New season gets underway

The Society was able to meet for the first time in many months at our normal venue off St Ann Street in Salisbury. Covid arrangements meant we could not offer refreshments unfortunately. Being back in person was good however.

The topic for the evening was the legend of Orpheus and the birth of opera. We tend now to think of opera in terms of major theatrical productions by Verdi, Wagner or Mozart etc replete with arias, an overture and full orchestra. It did not start out that way.

The presenter, Jeremy Barlow, introduced the evening with a discussion of the legend of Orpheus. This is a Greek myth and there are several versions but essentially, his wife, Euridice, is bitten by a snake and descends to Hades. Orpheus descends into Hades in an effort to see her again. Orpheus had been given a Lyre by Apollo and taught him to play which he did so well that few could resist his playing, even animals. Jeremy showed a number of artist’s representation of the myth and how the things like the instrument Orpheus played changed as those like the lyre went out of use.

Opera started he explained with things called intermedio which were short intervals between straight plays. These were put on during special court events in Italy such as feasts and weddings. After around 1600, operas as we now know them really began.

Monteverdi was not the first but is remembered because his music is still performed today. Various extracts from these earlier operas were played. Many composers through history have based their work on this legend.

A most interesting evening and the use of the monitor meant it was a new departure for the Society. Jeremy was able to mix legend with history and weave in musical examples to show the early development of the genre. We will almost certainly be using these methods in future and during lockdown, we were able to use YouTube to great effect.

The next meeting, on 27 September, will be ‘committee member’s choices’. We hope to see some returning members then. The full programme can be read here.



Venice: more than Vivaldi

One might be forgiven for thinking that the only composer of note to emerge from the city state of Venice was Vivaldi.  His Four Seasons is relentlessly played in shops and on Classic FM along with Eine Klein Nachtmusik by MozartLast night, Peter Horwood showed that in fact the Venice school produced a huge range of composers and that the city was a pathbreaker in several musical forms.

He went right back to the fourteenth century with some Gregorian chants and pieces of choral music by Marchettus de Padua, Ave corpus sanctum; Francesco Landini, motet principium nobilissime; and Johannes Ciconia, motet: Venecie Mundi Splendor.  Some of this music was composed for ceremonial purposes, some for religious.

Monteverdi picture: Wikipedia

As the evening went on, it was interesting to see the development of style and the addition of orchestral instruments to the choral works.  The first operas were written here and indeed some composers seem to have composed prodigious numbers of them.  Monteverdi featured and included an extract from one of his operas La Favola d’rfeo and the ritornello, Dal mio Permesso amoto. 

One of the composers who impressed the audience was Tamaso Albinoni and his Concerto No 2 for oboe and strings in D minor from which we heard the enchanting Adagio.  The three movement concerto form which we know so well today was first developed in Venice.

The historical context was also interesting with the observation that as Venice’s economic fortunes declined by contrast, the artistic life flourished.  One wondered if there could be a similar thing going on today …

Venice eventually got conquered by the invasion by Napoleon but even so, musical life went on and the evening finished with a composition by Malipiero (1882 – 1973) Gabrieliana – Allegro vivace.  In modern times, composers have visited the City and composed works there.  These include Wagner, Stravinsky, and Britten.

A superb presentation by Peter and fascinating to see and hear the development of style and composition over seven hundred years.

And not a note of Vivaldi …

Nest meeting of 31 October