The world’s great age begins anew…the golden years return, especially when beautiful music from the Baroque period is played with great splendour and mechanical ingenuity on a period violin by Riccardo Minasi. The acclaimed virtuoso will be guest director and soloist with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in October 2015.
Returning to Australia where he has had many happy musical experiences, the much-in-demand conductor, soloist, academic, teacher and leader of his own ensemble, Il Pomo d’Oro, Italian Baroque violin specialist Riccardo Minasi, will honour Neapolitan composers.
While Minasi is happy to render works through the ages, he is reported as having a particular and very personal preference for works of the Baroque period.
He will be playing seven recently discovered musical gems from the city of Naples in the region of Campania in Italy, on one of his collection of original Baroque period violins.
They have been made by such famous luthier’s as David Tecchler (1666-1748) and the brothers Amati (1564 – 1740)
This could include his favourite, an Amati dating from 1627 which has deep, dark quality in its lower registers.
This superbly programmed concert will offer rare musical gestures to enjoy when it premieres in Brisbane on October 26, then move to Sydney October 28 – November 6 and Melbourne November 7 and 8, 2015.
The composers and their works are: Francesco de Majo Sinfonia in D major, Angelo Ragazzi Violin Concerto in g minor, Domenico Sarro Sinfonia from Demofoonte, Angelo Ragazzi Sonata Op.1 No. 4 in f minor, Leonardo Leo Concerto for 4 violins in D major, Nicola Fiorenza Violin Concerto in C major, Niccolò Jommelli, the Sinfonia from La Betulia liberat.
Throughout his career music from the age of the Renaissance to the Late Classic has certainly appealed.
Minasi has played with many of the great orchestras specialising in Baroque repertoire.
This includes the ABO previously in 2011, when his playing was likened to fine wine.
He has also performed with the stunning Le Concert des Nations under the great Jordi Savall, with Il Giardino Armonico, the “Concerto Vocale Gent” under René Jacobs and the Collegium 1704 or the “Ensemble 415” under Chiara Banchini.
Campania was one of the geographical units that made up Italy in ancient times; the southern region of which Naples is today its capital. The Romans called the land Campania felix, which meant lucky, because of its exceptional fertility, proverbial beauty and ideal climate.
For many Italy is and will always be a considered place of pilgrimage, spurred on not only by a desire to discover the roots of our own western civilisation, but also to engage with the stories coming from its spectacular fusion of art, nature and culture – glorious music that resonates.
During the sixteenth century Naples as the first city to establish conservatories to house and train orphan boys. The “conservatory” came from “conservatorio” which was meant to “conserve” or save the children.
The method for teaching music in these Neapolitan institutions was eventually copied all over Europe, and the world, ensuring a conservatory became an institution specializing in teaching music.
During the eighteenth century the composers and musicians of Naples were among the finest of the ‘enlightenment’ This concert is all about ‘reinvigorating the classics of the Baroque repertoire’ on which the ABO bases its philosophy of programming.
The ABO introduces on their platform of excellence, many little known works of composers overshadowed by many of the bigger names, even though their work reached a high pinnacle of both beauty and achievement. Their followers and fans admire and thank them for it.
The Baroque style combined music and art to charm, to entertain and to allow its listeners to gently and quietly plunge right down into the depths of their spirit and soul.
It featured all the qualities ‘enlightened’ men and women of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century were seeking to gather unto themselves, offering sounds of unparalleled intensity.
Francesco Gian de Majo (1732-1770) became harpsichordist and organist at the Royal Chapel in Naples following his father, a contemporary of the well-known composer Leonardo Leo, who was one of his teachers.
Citing famous Neapolitan musicians in his Della prattica musica (1601), Scipione Cerreto described Maio as ‘an excellent organist’. From his surviving compositions scholars have deduced that ‘high degree of stylistic consistency in form and content suggests that Maio was an amateur poet’.
He composed about twenty operas including Cajo Fabricio at Naples in 1760, Ifigenia in Tauride, Mannheim 1764, Didone abbandonata, Venice, 1769 also oratorios, cantatas, Masses and other sacred works. Minasi will play his His Sinfonia in D major
Riccardo Minasi will play the Violin Concerto in g minor and Sonata Op.1 No. 4 in f minor by Angelo Ragazzi (1680-1750) who was on the staff of the Royal Chapel at Naples composed twelve sonatas for violin, evidenced by published manuscripts at the Naples Conservatory.
Domenico Sarro (1679-1744) studied in Naples and composed several operas for Neapolitan public theatres under the Spanish occupation of the city. When they left he lost his court appointment and it took a long while to come back into favour.
He became Maestro di Capella to the city of Naples in 1728 and then to the court and remained in its service for the rest of his life. By the end of the 1730s his music fell from fashion. Minasi will play his Sinfonia from his opera Demofoonte
Leonardo Leo (1694-1744) studied in Naples and first attracted attention at the beginning of 1712 with his S Chiara, o L’infedeltà abbattuta, a dramma sacro.
He went onto become a dominant figure in Neopolitan musical life during his age. Minasi will lead his colleagues as they play Leo’s Concerto for 4 violins in D major
Nicola Fiorenza (1700 – 1764) Violin Concerto in C major is very ‘Vivaldi like’… you can listen for yourself.
The finale will be by Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774) his Sinfonia from La Betulia liberate. Considered a master of opera and scared music, he had a great gift for dramatic expression.
Born in Naples his first opera premiered in Rome in 1740 aged 26 and he studied with Giovanni Battista Martini who was also a teacher of Mozart some 30 years later.
He lived a life among the musical hierarchy, Maestro di Cappella at St. Peter’s Basilica, overseeing productions at the Stuttgart court, agreeing to write an opera for the King of Portugal each year from 1768 and enjoyed having ‘many of Europe’s best musicians’ of his day on hand as well as ‘outstanding choreographers and designers at his disposal’.
It is also thought that he may have been a proficient poet, a fact suggested by his election to the Arcadian Academy in Rome in 1754 where members had to improvise on the spot. He broke with convention too, allowing death to be shown on stage having an opera end in tragedy!
The extraordinary thing is that when Jommelli died he was greatly mourned throughout Europe with German composer and theorist Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart calling him “Europe’s greatest composer.”
Despite such praise, its seems Jommelli like many of his contemporaries, was soon forgotten, highlighting the fickleness of human nature. Seems that it is only within the last twenty-five years his operas been rediscovered.
All in all Riccardo Minasi’s concert is full of promise, and I for one will look forward to being there.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Brisbane October 26, Sydney October 28 – November 6, Melbourne November 7 and 8, 2015.