The Chamber Music Series of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s will soon open its 2018 -2019 season, beginning in December with “Vivaldi, Venice and the Influence of Italy.” The series will feature intimate concerts performed by the virtuosic musicians of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the core group of artists of the orchestra. These concerts will take place at venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The opening program will highlight the parallels between the music of Italian Baroque composers and masters of the Italian Renaissance, while celebrating the influence of Venice and Venetian composers on the classical canon.
The program features selections from Claudio Monteverdi’s first opera, L’Orfeo, which was produced in 1607, six years before he was named maestro di capella of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. L’Orfeo set the stage for the opera hysteria that would take hold of theaters from Venice to Palermo in the coming century.
Antonio Vivaldi is often associated with the flamboyant and virtuosic works he wrote for the violin, which matched his own larger-than-life personality. However, Vivaldi also composed nine cello sonatas which contain some of his most introspective and soulful music. In his Sonata for Cello in B-flat Major, he explores the versatility of the cello, an instrument which usually provided harmonic support in the continuo. Of the 90 sonatas Vivaldi composed during his prolific career, the majority were written for solo violin. With his Trio Sonata in B Minor, he transforms the chromaticism and dance rhythms influenced by Byzantine music and dramatic shifts between major and minor codified by Corelli into his own singular style. The Concerto for Strings in C Major, RV 117 and the Concerto for Strings in G Minor, RV 157, are two of Vivaldi’s nearly sixty ripieno concertos. Unlike the rest of his 500 concertos, the ripieno concertos do not showcase one instrument as a soloist. Instead, the members of the ensemble play together in a texture full of harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic tension and release.
The sonatas of Bohemian-Austrian composer Heinrich Franz Ignaz von Biber demonstrate the influence of Italian composers on their colleagues in northern Europe. The flamboyant Venetian style, emphasizing virtuosity and theatricality, can be heard in his Sonata No. 3 in F major, written around 1681. Tarquinio Merula, a contemporary of Monteverdi, made significant contributions to the development of the sonata forms, as well as variations based on a ground bass, exemplified by his Ciaccona.
The la folia, meaning madness, is a chord progression that most likely originated in Portugal in the Middle Ages, which composers through the 18th century utilized as the foundation for countless compositions. Arcangelo Corelli used the la folia as the basis for his Sonata for Violin in D Minor, crafting 24 variations at various tempi, in which he transforms, reshapes and contorts the la folia into melodic and rhythmic disguises, like masked revelers during the Carnevale of Venice.
The Vivaldi, Venice and the Influence of Italy performances take place on Tuesday, December 4 at Merkin Hall, 129 W. 67th Street in Manhattan; Wednesday, December 5 at The Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Avenue and on Sunday afternoon, December 9 at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway. The program was developed by musicians of the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble and was inspired by the subject matter of two exhibitions at The Morgan Library and Museum. Running through January 6th is “Pontormo: Miraculous Encounters,” featuring the artist’s magnificent Visitation altarpiece for the church of San Michele Arcangelo in Carmignano, Italy. The work is a masterpiece of Florentine Mannerist art displayed for the first time in the U.S. The second exhibit is “Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice,” which celebrates the Venetian artist’s 500th birth and rarely seen drawings.
Tickets start at $50.00 and subscriptions at $120.00 for the three concert series at Merkin Hall or The Morgan Library and Museum. For the Brooklyn Museum, tickets begin at $40.00 and subscriptions for the three concert series at $96.00. For additional information and a schedule of all Orchestra of St. Luke’s performances through June 2019, visit OSLmusic.org.