Thursday, March 15, 2018

Met Museum: Joseph Cornell's Homage to Juan Gris

The current exhibit at the Met, Birds of a Feather, is one of those small idiosyncratic shows, usually limited to a single gallery, that the museum stages from time to time.  A visitor wanders in from a larger exhibit only to find himself or herself immersed in a self-contained and offbeat universe that offers unexpected delights.  In spite of the exhibit's subtitle, this is not so much a homage to Gris as it is an obsession on the part of Cornell, an artist who never managed to show restraint in his enthusiasms.

The backstory to the exhibit, as noted on the museum's website, is as follows:
"...on one of his frequent trips to the gallery district in midtown Manhattan, Cornell visited the Sidney Janis Gallery on East 57th Street. Among a presentation of approximately 30 works by modern artists, one alone captivated Cornell—Juan Gris's celebrated collage The Man at the Café (1914)...  This shadowy profile of a fedora-topped man immediately inspired Cornell to begin a new series: some 18 boxes, two collages, and one sand tray created in homage to Juan Gris, whom he called a 'warm fraternal spirit.'"
That pretty well sums up the essence of the show.  On one wall hangs The Man at the Café itself, and it's immediately apparent why any viewer would feel a strong attraction to it.  This is one of the masterpieces of synthetic cubism and a key component of Leonard Lauder's seminal collection.  Although I had known of the work's link to the fictional arch-criminal Fantômas, a recurrent character in Gris's pasted paper collages including the 1915 Pipe and Newspaper, I had been unaware of the hidden reference in the present painting to the work of Alphonse Bertillon.  No matter that Bertillon, who died just about the time the painting was completed, had invented the photographic mugshot and the modern technique of fingerprinting, his spurious testimony at the two Dreyfus trials in the late nineteenth century had long made him a figure of scorn and ridicule among French intellecturals.  The idea of Fantômas outwitting Bertillon would have delighted Gris.

Then we come to Cornell's series of boxes dedicated to the artist.  They are neatly arranged side by side on several tables placed at right angles to the Gris painting.  Prominently displayed in each is a representation of a white cockatoo.  The birds are backed by black silhouettes intended as their shadows (although in at least one of the boxes the silhouette has been laid on the bottom of the box) and pieces of newsprint.  While the presence of the newsprint is a clear reference to the copy of Le Matin displayed so prominently in the painting, I failed to understand what the cockatoo had to do with Gris, let alone Fantômas and Bertillon.  Rather surprisingly, the connection is nowhere explained in the documentation accompanying the exhibit, unless in the 1.5 hour video on the museum's website that I admit I hadn't had the patience to watch.

As it turns out, it's unlikely that Cornell was aware of the references contained in Gris's paintings.  According to Deborah Solomon's excellent biography, Utopia Parkway:
"From the evidence of notes he [Cornell] made in his diary, we know that he associated the Gris boxes with the nineteenth-century diva Maria Malibran.  This link has confounded art historians intent on decoding Cornell's symbolism.  Yet if we accept that the white cockatoos - like so many of Cornell's birds - are literally stand-ins for Malibran, a 'bird of song,' the intended meaning of the Gris boxes becomes clear.  They are mute arias all, bringing the sublime pleasures of music into Gris's studio.  Malibran and Gris were both Spaniards who died young; Cornell sought to unite them."
This at least provides an explanation, even if it does not appear entirely rational on Cornell's part, for the cockatoo's presence in the boxes.

The exhibit continues through April 15, 2018.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Met Opera: Rossini's Semiramide

On Saturday afternoon I went to the Met Opera to hear Rossini's rarely performed Semiramide, the final work he composed in Italy.  He was then at the peak of his career and idolized throughout Europe.  After a successful sojourn in London where he received the equivalent of over half a million dollars for five months residence, Rossini accepted a lucrative offer to become Musical Director of the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris, and it was there that he composed the final operas of his abbreviated career.

Like Tancredi, one of Rossini's earliest successes, Semiramide was based on a tragedy by Voltaire, the eighteenth century Enlightenment author who displayed a positive flair for melodrama in such works as Semiramis and Candide.  Also like TancrediSemiramide had a libretto written by the highly prolific Gaetano Rossi.  None of this made the convoluted plot, one that can only be termed "historical" in the loosest sense, any less incomprehensible.  By the middle of the first act, I'd given up trying to follow the action onstage.  Better to sit back and simply enjoy the wonderful singing.   

Whatever the merits of the story, Semiramide contains some of Rossini's finest music.  When writing the arias for Semiramide, the composer returned to an earlier style than that which he had employed in the majority of his Neapolitan operas.  As the Met's program notes point out:
"Aside from the expansive first scene and the two finales - which are of truly massive proportions - Semiramide is built around six arias and four duets. The arias are all of the older style, beginning with a slow cantabile section and ending with a fast cabaletta, specifically designed to show off the singer’s voice and technique."
The change in Rossini's style was influenced by his mistress, soprano Isabella Colbran, who sang the title role in the original production.  It was also Ms. Colbran who had urged Rossini to move away from the comic operas that had made him famous and to take up more serious subjects better suited to her acting style.  In retrospect, opera lovers owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Colbran for the pressure she exerted on the composer.  She must have been an magnificent singer in her own right.  No better testament exists to the quality of her voice than the incredibly difficult Act I aria Bel raggio lusinghier.

Saturday afternoon's performance featured an excellent cast, one of the best to appear in any Met production this season, all of them fully up to the demands placed on them by Rossini's music.  Angela Meade, in the title role, showed absolute mastery of her material as well as a great deal of endurance over the course of two very long acts.  She was ably supported on Saturday afternoon by Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace, Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur, and Ryan Speedo Green as Oroe.  Javier Camarena was so good as Idreno that one wished the character had been given a larger role.  Maurizio Benini conducted.

The 1990 production by John Copley was excellent in every respect, handsome without being ostentatious, and fluid enough that no long pauses were required between scenes.  Gratitude is certainly due any producer who shows restraint in designing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

There's a shocking backstory to the production in Copley's Wikipedia biography:
"During choir rehearsals for a revival of Copley's 1990 production of Rossini's Semiramide at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Copley coached the singers to show reactions to the appearance of Nino's ghost at the end of act 1. He suggested that he would 'imagine the character naked' which prompted a complaint from a chorister. The Met's manager Peter Gelb then fired Copley, citing a different account of the complaint. Gelb's action has been described as a 'witch hunt' and been widely criticised by other cast members, opera singers and managers."
It should be noted that such scandal, even if as egregious as claimed by Mr. Gelb, did not stop the UK from appointing Copley Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2014.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ensemble Connect Performs Stravinsky and Messiaen

On Tuesday evening, I went to Paul Hall to hear the Ensemble Connect give one of its four annual recitals at that venue.  This was the first time I'd heard the Ensemble this year, however, as its January recital had been indefinitely postponed due to a heavy snowfall.  The group was luckier on this occasion, and the nor'easter that had threatened the East Coast with heavy snow did not in fact arrive until the following day.

The program opened with Stravinsky's Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914, rev. 1918) as performed by Mari Lee and Adelya Nartadjieva, violins, Maren Rothfritz, viola, and Julia Yang, cello.  The three short pieces to which the title refers - Danse, Excentrique and Cantique - were composed only a year after the notorious premiere of Le Sacre du printemps and were in their own way just as revolutionary and iconoclastic as the ballet.  As critic Paul Griffiths has stated:
"Stravinsky’s work, for the first time in the history of the genre, is determinedly not a 'string quartet' but a set of pieces to be played by four strings."
It's obvious from the opening of the first movement that Stravinsky is playing with the expectations of the audience.  Rather than complying with Goethe's description of a string quartet as "four intelligent people conversing among themselves," Danse instead resembles four voices talking inanely to themselves while paying no attention whatsoever to those about them.  Excentrique, whose inspriation Stravinsky is said to have found in the vaudeville routines of an English clown named Little Tich, fully lives up to its name with a series of bizarre musical effects.  Cantique, on the other hand, progresses more smoothly but, its title notwithstanding, it is hardly liturgical in character.  It's worth noting that the titles of the three movements were not given them until 1928 when Stravinsky rearranged them for orchestra in his Quatre études, at which time he also added a fourth movement entitled Madrid.

The next piece was Triskelion (1996), a brass quintet by Bruce Adolphe; it was performed by Nicolee Kuester, French horn, Brian Olson and Brandon Ridenour, trumpets, Oliver Barrett, trombone, and Daniel Schwalbach, bass trombone.  The title of the work is taken from a Greek term defined by Wikipedia as "a motif consisting of a triple spiral exhibiting rotational symmetry."  Though no explanation was provided in the program notes, I would assume the title refers to the symmety of the three movements that make up the piece.  Of these, the second marked "Andante (with a ghostly quality)" is the most interesting and does manage to project, if one listens hard enough, a sense of mystery and otherworldliness.

After intermission, the program concluded with Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps (1940-1941) for piano (Lee Dionne), clarinet (Yoonah Kim), violin (Rebecca Anderson) and cello (Julia Yang).  Without doubt, few pieces of music have so dramatic an origin as this can boast.  Briefly, Messiaen was captured while serving France during World War II and sent to a POW camp in Poland where he became acquainted with three other prisoners who were also musicians.  The composer then wrote a piece in eight movements that the four could perform together.  Messiaen was obviously limited in his choice of available instruments, but Paul Hindemith had previously composed in 1938 a work for the same combination.  The quartet was actually premiered at the camp - outdoors and in the rain - with both prisoners and guards in attendance, all of whom gave it an enthusiastic reception.  There was, unfortunately, a disappointing sequel to this feel-good story.  The guard, Carl-Albert Brüll, who had contrived to give the musicians rehearsal time and later forged documents for their release, traveled to Paris and attempted to meet with Messiaen after the war had ended but was rebuffed and sent away without even having had an opportunity to see the man for whom he had done so much.  Why Messiaen displayed such ingratitude has never been satisfactorily explained.  Whatever the cause, the composer's boorish behavior has always tainted my appreciation of the piece.

Nevertheless, no matter what its history, the Quatuor is an incredible achievement, especially when one takes into account the conditions in which it was conceived.  In it, Messiaen paid his fellow captives the huge compliment of writing for each of them solo parts that would test the skills of any musician.  The entire work revolves around the three movements that feature these solos (with piano accompaniment) - the Abîme des oiseaux for clarinet, the Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus for cello, and the final moving Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus for violin that is really the soul of the work.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Carnegie Hall: Mitsuko Uchida Performs Schubert

On Friday evening I went to Carnegie Hall to hear the great Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida perform the first of two all-Schubert recitals she'll be giving this season.  It was a full evening that featured one early sonata followed by two from a later period.

The program began with Schubert's Piano Sonata in B Major, D. 575 (1817).  Like many of Schubert's works, this piece, written when the composser was only 20 years old, was published posthumously.  Indeed, it might not have been published at all if Schubert's friend Alben Stadler had not made a copy of the autograph, now lost, so that it could be performed by a young Austrian pianist named Josephine von Koller to whom Schubert later dedicated the Piano Sonata in A major, D. 664.  The D. 575 is often regarded as the composer's first "mature" sonata, but what's interesting is that when one looks at the Wikipedia list of Schubert's works for solo piano it becomes immediately apparent that the genre itself was one that he had only recently taken up.  According to this source, the Sonata in E major, D. 157, listed there as No. 1, had been completed only two years earlier in 1815.  Significantly, that work is considered unfinished, leading one to conjecture that the composer had been dissatisfied with it and put it aside.  Over the next two years Schubert then composed no fewer than ten more piano sonatas with the D. 575 listed as No. 11.  It's apparent that Schubert was struggling mightily with the very concept of the sonata, a form that could not very well be ignored by any aspiring composer after Beethoven had carried it to such masterful heights.  While the D. 575 may be considered a turning point, if only because this was the first to be cast in four movements, it still appears awkward in places, particularly in the opening allegro that skips from key to key as if Schubert were unable to make up his mind where he intended to go.  In the end, it is most significant for the glimpse it provides the listener of a great composer at the start of his career struggling to attain the  mastery he displayed in the later sonatas.

The next work was the Piano Sonata in A Minor, D. 845 (1825).  Composed eight years after the D. 575, the D. 845 is a world away in terms of accomplishment.  Here Schubert reveals his mastery of the same form with which he had earlier struggled.  This was the first of the composer's sonatas to be published during his lifetime, an event that led to a reevaluation of his abilities among his contemporaries.  Previously considered only a composer (albeit a great one) of lieder, Schubert was now seen to be an important composer of instrumental music as well.  Although it's always tempting to see in Schubert's late works intimations of his own mortality - he had only three more years to live - there is some basis for it in the present composition.  As in many works from this period, there is a strong sense of melancholy in the theme and variations that make up the second movement.  Even more to the point, the sonata's opening theme quotes Schubert's D. 842, Totengräbers Heimweh ("The Gravedigger's Lament"), whose mournful text by Craigher de Jachelutta would have been depressing enough to anyone, let alone a young man who knew already that his time was limited.

After intermission, the recital concluded with the Piano Sonata in D Major, D. 850 (1825).  This sonata, the second to be published during Schubert's lifetime, was composed while on summer holiday in the spa resort of Gastein, in the company of the well known singer Johann Michael Vogl (which raises the question why Schubert was composing a sonata at all rather than more lieder for his friend to sing).  In contrast to the more introspective D. 845, the D. 850 is so exuberant a work that on hearing it one is easily able to imagine the Alpine splendor surrounding Schubert when he wrote it.  The work was dedicated not to Vogl but to Karl Maria von Bocklet, a close friend and virtuoso pianist who would later premiere both Schubert's piano trios.  No doubt it was the expectation of having his work performed by so talented a musician that led Schubert to make the D. 850 so technically demanding.

I've always thought Ms. Uchida's forte to be the works of Mozart and Schubert, and I was only reinforced in this belief by Friday evening's recital.  She showed complete mastery at the keyboard throughtout her performance, and it's doubtful the audience will soon hear again such impressive interpretations of Schubert's piano works as they encountered here.

Friday, March 2, 2018

NYHS: The Vietnam War 1945-1975

How much impact the current exhibit at the New York Historical Society, The Vietnam War 1945-1975, has on attendees depends, I think, very much on the age of those viewing the display.  For those, like myself, who were in college in the late 1960's and early 1970's the exhibit is a powerful reminder of the tumult that gripped the nation during those years, one that cannot fail to rekindle the anger the war once evoked.

There are not a great many artifacts on view here, and those that are shown are of the simplest - among them a bicycle once used by the North Vietnamese to transport supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail and an American soldier's helmet pierced in several places by bullets from an AK-47.  For the most part, the viewer follows a series of large wall-mounted placards placed in chronological order that detail the history of the conflict (technically, it was never a war as Congress never declared it such) interspersed with archived clips from televised newscasts.  In contrast to the recent World War I exhibit at the Met Museum, there isn't a single major artwork to be found, although there are a few poignant pieces created by Vietnamese artists.  For this reason, the show may seem overly dry and even pedantic to those who weren't born when America became involved in Southeast Asia.  For those who saw the original broadcasts, however, the sight of Walter Cronkite, then the most authoritative figure in American journalism, calling the situation a hopeless stalemate or of Lyndon Johnson announcing the immediate escalation of American troop strength through a higher draft call will have the same chilling effect they possessed a half century ago.  Perhaps the most moving of these clips is that of a mother discussing the death of her son five weeks after he arrived in Vietnam to begin his tour of duty.  The woman is calm and collected, but that only makes it all the more obvious how hard she's struggling not to give way to her emotions.

It was, of course, the bugaboo of Communism that led to American involvement in Vietnam.  The war was actually begun, however, by the French as an attempt to reclaim the old colonies in Southeast Asia that had been occupied by the Japanese in World War II.  The amount of assistance rendered by the US, including the gift of two aircraft carriers, to aid the French in their bid to reintroduce colonialism is staggering.  It was all useless, though, and the French were decisively defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  The rout of the French should have served as a warning to the US, but its lessons were blithely disregarded by successive administrations.  Instead, as relentlessly chronicled at the exhibit, the US made one disastrous decision after another as it became increasingly entangled in the Vietnamese politics until the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 became a pretext for outright military intervention.

The real turning point in Vietnam was the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in 1968.  Although a great deal of space is devoted to this campaign, the exhibit fails to indicate how blindsided and shocked the American public was by the surprise attack.  For years, Americans had been assured that Vietnam was a limited conflict, little more than a police action, in which the overwhelming power of American military might made it only a matter of time until the North Vietnamese were defeated and any lingering resistance mopped up.  The Tet Offensive gave the lie to this assessment and revealed it to be little more than crude propaganda.  As the American public learned they had been systematically lied to regarding North Vietnamese strength of purpose and military ability, the antiwar movement grew dramatically stronger, and the accompanying outrage brought down the Johnson presidency.  Although America would eventually claim several months later to have won the battle, this was where the war was finally lost.

To its credit, the exhibit does not shy away from examining the split in American public opinion engendered by the war.  The growth of the antiwar movement from May 12, 1964 when twelve men burned their draft cards in New York is carefully documented.  Posters, buttons and news articles trace the growing anger that led to the first march, organized by SDS, in Washington on April 17, 1964 to the nationwide October 15, 1969 moratorium.  Attention is given not only to such major political developments as Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 but also to manifestations in popular culture, such as Marvin Gaye's hit song "What's Going On" from that same year.  The backlash against protesters by the establishment and by middle class blue collar workers is also discussed.

In the end, the Vietnam War was a turning point for America.  Never again would its citizens implicitly trust the word of any elected official.  American ideals, accepted fervently for generations, were shown to be hollow promises based in racial inequality and in intolerance for the beliefs of others.  The country has never been the same again.  In a very real sense, the Vietnam War marked the end of America's greatness and the beginning of its decline.

The exhibit continues through April 22, 2018.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Carnegie Hall: Gustavo Dudamel Conducts Symphonie fantastique

On Saturday evening I went to Carnegie Hall to hear a concert I'd been eagerly anticipating all season as Gustavo Dudamel led the Vienna Philharmonic in a performance of works by Mahler and Berlioz.

The program opened with the Adagio from Mahler's unfinished Symphony No. 10.  At the time of his death, Mahler had completed a draft (short score) of the entire symphony but had had time to fully orchestrate only the work's first movement.  Though there were subsequent attempts to reconstruct the entire symphony, most notably by British musicologist Deryck Cooke, any such restoration invariably involved a great deal of guesswork as to the composer's intentions.  While an exellent result might have been achieved, there was no way of knowing if it truly represented the work as initially conceived.  For that reason, many conductors have opted to perform only the Adagio.  But this, of course, is only a fragment that leaves the whole a matter of conjecture.  As such, the movement cannot stand on its own and at best can only hope to convey to the audience something of the dying composer's state of mind, one that in this case might most easily be described as "distraught."  Not only was Mahler faced with his own imminent mortality but he was also tormented by the infidelity of his wife Alma at a time when he needed her most.  No wonder then that the feature that receives the most attention is the symphony's unprecedented use of dissonance, ironically at the same moment the Second Viennese School was embracing atonality.  It's impossible to say whether Mahler would have modified this characteristic if he had regained his health and his wife's affection.  One can only accept the music as the last testament of a troubled genius.

Coincidentally, I am in the midst of reading Jens Malte Fischer's biography that provides a great deal of insight into Mahler's methods of composing and conducting, so it was especially meaningful to hear the detailed manner in which the composer approached what would have been a massive symphonic work (the Adagio alone is a 30 minutes in length). 

After intermission, the program concluded with Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 (1830).  Following Beethoven's Sixth and Ninth Symphonies, this was one of the earliest instances of a composer applying a program to a symphonic work.  Although Liszt was not to coin the term "symphonic poem" for several more years, it's clear that Berlioz had anticipated him in this work even so far as realizing the importance of "thematic transformation" as the initial theme, or idée fixe, based on the protagonist's beloved was to recur in every movement, even if each time in a different form.  Berlioz himself was quite explicit on this point:
"The composer’s intention has been to develop various episodes in the life of an artist, in so far as they lend themselves to musical treatment. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance. The following programme must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression."
The scenes which the music is intended to illustrate are the most melodramatic and lurid imaginable - including a "March to the Scaffold" and a "Witches' Sabbath" - a fact that no doubt is partly responsible for the work's continued popularity. As a depiction of a self-destructive artist enraptured by a beautiful woman, the work is clearly intended as a self-portrait. It is a graphic representation of an opium dream, and it is obvious throughout that Berlioz, besotted at the time with with his love for the actress Harriet Smithson, was under the influence of some strong stimulant while composing it. My own favorite analysis of the music is that provided by Leonard Bernstein as quoted in Wikipedia:
"Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because history suggests Berlioz composed at least a portion of it under the influence of opium. According to Bernstein, 'Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.'"
None of this, however, should distract from the power and innovation displayed in the music itself.  Whatever else may be said about it, Symphonie Fantastique is a truly revolutionary work.  Though Beethoven's symphonies had been written only a few years before, this is in a completely different vein.  It is safe to say nothing like it had ever been composed before, and it had enormous influence on a number of composers who followed.

The performance of Berlioz's work on Saturday evening could only be described as a triumph.  This was a case of a great conductor and a great orchestra working seamlessly together to provide the audience an unparalleled experience.  What struck me most were not the loud dramatic outbursts but the comparatively calm moments when a single instrument would softly carry the music forward. Symphonie Fantastique is an extremely popular work that I've often heard performed often over the years, but never so well as at this concert.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Juilliard415 Performs O'Carolan, Purcell, Handel and Holborne

Last Tuesday afternoon, I went to Holy Trinity Church on Central Park West to hear another of the Juilliard415's recitals of Baroque music performed on period instruments.  This term the ensemble is focused on the music of England and accordingly presented a program of that country's music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though the recital started off with several dance airs by an Irishman.

Turlough O'Carolan was a wandering Irish minstel who composed his own material and then performed it on an Irish harp.  The prominence given this instrument in Irish history dates back to the Middle Ages when minstrel/poets held an exalted place in early Irish history.  The seven selections played here - "Lary Grogan," "D'eala Mairi Iiomsa," ""Mrs. Poer," "Major Shanly," "Carolan's Receipt," "Sarsfield's Lamentation" and "John Nugent" - were all taken from The Hibernian Muse: A Collection of Irish Airs Including the most Favorite Compositions of Carolan, The Celebrated Irish Bard, published c. 1770, and were arranged for flute, violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord.

For the most part, this remainder of the recital concentrated on trio sonatas, that staple of the Baroque repertoire.  Unfortunately, there were few English composers who truly excelled in writing for this genre.  The Trio Sonata in A major by John Blow - here arranged for two violins, cello and harpsichord - was workmanlike but certainly not a masterpiece even after having taken into account that this was his only attempt at writing such a work.  One feels he was trying to master a form with which he did not feel entirely comfortable.  Though a respected composer in his day, Blow is today remembered primarily as the mentor of the younger and much more talented Henry Purcell.  In particular, Blow's masque Venus and Adonis, conisdered by some to have been the first English opera, influenced Purcell in his composition of Dido and Aeneas.

The difference between Blow and Purcell's were immediately apparent in the performance of the latter's Sonata X in D major, Z. 811 from Ten Sonata's in Four Parts (1697), a posthumous collection whose publication was arranged by the composer's widow.  It was performed immediately after the Blow piece and on the same instruments so that it was easy to compare the qualities of each.  While the bulk of Purcell's work, like Blow's, was religious (both had served as organist at Westminster Abbey) Purcell was much more at home with the lively spirit of Italian secular music and eager to share it with his countrymen.  If Blow's sonata seemed more an academic exercise, Purcell's was fully alive and filled with sparkling innovations.  These same qualities could also be heard in the other Purcell piece on the program, his Sonata No. 6 from Sonnatas of III Parts (1683), his first published work that was here arranged for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord even though Purcell had stipulated that both treble instruments should be violins.

There were two trio sonatas by Handel on the program - the Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 2, No. 3, arranged for oboe, violin, bassoon and harpsichord; and the Sonata in F major, Op. 2, No. 4, arranged for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord. Both pieces were written sometime between 1718 and 1722 (though not published until 1733) after Handel had already achieved great initial success in England.  By that time Arcangelo Corelli had made the trio sonata one of the most popular musical forms in Europe and it was inevitable that Handel, who had already met Corelli in Italy, would try his hand at the genre in much the same manner as he modeled his Op. 6 Concerti Grossi after Corelli's.  But Handel's works are not mere imitations.  As one would expect of the Baroque era's greatest opera composer, these sonatas are filled with drama in every movement.

The program ended with selections from a much earlier Elizabethan work, Anthony Holborne's 1599 Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other short Aeirs, here arranged for two violins, two violas, bass violin, violone and harpsichord.  The dances were so imaginatively titled that they're worth listing in full - a pavan ("The Cradle"), a galliard ("The New-Yeeres Gift"), a galliard ("The Fairy-Round"), a pavan ("Paradizo"), an almain ("The Night Watch") and a galliard ("Muy Linda").  They were all extremely enjoyable to hear and provided a lighthearted end to the recital.