Mercoledi Musicale

It seems that every second Mercoledi Musicale* seems to mark the passing of an artist that I spent much of my musical life listening to. On June 20th of this year the remarkable Jeanne Lamon died at her home in Victoria.

The tribute banner at Tafelmusik’s website.

The American born Lamon came to Canada as a guest artist with the nascent (1979) Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and became it’s music director in 1981. For 33 years she led the orchestra and moulded it into one of the finest baroque ensembles in the world. In 2014 she stepped down and I remember the final Ottawa concert with her as director that year at the ChamberFest. The ovation at the end had the vaults of Dominion-Chalmers echoing.

Here is Jeanne Lamon, with that incredible smile reflecting her delight, doing two of the things she did best: shining as a performer and then stepping to the side and allowing others to shine as bright.

The Galileo Project was the first of their multi-media programmes where the ensemble performed with narrative, projects and movement but without sheet music. It was fitting that Tafelmusk marked the death of this great artist with a broadcast of the programme last week. A tribute to the riches and love she brought and gave to music here in Canada.

And here, just because I love Handel and it shows off the fine ensemble that Jeanne Lamon nurtured for three decades, is an extract from their The House of Dreams programme.

*This is the 281st Mercoledi Musicale that I’ve posted and the 3000th post since I began the blog on November 12th 2006. But more about that tomorrow.

The word for July 7th is:
Nascent /ˈnāsənt,ˈnasənt/: [adjective]
Just coming into existence and showing sign of future potential.
Early 17th century: from the Latin nascent “being born”, from the verb nasci.

Mercoledi Musicale

I apologize that on the videos the sound seems to cut of before the last note or so. But they are the only versions available of this music.

At coffee the other with a friend who teaches piano, she related a conversation she had with a nine year old female student the day before. The young pupil remarked that it seemed to her that all they ever studied was music by men; where there no “lady” composers? My friend explained the situation for women of the time as best as she could and brought up the usual list of names that immediately spring to mind: Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Barbara Strozzi, Hildegard of Bingen. The student was satisfied with the answer if not the situation and they went on with their lesson.

If my friend had the opportunity to hear Paolo Pietropaolo’s Sunday In Concert, one of the few intelligent classical programmes left on CBC radio, this past Sunday she would have been able to add the names of Natalya Ivanovna Kurakina, Yekaterina Alexeyevna Sinyavina, and Maria Voinovna Sobova.

A replica in paper of Catherine the Great in her state robes in the Palace at the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

Who you ask were Kurakina, Sinyavina and Subova? They were Russian composers and musicians during the time of Catherine the Great. They were also noblewomen of high standing at the court of St. Petersburg. A court that Catherine was determined to make the centre of cultural life by encouraging literature, theatre, journalism and music. Some of this music was composed by Russian Princesses and Countesses who became the first women in Russian history to publish their compositions with their own names. Unfortunately those names have vanished into obscurity as has their music. Fortunately the Talisman Ensemble – Oleg Timofeyev, the Russian seven-string guitar virtuoso, Anne Harley, soprano, and their colleagues Irina Rees (Harpsicord) and Etienne Abelin (Violin) – recorded a few of those pieces back in 2003.

Nataylya Ivanovan Kurakina
By Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun – 1797

Natalya Ivanovna Kurakina was born in 1766 into a wealthy Moscow family and at an early age showed her musical abilities as a guitarist and harpist. Her talents as a composer were soon recognized and she was said to have been one of the most prominent composers (regardless of sex) in 18th century Russia. Her marriage in 1783 to Prince Aleksei Kurakin elevated her to the nobility and thrust her into the centre of intellectual circles and salons of St Petersburg. When Kurakin lost favour at court they travelled throughout Europe and her musical abilities were recognized beyond the borders of Russia. She wrote and published three diaries of her travels abroad. She was one of the most prolific composers of the period and her catalogue includes at least forty-five songs including this lovely little ballad: T’amo Tanto (I love you so much).

Yekaterina Senyavina (Vorontsova)
Artist unknown – 1783
Credit: Dmitri Levitzky

Born in 1761 into a noble naval family – her father was Admiral Alexei Senyavin, who’s efforts during the Second Russo-Turko War extended the Empire to the Black Sea – Yekaterina Senyavina was a lady-in-waiting at the Court of Catherine the Great. She was a noted cembalist and held the post of court composer. She married Count Semyon Vorontsov and accompanied him when he was named Russian minister to Vienna in 1783. She died the following year in Pisa of tuberculosis, possibly while en-route to England where her husband had been named Ambassador. She was 23 years old – given what we hear in this Minuit a major talent had been cut off in its prime.

Maria Voinovna Zubova (Rimskaya-Korsakova)
Sadly only a silhouette from the 1780s is the only likeness we have.

The daughter of Rear Admiral Rimsky-Korsakov Maria Zubova was born in 1749 possibly in St. Petersburg. She married Antonovich Zubov the governor of Kursk. She was regarded as the finest singer at the court of Catherine the Great during the early years of her reign. The highly intelligent and personable composer was known for her early poems and songs which she performed frequently at private concerts, as well as her adaptations of folk songs. I’m not sure if this beautiful song is original or was adapted from a folkloric source.

Unfortunately a further search revealed that though there is some sheet music available no further recordings were made to extend the availability of the works of these composers. Personally I’d love to hear more, particularly of Zubova’s work.

The word for August 19th is:
Composer /kɔ̃.po.ze/: [noun]
1.1 An individual who creates music; an author.
1.2 One who, or that which, quiets or calms.
From Old French composer, from com- +‎ poser, as an adaptation of Latin componō, componere.
Notice there is no sex assigned to either the noun or the activity.

The Trumpet Shall Sound

Another great that I grew up listening to left us this morning.

Maurice André spent part of his youth working in a mine until his father, an amateur trumpeter, encouraged him to study with a family friend. His almost 300 recordings helped spearhead the resurgence of interest in Baroque music that surfaced in the 1960s. Though he retired a few years ago his performances are still very popular – and with reason.  Commenting on this video of the Allegro from the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, captured in Heidelberg with the Muncher Philharmonik, someone said: …he looks like he has just come down for breakfast, found an orchestra in his garden and picked his trumpet up to play. The right balance of effortlessness and indulgence.  His performances were always like that.

The trumpets are sounding a bit sweeter in the heavenly realms today.

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