the ecstatic imitative suspensions above the walking bass line. The most unique is the five-movement Christmas Concerto Op. 6 No 8 in G minor. Like the other concerti, the tempo is quite interestingly set, with the composition starting with a fiery vivace as an introduction to the Grave opening movement, while the third Adagio movement also contains a central episode in Allegro, but none of the others end with a Pastorale ad libitum – a true gem of music of the opus.

Vivaldi – Concertos in A minor RV356 and G major ‘alla rustica’ RV151

What really shocked me upon searching for Vivaldi’s concertos is that, beside the Four Seasons, he has composed over 500 pieces of the genre, around 230 being for violin.

As such I have decided to listen again to the familiar concerto in A minor, which I have performed in a concert more than five years ago. I think this is the first time I approached the composition in a more analytical way, having previously been focused only on the performance aspects. This time I could really delve into other structures, such as the chords being played by the basso continuo, which I haven’t really considered before this part of the course. I could also focus on the ritornello form, which I learned about in the exercise 3.5 for Bach’s Wachet auf.

For the second concerto, I chose ‘alla rustica’ in G major, since it contrasts the A minor in having no soloist and being very short, lasting around 5 minutes. There are only three movements each with interesting things to showcase. The first is a peculiar moto perpetuo in 9/8 that ventures into G minor in the final bars, which personally reminded me of the storm from The Four Seasons, the second being an emotive adagio with ornamental passages, while the third utilizes the sharpened fourth degree of the scale, C# – being in Lydian mode common to the folk music, which I learned is reminiscent of Telemann’s Polish-style sonatas – I plan to add these to the listening log at some point later in the course.

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