Theodora by G.F. Handel
Nathalie Paulin – soprano (Toronto), as Theodora, a Christian
Kristina Szabo – mezzo-soprano (Toronto), as Irene, Theodora’s friend
Lawrence Zazzo – countertenor (UK), as Didymus, a Roman officer
Zachary Wilder – tenor (France), as Septimus, a Roman soldier
Matthew Brook – bass-baritone (UK), as Valens, President of Antioch
Juno-nominated guest conductor Alexander Weimann leads an exquisite, large-scale oratorio in one of Early Music Society of the Island’s most ambitious projects to date.
In a joint production with Early Music Vancouver, EMSI welcomes acclaimed harpsichordist and conductor Alexander Weimann as guest music director for its presentation of George Frideric Handel’s dramatic oratorio Theodora, a touching tale of earthly and spiritual love, Sunday February 15, 2015 at Alix Goolden Hall. Weimann is an internationally sought-after ensemble director, soloist, and chamber music partner, as well as conductor of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra, and Tempo Rubato.
Visiting soloists are Matthew Brook, one of Britain’s leading bass-baritones; American Zachary Wilder, a remarkably clear, flexible lyric tenor with a radiant tone; and American Lawrence Zazzo, one of the most outstanding countertenors of this generation.
Rounding out this all-star group are two local favourites: soprano Nathalie Paulin, who hails from New Brunswick and has graced stages around the world; and internationally acclaimed Hungarian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, who sang in EMSI’s December presentation of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
One of Handel’s largest-scale oratorios, this production also combines the talents of the Vancouver Cantata Singers and twenty-eight members of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
Handel’s more than twenty-five oratorios are divided nearly evenly between the secular and the religious. Theodora is something of an oddity, combining both elements as it weaves a parable about the power of love and belief in the face of tyranny. Composed in 1749, Theodora’s context is the oppression of Christians in 4th century Antioch, one of the largest centres of the early Church. The libretto is in English and will be included with the afternoon’s concert programme. The music is as universal and timeless as the glory and misery of the self-sacrifice revealed in the unhappy couple at the centre of this tragedy.
Though most Handel aficionados would identify the Messiah as the composer’s most well-known work, the great master did not consider it his personal best. Biographia Dramatica, the centuries-old equivalent of Who’s Who, reports that, when asked if he considered the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah to be his masterpiece, Handel replied, “No. I think the chorus, ‘He saw the lovely youth,’ at the end of the second part in Theodora far beyond it.” EMSI is confident that local audiences will find this tale of love and sacrifice as relevant today as it was for its prescient composer 266 years ago.
This production of Theodora, like EMSI’s December 2014 presentation of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, will also be performed in Seattle and Vancouver as part of the Northwest Baroque Masterworks Project, a new and exciting component of EMSI’s programming that involves regional artists and the cooperation of multiple presenters in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria.
Please note that EMSI’s performance of Theodora is on Sunday afternoon at 3 PM (NOT at the usual 8 PM on Saturday).
The music of Handel continues with the Pacific Baroque Festival presentation of five concerts from the 19th to the 22nd of February. EMSI members receive festival passes at a special rate. Be sure to check out the Pacific Baroque Festival’s website.
Bach: Christmas Oratorio
Saturday 20 December 8 pm. Pre-concert talk 7:10 pm Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora (at Quadra)
Celebrate the holiday season with some of North America’s most celebrated soloists and period instrumentalists in this festive performance of three of Bach’s six Christmas Oratorio cantatas performed as they would have been in Leipzig in 1734. The programme also includes Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BVW 1068.
The Christmas Oratorio, BVW 248, was created in Leipzig towards the end of Bach’s life. First performed between Christmas Day 1734 and Epiphany 1735, it was written in six parts, each intended for one of the major festive days of the season. December 20th’s programme will feature three of these parts: Part I, for Christmas Day; Part III, for the third day of Christmas; and Part VI, for the Feast of Epiphany.
The text of the Christmas Oratorio is drawn from the New Testament’s description of the Nativity. As in the great St. Matthew Passion, Bach included a narrator to sing the Bible’s text and used the other soloists and chorus to elaborate the story with religious devotions. Although the music was mostly adapted or copied from the composer’s earlier work, some of it secular, the resulting whole approaches and can match the Passion’s power and drama. The evening’s programme contains soaring, thrilling trumpet work, brilliant solo parts, and half a dozen majestic chorales whose moving harmonies illuminate the depth of Bach’s personal faith.
Stephen Stubbs makes his third recent appearance in the director’s role at Alix Goolden Hall. His ability to extract nuance and precision from a score will make this performance of the Christmas Oratorio one to be remembered. The cast of singers and musicians has been assembled specially for a four-city tour of this programme. The soloists are all top-tier singers with international experience in operatic title roles. Pacific MusicWorks brings a collection of North America’s best period instrumentalists. This will be a ‘must see’ event for Victoria’s early music community.
Listen on Classical KING-FM 98.1 or online,
Mon. Dec 15, 9:20 pm, Christmas Oratorio Part I
Tues. Dec 16, 9:19 pm, Christmas Oratorio Part III
Weds. Dec 17, 9:24 pm, Orchestral Suite BVW 1068
Thurs. Dec 18, 9:19 pm, Christmas Oratorio Part VI
Vivaldi and his Imitators
Accademia Hermans (Italy)
Saturday, November 29 at 8 PM Pre-concert talk 7:10 pm Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora (at Quadra)
“Engaged and engaging…tour de force” Early Music
The son of a violinist and probably a pupil of Giovanni Legrenzi, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) taught music between 1703 and 1740 at the Ospedale della Pieta, one of the four original institutions of Venice which combined hospital, convent and orphanage. These institutions cared for the sick and for the upbringing of children, whose education included a solid musical background.
His employment at the Ospedale gave Vivaldi constant access to his own orchestra and singers, an advantage he used to the fullest. Although he is said to have composed 50 operas and numerous oratorios, many of which have been lost, he is best known today as the composer of instrumental music. In this field well over 600 works survive that can be attributed with some certainty to his genius. They include about 90 sonatas for two and three instruments, 23 symphonies, and over 500 concertos, 96 of which were assembled and published as collections during his lifetime.
With such a prodigious output, there were bound to be imitators. Some produced compostions they ascribed to Vivaldi; their works have enlivened the discussion of musicologists for over a century. Vivaldi’s canon is further complicated by additions that have continued to turn up into the 21st century in obscure European libraries. The evening’s programme includes one obvious imitation, a violin sonata transcribed by J.S. Bach for keyboard, but there are also, probably, two less obvious imitations, which Accademia Hermans will challenge EMSI’s audience to confirm.
Founded in 2000 by its director, Fabio Ciofini, the Accademia Hermans hails from the province of Umbria, in Italy. It combines young and experienced musicians whose love for early music performance is creating an international success story. Not yet well known in North America, the ensemble has played at a number of European festivals and recorded for several European labels.
Yayoi Masuda, Sara Montani – violins
Alessandra Montani – cello
Fabio Ceccarelli – baroque flute
Fabio Ciofini – harpsichord
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Chamber concerto in G major RV 102
Vivaldi: Trio sonata Op. 1 Nr. 8 RV 64
JS Bach (1685-1750): Concerto in F major BVW 978, transcribed for harpsichord from Vivaldi RV 310
Vivaldi: Trio sonata in D major RV 84
Vivaldi: Cello sonata in A major RV 43
Vivaldi: Chamber concerto in C major RV 89
Songs of Love and War
Pacific MusicWorks (USA) directed by Stephen Stubbs (Seattle)
Saturday, 8 November, 8 pm Pre-concert talk 7:10 pm Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora (at Quadra)
Catherine Webster soprano, Danielle Reuter-Harrah mezzo
Reginald Mobley countertenor, Ross Hauck and Aaron Sheehan tenors, Douglas Williams bass
Tekla Cunningham and Linda Melsted violinists, Elisabeth Reed baroque cello
Maxine Eilander baroque harp and harpist
In Claudio Monteverdi’s extraordinarily long composing career, he led the way for the entire musical world from the Renaissance to the Baroque—from the a cappella madrigal to the fully-realized “madrigali concertanti” (replete with continuo accompaniment and obbligato strings) and from the early court opera to the world’s first public operas in Venice. He published his eighth book of “madrigals” (Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi…libro ottavo, Venice, 1638) when he was seventy-one years old, nineteen years after the seventh was printed.
The eighth and last book of madrigals holds a place of highest significance for both its content and its extensive preface. The latter is a kind of manifesto not only of his personal philosophy of composition but for the aesthetic goals of modern music in his time.
Monteverdi’s expressed aim was for music to present the entire range of man’s passions. He had come to believe that there was a particular element heretofore missing from the expressive range of music, and he was determined to supply it. Earlier composers, he believed, had realized only two of man’s three major passions: the soft and the moderate. A third passion, agitation, was too important to be overlooked and he now intended to rectify the omission. Love songs were of course nothing new, but setting them next to the stirring rhythms of his newly invented depiction of war in music brings novel and dramatic contrasts to this programme.
Focused primarily on theatrical and concert performances of baroque and classical music, Pacific MusicWorks is an institute-in-residence at the University of Washington’s School of Music. Renowned lutenist and artistic director Stephen Stubbs brings a strong group of singers and musicians back to the stage of Alix Goolden Hall in this mostly-Monteverdi programme.
Hor che’l ciel, e la terra Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Madrigals of War and Love, Eighth Book, 1638
Chiome d’oro Monteverdi, Seventh Book of Madrigals, 1619
Gira il nemico Monteverdi, Eighth Book of Madrigals
Ego flos campi Monteverdi, Second Collection of Sacred Songs, 1624
Sonata terza Dario Castello, Sonate Concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro II (Venice, 1629)
Et e pur dunque vero Monteverdi, Scherzi musicali, 1632
Augellin Monteverdi, Seventh Book of Madrigals
Lamento della Ninfa Monteverdi, Eighth Book of Madrigals
Sonata Undecima Dario Castello (c.1590-c.1658), Concerto Sonatas in the Modern Style, Book II, 1629
Ogni amante è guerrier Monteverdi, Eighth Book of Madrigals
L’eroica à 3 Andrea Falconieri (1585/6-1656) First Book of Canzone, Symphonies, Fantasies, 1650
Altri canti di Marte Monteverdi, Eighth Book of Madrigals
Dowland in Dublin: An evening of Lute Songs in an Irish pub!
La Nef (Montreal)
Michael Slattery, tenor (USA)
Saturday, 4 October, 8 pm Pre-concert talk 7:10 pm Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora (at Quadra)
“Dowland, as it turns out, sounds great when suited up, as here he is, in Celtic attire … They achieve a seamless, hand-in-glove result, and while the semper dolens qualities that define Dowland are evident, there’s a new and mitigating sweetness brought to bear. Slattery’s voice is perfectly suited to Dowland.” CBC Music
La Nef has fancifully placed the British composer John Dowland (1563-1626) into a modern Celtic setting by stripping away much of its complexity and letting the beauty of the underlying melodies shine through. Dowland’s usually plaintive music, rooted in the stately pavane and the galliard, has been rearranged by the musicians as if the ensemble were setting out to play an evening’s gig in an Irish pub. The singer is American tenor Michael Slattery, whose high, sweet voice perfectly matches the mood of the music and the Elizabethan instruments brought along by La Nef.
Celebrated during his life for his lute performance and compositions, Dowland is known today mainly for his songs and for the melancholy mood which dominates his musical output. In his settings and choice of titles, however, Dowland reveals another side. On the one hand, he is the man of melancholy, the man who wrote so many weepy works: Lachrimae, Flow my tears, I saw my Lady weep, Go Crystal tears. On the other hand, he is a man of lightness, wit, and satire: My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe, Mistress Winter’s Jump, Mrs. White’s Thing. For this concert, La Nef has chosen to focus on Dowland’s light-hearted side while including some of his more melancholy hits.
The greatest composer of secular music of his age, Dowland wrote and set several songs in praise of his monarch, Elizabeth I. Nevertheless, he was unsuccesssful in obtaining a post in her court. Elizabeth’s tastes in music–she was a composer in her own right and a talented keyboardist–ran towards the religious and ceremonial and her courtly preferences ran to Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. So the virtuoso luthenist Dowland travelled Europe, working for a time in the court of Denmark and winning fame as the composer of the greatest international hit of its day, the pavane Lachrimae, which he turned into the song Flow my tears. At last, in 1612, he was engaged as a lutenist in the court of James I, when his compositional career essentially came to an end.
La Nef is a company dedicated to the creation and production of early and contemporary music. It hires musicians and artists in all disciplines according to the needs of its productions. La Nef produces concerts and recitals of early and traditional music that are based on historical and literary themes. In 2001, La Nef broadened its field of action by launching a sector dedicated to contemporary music and to the creation, research, and development of new forms. The company alternates projects that are essentially musical with theatrical projects that involve multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, multimedia, and operatic elements.
Since graduating from Juilliard, Michael Slattery has enjoyed an exciting international career. He has worked with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the French National Orchestra in Paris, the Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall. Career highlights include Peter Sellars’ Tristan Project at Lincoln Center, the title role in Bernstein’s Candide at Royal Festival Hall in London, and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the Châtelet Theater in Paris, the Staatsoper in Berlin, and at Glimmerglass. His voice has been recorded for film and television and he was recently included in the Spectator’s list of “Heroes of the Concert Hall”. In this concert, he also plays the shruti-box, an instrument whose origin is in early India, where it served as a chanter to accompany religious songs.
Michael Slattery: tenor, shruti-box
Sylvain Bergeron: lute
Sean Dagher: cittern
Grégoire Jeay: flute, recorder
Amanda Keesmat: cello
Alex Kehler: violin
EMSI celebrates its thirtieth anniversary season
To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, the Early Music Society of the Islands will present some of the biggest stars in the field of early music. Musicians from England, France, Germany, Italy, and across North America will perform in Victoria, many of them for the first time.
The theme of the season is Great Composers, with programs devoted to works by Bach, Dowland, Handel, Monteverdi, Mozart, and Vivaldi. The season is anchored by two special events: one is Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (December 20th), performed for the first time in Victoria as Bach would have heard it. The other is Handel’s glorious oratorio Theodora (February 15th), a production featuring the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and the Vancouver Cantata Singers, under the direction of Alexander Weimann.
The season begins on Saturday, October 4th with a fascinatingly conjectural program: could the great John Dowland have been born in Ireland? How would his songs, among the greatest ever written, have sounded had they been performed in a Dublin pub? American tenor Michael Slattery and La Nef (Montreal) make a compelling case for their Celtic versions of Dowland’s compositions. This concert is sure to appeal to all lovers of great singing and folk music, as well as to lovers of renaissance song.
Other concerts feature Pacific MusicWorks (Seattle), directed by Stephen Stubbs, performing madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi, Accademia Hermans (Italy), playing music by Vivaldi and his imitators, Kristian Bezuidenhout (England/South Africa) in a programme devoted entirely to the piano sonatas of Mozart, and tenor Jeffrey Thompson and La Rêveuse (France) performing the music of Henry Lawes. The season wraps up on April 25th, when VocaMe (Germany) performs music by one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the middle ages: Hildegard of Bingen.
Subscription and individual tickets are on sale now from the McPherson Box Office.
Mystic, poet, saint, visionary, Doctor of the Church: Hildegard was many things, but perhaps above all she was a composer of inspired music. This internationally acclaimed ensemble transports audiences back to the 12th century and makes it possible to share Hildegard’s ecstasy.
“A rewarding, musical (very) Early Music adventure—a harmoniously unique, deeply spiritual aural experience.” Crescendo
Join the many who are planning to refresh their spirits with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach from March 6 to 9! An impressive line-up of musicians will help the Pacific Baroque Festival celebrate its 10th anniversary with a delightful range of music from this baroque master:
EMSI Members receive a special discount on their Festival Passes! Seniors/Students can experience all 4 concerts for $65: only $17.50 each concert! Adults: $85: a $15 savings! Please purchase these Passes on-line.
This will be a special occasion for Victoria’s early music lovers. Learn more by visiting the Pacific Baroque Festival website. This March let J. S. Bach refresh your spirits!
Check out EMSI’s new website, up and running at http://earlymusicsocietyoftheislands.ca/. A completely new look and feel will make your visits more informative and responsive. Some highlights:
The new website has information on:
Visit the Concerts page and, most important, renew your membership in EMSI for the 2013-14 season.
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Boston Early Music Festival comes to Victoria!
For the first time ever, Victoria audiences will have the opportunity to experience a semi-staged baroque opera, performed in a period style by one of the world’s leading baroque music ensembles.
Close to thirty singers, dancers, and musicians will perform a double bill of operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, first played for the Dauphin of France.
It is the most ambitious production in EMSI’s almost thirty-year history.
To ensure the best seats, purchase your tickets early for this special event.
For more information about the opera see the concert page