Classical music concert report
I attended the concert of McGill Baroque Orchestra and McGill Cappella Antica on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, at 7:30 p. m. What special about this concert was the guest conductor and solo violinist Adrian Butterfield. The performed pieces were Welcome to all the pleasures, Leclair’s Violin Concerto in A major, Locatelli’s Introduzione teatrale in G major, C. P. E. Bach’s Sinfonia in C major and My heart is inditing. The venue was Redpath Hall of McGill University. The program began with Welcome to all the pleasures, which is an ode written for the Saint Cecilia Day, composed by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell in 1683.
It opens with a symphony with canonic violin parts. Purcell creates a concerto grosso effect with the contrapuntal violin melodies. Then comes the countertenor solo which I found very impressing. The second piece they performed was Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 7:6 composed by the French Baroque violinist and composer Jean-Marie Leclair. After conducting the first piece, Adrian Butterfield played the solo violin for this one. This concerto begins with an allegro ma non presto movement, which is joyful and fast, but not at an extreme rate.
The first movement is in ritornello form. The orchestra keeps returning to the main theme after violin solos. This movement has a homophonic texture and is in simple duple meter. The second movement is an aria at a slower tempo. It is in the variations form, but this time in compound duple meter. One thing that grabbed my attention is that the variations do not overlap. Every variation ends before the next one starts. The third and last movement of the violin concerto is the gigue form, in which the meter stays as compound but the tempo accelerates and becomes allegro.
After the break, the orchestra opened the second part of the concert with Introduzione teatrale in G major Op. 4:4 composed by the Italian composer and violinist Pietro Locatelli. This piece is from the Baroque Period like the other ones. In my opinion, this piece served as an introduction to the next one. The fourth piece that the orchestra performed was Sinfonia in C major, Wq. 182:3/H. 659 by the German Classical period musician and composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the fifth child and third son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Born in Weimar (Germany), he initially intended for a legal career but turned to music while he was studying at Frankfurt University. In 1738 he became a harpsichord player in Berlin at the court of Frederick the Great, holding this post for almost three decades. Then he succeeded as director of church music at Hamburg. C. P. E. Bach applied unsuccessfully in 1750 to succeed his father at Leipzig after his death. His achievement was to develop sonata? form and invest it with weight and imaginative quality, most evidently in his sonatas, of which there are over 200, but also in his symphonies, over fifty concertos, violin sonatas, and the solo flute sonata in A minor.
Also composed 22 Passions, Magnificat (1749), the oratorios Die Israeliten in der Wuste (1769) and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu (1780), and many songs. He also wrote a celebrated treatise on klavier? playing. First, we hear a quite fast first movement in sonata form, which is typical form for the first movements of symphonies. However, the first theme is not repeat, which was not common in the Classical period. The transitions between the themes are so fast that it makes it hard to distinguish between them, unlike when we get to the second movement, which is much slower and darker than allegro assai.
This part reminds me of the second movement in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major. The string arrangements in the beginning show similarities with J. S. Bach’s popular work. In this movement, there is a slow theme in minor mode, which keeps coming back in different variations. Thus, I think this movement is in the rondo form. After adagio, the mood of the piece gets “brighter”. Allegretto is in the minuet form and it is build upon themes similar to each other. These themes consist of parallel and contrasting melodies.
Texture-wise this symphony is homophonic. One can hear the different dynamics, but clearly it is not what this piece was written for. Speed and virtuosity is in the foreground. After Adrian Butterfield showed the audience his virtuosic abilities, he turned his face again to the orchestra and Cappella Antica joined them for the second time. We were back to Henry Purcell with My heart is inditing, Z. 30. This piece is at a moderate tempo and has polyphonic as well as melismatic choral parts. They closed the anthem with a magnificent “Alleluia” part.
The McGill Baroque Orchestra is a typical Baroque orchestra consists of eight violin players, of which the half played violin I and the other half violin II; three violists, two cellists, a violone player, two harpsichord and an organ, which were played by five different performers, and, of course, the guest conductor and the solo violinist Adrian Butterfield. They were accompanied by a choir of male and female singers on the choral pieces. The venue was very suitable for a Baroque concert. In the concert hall, there was giant pipe organ, which gave the venue an authentic visual aesthetic.
Adrian Butterfield is an extraordinary violinist and a successful conductor. His control over his instrument was captivating. I enjoyed this concert in particular, not only because he has the ability to play all those fast licks on his violin without an effort, but also McGill Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Antica performed the pieces in the best way possible. To that, I would like to add that the pieces were well chosen. Although C. P. E. Bach’s symphony in C major is a bit hard to analyze for uneducated ears, it was a pleasure to be able listen to this piece performed live. Word count: 1019Bibliography