Here’s your chance to relive the sound and sensibility of music from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The College of Music’s Early Music Ensemble brings the timelessness of period style, performance practices and historical context to light on Friday, Nov. 10, in a program featuring Georg Philipp Telemann, Francois Couperin and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049.
“The Brandenburg Concerto provides multiple solo opportunities for students,” says Professor of Organ and Harpsichord Elizabeth Farr, who also directs the Early Music String Orchestra and additional musicians. Indeed, the concerto calls for four-part strings and solo violin, plus two recorder players. However, instead of recorders, this performance will feature College of Music flute students Joshua Hall and Joanna Hope Toohey. New master’s student Lindsie Katz will perform the violin solos, along with Marisa Ishikawa; and Gabriel Ramos will take on the cello solos.
“The Brandenburg No. 4 is pure Italian music,” says Farr. “And it’s wonderful for the flutes!”
Also on the program is German baroque composer Telemann’s sweeping orchestral music from Book 1 of his Tafelmusik (table music). “Tafelmusik refers to people sitting around a table playing music together in different configurations,” explains Farr. “Telemann was masterful at writing dance suites that are sometimes more French-sounding than those of French composers.”
Speaking of French composers, two motets by Couperin round out the program, featuring master’s students Mary Elisabeth Kettlewell and Christine Honein. “They’re so enthusiastic!” says Farr. “I think everyone performing on this program likes the smallness of the groups and enjoys being totally responsible for their part.
“You can’t hide behind anyone or fake it. Everyone can hear what you’re doing.”
All told, Farr describe the program—and the overarching purpose of the ensemble—as the “doorway” to learning foundational music written roughly between the late 1500s and the early 1800s. “Students learn that the orchestra actually grew out of something … it didn’t just spring up one day,” Farr continues. “Even the size of orchestras as we know them took time to become the norm.”
According to Farr, the Early Music Ensemble is the only opportunity to truly expose our students to this music. For example, “They’re all using baroque bows, which are straight, as opposed to the concave center of classical bows, producing an entirely different sound,” she says.
“Compared to the modern bow, the baroque bow actually plays weakly on either end, so the sound naturally tapers. The full volume is in the central half or two-thirds of the bow, which means you get a sound that subtly and naturally gets louder and softer.
“We also hold the bow differently, which exerts different pressure on the strings.”
Concludes Farr, “I think we get remarkable results, even with modern instruments with the metal strings, because we maintain early music performance practices and style.”
Come hear for yourself when the Early Music Ensemble performs on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall. The concert is free and open to the public. To browse more upcoming early music concerts, visit CU Presents.