Pallade Musica features Early Italian Baroque sonatas

A Montreal early music quartet, Pallade Musica, will feature some of the earliest virtuoso chamber music in an Early Music Now concert early Saturday evening.

By - Nov 14th, 2013 11:43 pm
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Pallade Musica

Pallade Muscia: Left to right – Esteban La Rotta, Mylène Bélanger, Elinor Frey, Tanya LaPerrière

Early Music Now will introduce a specifically defined genre, Early Baroque sonatas, in their second concert this Saturday at 5:00 pm. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Milwaukee. Pallade Musica, a Montreal quartet including violinist Tanya LaPerrière, cellist Elinor Frey, theorbo Esteban La Rotta and harpsichordist Mylène Bélanger will perform.

The Early Baroque was marked by the freedom of composers to write purely instrumental music and to allow melodic lines (canzoni) to sing above and independently of a lower accompaniment (basso continuo.) The form allows for varying moods, virtuosity, clean lines, inventive composition, personal styles. The musical lines are infectious. Sometimes with 2 voices (plus continuo) there are two lines – for Pallade Musica, violin and cello. The basso continuo roles also found a new freedom to participate in a three-way dialogue.

Small ensemble chamber music was developing forms familiar today. 17th century composers in Northern Italy were the first to develop a freer, often secular, style as a sonata form. (Initially, sonatas did not include the internal development rules we associate with sonata: first and second themes, development and resolution.)

Instrumentation was still open-ended to some extent, but voicing preferences were stated. However, a recorder or violin could play the same line, a basso continuo could include a harpsichord or an organ. A cello could carry a melodic line or join the basso continuo accompaniment. The Pallade Musica ensemble creates a consistent sound which can either blend or offer contrast as all the instruments are strings – plucked or bowed – each with very different colors.

Cellist Elinor Frey explained that the ensemble selected sonatas that would work for their configuration, rather than add whatever instruments were called for to the group. Perhaps this consistent approach to the quartet helped the group achieve the Grand Prize at the Early Music Baroque Performance Competition in New York last year.

Concert selections will introduce little known composers contemporaneous with more well-known Italian composers – Monteverdi, Gabrielli, Vivaldi and others.  The better known names adapted works to the bright acoustics of large churches, focused upon religious vocal works and introduced early forms of opera. Those selected for the concert – Castello, Piccinini, Haym, Legrenzi, Merula and others – often wrote smaller, secular works. Dario Castello is a favorite of Pallade Musica. His “still moderno” will be represented by three works.

The program notes suggest that the program is “inspired by two Italian words that can be used to characterize emotional effects found in Italian Baroque music, terreno and vago. Terreno represent the earth, that which is profane, secular, regular and defined. The contrasting vagois music of reflection is irregular, spiritual, sacred, elusive and vague.” Actually, the program will feature more of the first – secular works that dazzle the listener and allow virtuosic instruments to stand out.

All of these musical developments established Italy as the center of musical innovation at that time. A featured composer Adam Jarzebski came to Italy from Poland and adapted the genre in his compositions. Italian composers relocated to Poland, Spain and elsewhere.

The program, a sample video of a Pallade Musica performance and ticket details may be found online.

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Categories: Classical, Music

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