The Italian spirit is fundamental to the history of music—they invented the violin, the piano, and they developed the whole idea of music as a performance art over centuries, beginning in the 1500s. Even the words “music” and “concert” are Italian.
Early Music Studio is celebrating this pioneering and adventurous flowering in music with a concert devoted entirely to music by Italian composers from around 1500 to the early 1800s.
From one of the earliest decorated illuminated manuscripts from Venice comes music for the lute by Brescian nobleman Vincenzo Capirola. His works are among the first pieces of music to be written down in precise form, and his book was preserved because of its beautiful watercolour illustrations. It also includes music history’s first clear instructions on how to play a musical instrument.
The concert continues with music written by Alessandro Piccinini for the archlute and published in Venice in 1629. A larger instrument with long bass strings, the archlute was built recently after historic models by luthier Clive Titmuss. Piccinini developed a complex personal style based on court dances and improvised pieces that he played in private concerts in the breath-taking interiors of Venetian “palazzi”.
Some of the greatest music and most influential keyboard music from the early seventeenth century comes from the pen of Girolamo Frescobaldi. He was from Ferrara, and became the organist of St. Peter’s Basilica. Famous for his improvisations, thousands of people would gather to hear him play, and much of what he improvised found its way into his work.
Harpsichordist Susan Adams plays his pieces on a precise copy of an Italian harpsichord originally built in 1694, now at the Smithsonian Institution. Playing his toccatas and variations, she creates a portrait of a composer as he explores the limits of sophistication in counterpoint and the elaborate technique of variation unique to his style.
In the second half of the concert, Susan and Clive present an entirely different kind of music from the beginning of the 1800s, playing a replica of Mozart’s piano and a guitar designed by Luigi Legnani and made by Hermann Hauser, Munich, 1922.
Clive plays music by Ferdinando Carulli, a prolific Neapolitan composer and teacher who migrated to Paris. In addition to music for the unusual combination of piano and guitar, Clive plays a large-scale solo Sonata, which showcases Carulli’s gift for melody. He plays the Sonata on a unique historical instrument, a guitar made by Hermann Hauser in Munich in 1922, made copying a guitar design by Luigi Legnani, a guitarist who concertized with Paganini.
On a remarkable copy of a Viennese piano from the late 18th Century, Susan plays the music of Muzio Clementi, who once met Mozart in a competition. It was decided that Mozart was the better improviser but Clementi was unquestionably the better player and during his life he was called the “father of the piano” for his astonishing technical prowess. He was an innovator who explored dramatic ideas never previously heard on a keyboard instrument.
Eventually he moved to London, and began a long career of performing, publishing his music, and manufacturing fine pianos. For many years the music of Clementi was overshadowed by his German and English rivals, but more recently he has returned to the international esteem which he enjoyed during his lifetime.
The concert shows that our idea of music as a performing art has its roots in early Italian composers who innovated relentlessly over successive centuries, creating an entire repertoire of masterpieces. Their influence on composers in Northern Europe was incalculable, and almost every aspiring musician’s training was based on Italian models.
It will be a full and fascinating program of highly unusual music, played with taste and imagination by seasoned professionals who make their home in Kelowna, and who have carved out a reputation in the Okanagan for unique early music played on their collection of period instruments.
The Society of Friends of Early Music Studio acknowledges the financial assistance of the City of Kelowna, the Province of British Columbia, and private donors.
Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2:30 p.m., at Kelowna Forum, Ethel at Cawston tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3606154
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