Orchestra Roster, Soloist Bio, and Program Notes for
December 17 & 18, 2005 Musica Bella Concerts

Musica Bella Orchestra Season Series Concerts Nos. 23 and 24

Conductor: Phillip Gaskill

Saturday and Sunday, December 17 and 18, 2005
Church of the Blessed Sacrament

Bach: Double Violin Concerto in d minor, BWV 1043
Stanichka Dimitrova and Claire Smith, violins
Bach: Selected Arias from Cantatas and Oratorios
Marie Ann Chenevey, soprano; Joan Barton De Caro, mezzo-soprano; Sarah Kapustin, violin
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, BWV 1051
Steven Frucht and Sarah Kapustin, violas; Anahit Harutyunyan Gaskill, cello
Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, BWV 1068
Sarah Kapustin, violin; Ron Pamposa, principal trumpet

Click on a musician’s name to see his/her bio and photo.

Eui Young Chon
Stanichka Dimitrova,
  principal second violin*
James Eng
Sarah Kapustin, concertmaster*
Adam Mirza
Claire Smith*
Yolanda Wu,
  associate concertmaster

Steven Frucht*
Jeremy Hwang, principal
Sarah Kapustin*

Anahit Harutyunyan Gaskill,
Erica Rhodes

  Bass Viola da Gamba
Marie Dalby, principal
Jane Furth

Alisa Herrington
Richard Vrotney

Leonard Birnbaum

Photios Giovanis
Shoji Mizumoto

Thomas Crane
Do Kien Cuong
Daniel Fierer
Gene Boyle
Ron Pamposa, principal*
Rebecca Vendemo

Christine Chen

Dominic Eckersley

Vocal Soloists
Marie Ann Chenevey,
Joan Barton De Caro,


Manager   Anahit Harutyunyan Gaskill
Assistant Manager   Thomas Crane
Stage Manager   Shoji Mizumoto
Music Director/Conductor   Phillip Gaskill


Please click on a soloist’s name above for a link to his/her bio and photo.

by Thomas Crane

Double Concerto. From 1717 to 1723, Bach served as Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. The concerto for two violins is probably from this period. It is a very contrapuntal work containing several rather unusual features. The first movement’s ritornello is treated as a fugue from the outset; when the two violins first appear as soloists, they are given a new and distinctive theme, characterized by large leaps. The long flowing lines of the Largo are similarly fugal, while the ritornello of the energetic finale has the two principal parts in close canon (i.e., playing exactly the same music, but one beat apart).

¶    ¶    ¶    ¶

Arias. The duet for soprano and alto or mezzo-soprano (“So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen”) occurs near the end of the first part of the St. Matthew Passion. As Jesus is led away after his arrest, the two soloists mourn the event while the chorus (not used in today’s concert) interrupts with angry outbursts of “Let him go! Stop! Don’t bind him!”

    So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen
    Mond und Licht
    Ist vor Schmerzen untergangen;
    Weil mein Jesus ist gefangen.
    Sie führen ihn, er ist bebunden.

    My Jesus is a captive now.
    Moon and light
    have gone for sorrow,
    because my Jesus is a captive.
    They lead him away, he is in chains.

Each of Bach’s church cantatas (he composed an estimated 500, of which 200 survive) is keyed to the scripture reading for a particular day of the church year, and serves as a musical commentary on that text. Cantata 57, for the second day of Christmas (the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr), expresses a longing for union with Jesus through death in the aria “Ich ende behende mein irdisches Leben” (“I quickly end my earthly life”).

    Ich ende behende mein irdisches Leben,
    Mit Freuden zu scheiden verland ich itzt eben.
    Mein Heiland, ich sterbe mit höchster Begier,
    Hier hast du die Seele, was schenkest du mir?

    Forever to sever the shackles that bind me,
    Light-hearted depart I with troubles behind me.
    My Savior, I perish, from care I am free,
    My soul do I give Thee; what givest Thou me?

Cantata 58, for the Feast of the Circumcision (January 5), conjures up the terror attendant on Herod’s pursuit of the infant Jesus and the flight into Egypt; the aria “Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden” (“I take pleasure in my pain”) affirms confidence in God’s protection.

    Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden,
    Denn Gott ist meine Zuversicht.
    Ich habe sichern Brief und Siegel,
    Und dieses ist der feste Riegel,
    Den bricht die Hölle selber nicht.

    Content am I in mine affliction
    For God is all my trust and joy.
    I have it writ in clearest letters,
    Far stronger than a thousand fetters,
    Which Hell itself cannot destroy.

¶    ¶    ¶    ¶

Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. The six Brandenburg Concertos, also dating from the Cöthen period and perhaps the most popular works in Bach’s entire canon, are noteworthy—among many other features—for the variety of their instrumentation. The last of the set is really in some ways a counterpart to the Double Violin Concerto, featuring two violas and dispensing with violins altogether, with the inner parts (ordinarily taken by violas) allotted to viole da gamba. The viola da gamba, or “leg viol” (so called because it is supported between the knees), had been a mainstay of the strings since the sixteenth century, but fell out of use around the time of Bach’s death. The ones called for in this score are the bass of the viola da gamba family. Actually, the work can be regarded either as chamber music or as a concerto for (small) orchestra; all seven instruments have prominent parts, with the ’cello and the gambas being the most prominent after the two violas.
    In contrast with the Double Violin Concerto, where the soloists largely echo each other’s full-blown phrases, Bach often places the violas in close canon (i.e., playing exactly the same music one or two beats—or even half a beat—apart). This concerto follows the usual three-movement form. In the finale, the most dance-like of the movements, the principal theme is presented by the violas in unison; radio listeners may recognize the opening bars as the signature of Minnesota Public Radio.

¶    ¶    ¶    ¶

Suite No. 3. As a Calvinist, the Prince had little interest in elaborate church music; consequently, Bach’s efforts during his tenure in Cöthen were devoted largely to secular instrumental music. This period saw the creation of not only the Brandenburg Concertos, but also the six suites for solo cello, the sonatas and partitas for solo violin, and the four suites for orchestra, the third of which is being performed today.
    It has been said that all of Bach’s music, to a greater or lesser extent, is dance music, and the works from the Cöthen period illustrate this idea well. The dance suite had been a popular format since the early Renaissance, and many composers (notably Ludwig Senfl, Michael Praetorius, Tilman Susato, and Johann Hermann Schein) had produced large collections of dances for lute, keyboard, or consorts (chamber ensembles). In the Baroque period, the “French overture”—typically a slow and stately introduction (Grave) with prominent dotted rhythms, followed by a contrapuntal allegro section—was transplanted from the opera house to serve as a prelude to a string of orchestral dances. Although the ouverture was not strictly speaking a dance, its name often was applied to the entire suite. The Grave tempo returns at the end of the movement, making it by far the longest section. Then, while the winds take a much-needed rest, the strings play the serene and meditative Air. This movement, with its distinctive “walking” bass line, achieved considerable fame under the nickname “Air for the G String,” after a nineteenth-century arrangement designed to be played on the lowest string of the violin. The winds return for the gavotte; a moderately fast dance with a characteristic “large” upbeat, the gavotte was so popular that as late as the 1890s, a good century after people had stopped dancing it, composers were still writing in the form. Next is the quick and lively bourrée, and the gigue (the English jig, re-spelled) brings the suite to a close.