Programs Les Muffatti - Photo: Stéphane Puopolo Les Muffatti - Photo: Stéphane Puopolo Les Muffatti - Photo: Stéphane Puopolo  

















1. Essential Bach Johann Sebastian & Carl Philipp Emanuel: Suite — Concertos — Symphony

2. Harmony in Diversity — German orchestral music around 1700: Mayr, Muffat, Pez

3. Reinhard KEISER, Brockes-Passion

4. Water Musics — Händel, Vivaldi, Telemann

5. Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI

6. Antonio VIVALDI, Gloria e Imeneo

Essential Bach >> download the presentation
Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) & Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788):
Suite – Concertos – Symphony for string orchestra

J. S. BACH Suite no.3 in D major (BWV 1068a) for strings and basso continuo
J. S. BACH Concerto in A minor (BWV 1041) for violin, strings and basso continuo
C. P. E. BACH Concerto in B flat major (Wq.171) for cello, strings and basso continuo
C. P. E. BACH Sinfonia in E minor (Wq. 177) for strings and basso continuo

Performing Forces
solo violin, solo violoncello
strings and basso continuo (14 musicians)

"It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself". The truth of Goethe’s famous statement as an observation of great art is not only amply demonstrated here by the sheer quality of the music presented, but the idea of ‘less is more’ also proved to be a very effective tenet indeed for Les Muffatti in selecting the appropriate music for this program.
There is undoubtedly no other family in Western music history that has produced as many excellent musicians and composers as the BACH family from Thuringia in central Germany. The Bachs’ musical activities spanned from the middle of the sixteenth through the late nineteenth century. The availability of such a vast repertoire of fascinating music makes it hard to assemble a befitting concert program that presents music from various members of the family. Les Muffatti therefore decided to doubly limit itself by selecting just two of the 18th-century Bachs, and by choosing only compositions for string orchestra.
Johann Sebastian’s third orchestral suite BWV 1068 is probably best known in its festive and rather opulent version of 1730/31 with trumpets, timpani and oboes. Scholars agree however that it originated around 1718 in Köthen as a work for strings alone, and it is definitely this, more restrained version that reveals Bach’s affective nuances, rhythmical contrasts and refined polyphonic textures so much more subtly.
The concerto BWV 1041 also exists in two versions: one for violin and strings, composed in Leipzig around 1730, and a slightly later arrangement (Leipzig, 1738) for harpsichord and strings (BWV 1058). It is not the contrasting colour of a harpsichord we really need here in order to fully experience and appreciate the refinement of Bach’s intricate and fascinating dialogue between solo and ripieno, but rather the violin’s capacity to first completely merge within the tutti and then differentiate itself from it with lyrically articulated phrases and idiomatic virtuoso passage work, which clearly constitutes the oratorical essence of this concerto.
The three concertos Carl Philipp Emanuel originally scored for cello and strings were written shortly after 1750, the year of his father’s death, which therefore also traditionally marks the official end of the Baroque period. In this context, the concerto Wq.171 is extremely representative, since its three movements can be considered as a textbook summary of the three main modern musical styles that were current in post-Baroque Germany; Gallant, Empfindsamkeit and (nascent) Sturm und Drang respectively.
The symphony Wq.177, composed in 1756, was not only one of Carl Philipp Emanuel’s most popular, but also one of his own personal favourites. In these such works, Carl Philipp Emanuel amply demonstrates his understanding of the relationship between restraint and true craftsmanship, his ability to reconcile Natur and Kunst, as aspired by Goethe as well, and how effortlessly he was capable of combining sheer emotional impact with deliberate rational design. He reveals how far he was already removed from the cerebral Baroque ideas of his father, and how close he already was to the esthetical ideals of early Romanticism.

Harmony in Diversity >> download the presentation
German orchestral music around 1700: Mayr, Muffat, Pez

Johann Christoph PEZ
Ouverture in B-flat major (R.9)
for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo
Sonata V in G major (Armonico Tributo)
for two violins, cello, strings and basso continuo
Rupert Ignaz MAYR
Suite I in F major (Pythagorische Schmids-Füncklein)
for strings and basso continuo
Georg MUFFAT Concerto VI in A minor (Ausserlesene Instrumentalmusik)
for two violins, cello, strings and basso continuo
Johann Christoph PEZ Concerto Grosso / Sinfonia in G minor (R.18)
for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo

Performing Forces
winds, strings and basso continuo (19 musicians)

This programme is devoted to a watershed moment in European musical history. The fact that its protagonists are not more widely known and their achievements not more generally acknowledged is both surprising and regrettable. Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646-1712), Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704) and Johann Christoph PEZ (1664-1716) were indeed the true architects of an esthetical ideal (with explicit social and political dimensions, furthermore) that would soon constitute the basis and the very essence of German 18th-century musical style. They were indeed the first to successfully attain and avidly promote the fusion of the Italian and French musical tastes in composition and performance, an endeavour that resulted in the creation of some of the most splendid, variegating and moving orchestral music of the entire Baroque period. The works presented in this programme keep the middle between suites and concertos; French festivity and elegance are constantly being alternated with Italian cantabile and melancholy, and everything carries the unmistakable hall-mark of solid German craftsmanship.

Reinhard Keiser, Brockes-Passion >> download the presentation
(Copenhagen version)

Reinhard KEISER Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus

Performing Forces
3 sopranos, 2 altos, 3 tenors, 3 basses (11 singers)
winds, strings and basso continuo (22 musicians)

Duration of the program
ca. 2 hours

When the geniuses of two great artists combine in one single work, the result usually fails not to be anything less than spectacular. And when, by a strange quirk of history, a musical masterwork of that kind and level appears to have largely remained unperformed and unrecorded in modern times, then the approaching tercentenary of its creation definitely warrants a belated, but nonetheless fulsome tribute.
This is exactly what the instrumentalists of LES MUFFATTI and the singers of VOX LUMINIS have in mind with their planned performances and CD recording of Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus, a Passion oratorio libretto by Barthold Heinrich BROCKES (1680-1747), set to music by Reinhard KEISER (1674-1739). It was written, composed and first performed in Hamburg in 1712.
In German literary history Brockes is primarily remembered for his innovating role during the second quarter of the 18th century in the transition from traditional Baroque to more modern, ‘Enlightened’ esthetical ideals. It was his first major poetical text though, a highly expressive and dramatic libretto on the Passion of Christ, that also granted him a prominent place in music history. The so-called Brockes-Passion enjoyed an unremitting popularity throughout the 18th century; no less than eleven German composers, including Handel and Telemann, set it to music. With its admixture of poetic paraphrase of the Biblical account compiled from all four gospels and newly written contemplative texts representing the personal emotional involvement of the faithful, the Brockes-Passion can be considered the archetype of the German 18th century Passion oratorio. As such, it served as a model and a source of inspiration for later famous masterworks, such as the great passions of Bach and even the English oratorios of Handel.
Among all of the musical settings, Keiser’s version of the Brockes-Passion is not only the very first one, but also the one that follows the great rhetorical power and the rich shifts in affections of the poet’s text most closely. It also includes the full array of no less than twenty-two dramatic characters called for in the libretto. By 1712, with roughly forty stage-works behind his name, Keiser, a slightly older fellowtownsman of Brockes, was already generally acknowledged as Germany’s, and for some, even Europe’s leading opera composer. The deep, dramatic impact of his recitatives, the seemingly inexhaustible wealth of melodic ideas in his arias, his extensive mastery of orchestral colour, and his averseness toward learned counterpoint are the hallmarks and signature characteristics of Keiser’s art. All of this, in addition to some splendid choral writing, is abundantly displayed in his superb setting of the Brockes-Passion.
The available sources do not allow for an accurate reconstruction of the original version that was performed at Brockes’s house on March 27, 1712. In 2010 however, the German publishing company Edition Musica Poetica published a modern edition that is primarily based on a manuscript source preserved at the library of Copenhagen University. The manuscript is probably related to a performance of Keiser’s Brockes-Passion in Copenhagen in 1721 and it is this version that LES MUFFATTI and VOX LUMINIS are proud to present.

Water Musics >> download the presentation
Georg Friedrich Händel – Antonio Vivaldi – Georg Philipp Telemann

Full evening programme with interval:
Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL Water Music, suites in F and D major (HWV 348-9)
Antonio VIVALDI In turbato mare irato, motet in G major (RV 627)
Georg Philipp TELEMANN Hamburger Ebb’ und Flut, suite in C major (TWV 55:C3)
Short programme (ca. 1 hour) without interval:
Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL Water Music (HWV 348-350)

Performing Forces
winds, strings and basso continuo (26 musicians)

This programme unites the three single most innovative and productive composers of the early 18th century. George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759), Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) and Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) were active in the cities of London, Venice and Hamburg respectively. These three cities were at that time not only leading cultural and musical centres, but also major maritime economic powers. It is no surprise therefore that at some point in their careers all three composers chose the element of water as a source of inspiration for a musical composition. What is most fascinating, however, is the difference between their respective approaches, and it is precisely this difference that results in such a diversified, brisk and effervescent concert programme.
Georg Philipp TELEMANN’s suite Hamburger Ebb’ und Flut, composed in 1723 for the centennial of the Hamburg Admiralty, is the most programmatic work on the menu. Its central part consists of seven dance movements in which Telemann skilfully depicts a series of mythological sea creatures in different moods. This core section is preceded and introduced by an overture in which Telemann, with a sense for reality equalled only in 19th century romantic symphonic poems such as Bedrich Smetana’s Moldau, masterfully paints the calm, savageness and changing tides of the North Sea. The suite concludes in a light, playful mood with a reference to folk life in the port city of Hamburg.
In the works of Antonio VIVALDI, water is a recurrent theme. It is worth mentioning in this respect, the raindrops in the famous second movement of ‘The Winter’ or the two versions of his concerto La tempesta di mare. In two motets, In turbato mare irato and Sum in medio tempestatum, both composed around 1730, Vivaldi reverts to a traditional ‘nature introduction’ (Natureingang) within Christianity, by which the helplessness of the human soul is compared to a little boat fallen prey to the waves in the rough seas. That same tradition is faithfully observed in the subsequent invocation to the Blessed Virgin, here in her capacity of Stella Maris, beacon and infallible guide for all humanity in its perennial quest for peace of mind.
The most famous of all Baroque ‘water musics’ is undoubtedly that of George Frederick HANDEL and it is all the more remarkable that water itself is actually not even the theme in these three brilliant orchestral suites. The fact that Handel’s Water Music carries that name is merely due to the fact that it was originally performed on water, more specifically on the River Thames during a royal boat trip from Whitehall to Chelsea on July 17th, 1717. It is no doubt the amazingly rich variety and alternation between moods, underscored by the extremely colourful instrumentation of strings, enriched with melodious oboes, extrovert horns, sweet flutes, a slender soprano recorder and triumphant trumpets that have granted this work the status of a true musical evergreen ever since.

Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI >> download the presentation

Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI Sinfonia in D major from Lo frate ’nnamorato
for strings and basso contiuno
  Cantate Nel chiuso centro (Orfeo)
for soprano, strings and continuo
  Concerto in Bb major
for violin, strings and continuo
  Stabat Mater in F minor
for soprano, alto, strings and continuo

Performing Forces
soprano, alto
solo violin
strings and basso continuo (15 musicians)

2010 was the year the musical world celebrated the 300th anniversary of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736), one of the few Baroque composers whose works (albeit just a handful) have been continuously admired and performed right up to today. We can only imagine the impact his music would have had if he had not died quite so young – only 26 years old! The quality of his compositions, all written within a period of barely six years, seems all the more miraculous for a musician apparently afflicted with a physical deformity and tuberculosis, the illness that would ultimately take his life. Pergolesi received his training at the Conservatorio dei Poveri de Gesù Cristo in Naples during the 1720s, and then rapidly gained fame as an opera composer. His greatest contribution was to the early development of opera buffa, but the field of sacred music also proved extremely suitable for expressing the fullness of his genius.
The first half of this program is devoted to parts of Pergolesi’s oeuvre we are perhaps less acquainted with in modern concert life.
The introductory Sinfonia is drawn from the comic opera Lo frate ’nnamorato, which was first performed in 1732, and immediately enjoyed unprecedented success. Both the zestful liveliness of the fast movements, as the touching lilt of the slow movement are most representative of the typical airyness of opera buffa.
The fact that Pergolesi was as effective in serious theatrical music is amply demonstrated here by one of his very last works: the cantata Nel chiuso centro (Orfeo), which actually forms a sort of mini opera seria, displaying a full array of contrasting affections and accompanying compositional techniques.
One of Pergolesi’s few surviving instrumental works, the brilliant Concerto in Bb major for violin and strings reminds us that the composer had benefitted above all from a virtuosic violin training. The two fast movements are written in the typical Neapolitan Galant style of the early symphony, while the slow siciliana reflects a more vocal, operatic pathos.
The Stabat Mater has inspired several composers, and seems to have produced some of the most poignant pages in music history – hardly surprising for a text of which the keywords are grief, tears, sobbing sadness, devastation, despondency, torture, torment and death. How could one remain unmoved by the suffering of a mother witnessing the death-throes of her own son? Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s setting of the Stabat Mater is surely one of the most celebrated; offering us an eminently dramatic version, in a mature Galant style, ornate and distinguished, and vividly moving.

Antonio VIVALDI, Gloria e Imeneo >> download the presentation

Antonio VIVALDI Gloria e Imeneo (Venetia, 1725)

mezzo-soprano, alto
strings and basso continuo (17 musicians)

Duration of the program
65 minutes, without intermission.
However, the composition can be divided into two sections, and the program can be complemented with
instrumental pieces by Vivaldi to make it a concert in two parts.

In the 1720s Antonio VIVALDI – then already one of the most renowned Italian composers — composed
three Serenate in honor of the French monarchy. One is set for mezzo-soprano, alto, and string orchestra
and is now known as Gloria e Imeneo. However, neither the correct title of the composition, nor the
original introductory Sinfonia are known, because the first pages of the manuscript are missing. On the
other hand, we do know that Gloria e Imeneo was commissioned for the wedding of Louis XV and the
Polish princess Maria Leszczynska, and that it was performed in the gardens of the French Embassy in
Venice on the evening of 12 September 1725. As it is the case for most Serenate, the text does not present
any particular plot. The two protagonists, Hymen (Imeneo), the god of Marriage, and Gloria, the
personification of eternal glory, only compete with each other in celebrating the radiant (and henceforth
also ensured) future of the French monarchy, and in congratulating the young royal couple in most
flowery language.
The exceptionally high quality of the music largely compensates for the libretto's obvious lack of
dramatic substance. Gloria e Imeneo is an example of some of Vivaldi's best music: in the arias the
composer alternates virtuosity with elegance, poignancy, and dramatic fervor in a way similar to what he
did in his most compelling operas. Some arias even have tune-like qualities, comparable to the most
unforgettable of his concerto melodies. On the other hand, recitatives are short and lively and they never
distract from what was most important to Vivaldi and his French sponsors: a solid hour of ravishing and
exciting Baroque music.

Recent update: 20.12.12
Webmaster: la clef asbl -