Doors open at 6:45 pm. Pre-concert talk at 7:10 pm.
Byron Schenkman & Friends (Seattle)
Handel and Haydn: Harpsichord Concerti
Byron Schenkman, one of EMSI’s favourite performers and known for his effervescent virtuosity, returns to Victoria with a programme of keyboard masterpieces by Handel (op. 4, no. 2 and no. 4) and Haydn (H.XVIII:3).
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HANDEL: Harpsichord Concertos in B-flat (op. 4, no. 2) and F (op. 4, no. 4)
HANDEL: Violin Sonata in A Major (op. 1, no. 3)
HAYDN: Trio in C Major, H.XV:21
HAYDN: Harpsichord Concerto in F (H.XVIII:3)
Program Notes: Handel & Haydn Harpsichord Concertos
George Frideric Handel and Joseph Haydn were two of the most famous musicians of the 18th century and are rare examples of composers who were celebrated during their own lifetimes and have remained famous ever since. Although their music often appeared side by side in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they are not usually paired on modern concert programs. We think of Handel as Baroque and Haydn as Classical and tend to program accordingly. It is as if we imagine a curtain coming down around 1750 and reopening on a completely different scene. Yet Handel was a thoroughly modern composer at the end of the Baroque Era, while Haydn grew up on Baroque music and then late in his career was greatly influenced by Handel’s music—long after our imaginary scene change.
The concerto for one solo instrument supported by a full ensemble was a new form in the early 18th century. Antonio Vivaldi composed hundreds of these concertos, most often for solo violin but also for other solo string and wind instruments. Handel was among the first to give the solo part to the keyboard which for over a hundred years had almost always been the accompanist in any ensemble. This was practical on Handel’s part. First of all, Handel was a great keyboard player who used these concertos to showcase his own virtuosity, often between acts of his oratorio performances. Secondly there was a growing market for challenging keyboard music which could be enjoyed by accomplished amateurs. Handel’s concertos were published in versions with and without accompanying instruments, to allow for flexibility of performance depending on available instruments and players.
Most of Haydn’s chamber music with keyboard is aimed at that same amateur market. Many pieces we now label sonatas, trios, and concertos were originally called divertimenti—diversions or light entertainments—again for keyboard with or without accompanying instruments. The concerto in F is one of Haydn’s few larger scale works in this form and is much like some of Mozart’s keyboard concertos. Unlike Mozart, who adopted the new fortepiano early on in his career, Haydn kept the harpsichord as his principal instrument through most of his life. The harpsichord seems an ideal instrument for the vocal quality of Haydn’s music as well as its wit and sparkle. The use of the harpsichord also links Haydn back to the Baroque world we associate with Handel.
Byron Schenkman has recorded more than thirty CDs of 17th- and 18th-century repertoire, including recordings on historical instruments from the National Music Museum, Vermillion, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A recipient of the Erwin Bodky Award from the Cambridge Society for Early Music “for outstanding achievement in the field of early music,” he was voted “Best Classical Instrumentalist” by the readers of Seattle Weekly in 2006. He has been a featured guest with the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston, the Daedalus Quartet, the Northwest Sinfonietta, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Northwest, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra. He was also founding co-director of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra with violinist Ingrid Matthews. In 2013 he launched “Byron Schenkman & Friends,” a Baroque and Classical chamber music series at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Recently he has been studying Klezmer music with Shawn Weaver and has begun collaborating on performances of Russian Jewish art music with violinist Steven Greenman. Schenkman is a graduate of the New England Conservatory and received his master’s degree with honors in performance from the Indiana University School of Music. He currently teaches at Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts. In 2012 he also served as guest lecturer in harpsichord and fortepiano at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. www.byronschenkman.com
Ingrid Matthews has long been established as one of the leading baroque violinists of her generation. She founded the Seattle Baroque Orchestra with Byron Schenkman in 1994, and served as Music Director until stepping down from that position in 2013. First prize-winner in the 1989 Erwin Bodky International Competition for Early Music, Matthews has performed extensively around the world as soloist, guest director, or concertmaster with many prominent period-instrument ensembles including the New York Collegium, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Tafelmusik, and many others. Matthews has won international critical acclaim for a discography ranging from the earliest solo violin repertoire through the Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach. The latter recording was named by Third Ear’s Classical Music Listening Companion as “the finest complete set of these works,” and the critic for American Record Guide writes “this superb recording is my top recommendation for this music… on either modern or period instruments.” Matthews has served on the faculties of the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, Indiana University, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, the International Baroque Institute at Longy, and Amherst Early Music, and is currently on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. In addition to her musical work, she is active as a visual artist.
Laurel Wells is known for her work on both baroque and modern viola and violin. She has enjoyed an extensive and eclectic musical life, performing in Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, and throughout the United States. For twenty years she played violin with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, between seasons earning master’s degrees in violin and viola from Indiana University. She studied chamber music at the Banff Centre in Canada and performed extensively under the guidance of the Vermeer Quartet. Wells was a member of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, holding the position of principal viola. She is currently a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet orchestra and performs often with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and at the 5th Avenue Theater. In the early music world, Wells plays with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, and with her quartet, Opus 20, in the Gallery Concerts series. She has also participated in the Whidbey Island Music Festival, and performed Haydn’s Creation at the Oregon Bach Festival in 2015. Wells has recorded with Seattle Baroque for NPR, Wild Boar, and Centaur Records.
Violist Jason Fisher is a founding member of the critically acclaimed, co-directed chamber orchestra
A Far Cry. He is also a member of the newly founded bi-coastal baroque ensemble, Gut Reaction. Fisher has been described as bringing “an intelligent, impassioned delivery and innate understanding of the conversational nature of chamber music” (The Springfield Republican). Fisher has performed with members of the Florestan and Peabody Trios, and the Brentano, Cleveland, Emerson, Mendelssohn, and St. Lawrence String Quartets. In an appearance with the Peabody Trio, he was hailed as a “fine guest artist”, his performance described as “first-rate” (The Baltimore Sun). He was a Carnegie Hall Fellow, taking him on a tour of concerts, outreach, and cultural exchange in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as a Peabody Singapore Fellow, spending a month in Southeast Asia assisting with inaugural ceremonies for the new Yong Siew Toh Conservatory and performing as guest with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. He plays on an 18th-century English viola by Richard Duke made in London, 1768.
Nathan Whittaker, violoncello, enjoys a unique and diverse career as a concert soloist, chamber musician, recitalist, teacher, and historical cello specialist. He plays regularly with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, and is a founding member of the Op. 20 String Quartet. Recent concert appearances have included the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Vancouver Early Music Festival, and Victoria’s Pacific Baroque Festival, as well as other concert stops ranging from Seattle to New York to Dubai. He also composed and recorded an original score for the Emmy nominated documentary “When Seattle Invented the Future”. He can be heard on recordings by ATMA Musique and Harmonia and broadcasts by NPR, CBC, and KING FM. An active pedagogue,
he maintains a dynamic private studio, is on the faculty at the Cornish College of the Arts, and is the founder and director of the Seattle Chamber Music Coaching Sessions (SCMCS). Along with his busy performance and teaching schedule, he completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Washington in 2012. Dr. Whittaker also holds degrees from Indiana University.