Follia - Dreams, Nightmares, Madness, The Charm of Disorder in Music
Valletta Baroque Festival 2024
ZEFIRO Director: Alfredo Bernardini
Alfredo Bernardini - oboe
Paolo Grazzi - oboe
Alberto Grazzi - bassoon
Elisa Citterio - violin
Rossella Croce - violin
Claudia Combs - violin
Ulrike Fischer - violin
Matilde Tosetti - violin
Monika Toth - violin
Teresa Ceccato - viola
Catherine Jones - cello
Paolo Zuccheri - violone
Anna Fontana - harpsichord
Michele Pasotti - theorbo
Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741)
Concerto "Le dolcezze e l'amarezze della notte" in D minor/major, E 11
Der Nachtwächter - Menuette - Fantasie notturne - Ronfatore - Presto
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto for Violin RV 234 in D major “l'Inquietudine"
allegro molto - largo - allegro
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto for Oboe in c minor TWV51:c1
adagio - allegro - adagio - allegro
Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Hypochondria à 7 concertanti, Prague 1723
[grave] / allegro / lentement
Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
Sinfonia from die Opera "Der lächerliche Prinz Jodelet" (Hamburg, 1726)
Burla, spiritoso - Trio. Allegro
Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Concerto Grosso based on Corelli La Folia op.5 n.12 (London, 1727)
adagio - allegro - adagio - allegro - andante - allegro - adagio - allegro - adagio - allegro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Gallimathias Musicum KV 32 (excerpts) (The Hague, March 1766)
allegro - andante - pastorella - largo - allegro - andante - allegro - menuet - adagio - presto - fuga
It is known that music from the late baroque period mostly is about human feelings, the so-called “affects”. It often evokes joy, sadness, anger or melancholy, together with many other nuances. Other music from the same period recalls natural and physical events, as in Vivaldi's Four Seasons or the many tempests from French operas, English Masks or Italian concertos. Yet there is also remarkable repertoire from the same period that refers to deviated states of mind and soul. This is what this programme is about. We will hear in it madness, hypochondria, restlessness, nightmares and other human disorders.
The Follia or Folia (Italian for madness) is actually a bass-theme or ground that was known since the 16th century and was particularly popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. A vast majority of important composers wrote their variations on the Folia, where the eccentricity of the contrasts in affects and effects can justify the title of the work. It's the case of the Concerto Grosso by Francesco Geminiani, which is an arrangement based on the Folia of Arcangelo Corelli first published in 1700, maybe the most famous of all Folias in history. In Geminani's version, two solo violins and one cello are accompanied by a full orchestra in an intense dialogue and chase.
The theme of Folia can be heard also in the short sinfonia from the opera “Der lächerliche Prinz Jodelet” by Reinhard Keiser, an influential teacher of George Frideric Handel. Performed first in Hamburg in 1726, it is a satirical pasticcio in which a distinguished prince is ridiculed. The mocking is nicely depicted by the music.
The titles of other contemporary works describe other human pathologies, such as Hypochondria by Jan Dismas Zelenka from 1723, in which we hear the abrupt alternations between major and minor tonalities and between the weird hammering theme of the fugue and the following lamenting violins.
In his violin concerto titled L'Inquietudine (Restlessness), Antonio Vivaldi shows better than ever his eccentric and anxious temperament, alternating stunning violin solos of the two Allegros with the severe mood of the Largo.
Georg Philipp Telemann's oboe concerto actually doesn't have a title, but its very first chord is so dissonant and unique for its time, that it well deserves a place in this programme. Later in the four movements we can detect a bagpipe tune, a polish folk dance and other experimental ideas that the composer liked trying out.
The work that does have the most programmatic title is Johann Joseph Fux's Le dolcezze e l'amarezze della notte (The Sweetness and The Bitterness of the Night). Each movement here depicts a particular scene, from the night watchman, to nocturnal fantasies, including one movement where one player has to reproduce the snoring!
We know about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sense of humour, both from his works and from his letters. Therefore we shouldn't be surprised if he liked a good joke already at the age of ten, when he composed his Gallimathias Musicum, which could be translated as Musical Confusion: these are a series of unrelated movements that quickly connect one to the other, some based on folk songs, the last one being a fugue on the theme of a Dutch hymn. This work was written during Mozart’s stay in Holland and dedicated to Prince William of Orange as an acknowledgement for his support.
As it shows, madness and other human disorders were obviously part of daily life also in the Baroque time and served as great inspiration and challenge for many composers, who enjoyed pushing against the frames of style and musical conventions.
Alfredo Bernardini, April 2022