Music / The Berkshire Review in Boston

The Boston Early Music Festival 2011: a Preview with Concert Schedules, and about Steffani’s Opera, Niobe, Regina di Tebe

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The Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, with Artistic Co-Directors Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette right of center
The Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, with Artistic Co-Directors Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette right of center

Here are three different guides to BEMF. All should be easily readable on mobile devices.
1. See below for a listing by type of event.
2. Click here for a full schedule by date and time.
3. Click here for a full listing of the Fringe concerts.

There are only a handful of festivals that have a real focus—one powerful enough to generate excitement among the musicians and the audience alike. The Boston Early Music Festival, now in tis 16th year is one of the supreme examples. Early music, which can extend from Ars Antiqua through Beethoven, is notorious among people who haven’t taken the plunge as a dry, scholarly variety of music-making, in which the thin, scrapy sounds of out-of-tune, obsolete instruments appeal mightily to a narrow clique of elderly males with unkempt long hair and beards, and perhaps beads and Birkenstocks, and their unprepossessing consorts. I find it amazing that some people can cling to this notion so far into the maturity of the movement. On the contrary, at the Boston Early Music Festival, you will find enthusiastic musicians and listeners of all ages, some of whom migrated from rock and folk backgrounds, who flock to Boston to learn the latest discovery about a score or an instrument, and to enjoy the sensual pleasure and intellectual stimulation of hearing great music played by the most accomplished players in the field. What festival could justify itself more compellingly that that? All you have to do is go to a concert or two, listen, and observe.

The Boston Early Music Festival is a true festival, since it is a celebration as much as an event. The enthusiasts who flock to Boston every two years have much to celebrate in the pleasure and stimulation their commitment to early music has brought them. I have found that there is a more fluid boundary between performers and listeners in the early music world, as if in returning to historical instruments and performance practices, they have found a way back to the happy days when music lovers were more musically literate and more skilful at playing an instrument. And how many music festivals are there that are attended as eagerly by musicians as by listeners? Hence the vitality of the Exhibition, which the organizers themselves call the heart of the festival, where the best makers of period instruments, schools of music, performers, publishers, specialist associations, recording companies, as well as dealers in rare books, prints, and manuscripts. “These specialists will be on hand to give demonstration recitals, host workshops and panel discussions, and share details of their work with attendees.” Many fringe events, concerts, demonstrations, and master classes take place in the meeting rooms surrounding the exhibition space, so that the visitor is never far from live music. The BEMF Fringe is vast in itself, replete with superior learning and talent from the best early music programs in North America and beyond, as well as senior participants in the main festival who have chosen to present their programs in a more informal setting. In 2009, I found I regretted not keeping more time free for the Fringe.

Luca Guglielmi
Luca Guglielmi

This mixture of different resources creates an atmosphere of experimentation and learning, beyond the mere passive enjoyment of music, especially in the mini-festivals within the festival, usually devoted to keyboard instruments and the organ, which bridge the gap between the fringe and the formal concerts. Major musicians participate in these, but the experimental spirit is at its height here, as figures like the great William Porter and Peter Sykes present the latest results of their studies to colleagues, students, and the general public. I found these to be among the most enjoyable events in the 2009 BEMF, not only because of  William Porter’s noble playing of a magnificent harpsichord suite, Uranie, from Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer’s Musicalischer Parnassus and Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D Major, but equally because of the fortepiano free-for-all in which Andrew Willis played Bach solo concerti on David Sutherland’s replica of a Ferrini instrument of ca. 1735. Mr. Willis would have been able to regale us with his spontaneous, energetic playing without distraction, if there had not been a downpour on an already extremely humid day, and it proved almost impossible to keep the instrument in tune. The tuner and the instrument finally reached an tolerable compromise and the concert could proceed—to everyone’s delight. Sykes and Porter will be on hand this year, as well as Kristian Bezuidenhout, who is one of the mainstays of BEMF in any case, as well as Luca Guglielmi, who also made a major contribution to the 2009 festival. His sensitive and characterful playing on a variety of instruments made as much of an impression on me as that of Dr. Willis, and I am eagerly looking forward to hearing him again.

This continuity contributes as much to the biennial festival as its variety. While the artistic directors, Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs continue on year after year, along with Mr. Bezuidenhout and the others, many of the brilliant groups who appeared in 2009 have been rotated with another crop, some of which are new to me, and others as familiar as old friends, Jordi Savall, the Tallis Scholars, and the King’s Singers.

This should make for an experience every bit as rich as the last festival, which was remarkable inasmuch as absolutely every concert was consistently on the highest level. There were no disappointments, not the elegant Ensemble Zefiro, who played Venetian music for winds, or the rumbustious Micrologos, who specialize in music of the fifteenth century and earlier, or Pierre Hantaï and his brothers who brought their robust and stylish musicianship to the music of Bach and his French contemporaries. Pieter Wispelwey and Kristian Bezuidenhout gave an unforgettable reading of Beethoven’s Opus 5 Cello Sonatas, so vivid and seemingly spontaneous as to approach eccentricity, but only in the most stimulating way. The program, Les Esprits Inséparables, featuring Erin Headley and Anne-Marie Lasla, violas da gamba, accompanied by Kristian Bezuidenhout, harpsichord, was profoundly moving, not only as a celebration of a musical friendship, but for deeply felt music-making which permeated every bar. Stile Antico, a British vocal group that has recently become rather well known over here through their extensive touring, also excelled in a program of Renaissance settings of the Song of Songs. And there was much more.

At this point, however, you will be more interested in what to expect this June. The 2011 Festival is entitled, Metamorphoses: Change and Transformation. The festivals customarily take their themes from the operas which form the centerpiece of each iteration. In 2009 it was the power of Love, magnificently developed from different angles by Monteverdi and Busenello in L’Incoronazione di Poppea. This year the theme will emerge from the subject of Agostino Steffani’s Niobe, Regina di Tebe, the story Ovid tells in his Metamorphoses (VI. 145-312) about the queen of Thebes, who had seven sons and seven daughters (in other versions six or ten). In her pride, she boasted that she was superior to the goddess Leto, who had only two children, Apollo and Artemis, who dutilfully slew all of Niobe’s boys and girls. The bereft mother wept for days and neglected to eat, until she was finally turned into a stone on Mt. Sipylos, from which her tears continued to pour, as an ever-flowing stream.

Of course the plot Luigi Orlandi devised for Steffani’s Munich court production for the 1688 Carnival is a good deal more elaborate than that, introducing an impressive crew of innocent parties and evil-doers. Orlandi bent the plot around the cares and perils of princely power, and Niobe becomes a rather dangerous machinatrix, who tries to deify her cuckolded husband Amphion, while installing her lover in his place. Most of the principals are at one point or other severely struck by delusion, either self-engendered or magically created. Her insult to Leto is only the last in a series of outrageous deeds. Hence the story is fraught with themes of passion and delusion. (You will want to peruse it in advance. Here is a link to Gilbert Blin’s and Ellen Hargis’ synopsis.)

Agostino Steffani (Castelfranco 1654 – Frankfurt 1728)  and his music have been known mainly to a small group of specialists until quite recently, but the publication of scores and monographs over the past twenty-five years or so have gradually brought him to wider attention, and the enthusiastically received 2008 Schwetzingen Festival production of Niobe, which came to the Royal Opera House, London just last fall has brought Steffani further into the spotlight. According to what I’ve read, heard, and seen (thanks to YouTube) suggests that a magnificent production of a spectacular opera, rich in display, drama, dance, and expressive vocal writing, in in store for us in Boston. The Schwetzingen production was semi-contemporary in design and perhaps slightly ironic in its approach to baroque dramaturgy. BEMF will, of course offer a full historical treatment, in décor, costume, dance, and music.

Steffani (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable), a slightly older contemporary of Henry Purcell (1659-1695), was an extraordinary and fascinating individual. Alfred Einstein said that he was “obviously the greatest Italian composer between Carissimi and Scarlatti.” In his musical biography of Steffani, Colin Timms added that one might substitute Handel for Scarlatti, extending his eminence into the following generation, through the mid-eighteenth century, in fact. It is entirely appropriate to associate Steffani and Handel, since the first thing that will strike the newcomer to Steffani’s music is his influence on Handel, who also “borrowed” liberally from his scores, as did other prominent composers of the time. Steffani, however, was more than a musician and composer; he was a churchman, ordained in 1680 at the age of twenty-six and elected Bishop of Spiga in partibus infidelium (ancient Cyzicus on the Sea of Marmara) in 1706, and Apostolic Vicar of northern Germany in 1709, the acme of his ecclestiastical career. His appointments were hardly sinecures: they entailed serious responsabilities and hard work. He was also employed as a diplomat both by the Church and by the secular rulers who employed him. This he also took very seriously and he was entrusted with missions of the highest importance. During periods of his life lasting several years, he neglected music entirely for his other occupations.

Steffani was taken from his native Castelfranco to Munich at age thirteen, in July 1667, by the Elector Ferdinand Maria of Bavaria, presumably because of his early signs of excellence as a singer. He remained there for the next twenty-one years, except for two years studying composition in Rome with Ercole Bernabei, maestro di cappella at St. Peter’s. In 1674 both pupil and master returned to Munich, where Bernabei was appointed Kapellmeister, replacing J. C. Kerll, with whom Steffani had studied earlier. After the Elector’s death, his son and successor, Maximilian II Emanuel, advanced Steffani even more actively. Steffani assumed a new post created especially for him, and he composed his first opera in 1681. Niobe (1688) was his fifth, last, and greatest opera for Munich, which he left that year to serve Duke Ernst August of Hanover, presumably because he saw that he had reached his ceiling in Munich. In Hanover he found a magnificent new theater and a concentration of top Italian singers and musicians, including Farinelli, all the creation of the Duke, who made it into one of the great opera companies of Europe during its brief eight years of existence. At this time, Steffani’s diplomatic work came to the fore, and in 1703 he moved on to Düsseldorf, where he became almost inactive as a musician. Two of the three operas he composed there were pastiches of earlier work. On the other hand, he was appointed to high political offices, general president of the Palatine Government and  first rector magnificus and then a curator of Heidelberg University. As I have mentioned, his ecclesiastical career peaked between 1706 and 1709. As Apostolic Vicar he based himself in Hanover, where he spent the rest of his life, except for an attempted retirement to Padua between 1722 and 1725, from which Rome called him back to Hanover. In spite of his many honorific offices, he fell into financial hardship in his later years and was forced to sell off possessions to survive.

Beginning in 1720, Steffani became involved in music again through correspondence with musicians in London. There was a unrealized attempt to stage one of his operas, and he was elected President of the Academy of Vocal Music (the earlier name of the Academy of Ancient Music). He sent them copies of old and new compositions, including his Stabat Mater which he described as his last and greatest work, finished in January 1728, the year of his death. It was not uncommon for artists to be employed as diplomats, but the extent of Steffani’s employment in diplomacy and politics, both secular and ecclesiastical, is extraordinary. Curiously, he wS the sort of artist many people have wanted Shakespeare to be, even to the point of transforming him into somebody else…but more of that another time.

BEMF is always exciting, but the opportunity to see this major work by an important, underperformed master makes this a special Festival…as if this weren’t business as usual for this admirable institution. The cast will include many of the superb singers who have done such distinguished work at the Festival in the past and in the chamber operas: Amanda Forsythe, Yulia van Doren, and Matthew White among them. The brilliant young countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, will join them as Amfione. Gilbert Blin directed and designed the production and Anna Watkins designed the costumes. The BEMF Orchestra will be led by Stephen Stubbs and Paul O’Dette.

Steffani’s best-known body of work is his series of vocal duets, treasured for their lyrical line and feeling for language and the capabilities of the human voice. It would have been perverse to neglect these at the Festival, even though they are more familiar than Steffani’s operas. Fortunately the traditional Saturday late-night concert (11 pm) by the instrumental group Tragicomedia will be devoted to vocal duets by Steffani and his musical “heir,” Handel, sung by a distinguished group of BEMF regulars: Ellen Hargis & Mireille Asselin, soprano, Matthew White, countertenor, Jason McStoots, tenor, Douglas Williams, bass-baritone.

Messrs. White and McStoots will also appear in Handel’s early masterpiece, Acis and Galatea, in its 1718 version, which has been such a success in BEMF’s chamber opera program. Click here for my review of its first set of performances in 2009. I’ll be very much looking forward to seeing how the production has developed over time. Especially with Steffani’s Niobe fresh in mind, I expect to hear Handel’s music rather differently. The parallels between the two operas, for that matter, are almost too good to be true. Like Niobe, Acis and Galatea was drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (XIII.740-897). Polyphemus, Acis’ unwelcome rival for the affection of Galatea, kills the young man with a boulder. The grief-stricken Galatea transforms her lover’s corpse into an eternally flowing stream. (Like the main opera production, the chamber opera will also be performed at the Mahaiwe Center in Great Barrington.)

Through the rest of the festival, it seems, the theme will be followed either through the idea of transformation and change—which could also mean stylistic change in music—or through the ongoing presence of Ovid and his influence. For example Luca Guglielmi will play a program exploring themes from the Metamorphoses, including music by François and Louis Couperin, Buxtehude, J. S. Bach, and others. The medieval  Roman de Fauvel, on the other hand, involves not so much a metamorphosis as a reversal of roles. A horse decides to move into his master’s best room and proceeds to take over the world from there.

A listing of the the various programs follows, beginning with the concerts, then the mini-festivals, and finally the lectures, discussions, and master classes. The lightly edited texts from BEMF’s program will give you an idea of the many variations of metamorphosis and change the organizers have managed to weave together.

Trio Settecento
Trio Settecento


Les Voix Baroques
Stephen Stubbs, director
Canticum Canticorum—The Song of Songs
Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Yulia Van Doren & Catherine Webster, soprano; Matthew White, countertenor; Colin Balzer & Sumner Thompson, tenor; Douglas Williams, bass-baritone; Maxine Eilander, Baroque harp; Miloš Valent, Peter Spissky & Dagmar Valentová, violin; Erin Headley, viola da gamba; Jörg Jacobi, harpsichord

I have already mentioned Stile Antico’s concert devoted to the Song of Songs which made such an impression at the 2009 Festival. The Song of Songs is back again, as popular with the Festival participants and audience as it was in Middle Ages and the Renaissance. For centuries, the poetic and amorous scenes of The Song of Songs have influenced writers of all kinds. Taking advantage of its sensual and imagistic richness, many composers have set selections from this beautiful text to music, and as Lino Bianchi wrote of Palestrina, have “been able to capture in the heart of sound the transcendent emotions of the most arcane theology. ”In this sensual and textured program, Les Voix Baroques and director Stephen Stubbs offer some of the most expressive of these settings. Founded by countertenor Matthew White, Les Voix Baroques has won acclaim around the world for their “poetic and expressive” musicianship. (Gramophone)

The King’s Singers
Triumphs—Renaissance Conquests in Love and War
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 8pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

David Hurley & Timothy Wayne-Wright, countertenor; Paul Phoenix, tenor; Philip Lawson & Christopher Gabbitas, baritone; Jonathan Howard, bass

One of the world’s most celebrated vocal groups, with a discography of over 150 recordings to their credit, The King’s Singers make their long-awaited début at the Boston Early Music Festival. This Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble will present a program of madrigals from Italy, England, and France, exploring themes ranging from lofty ideals of courtly love to the human drama on the streets of Paris. The King’s Singers are consummate entertainers—a class act with a delightfully British wit.

Luca Guglielmi, harpsichord
Ovid’s Harpsichord: Cembalo Metamorphosis
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 11:15pm
Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury Street, Boston, MA)

Following his superlative appearance at the 2009 Festival, harpsichordist, organist, composer, and conductor Luca Guglielmi returns to the BEMF concert stage for his North American harpsichord recital début, in a program exploring themes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, including music by François and Louis Couperin, Buxtehude, J. S. Bach, and other Baroque masters

Ensemble Lucidarium
Avery Gosfield and Francis Biggi, directors
Ninfale—Ovid, poetry and music in Italy at the end of the Middle Ages
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 5pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Gloria Moretti & Marie Pierre Duceau, voice; Avery Gosfield, recorder, pipe & tabor; Marco Ferrari, recorder & double flute; Francis Biggi, lute & cetra; Bettina Ruchti, vielle & lyra da braccio; Massimiliano Dragoni, percussion & hammer dulcimer

Ovid played an important role in the European cultural universe of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; his influence can be found in the mythological and metaphorical themes that abound in the poesia per musica of late medieval Italy. Making their BEMF début with this engaging program, the musicians of Ensemble Lucidarium have earned high praise for their energetic and vivacious performances around the world.

Boston Camerata
Anne Azéma, director
The Morphing Beast: Le Roman de Fauvel—A medieval fable in poetry and music
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 5pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Anne Azéma, Fortune; Michael Collver, Fauvel; Joel Cohen, narrator; Michael Barrett, Vain Glory; Shira Kammen, vielle & harp; Steven Lundahl, sackbut, recorder & harp

Founded in 1954, The Boston Camerata is one of the most storied early music ensembles in the world. The Camerata returns to the Festival stage with an entertainment like no other, as they perform the acerbic and witty medieval satire, Le Roman de Fauvel. The metamorphosing horse Fauvel is the protagonist of an acerbic and witty fable, satirizing religious and political life in fourteenth century France, and laden with implications for contemporary society. The semi-staged production offers a generous selection of music and text from one of the most famous of all medieval manuscripts.
Adapted from the manuscript Fr. 146 of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski, directors
Stile Moderno: The New Science of Music In Italy
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 11:15pm
Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury Street, Boston, MA)

Robert Mealy & Julie Andrijeski, violin; David Morris, violoncello;
Greg Ingles, sackbut; Avi Stein, harpsichord & organ; Charles Weaver, theorbo

In their BEMF début, Quicksilver offers a thrilling glimpse at the imagination and invention of “new music” from 17th-century Italy, a transformative moment in Western cultural history. From technologies to the economy to science, a modern world was emerging, and people were becoming aware of larger perspectives and new ways of regarding that world. Quicksilver’s concert will feature vivid and unexpected music—written in this climate of incredible social and scientific transformation—by Dario Castello, G. B. Fontana, Marco Uccellini, and others.

Jordi Savall, treble viols
with guest artists Paul O’Dette, lute and Shane Shanahan, percussion
The Celtic Viol – An Homage to Irish and Scottish Musical Traditions
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 5pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Early music pioneer and superstar Jordi Savall makes his first appearance at the Boston summer Festival in twelve years as he reveals the hidden beauties of Irish and Scottish music from the 17th and 18th centuries. In a program ranging from irresistibly vivid and virtuosic viol music, to more melancholic works, this not-to-be-missed BEMF appearance combines three of the brightest stars on the concert stage today!

Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra & Soloists
Robert Mealy, director
Kristian Bezuidenhout, harpsichord
The Orchestra at Play: Festive concertos, suites, and sinfonias by Bach, Handel, Corelli, and Vivaldi
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 8pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

The players of the Grammy-nominated Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra bring their collective talents together to put the festive in Festival! Directed by the distinguished violinist Robert Mealy, the virtuoso strings, winds, and brass of the Festival Orchestra rejoice in brilliant concerti grossi and rarely heard sinfonias by Corelli, Vivaldi, Handel, and J.S.Bach. This concert—which will include solo turns by many of the BEMF Orchestra stars and a special guest appearance by the renowned Kristian Bezuidenhout—always sells out, so order your tickets today!

Paul O’Dette, lute
Divinamente Suonava: The Divine Lute of Marco dall’Aquila
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

The expressive lyricism and emotions of the music of Marco dall’Aquila will transport you to early 16th-century Italy. Marco was a composer of remarkable individuality and creativity, as well as a pivotal figure in the lute’s transition from the late medieval styles to the mature Renaissance idiom. By popular demand, BEMF Artistic Co-Director and world-renowned lutenist Paul O’Dette recreates this moving program originally presented as a benefit concert in the composer’s earthquake-ravaged hometown of L’Aquila.

Trio Settecento
with guest artist Robert Mealy, violin
The Alchemical Violin: Works by Muffat, Veracini, J.S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, and J. G. Pisendel
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 5pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Rachel Barton Pine, violin; John Mark Rozendaal, violoncello;
David Schrader, harpsichord

Trio Settecento, headlined by violin virtuosa Rachel Barton Pine, performs a program exploring the violin as a vehicle of metamorphosis. The music this instrument produces transforms listeners, and skilled players are themselves transformed by long periods of study, travel, or by bargaining with the devil. Hear masterpieces by violinist composers associated with Germanic court cities famous for their alchemical cultures, namely Prague (Muffat) and Dresden (J. S. Bach, Pisendel, andVeracini).

The Tallis Scholars
Peter Phillips, director
The Genius of Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548—1611)
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Janet Coxwell, Amy Haworth, Alice Gribbin & Deborah Roberts, soprano; Ruth Massey &Tim Travers-Brown, alto; Christopher Watson & Alastair Putt, tenor; Stephen Charlesworth & Julian Walker, bass

A beloved fixture of BEMF’s annual concert series, The Tallis Scholars return to the summer Festival to honor the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest Renaissance composers, Tomás Luis de Victoria. Part of a year of celebrations by this outstanding vocal ensemble, the program showcases the intensely spiritual and unforgettably individual voice of the Spanish master, including his O magnum mysterium, Lamentations for Holy Friday II, Salve Regina a 8, and more.

Solamente Naturali
Miloš Valent, director
Baroque Fiddlers from Moravia, Slovakia, England, and Scotland
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:15pm
Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury Street, Boston, MA)

Miloš Valent & Peter Spissky, violin; Dagmar Valentová, viola; Phoebe Carrai, violoncello; Stephen Stubbs, Baroque guitar & theorbo; Avi Stein, harpsichord

They’re back! Following their unforgettable 2005 BEMF début, the dynamic and engaging musicians of Solamente Naturali Bratislava spotlight the fusion of Baroque music and folk traditions of the European fiddlers, in this special encore performance. Learned research informs extravagant performances that will transform the concert stage into Slovak mountains, English pubs, Moravian forests, and Romani villages.

Kristian Bezuidenhout 2010. Photo Marco Borggreve.
Kristian Bezuidenhout 2010. Photo Marco Borggreve.

Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano
with members of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Mozart at 29: Piano Quartets, K. 478 and K. 493
Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 2:30pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Petra Müllejans, violin; Gottfried von der Goltz, viola; Kristin von der Goltz, violoncello

Audience favorite Kristian Bezuidenhout is joined by members of the extraordinary Freiburg Baroque Orchestra for a concert featuring some of Mozart’s most brilliant and challenging chamber works. In 1785, the then 29-year-old Mozart received a commission for a set of three piano quartets by the Viennese publisher Hoffmeister. Upon receiving the first quartet, Hoffmeister immediately released Mozart from his contract, complaining that the piece would scare off amateur music-makers with its fierce technical and musical demands. Despite this, Mozart completed a second quartet—the only two piano quartets he would ever write. This is a rare opportunity to hear these groundbreaking pieces, at turns virtuosic and intensely lyrical, performed by four of the most accomplished players in the world.

Tragicomedia and Friends
Stephen Stubbs, director
Fioratura: The vocal chamber duets of Steffani and Handel
Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 11pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

Stephen Stubbs, director, chitarrone & Baroque guitar; Erin Headley, viola da gamba; Paul O’Dette, theorbo & Baroque guitar; Maxine Eilander, Baroque harp; Kristian Bezuidenhout, harpsichord; Ellen Hargis & Mireille Asselin, soprano; Matthew White, countertenor; Jason McStoots, tenor; Douglas Williams, bass-baritone

A Saturday-night institution at the Festival, Tragicomedia returns for another must-see late-night concert! Near the end of the 17th century there was a sudden flourishing of the vocal chamber duet in the courts of Italy and Germany, led in large part by Agostino Steffani. Featuring the sparkling “fioratura” of the “virtuosi da camera” at those courts, it grew up in parallel to the instrumental trio sonata of Corelli and others. As a young man, Handel mastered Steffani’s style in the chamber duet for use in his own magnificent contributions to the genre. This program explores that connection and metamorphosis.

with Paul O’Dette, lute
The Instrumental Music of Ottaviano Petrucci, Venice, 1501—1508
Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 12:30pm
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA)

The Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci was the first man in history to perfect a method for printing polyphonic music, both in staff notation and in lute tablature. Between 1498 and 1509, he printed and reprinted no fewer than 39 collections that now provide a magnificent overview of the genres and composers popular in the early 16th century. What is surprising—and also the theme of this program—is the fact that no fewer than seven of his collections were intended to be played on instruments. Mezzaluna was born out of many years of research and cooperation between the Belgian recorder player Peter van Heyghen and the English recorder maker Adrian Brown. In their BEMF début, these gifted musicians, together with lute virtuoso Paul O’Dette, present a program of Italian dances and Flemish polyphony from these landmark collections.

Ottaviano Petrucci, Harmonice Musices Odhecaton
Ottaviano Petrucci, Harmonice Musices Odhecaton


William Porter, director

PART ONE | 9:30am-12 noon
9:30am–10:45am: James David Christie

Sweelinck and his Students
A brief introduction to the extraordinary mean-tone organ at Wellesley College by Claire Fontijn (Barbara Morris Caspersen Associate Professor of the Humanities and Associate Professor of Music, Wellesley College) will precede Mr. Christie’s performance.

James David Christie illuminates the transition from the late Renaissance to the early Baroque, with organ works of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and his star students: Samuel Scheidt, Melchior Schildt, Heinrich Scheidemann, and Jacob Praetorius. To illustrate the Festival’s theme, Mr. Christie’s program will include several works originally composed for the voice and later intabulated for the organ, such as the Sweelinck and Scheidemann organ settings of John Dowland’s Pavana Lacrymae.

Thursday, June 16 at 9:30am
Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College (106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA)
10:45am–12 noon:
Luca Guglielmi
Iter Bachianum—From Sweelinck to Bach through Frescobaldi, Buxtehude, and other famous pupils

Luca Guglielmi takes a break from the Niobe Orchestra pit to present a program selected for Wellesley’s mean-tone organ, with works by Sweelinck, Scheidt, Scheidemann, Frescobaldi, Froberger, Weckman, Tunder, Buxtehude, Pasquini, Bruhns, Casini, Zipoli, and J. S.Bach.

William Porter, organ

The Great “Leipzig” Chorales of J.S. Bach
Thursday, June 16 at 2pm
The First Lutheran Church of Boston (299 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA)

William Porter returns to the BEMF concert stage by popular demand, in a monumental performance of all seventeen Leipzig Chorales, BWV 651–667. Rarely heard in one sitting, this complete set of large-scale chorale preludes represents the summit of Bach’s sacred organ music.


directed by Peter Sykes

The Keyboard as a Catalyst for Change and Transformation

Friday, June 17
First Church in Boston
PART ONE | 9am-11am
The Harpsichord
Peter Sykes & Luca Guglielmi

One of the most distinguished keyboard artists performing today, Peter Sykes will present, among other works, a keyboard transcription by J. S. Bach of a trio sonata from Reinken’s Hortus Musicus. Bach took a piece for two violins and continuo and turned it into a convincing keyboard work: he retained the form of the dance movements, but completely reworked the fugal movement, transforming it into something only Bach could have written.

Luca Guglielmi’s contribution to the Keyboard Mini-Festival is entitled Harpsichord: “…appropriato al Cembalo”—Bach and Handel Arrangements. One of the most versatile and busiest artists of the entire week, Mr. Guglielmi will perform J. S. Bach’s arrangements of concerti by Vivaldi and Marcello, and of Bach’s own violin sonatas and violoncello suites, along with a keyboard arrangement by Handel of one of his own concerti.
PART TWO | 11:30am-1:30pm
The Fortepiano
Christoph Hammer & Kristian Bezuidenhout

Christoph Hammer, historical keyboard specialist at the University of North Texas, has achieved an international reputation as a keyboard soloist and Lied accompanist as well as in chamber music. For this BEMF début, Mr. Hammer’s program, Ciarlattani—Mozart in competition, focuses on Mozart’s competition with Muzio Clementi on December 24, 1781, in Vienna, and with Ignaz von Beecke in 1775 in Munich.
Kristian Bezuidenhout’s presentation is entitled Dynamics and Articulation in Mozart: strategies for extrapolation. A study of Mozart’s keyboard music reveals a level of attention to detail concerning articulation and dynamics rarely matched by any of his contemporaries, especially when preparing works for publication. Mr. Bezuidenhout examines differences between the autograph manuscripts, first editions, and contemporary arrangements of some of Mozart’s best-loved works for piano to devise strategies for tasteful articulation and phrasing. He will be performing numerous examples from the solo, concerto, and chamber music literature.

PART THREE | 2pm-4pm
The Clavichord
Michael Tsalka & Miklós Mikael Spányi

Michael Tsalka, born in Tel Aviv, Israel, has established an international reputation as an early keyboard specialist as well as a concert pianist; he is also a committed educator. His BEMF début program, From Cabezón to Mozart: Fantasies and Variations, will include tientos by Cabezón, variations by Sweelinck and Froberger, fantasies by C.P.E.Bach,the Aria variata by J.S.Bach, and two sets of variations by Mozart.
Hungarian-born Miklós Mikael Spányi concludes the Second BEMF Keyboard Mini-Festival with a colorful début program for clavichord, including transcriptions, variations, and transformations of works by C. P. E. Bach, Beethoven, and J. S. Bach, including two fugues and two canons from the Art of Fugue. Currently on the faculty at the Oulu Conservatoire and the Sibelius Academy in Finland, Mr. Spányi is widely considered one of the world’s most knowledgeable and accomplished C. P. E.Bach scholars and performers.


At every Festival, BEMF gathers performers, scholars, and industry professionals from around the world to discuss issues pertinent to the field of Baroque opera and early music, encouraging lively debates on topics ranging from staging Baroque operas in modern times, to developing the early music audience in North America, and current trends in instrument building.

Included with your Festival Pass is access to an enlightening series of lectures, panels, and symposia bringing together performers, scholars, and industry professionals from around the world. Join in these lively debates on a range of topics from staging Baroque opera in modern day, developing early music audiences in North America, and current trends in instrument building.

Wednesday, June 15 at 9am | Exeter Room, Radisson Hotel
Part One: Silver Kettles, Donkey Skins, Snares, and Trumpet Bells: Timpani Construction through the 19th century
The focus of this first of two presentations by Ben Harms, BEMF Orchestra percussionist and well respected maker of historical percussion, will be on: the bowls (chiefly wood, copper, brass, and silver); their various shapes and how they are formed; the skins (chiefly calf, donkey, and goat); and the early use of snares. This session will also explore the Schalltrichter, a piece of formed metal often in the shape of a trumpet bell, which was soldered into the interior of the timpani bowl; materials and shapes of timpani mallets will also be discussed.

Thursday, June 16 at 9am | Exeter Room, Radisson Hotel
Part Two: The Secret Art of Embellishment and Improvisation
Of all the instrumentalists, only timpanists and trumpeters were granted the privilege of forming a Guild which allowed them to maintain various trade secrets which they then passed on orally to a limited number of apprentices. Using the few written examples surviving from the period, iconographical evidence, and some 19th-century sources, Ben Harms believes he has discovered the basics of the art of virtuoso Baroque timpani playing. This session will be illustrated by the performance of numerous examples, including improvised variations on the theme found in Altenburg’s book on timpani and trumpet playing (1770/1795), and a set of variations on“La Folia” for four timpani.

Friday, June 17 at 9am | Exeter Room, Radisson Hotel
Authenticity and period instrument making in the 21st century
Benjamin Hebbert, head of Stringed Musical Instrument Making at West Dean College, U.K., explores some of the problems that instrument making has inherited from the beginning of the early music movement, when pioneers such as Dolmetsch and Montague-Cleeve envisioned instruments of the past as being inadequate to the rigors of sustained use, and blaming their faults as the culprit behind the loss of great traditions of instrumental music from the past. With a special emphasis on the English viol making tradition, a reassessment of surviving instruments offers substantial insights into the way that a type of instrument works and responds musically.
Friday, June 17 at 9am | Stuart Street Playhouse, Radisson Hotel

Handel’s Acis and Galatea: His musical and poetic circle at Cannons
An international panel of experts has been assembled for this discussion of Handel’s most popular dramatic work, including distinguished scholars Ellen T. Harris (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and James Winn (Boston University), and members of the Acis and Galatea artistic team Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, Musical Directors; Gilbert Blin, Stage Director; and Anna Watkins, Costume Designer.
Saturday, June 18 at 10am
Stuart Street Playhouse, Radisson Hotel

Producing and Performing Steffani’s Niobe, Regina di Tebe: Italian opera for a Francophile German court
For this engaging conversation about how and why the decision to mount the North American premiere of Steffani’s Niobe evolved, as well as some of the challenges faced and choices made, our international panel of experts includes distinguished scholars Ellen T. Harris (MIT) and Colin Timms (University of Birmingham, U.K.), and members of the Niobe artistic team Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, Musical Directors; Gilbert Blin, Stage Director and Set Designer; Anna Watkins, Costume Designer; and Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante, Choreographers.

An assortment of Performance Masterclasses by distinguished Festival musicians will be offered throughout the week. BEMF Masterclasses allow students, as well as professional musicians, to receive a public coaching by some of the top performers in the field today. Interested students are asked to complete and submit the Masterclass Application Form along with an audition CD; a $50 registration fee will be due should you be chosen to perform. Auditors are encouraged to attend; admission is FREE with a BEMF Pass. For more information on participating in a masterclass at the 2011 Festival, please contact Carla Chrisfield, General Manager, by email at, or by calling the BEMF office at 617-661-1812.

Phoebe Carrai
Wednesday, June 15 at 2pm-4pm

Erin Headley and Christel Thielmann
viola da gamba
Thursday, June 16 at 11am-1pm
Presented in collaboration with the Viola da Gamba Society of America. Please visit for scholarship details.

Gonzalo X. Ruiz
Baroque oboe
Thursday, June 16 at 2pm-4pm

Cynthia Roberts
Friday, June 17 at 12:30pm-2:30pm

Ellen Hargis, Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs
17th-century accompanied solo song
Friday, June 17 at 2:30pm-4:30pm

William Porter
Saturday, June 18 at 10am-12 noon

Peter Van Heyghen
Saturday, June 18 at 12 noon-2pm
Presented in collaboration with the American Recorder Society



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