1 LP - SAW 9626-M - (p) 1974
1 CD - 2564 66211-9 - (c) 2012

concentus in concert - holland festival

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Concerto B-dur op.10,2 "La Notte" P. 342
8' 35" A1
- Largo
1' 14"

- Fantasmi: Presto - Largo - Andante 3' 03"

- Il Sonno: Largo 1' 39"

- Allegro 2' 42"

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)

Concerto Nr. 3 (1) g-moll für Oboe, Streicher und B.c., Hwv 287

8' 45" A2
- Grave
2' 32"

- Allegro 1' 56"

- Sarabande: Largo 2' 13"

- Allegro 2' 06"

Marin Marais (1656-1728)

Suite aus "Alcyone"

17' 30" B
- 1er Air: Gravement et piqué 2' 07"

- 2ème Air: Sarabande 2' 14"

- Gigue 1' 22"

- Menuet 1' 40"

- Air des Matelots I et II 0' 45"

- Air des Matelots: Tambourin 0' 38"

- Chaconne 7' 10"

- Tambourin I et II 1' 42"

Concentus Musicus Wien
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leitung
Luogo e data di registrazione
Lutherse Kerk, Den Haag (Olanda) - 26 giugno 1973
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Prima Edizione CD
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 2564 66211-9 - (1 cd) - 73' 37" - (c) 2012 - ADD
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - SAW 9626-M - (1 lp) - 34' 50" - (p) 1974

When in 1953 the twenty-flve-year-old celllst Nikolaus Harnoncourt, together with some of his colleagues from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, formed an ensemble specialising in early music played on period instruments, no-one dreamt that a new era of authentic musical sound was opening up. After a four-year pcriod of preparation, Harnoncourt gave an initial concert, which was followed by annual cycles and tours abroad. In 1963 the Brandenburg Concertos were introduced into the programme. But it was the gramophone recording that played a decisive role in communicating this new concept of what early music sounded like, and in particular its
interpretation in conformity with historical performance practice. The medium's success could be measured by the increased following for this freshly revived performance practice. The Concentus musicns Wien now effectively became a recording ensemble.
The fact that, besides meeting ever-growing recording demands, the members of the Concentus musicus Wren continued to play on modern instruments for opera and concert performances at first prevented the ensemble from establishing itself fully on the concert circuit. In 1968 Harnoncourt became more heavily involved than before in the concert series of different cities. in spite of reservations about the lack of suitable halls. For Harnoncourt, the extraordinary success of this enterprise was proof that the effects of launching a career primarily with recordings were surprisengly far-reaching, and that music-lovers were just as keen to experience the ensemble in the concert hall in a live performance as on record.
There is one very good reason for this: at these concerts the listener discovers that the Concentus musicus ensemble is not just a touched-up product of the recording studios where any sub-stadard passages are re-done, or inaccurate intonation from the rather temperamental period wind instruments smoothed out, but one that more than confidently holds its own in the traditional concert world - it shines there. It is not, therefore, merely a sterile reconstruction of an archaic concept of sound. Instead we receive the direct impact of a lively performance by present-day musicians of vitality and temperament in which they convey a concept of musical sound that we have been able to reproduce from historical models - albeit with the feelings of a musician of today.
The popularity of the Concentus musicus on the public concert platform also goes to prove that this group has succeded in avoiding that academic air otherwise associated with the esoteric specialist. Not only has it got away from the mechanical srape-scrape jocularity of traditional "baroque" music-making, but it also knows how to keep free from mannerism, from the evils of an artificially reconstructed art, a manipulated appropriation of music from the past. It goes without saying that only highly qualified musicians could ever attempt this confrontation - i. e. modern instrumentalists vis-a-vis the musical ideals of sound of a bygone era. They show - on the concert platform clearly and indisputably - just how thrilling their playing can be, how lucidly Harnoncourt, not from the conductor's rostrum but from the 'cellist's desk, can demonstrate the music of yesterday, freed from the false conventions of the nineteenth century. Free too from any hint of mass production in respect of style and timbre, free from puristic bias and academic blinkers, always flexible in respect of the uniqueness of an actual performance - at a public concert so refreshing and at the same time illuminating, and at a studio recording session allowing the livelines to be pressed into the grooves with the music. And this is a true of their Monteverdi as of their Mozart, to name but two corner-stones of the Concentus musicus repertoire. Monteverdi's music, a crucial part of Harnoncourt's work, is given in addition to its authentic "soynd picture" a performing style, as a result of Harnoncourt's serupulous research, translated for us so that the "language" of the "talking" intervals and musical devices becomes intelligible and meaningful even to the modern listener with no knowledge of the ancient principles of musical rhetoric. And this so direct and convincingly that public performances like that of Monteverdi's opera "The Return of Odysseus" at the Vienna Festival could turn out to be as much a success with the audience as any popular Verdi opera. Mozart is likewise treated to a more authentic interpretation than stereotyped concert life usually affords it: truer in respect of tonal balance and colour, of phrasing, and, in particular, of its Mozartian rhythms, which, freely breathing and improvisational, combine with the melodic accent.
At a live concert performance the listener is made to realize that the members of the Concentus musicus regard the irretrievability of each moment, the fact that there is no chance to repeat a passage, as something positive, which makes for a much more intense awareness of the other partners and of the hall itself.
In baroque times music was much more an immediate, intelligible “language” than we can conceive of today. The “musical speech“ or formulas of communication followed certain rules known, at least, to the musicians. Everything was governed by a distinct musical rhetoric embracing details such as characteristic motifs of intervals. We have only to think of the association of moods with modes and keys for a very marked example, or the "oratorical“, in the double sense of the term, or what Mattheson called "Klangrede" (musical speech). Today, we approach this music from a more or less purely aesthetic aspect, without really “understanding” the language. Significantly, too, it is realized to a much greater extent in the music of J. S. Bach than, in say, that of Vivaldi that certain musical "signs" possess concrete meanings or extra-musical associations exactly “translatable". And this despite the latter’s frequent use of such sound patterns. In Vivaldi’s music we find, rather, a direct conversion into musical language of impressions from Nature, or character traits - a kind of programme music, of which the French were very fond too. As, however, the term “programme music“ in its nineteenth century connotation has become somewhat suspect to us, it needs to be employed here with caution.
"La Notte“ for example, Vivaldi used as a title for two compositions, once for a flute concerto and then for a bassoon concerto. The flute concerto contains headings with exact specifications. Vivaldi, however, appears rather to model his music on the idea than to copy it - although one could not go so far as to use the term "Empfindung" for it in the sense one uses it with Beethoven. The first movement of Opus 10 No. 2 in G minor is entitled "Fantasmi", but conjures up troubled thoughts rather than actual phantoms: scales are wound together canonically or in thirds, syncopations and rapid semiquavers convey a mood of unrest. A calming flute melody is contrasted with triplets on the bassoon. The second movement, "ll Sonno", does not produce an altogether peaceful "sleep" either: subtle chromaticism, freely interpolated suspensions and dissonances which remain unresolved over long stretches offer a sharp contrast to the gentle close: the night wins through. the dreams vanish.
The influence of the ltalian style on Handel's work right up to the last should not be underestimated, any more than should the effect of Handel's own personal style on his early "Italian" compositions. Thus in the Oboe Concerto in G minor we find both the concertante principles of ltalian baroque and the sweeping improvisational element, the robust musicality of Handel himself, represented with equal conviction. With Handel's music we have not only a "language" but the charm of an individual "accent" too.
Marais, a fine bass-viol player, was, after his teacher Lully, the most famous of the French baroque musicians. He was probably the first composer to try to produce natural effects with musical media. It is said that, in order to find novel effects for a storm scene in his crpera "Alcyone", written for the Parisian in 1706, he made a special journey to the coast. Thus, what in appearance is a conventional suite is, in fact, also a depiction of natural phenomena, such as we can find being constantly tried out in the music of the succeeding centuries.
W. E. v. Lewinski (1973)
Translation: Avril Watts

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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