Dates to be announced
Christ Church Cathedral
Krisztina Szabó, mezzo soprano
Marc Destrubé, violin
Kathryn Wiebe, violin
Natalie Mackie, viola da gamba
Christina Hutten, harpsichord & organ
In the Palace of Versailles, the Sun King Emperor Louis XIV held a court widely known for its extravagance. He celebrated the arts and employed many musicians to play ballets, operas, and other official ceremonies for the entertainment of foreign guests. French Elegance is a concert of music from this period, exuding the glory of France through the mighty chaconne.
Louis Couperin (1626 – 1661)
Chaconne in g minor
François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
Les Nations (selections)
Jean-Marie Leclair (1697 – 1764)
Deuxième recréation de musique d'une execution facile, Op. 8
Marin Marais (1656 – 1728)
Pièces de viole,(selections)
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667 – 1737)
Cantates a voix seule, Book 1: La mort de Didon
Lent, marqué et detaché
COVID SAFETY PROTOCOLS:
The health and safety of our patrons, musicians, staff, and volunteers is of paramount concern. Please see below to read the steps we are taking to ensure everyone's safety while enjoying the concert:
Reduced audience numbers in socially distanced seats
Audience members must wear a mask inside the venue at all times
Doors will not be opened until 15 minutes before the performance
The venue will be sanitized before each performance
Louis Couperin was an early but important member of the Couperin musical dynasty. He was uncle to the more celebrated François Couperin, but sadly died in 1661 at the young age of 35, before his nephew’s birth. The first record of his musical career appears in 1650; little is known about his life and training in his early years.
A unique feature in the work of Louis Couperin is the precise dating of each of his compositions, allowing scholars to trace his musical development for the majority of his career from 1650 to 1659. He is mainly recognized for his keyboard works, and his musical style is known for its startling rhythms, striking harmonies, and chains of suspensions that capture the listener’s attention in successive moments.
In contrast to this typical style, his chaconnes have a forced sense of unity owing to the repetitive ground bass. The majority of these use a strict rondeau form, using insistent repetitions of a grand couplet (direct quote of the opening material) until a sudden break at the final statement.
François Couperin’s ‘Les Nations’ came about through the composer’s attempt to synthesize the French and Italian musical aesthetics into what he called goûts réunis. Born into a family of organists in 1668, François Couperin was quickly recruited to the court of Louis XIV in 1693 as the Organiste du roi. Music at the French court in these years was still operating under the shadow of Jean-Baptiste Lully, who required a strict adherence to dance forms, and to musical qualities of douceur and naturalness. However, Couperin was also charmed by the sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli, and throughout his career tried to incorporate the Italian composer’s idiomatic writing, use of sequences, and well-structured sonata forms into his own works.
‘Les Nations’ is a set of four ordres (composer’s term), listed in its publication as ‘sonades et suites de simphonies en trio.’ It was published in 1726, near the end of Couperin’s career. Each ordre is titled after a political power that would have influenced Couperin’s world, and is a diptych of an Italian style sonata and a French suite in a single key. For three of the four ordres, the sonata portion had actually been written several years earlier under a different title. Couperin’s preface to ‘Les Nations’ tells of how performances of these early sonatas were given under the harmless guise of being composed by a distant Italian relative, to more authentically test the audience’s reactions, which were fortunately positive.
The sonata element of ‘La Françoise’ (France) originated as ‘La Pucelle’ (from Joan of Arc) and was hailed by Couperin as the sonata being the “first of its kind composed in France.” The chaconne echoes the operatic grandeur of Lully. ‘L’Espagnole’ (Spain) had its first incarnation as ‘La Visionnaire’, in reference to a comedy by Jean Desmarets, Sieur de Saint-Sorlin. The middle of its passacaille has hints of Spanish castanets. ‘La Piemontoise’ (Piedmont joining Savoy and becoming the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1718), was originally titled ‘LʼAstrée’ after the famous pastoral poem by Honoré dʼUrfée. The final ordre, ‘L’Imperiale,’ was the only sonata newly composed for the publication, and thus the most successful in its compositional coherence and sophistication. ‘The Imperial’ is a reference to the Holy Roman Empire, and perhaps looks forward to Couperin’s German colleague J.S. Bach in its influence.
Jean-Marie Leclair was a composer, violinist, and dancer who is considered the founder of the French violin school. He served as a musician and composer in the court of King Louis XV, then under Princess Anne of Orange, at the Hague under François Du Liz, and at the private theatre of Antoine-Antonin, Duc de Gramont. He was a dancer at the Opéra de Lyon in his youth, and married typesetter Louise Roussel. He was murdered in his home in 1764 after splitting from his wife and moving into a dangerous part of Paris.
His major musical achievement is the continuation of François Couperin’s goûts réunis, assimilating the Corellian sonata style into the French taste. His concertos borrow the style of their faster movements from the likes of Vivaldi, but slow movements are more decidedly French in their aesthetic. He also dramatically increased the technical demands on French violinists in what would later be considered the French school of violin playing. Newly incorporated techniques included higher left-hand positions, multiple stops, double trills, left-hand tremolo, tied-bow staccatos, rapid string crossings, and a more subtle approach to articulation.
Marin Marais was born in Paris in 1656 to humble origins. He joined the choir school of St Germain-l'Auxerrois in 1667, then completed his musical studies with bass viol player Sainte-Colombe. His musical abilities quickly excelled enough to be hired to the court of Louis XIV in 1676. He played, conducted, and composed for the court until his retirement in 1725.
Marais’s fame came foremost as a viol virtuoso, frequently playing his own compositions to great acclaim. He published five books of pieces for viol and continuo over his career, totaling 596 pieces grouped into 39 suites. His works often contain characteristics of program music, or a narrative story through musical effects. Examples include the sounds of bells, blacksmith shops, or military marches. He used instrumental timbres, harmonic effects and performer virtuosity to create these allusions, supplying specific notes in his scores on how to perform them.
‘La Mort de Didon’ by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair tells the classical story of Dido, the queen of Carthage, abandoned by her lover Aeneas. Originally told in Virgil’s ‘Aeneid,’ it is likely that Montéclair’s audience in the early 18th century would have been familiar with the story through its presence in plays, paintings, and poetry, if not from reading the source material. They would have likely been aware that the sea nymph Thetis would have had the power to call up a fatal storm on Aeneas, and that the mention of “Love’s brother” refers to Aeneas and Cupid both being sons of Venus.
Montéclair’s primary instrument was the double-bass, which he played for nearly 40 years from 1699-1737 at the Paris Opéra, possibly introducing his instrument to the orchestra after a sojourn in Italy. He was a highly respected teacher, claiming the daughters of François Couperin among his students. He published twenty-four cantatas divided into three volumes in the years 1709, 1716, and 1728. ‘La Mort de Didon’ was the sixth cantata in the first book, and did not credit any librettist.
- Notes by Paul Winkelmans
Please note that there will be no Festival Passes available this year.
Tickets are not yet available for purchase. Tickets will be available to purchase when the Festival dates are announced.
GETTING TO CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL
The Cathedral is located on Quadra Street at Rockland Avenue.
Street parking is available on Quadra Street, Burdett Avenue, and Rockland Avenue, as well as at the south entrance to the Cathedral off Burdett.