Author Archive

Photos from 1610 Vespers at St. Patrick’s

April 24th, 2010 1 comment

Nika Korniyenko took some photos from our performance of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers yesterday evening at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Two more performances – tonight at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Berkeley and tomorrow afternoon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Both concerts are selling well but tickets are still available.


April 17th, 2010 1 comment

Qui dat nivem sicut lanam:
nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suum sicut buccellas:
ante faciem frigoris eius quis sustinebit?

The Four Tenors

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Dan Hutchings, Chris LeCluyse, Paul Elliott & Mirko Guadagnini

The parts designated ‘Alto’ or ‘Septimus’ in Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, like all music from the period, encompass a vocal range that in later music is most often sung by high tenors. The ‘counter tenor’ of the later Baroque would typically sing in a slightly higher register. As a result together with the ‘Tenore’ and ‘Quintus’ parts, we will have four tenors for our performances April 23-25.

Three of these tenors are very familiar to Magnificat audiences – Daniel Hutchings, Christopher LeCluyse, and Paul Elliott have appeared frequently in a wide variety of repertoire over the past decade. For these performances we are welcoming Italian tenor Mirko Guadagnini, who will be making his American debut.

Monteverdi’s alto, extending from e to b flat’, coincides much more closely with a modern tenor than with a modern alto, and we can assume the part would habe neem sung in the seventeenth century by what today would be called a tenor. Monteverdi’s tenor on the other hand, approximates a modern baritone, except that the highest few notes are beyond the reach of most baritones and wide-ranging tenor, like the four in Magnificat’s concert, are essential for the performance of the 1610 Vespers. Read more…

The Sopranos (for Magnificat’s 1610 Vespers)

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Jennifer Paulino and Jennifer Ellis Kampani

A year ago, Magnificat performed Alessandro Scarlatti’s serenata Amore, Venere, e Ragione with “3 Jennifers“. For the final concerts of our 2009-2010 season, Magnificat is pleased to feature two of the Jennifers for the two soprano parts – Jennifer Paulino and Jennifer Ellis Kampani – as our sopranos. (Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane will be joining us for our performance at the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition in June.)

Jennifer Paulino has appeared frequently with Magnificat since singing the role of Daniele in Stradella’s La Susanna in February 2007, a production that we also performed at the Tropical Baroque Festival in Miami that Spring. She has been a prat of several productions since then, including earlier this season when she sang several roles – notably the seductive Siren) in Francesca Caccini’s La Liberatione di Ruggiero.

Jennifer is a founding member of the Baroque ensemble Les grâces, who appeared in earlier this season on the San Francisco Early Music Society series and toured in Europe last Fall. As an ensemble singer, Jennifer has performed in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Arts Center in Seoul, Korea, and on recordings contracted by the Spoleto Festival USA and The Washington National Cathedral. She was a member of The Choral Scholars, a vocal ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of early music and new works from 1999-2004. Her tenure with the ensemble culminated in a recording and concert in collaboration with Trio Mediæval and the Washington National Cathedral girls choir. Read more…

Welcoming New Friends – Kiri Tollaksen, Jeffrey Fields and Mirko Guadagnini

April 14th, 2010 No comments

For Magnificat’s performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers next week, we are pleased to welcome three musicians who will be appearing with us for the first time, cornettist Kiri Tollaksen, baritone Jeffrey Fields and tenor Mirko Guadagnini.

Mirko Guadagnini

These performances will be Mirko Guadagnini‘s San Francisco debut but he is known to early music fans from his appearance in the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo on La Venexiana’s recording of Monteverdi’s opera, which received the 2008 Grammophone Award for Best Baroque Vocal.

In 2003 he sang for the opening of Teatro La Fenice in Venice with Caldara’s Te Deum led by Riccardo Muti and  in 2004 he made his debut as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at Teatro Politeama in Lecce, as Oronte in Händel’s Alcina by Händel at Teatro Verdi in Trieste, as Conte in Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Paisiello at Teatro La Fenice in Venice and as Cassio in Otello at Grand Théâtre de Genève. In 2005 he sang Nerone in L’incoronazione di Poppea at Opera de Lyon, conductor William Christie with Les Arts Florissants; in Händel’s Messiah in Florence with Orchestra della Toscana. Mirko made his debut at La Scala in Milan as Goffredo in Rinaldo by Händel, and debuted in the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at Auditorium Verdi in Milan and at Auditorium Nacional de Madrid.

Kiri Tollaksen

Kiri Tollaksen enjoys a varied career as a performer and teacher. Kiri has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe with numerous groups such as Apollo’s Fire, Piffaro, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, New York Collegium, Concerto Palatino, La Fenice, and Tafelmusik. Kiri is a founding member of the ensembles Anaphantasia and Chiaroscuro. As a professional trumpet player, Kiri performs with the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and freelances throughout Michigan.

In addition to being on faculty at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, Kiri maintains a teaching studio in Ann Arbor, and has taught cornetto at the Amherst Early Music Festival. Kiri holds performing degrees in trumpet from Eastman, Yale, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. She has recorded with the Huelgas Ensemble, Apollo’s Fire, Piffaro, La Fenice, The New York Collegium, La Gente d’Orfeo, the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.

Jeffrey Fields

Jeffrey Fields has performed regularly throughout California in concert, oratorio and opera since moving to the Bay Area in 1999. In 1998, he was selected as an Adams Fellow at the Carmel Bach Festival and has had numerous solo appearances there since; he will sing the Monteverdi Vespers at this summer’s festival. He also sings regularly with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and American Bach Soloists.

Jeffrey made his Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Messiah in December 2007. Recent and current engagements include Dvorak’s Stabat Mater in Berkeley, Handel’s Alexander’s Feast at UC Davis under Jeffrey Thomas, Brahms’ Requiem in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley, Mozart’s Requiem with the Marin Symphony, Orff’s Carmina Burana at Stanford, Handel’s Samson with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Acis and Galatea (Polyphemus) with Berkeley Opera, the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Marin Oratorio, Mendelssohn’s St. Paul in Berkeley, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Carmel Bach Festival and the Bach Society of St. Louis, the Requiems of Faure and Durufle, Haydn’s Creation in Los Angeles and Carmel, and Bach’s B Minor Mass with the San Francisco Bach Choir. Jeff was a three-time winner of the NATS Central Region auditions. His wide repertoire includes Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme, Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, and King Herod in Massenet’s Herodiade, as well as a broad spectrum of concert works, oratorios and art song.

KDFC to Present Magnificat at Yoshi’s in San Francisco on June 7th

April 14th, 2010 No comments

Tickets available online through Yoshi’s

On June 7th, KDFC with present Magnificat’s CD Release Party at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. The event will mark the official release of the first volume of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s complete works.

Over the past couple years, “KDFC in the Clubs” has offered Bay Area audiences the chance to hear classical artists performing in a less formal atmosphere. Magnificat will be the first early music ensemble to be presented – and the first to appear at Yoshi’s. Read more…

Cozzolani’s Laudate Dominum for Soprano and Violins

March 31st, 2010 No comments

Jennifer Ellis Kampani Featured in Magnificat’s Latest Release

Download Magnificat’s recording of Laudate Dominum

Jennifer Ellis KampaniMagnificat is pleased to release our recording of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s setting of the psalm Laudate Dominum, one of only two works by the composer involving obbligato instruments and her only psalm setting for solo voice. As with her second setting of Laudate pueri, Cozzolani adds two violins to the texture and, as in that psalm, the violins are used here both to punctuate the text with ritornelli and in interactive dialogue with the voice.

Magnificat’s recording features soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani, who will be singing in their upcoming performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers on the weekend of April 23-25 and will perform a solo recital as part of Magnificat’s 2010-2011 season. The recording also features violinists Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem and the continuo team of David Tayler, theorbo, and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ. Laudate Dominum omnes gentes will be included in Volume 1 of the complete works of Cozzolani, which will be released by Musica Omnia at the Berkeley Early Music Festival this June.

Robert Kendrick provides a succinct analysis of the structure of Laudate Dominum in his seminal work on the music of nuns in 17th century Milan, Celestial Sirens:

“Given the liberties of both the psalm settings and the mottetto con strumenti, it is surprising that Cozzolani’s solo Laudate Dominum with two violins is nor even freer than its simple structure would indicate: an opening section ‘Laudate…omnes populi’ for solo voice, long instrumental ritornello, and tutti (with recalls of the opening at the end); the remaining psalm text, which moves from B minor to D minor; the return of the opening vocal idea and the ritornello, and then another troped doxology. This begins with new material but then interlaces the setting of ‘laudate’ in the middle of ‘et nunc et semper’, then surprisingly sets the last verbal phrase to the music of ‘omnes populi laudate’ from the very first tutti. As elsewhere in Cozzolani’s music, the surprise is not the use of the refrain but the way in which the first section is split and recalled unexpectedly–a final reflection, again, of the salmo bizzaro.”

To download a lossless file of Cozzolani’s Laudate Dominum in a variety of formats, hear other music by Cozzolani, or to pre-order Magnificat’s double-CD set of Cozzolani’s complete works, please visit the Cozzolani Project music page.

Magnificat to Join in Berkeley Festival Finale – Monteverdi to Vivaldi!

March 29th, 2010 No comments

CanalettoThis year’s Berkeley Festival & Exhibition will conclude with a grand event – a program celebrating the glorious repertoire of vespers music by Venetian composers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi. It will also be a celebration of the Berkeley Festival, in which all the main stage ensembles will collaborate to offer a unique experience for the Festival audience. In addition to Magnificat the final concert will feature performances by ARTEK, AVE, The Marion Verbruggen Trio, Music’s Recreation, ¡Sacabuche!, and the string ensemble Archetti. The concert will take place at 4:00 pm on June 13 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Structured around Second Vespers for the Feast of the Visitation, the program will include psalm settings by Claudio Monteverdi (Dixit Dominus from the famous 1610 Vespers and Laudate pueri from his 1641 collection Selva morale), Ludovico Viadana (a four choir setting of Laetatus sum from 1612), Giovanni Rovetta (Nisi Dominus published in 1639), and Biagio Marini (Lauda Ierusalem from 1652). Each of the psalms will be preceded by a chant antiphon and followed by an “antiphon substitute” as was common in Italy throughout the Baroque period. The “substitutes” will include sonatas by Francesco Cavalli, Dario Castello, and Giovanni Legrenzi, a solo motet by Alessandro Grandi, and the Vivaldi e minor concerto for four violins. All the performers will join for Monteverdi’s beloved setting of the hymn Ave maris stella from the 1610 Vespers and Vivaldi’s g minor Magnificat, both of which will be conducted by Magnificat’s Artistic Director Warren Stewart. Read more…

Why All This Music for Vespers?

March 24th, 2010 No comments

The reasons for the exponential growth in music for Vespers around the turn of the 17th century are not entirely clear, though probably multiple. A few publications of Vesper music in the latter part of the Cinquecento carried mottos such as conformi al decreto del Sacro Concilio di Trento (conforming to the decrees of the Council of Trent), even though psalms and Magnificats themselves had not been mentioned in the final dictates of the Council. Indeed, the predominantly chordal settings of psalm texts in this period meant that psalm settings by their very nature conformed to the Council’s decree for clarity of text in polyphonic masses. However, the fact that the Council had not addressed psalmody in its declarations on music eventually meant that psalms were not considered subject to the same constraints as the mass in the eyes of composers and church officials. Certainly the psalms for major feasts, which were more in number than the mass ordinary movements normally set in polyphony, offered a greater variety of texts for seventeenth-century composers who continued and even augmented the interest in musical interpretation of textual concepts inherited from the Cinquecento. Another factor may have been the tradition of granting indulgences for attending Vesper services—there are hints of this in the documents of the Servite congregation in Milan. This is a subject requiring further investigation, but may indeed be a principal explanation of the rapid expansion of Vesper polyphony in the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Read more…

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track – O caeli cives

March 11th, 2010 No comments

Click Here to Stream and Download Cozzolani’s dialogue motet O caeli cives

Caravaggio's St. Catherine

The Cozzolani Project‘s latest release is the five-voice dialogue for St Catherine of Alexandria, O cæli cives (1650). As in a few other pieces, the ‘singing angels’ to whom musical nuns were often compared, form one side of this dialogue, while two voices represent the faithful on earth.

In his seminal work on the music of Milan’s convents, Celestial Sirens, Robert Kendrick suggests that O cæli cives may have been originally composed in 1649 for the feast day of her convent’s patron saint, Radegund, whose name scans in Latin like Catherine’s.  Kendrick notes “the poetic conceit of the dialogue, which features humans (soprano and mezzo-soprano on Magnificat’s recording) asking angels (three sopranos – two sopranos and mezzo-soprano on the recording) for the saint’s resting-place immediately after her death, was described in Agostino Lampugnani’s Della vita di S. Radegonda (Milan, 1649).”

Peterzano's painting in S. Maria della Passione in Milan

The imagery in the text is similar to that in Simone Peterzano’s painting The Mystic Marriage of Alexandria with Sts. Radegund and Justina of Padua [ca. 1585], formerly the high alterpiece in the chiesa esteriore of the convent of S. Radegonda, now preserved in S. Maria della Passione in Milan.Kendrick notes the parallels between the commissioning of such paintings and the dedications in motet compositions by nuns:

“The emphasis on the patron(ess) saint or Marian iconography found in such paintings would echo the themes of the early motet dedications to nuns; ultimately it reflected the devotional life of patrician families. Sanctoral cults mirrored and provided a public focus for the civic religion of aristocratic clans in early modern Italy.”

Magnificat’s recording features sopranos Catherine Webster, Andrea Fullington, and mezzo-soprano Deborah Rentz-Moore as the ‘Angels’ and soprano Jennifer Ellis-Kampani and mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle as ‘The Faithful’. The singers are as always by David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

The two volume complete works of Cozzolani can be pre-ordered at . All those pre-ordering receive free digital downloads of all tracks – those currently available and new tracks as they become available. Please visit for more information about Cozzolani and these recordings.

Magnificat to be Featured at 2010 Berkeley Early Music Festival

March 11th, 2010 No comments

Tickets Now available Online – Click Here

Magnificat has been invited to perform a  program of Cozzolani motets as a featured concert on the Berkeley Early Music Festival and Exhibition this June. The concert will mark the release of the first volume of our recordings of Cozzolani’s complete works. Sopranos Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and altos Meg Bragle and Jennifer Lane will join with the continuo team of David Tayler and Hanneke van Proosdij for the concert on Friday June 11 at 8:00 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

The program will be drawn from Cozzolani’s 1642 collection Concerti Sacri and will include setting of all four Marian antiphons – Ave regina coelorum, Salve, O regina, Alma redemptoris mater, and Regina caeli, laetare. In addition, Magnificat will perform six of her other motets – Colligite, pueri, flores, O mi domine, Obstupiscite, gentes, Regna terrae cantate Deo, Quid, miseri, quis faciamus and Psallite superi.

Magnificat first appeared on the Festival in it’s inaugural year 1990, in a performance with Marion Verbruggen, and was presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society on the 1996 and 2002. At the most recent Festival in 2008, Magnificat joined with several other Bay Area ensembles in memorable performances of Alessandro Striggio’s Missa sopra ‘Ecco sì beato giorno’ under the direction Davitt Moroney.

Magnificat is grateful to all those who have supported the Cozzolani Project and look forward to sharing more of Donna Chiara’s magnificent music at the Festival. More details will be available soon on Magnificat’s website and this website.

Bagels, Tea, Thermostats – Culinary Notes from 1610

February 25th, 2010 No comments

According to author Leo Rosten in his The Joys of Yiddish, the first printed mention of the word bagel is in the 1610 Community Regulations for the city of Krakow, Poland. The regulations state that “bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.” The ring shape may have been seen as a symbol of life.

It was also in 1610 that Europe got its first taste of tea, a beverage that had been popular for centuries in China and Japan, as Amsterdam received its first shipment of the intoxicating leaves. The Dutch East India Company initially marketed tea as an exotic medicinal drink, but it was so expensive that only the very wealthy could afford it and it only became available to the general public later in the century.

In 1610, Cornelius Drebbel, best known perhaps for his invention of the submarine,  applied the principles he had used in his “perpetual mobile” to thermostatic regulators that controlled ovens, furnaces, and incubators – the first thermostat. As the temperature rose, air expanded, forcing quicksilver to close a damper. When it cooled, the damper opened. The incubator he made hatched both duck and chicken eggs.

Did Caravaggio Die of Lead Poisoning?

February 24th, 2010 1 comment


Caravagio ca. 1600

The mannerist painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio died on July 18 1610 at the age of 39 and the circumstances of his death have been controversial ever since. It has been suggested that he contracted syphilis or even that he was assassinated but anthropologists from the universities of Pisa, Ravenna and Bologna are studying other theories – that he contracted malaria while traveling in Italy or that he suffered from lead poisoning. The anthropologists hope to prove their theory by carrying out DNA tests on bones which they believe are the remains of the Renaissance artist.

Renowned for his hot temper, heavy drinking and violent temperament Caravaggio was forced to go on the run in 1606 after killing a man in a tavern brawl, a crime for which he was condemned to death by Pope Paul V.

“Lead poisoning accentuates traits like aggressive and nervous behaviour, which Caravaggio displayed during his life,” said Silvano Vinceti, the team leader. “Painters in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries used these paints all the time and often suffered serious health problems as a result.” Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh are both thought to have suffered from lead poisoning.

The Galilean Moons

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

The Galilean Moons

In January 1610 Galileo Galilei first observed the four moons of Jupiter now known, appropriately, as “The Galilean Moons”. The largest of the many moons of Jupiter, Galileo initially named his discovery the Cosmica Sidera (“Cosimo’s stars”) but they are now known by the names given by Simon Marius in his 1614 Mundus Jovialis: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – the lovers of Zeus.

Galileo first noticed Saturn’s peculiar shape later in 1610, well after the publication of his landmark book Sidereus Nuncius.  The story of how he initially revealed the new discovery to his fellow astronomers by means of an anagram is told in a 1974 article by Albert van Helden of Rice University.

Galileo's first sketches of his observation of four of Jupiter's moons

Galileo’s discovery of celestial bodies orbiting something other than the Earth dealt a serious blow to the Ptolemaic, or the geocentric, cosmology in which the universe orbits around the Earth. The possibility of viewing Saturn’s moons was made possible by improvements Galileo made to his telescope in 1609. Images of the moons as seen through Galileo’s telescope can be viewed here. Matk Thompson’s website Galileo 1610 has a wealth of information about Galileo as does Rice University’s Galileo Project website.

“With various and diverse manners of invention and harmony”

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

"His Highness" Francisco Gonzaga of Mantua

“Monteverdi is having printed an a capella Mass for six voices, of much study and labour, since he was obliged to manipulate continually, in every note through all the parts, always further reinforcing, the eight motifs that are in the motet In illo tempore of Gombert. And he is also having printed together [with it] some vesper psalms of the Virgin with various and diverse manners of invention and harmony, and everything over a cantus firmus, with the intention of coming to Rome this autumn to dedicate them to His Holiness. He is also in the midst of preparing a group of madrigals for five voices, which will consist of  three laments: that of Arianna, still with its usual soprano, the lament of Leandro and Hero by Marini, the third, given him by His Highness, about a shepherd whose nymph has died. The words [are] by the son of Count Lepido Agnelli on the death of the little Roman [the singer Caterina Martinelli].”

From a letter written by Monteverdi’s vice maestro di capella at Mantua, Don Bassano Casola to Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga in Rome, dated July 16, 1610. The eight motifs from the Gombert motet are actually ten in number.  The madrigals would form the sixth book  published in 1614.

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track – Laudate pueri a 6

February 18th, 2010 2 comments

Click Here to Listen and Download Cozzolani’s Laudate pueri à 6

First Page of Laudate pueri à 6 in the Tenor Primo part book

Magnificat and Musica Omnia are pleased to announce the release of Cozzolani’s second setting of the psalm Laudate pueri (à 6), one of only two of her works that call for obbligato instruments in addition to voices and basso continuo. Like her setting of Laudate Dominum for solo soprano, the Laudate pueri à 6 includes parts for two violins.

Despite various Episcopal efforts to ban non-keyboard instruments from convents in 17th-Century Milan, there is considerable evidence for nuns’ ability to play obbligato instrumental parts that occasionally appear in publications of convent music. While there are no records of non-keyboard instrumentalists at Cozzolani’s convent, S. Radegonda, in the 1660s there are accounts of “cantatrice, e sonatrici” (i.e. singers and instrumentalists) at the convent and two or three violinists were associated with each of the convent’s choirs in the 1670s.

The violins offer Cozzolani another element in the psalm’s expansive compositional architecture. Without an opening sinfonia, the psalm establishes a two-period refrain in the opening verse that returns in alternation with an instrumental sinfonia between the verses. Robert Kendrick has noted that in its insistent return to the G final for each verse and the use of similar melodic figuration gives this setting the sound of a strophic variation.

Laudate Pueri à 6 was published for two sopranos, two tenors, and two violins, Magnificat has recorded the work with four sopranos – Catherine Webster, Ruth Escher, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and Andrea Fullington. The sopranos are joined by Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem, violin, John Dornenburg violone, David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

“The Divine Arc Angelo”: Arcangelo Corelli – February 17, 1653

February 17th, 2010 No comments
Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli

Few musicians of the seventeenth century enjoyed the exalted status bestowed on Arcangelo Corelli (February 17, 1653- January 19, 1713). He was called the ‘new Orpheus of Our Times’ and the ‘divine Arc Angelo’, a clever pun on his Christian name and the Italian word for a bow (arco). The Englishman musician and writer Roger North described Corelli’s music as ‘transcendant’, ‘immortal’ and ‘the bread of life’ to musicians. Renowned as a virtuoso performer, an influential composer, and sought-after teacher, Corelli commanded respect and praise throughout Europe at the turn of the 18th century.

The fifth child born to a prosperous family of landowners in Fusignano; Corelli’s first musical study was probably with the local clergy, then in nearby Lugo and Faenza, and finally in Bologna, where he went in 1666. In Bologna he studied with Giovanni Benvenuti and Leonardo Brugnoli, the former representing the disciplined style of the Accademia filarmonica (to which Corelli was admitted in 1670), the latter a virtuoso violinist.

By 1675 Corelli was in Rome where he may have studied composition under Matteo Simonelli, from whom he would have absorbed the styles of Roman polyphony inherited from Palestrina. He may have traveled to France and Spain, though neither journey has been securely documented. In 1675 he is listed as a violinists in Roman payment documents and by the end of the decade he was active as a performer and leader of small and large instrumental ensembles in Roman homes and churches and at public celebrations. Read more…

Brian Howard (1944-2010)

February 15th, 2010 No comments

Brian Howard

It was with tremendous sadness that we learned that Brian Howard passed away earlier this month. Brian was a founding member of The Whole Noyse and appeared in Magnificat’s first season in performances of Schütz’ Weihnachtshistorie. A dear friend and musical colleague, Brian touched the lives of many in the early music community in the Bay Area. Magnificat extends our deepest sympathy to Brian’s wife Lynn. The following obituary gives some sense of Brian’s remarkable and diverse life. We will miss his gentle warm spirit.

Brian Howard, Computer designer and musician, died of cancer on February 1st at his home in Portola Valley, CA; he was 65 years old. Born on March 23, 1944, in Cambridge, MA, he grew up in Norman, OK. His father was a physics professor at the University of Oklahoma, and his mother was a classical pianist. He attended Stanford University on a National Merit scholarship, graduating in 1967 with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering.

In 1978, he became the 32nd employee of Apple Computers. As editor of the famous computer manuals, he combined meticulous language skills with exhaustive computer knowledge to create user-friendly instruction books that helped to popularize the nascent company”s products. One of the original four members of the Macintosh Project team, Brian Howard helped to revolutionize the personal computer; his signature was molded into the case of the original Macs. He eventually moved from computer documentation to architectural hardware design, which was more commensurate with his engineering background. At Apple, where he was the longest continuous employee, he was promoted to the level of DEST (Distinguished Engineer, Scientist or Technologist), in recognition of his exemplary work. He was celebrated among his colleagues for his fertile imagination and communication skills.

An accomplished and dedicated musician, Brian played cornetto, flute, and recorder with the Stanford Renaissance Wind Band and sang with the St. Ann Choir, California Bach Society, Stanford Early Music Singers, and Albany Consort. He also performed music at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Marin County and, in 1986, became a founding member of the early brass and winds ensemble, The Whole Noyse.

Predeceased by his mother Jane, stepmother Phyllis, father Robert, and brother Donald, Brian is survived by his beloved wife Lynne Toribara, stepdaughter Mariko Toribara, sisters Kathleen Howard (of Fostoria, OH) and Eileen Howard (of Belchertown, MA), nieces Keira Manes (of Greenfield, MA) and Terri Torres (of Fircrest, WA), and nephew Devin Manes (of Frederickton, NB, Canada), as well as a multitude of friends who cherished his gentle humility, boundless curiosity, creativity, generous spirit, and funny bone. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Doctors Without Borders or join Terra Pass.

A memorial concert will be given at Stanford University”s Memorial Church on Saturday, February 20 at 11 am.

The Instrumental Music on Magnificat’s Grandi Program

February 12th, 2010 No comments

The primary focus of our concerts this weekend is the music of Alessandro Grandi, including the modern premieres of the first cantatas from his 1620 collection Cantade et Arie a voce sola. We will also be playing instrumental music by several composers associated with Venice during Grandi’s tenure at St. Mark’s. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to re-visit some old “friends” like Cavalli’s extraordinary Canzon a 3 from Musiche sacrae, and some music that’s “new” to Magnificat.

Though musicologists have speculated that Dario Castello probably worked at St. Mark’s and probably played violin and/or cornetto, in fact nothing is known about him beyond his music, which was all published in Venice. The numerous reprints of his sonatas and canzoni as late as 1650 attest to his popularity and influence. We will perform the first of his two part sonatas “in stil moderno” published in 1629.

More is known about Biagio Marini, a virtuoso violinist who composed both vocal and instrumental music. Marini traveled extensively and he held positions in Brussels, Neuburg an der Donau, Düsseldorf, Padua, Parma, Ferrara, Milan, Bergamo, and Brescia in addition to his work in Venice. We will perform two works by Marini: his Capriccio, subtitled “in which two violins play four parts” (a reference to the extensive double-stopping in the fiddle parts), and the sonata La Orlandina from Affetti musicali, published in 1617.

Two of the composers represented served in leadership roles in the St. Mark’s musical establishment. Giovanni Rovetta succeeded Grandi as vice maestro at St. Mark’s and assumed the post of maestro di cappella after Monteverdi’s death in 1641. Rovetta’s only published purely instrumental works are four canzonas included in a motet collection from 1626 and we will be performing the second of these canzani.

Francesco Cavalli was engaged as an organist at St. Mark’s while Grandi was in Venice. He went on to become maestro di cappella after Rovetta’s death. Best known for his many operas, Cavalli was also a prolific and respected composer
of sacred and instrumental music. In 1656, Cavalli published his magesterial collection of Vespers music Musiche Sacrae, which served as the basis for Magnificat’s Christmas concert on the San Francisco Early Music Sopciety series in 1996. The collection includes several instrumental canzon for 3 to 12 parts. We will be performing the first of these canzoni.

Hanneke van Proosdij will play a harpsichord Intavolature by Giovanni Picchi, who was hired as organist at the Venetian church of the Frari in 1607 and from 1623 to his death he was also organist at the confraternity Scuola di San Rocco.

Though he spent time in Venice, Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger is most closely associated with Rome. A prolific and highly original composer, Kapsberger is chiefly remembered today for his music for lute, theorbo and chitarrone, which was seminal in the development of these as solo instruments. David Tayler will perform Kapsberger’s Toccata Arpeggiata, a representative of a genre of lute music published during the first decade of the 17th century that exploits the instrument’s facility for appegiation in a way that reminds me of stile briseè of Gaulthier and Chambonieres.

SFCV Preview: Madrigals, Motets (& Cantatas!) by Alessandro Grandi

January 27th, 2010 No comments

San Francisco Classical Voice posted the following excellent preview by Steven Winn of Magnificat’s upcoming concerts featuring the music of Alessandro Grandi. The original post is here.

For anyone who cares about 17th-century music, 2010 is without question a Claudio Monteverdi year. The 400th anniversary of the composer’s ground-breaking and magisterial Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin) of 1610 is a ripe occasion to program the sacred masterpiece of an artist deemed “the creator of modern music” by scholar Leo Schrade.

It’s an opportunity that Magnificat Baroque wasn’t about to miss. The Bay Area ensemble concludes its 18th season with an April 23-25 slate of Vespers concerts.

But before they get there, the troupe is embarked on an unusual and revealing side-trip through Monteverdi territory, with the composer’s lesser-known Venetian contemporary Alessandro Grandi as the destination. To make this journey even more enticing, Magnificat is offering a striking historical contrast to the well-known Vespers: The Feb. 12-14 Grandi programs feature what may well be modern premieres of some of the first self-identified cantatas ever written. The feat has generated considerable interest around the early-music world.

More important, these concerts figure to be an alluring discovery for audiences. In addition to the short solo cantatas on the program, performed by soprano Laura Heimes, Magnificat’s trio of Celeste fiori concerts will include assorted Grandi madrigals and motets, as well as instrumental music published at the time the composer lived in Venice. Read more…