Saturday, October 13, 2012

Boeke, Zipperling and Weiss perform in Tel Aviv

On October 8th 2012, with the end of ten days of intensive studies of the 3rd International Early Music Seminar at the Israel Music Conservatory Tel Aviv in sight, a concert of 16th- and 17th century European music was performed by three of the seminar’s overseas guest tutors – recorder-player Kees Boeke (Holland/Italy), ‘cellist Rainer Zipperling (Germany) and harpsichordist/organist Kenneth Weiss (USA).

The program opened with four pieces from Italian church composer, organist and violinist Tarquinio Merula’s (1590/96-1665) Libro IV (1651).  Aside from sacred vocal works, Merula composed a number of pieces for single instruments, a rare practice for his time. Book IV consists of 28 pieces for a variety of instrumental combinations. We heard four canzonas performed by the three artists, the upper line (originally for violin) played by Boeke on recorder. The inspiration and innovative character of this repertoire might be attributed in part to the composer’s unstable character but also to the development of Italian opera which lent a new theatrical dimension to Italian music. The artists captured the freshness of harmony and the poetry of these pieces, its humor, technical verve, its swift dialogue, frequent changes of rhythm and vivid expression. In Merula’s concerted use of recorder and ‘cello, Boeke and Zipperling interacted, each also leaving his personal stamp on solo passages. Weiss supported some pieces on the harpsichord, others on organ.

Thomas Tallis’ (c.1505-1585) keyboard music is not heard frequently, especially in this part of the world. His surviving keyboard repertoire is not large; much has possibly been lost and most of his own keyboard performances were probably based on improvisation. Most of the surviving keyboard works are plainchant settings, as is “Felix Namque” (For Thou art happy), based on a sacred cantus firmus, which we heard played by Kenneth Weiss on harpsichord. Possibly composed for performance in the Elizabethan Chapel Royal (Queen Elizabeth was known as a good amateur musician) two treatments of this text exist in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, one from 1562 and one from 1564, their virtuosic style of writing being far beyond that of European keyboard writing of the time. With this unrivalled contrapuntal tour de force at his fingertips, Weiss presented Tallis’ imaginatively conceived series of rhythmic variations - a fast-flowing microcosm of sections of textures from two-voiced moments to densely packed chords, contrasted moods and ideas, rhythmic variety, rhythmic shifts, interestingly accented phrases and variations of mind-blowing virtuosity. Challenging the listener to keep up with the kaleidoscope of ideas, Weiss performed the gamut of keyboard styles and expression of the time, all rolled into one exciting roller-coaster ride. This daring music was handled gregariously by Weiss.

The three artists then performed two sonatas from Marco Uccellini’s (1603-1680) Opus IV (1645), a collection of “Sonate, correnti et arie” for solo or multiple violins.  Boeke played the violin line on soprano recorder, with Weiss playing organ in Sonata settima (La Prosperina) and harpsichord in Sonata undecima. Within the typically Italian practice of contrasting sections proceeding back-to-back, the artists were free and articulate in presenting Uccellini’s somewhat eclectic style (he was as familiar with street songs as he was with church- and court music), showing the music’s beautifully singing melodic phrases, rapid modulations, wide leaps and contrasting tempi.  Boeke’s skilful playing adapted the violinist-composer’s innovative- and virtuosic violin writing to the recorder.

 Italian capriciousness, multi-sectional- and quasi-improvisational form also characterize Philipp Friedrich Buchner’s (1614-1669) Sonata V from his “Plectrum Musicum” collection (1662), the reason being that Buchner, a composer from southern Germany, spent time in Italy. The ensemble brought out the sonata’s inventive combination of Italian monody and polyphony, its rich variety of textures, detail and temperament, Buchner’s musical language borrowing heavily from early 17th century Italian string idiom.  Boeke’s expressiveness was juxtaposed with focus on Zipperling’s fine solo playing together with organ continuo.

Boeke and Weiss performed Diminutions on “Un gay bergier” (T.Crecquillon) written by two composers – those composed by Giovanni Bassano in 1584 and those by Richardo Rogniono in 1592. Richardo Rogniono (Riccardo Rognioni) (c.1550-1620) wrote a didactic treatise “Passages for Practice in Diminution” (Venice, 1592) in which he addressed the difference between diminutions for string- and wind instruments. Giovanni Bassano (1558-1617) wrote an important treatise on ornamentation. Not only did Boeke and Weiss’s performance identify with the two composers’ strategies in the building up of ornamentation of diminutions, enlisting progressive technical complexities, they indeed left room for individuality of expression of the performer.

Remaining in Italy, the concert concluded with Dario Castello’s ((c.1590-c.1658) Sonata Quarta from “Sonate concertate” Libro 1 (1621). A prominent Venetian chamber musician, having his own wind ensemble, Castello had connections with Monteverdi, hence the use of the concitato style (a style expressing strong emotions, introducing such effects as repeated notes as symbols of passion). Weiss, Boeke and Zipperling gave lively expression to the composer’s freedom of style, the work’s bold gestures, use of imitation, virtuosic passagework, contrasting tempi and changes of affect.

This was a concert bristling with sparkle and interest. It also included works seldom heard in early music recitals, offering the audience the opportunity to widen its listening repertoire.

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