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Magnificat Announces 2007-2008 Season

Magnificat is pleased to announce our 16th Season of concerts exploring the rich and varied repertoire of the Seventeenth Century. This season offers tremendous variety in genres and national styles with an opera and a program of cantatas and instrumental music from Italy; several petit motets from France, and a liturgical reconstruction from northern Germany.

The season opens on the weekend of October 26-28 with a program that will recreate the musical festivities surrounding the 1607 re-dedication of St. Gertrude’s chapel in Hamburg (pictured at right). Joined by The Whole Noyse and The Sex Chordæ Consort of Viols, Magnificat will perform music of Hieronymus Prætorius, Jakob Handl, and others in this program that weaves polychoral motets, traditional chant, and Lutheran chorales in a rich sonic tapestry. We are pleased to welcome back German baritone Martin Hummel, who will act as celebrant and sing in several of the motets.

The re-dedication service was reconstructed by UC Riverside musicologist Frederick Gable and is based on the detailed description written by the pastor of another Hamburg church, Lucas von Cöllen, who delivered the sermon on the occasion. Cöllen was deeply impressed with the dignity and solemnity of this service – which featured “hymns, [musical] instruments, sermons, and prayers, after the manner of Solomon.” The description of the performing forces and their disposition in the chapel make it clear that the antiphonal styles associated with Venice had already reached northern Europe by the turn of the Seventeenth Century.

The concerts will be Friday October 26, 8:00 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto; Saturday October 27, 8:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley; and Sunday October 28, 4:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.
For our holiday concerts, soprano Catherine Webster (left) will be featured in Magnifcat’s holiday program of music by the towering figures of Roman music of the end of the Seventeenth Century: Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli.

Scarlatti was born into poverty in famine stricken Sicily, his talent and good fortune allowed him to travel to Rome where he studied with Iacomo Carissimi. After writing several successful operas he gained the favor of Queen Christina of Sweden during her extended exile in Rome, and served as maestro di capella.

Scarlatti was in Rome during Pope Innocent XI’s reign, when opera was banned from Rome, and as a result he produced instead a wealth of sacred oratorios and cantatas, including two Christmas cantatas for soprano and strings. He later worked in Naples, Florence, and Venice, before returning to Rome later in life. A prolific and hard-working artist, Scarlatti’s operas, oratorios, and cantatas circulated widely throughout Italy and beyond and heavily influenced the music of the Eighteenth Century.

Our program focuses on Scarlatti’s cantatas in which we find the detailed and imaginative imagery and the dialogue between voice and instruments that characterize his finest work. In addition to the well known nativity pastorale O di Betlemme altera, Ms. Webster will also perform a later setting of the Christmas story Non sò qual più m’ingombra and an allegorical cantata Hor che di Febo.

Renowned as a violinist, composer and teacher, Corelli had a profound influence on musical style in the last quarter of the century. He also enjoyed the favor of Queen Christina and he was received in the highest circles of the aristocracy. The “Paganini” of his time, Corelli’s trio sonatas and concerti grossi went through many editions and spread his fame across Europe. Our program will include a trio sonata, a solo violin sonata, and the composer’s beloved Christmas Concerto.

The concerts will be Friday, December 7, 8:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto; Saturday December 8, 8:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley; and Sunday December 9, 4:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Magnificat will return to the glorious music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier (right) in January with performances of four of his “petit motets”. Most likely writing for the Chapel of Saint-Suplice, Charpentier produced these intimate masterpieces for two sopranos and bass with violins during the first month of 1677. As always the master’s subtle harmonic palette and sensitive text expression are on display in these small-scale musical gems. The concert will include motets for New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Purification, and for the Feast of St. Genevieve.

Some, if not all of these works were written for the musical ensemble of Charpentier’s patron, Mademoiselle de Guise, in whose household the composer lived and worked after returning from Rome, where he also was a student of Carissimi. The protected environment of the Hotel de Guise was conducive to Charpentier’s development as a composer and allowed him the luxury of writing and performing music for his close friends and musical colleagues. Charpentier scholar and Magnificat artistic advisory board member John Powell prepared the editions from which Magnificat will perform and ill present the pre-concert lectures for these concerts.

The concerts will be Friday, January 18, 8:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto; Saturday January 19, 8:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley; and Sunday January 20, 4:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

With the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Magnificat will present the American premiere of Stradella’s opera Il Trespolo Tutore in April. After fleeing Rome in 1677, Stradella, one of the most colorful figures of the Seventeenth Century, wrote several operas in Genoa before his untimely death there in 1682. Il Trespolo Tutore is a light-hearted comedy that features a basso buffo title role, which will be sung by Peter Becker

The story of the opera is based on a play by the Tuscan playwright Giovanni Battista Ricciardi. Ricciardi created a cantankerous, bumbling character named Trespolo, who featured in a series of prose comedies, one of which served as the basis for a libretto by Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi. Following the success of Trespolo, Villifranchi went on to become the leading comic opera librettist in Florence, writing several original works plus an opera based on another one of Ricciardi’s Trespolo comedies.

The opera has an entirely farcical plot and the characters of the ridiculous Trespolo and his maid Despina are prototypes of characters used widely later in the opera buffa genre. Stylistically, the opera is similar to the oratorio La Susanna, performed last season by Magnificat. Magnificat’s performances will mark the North American premiere of the work, and the first performances in the original language since the 17th century.

The concerts will be Friday, April 11, 8:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto; Saturday April 12, 8:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley; and Sunday April 13, 4:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Pre-Concert lectures are open to all ticket holders and begin 45 minutes before the concert. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.magnificatbaroque.org or call 800-853-8155.

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