The Vivaldi Gloria, Alice Cooper, Igor Stravinsky & 50 ElephantsSunday, December 03, 2017
|Monica Huggett del violino|
On December 23, 2017 at 7:30PM (Pre-concert talk at 6:45PM) at the Chan Shun Concert Hall at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Early Music Vancouver will be presenting an all woman's orchestra, choir and soloists in a program of festive cantatas featuring the Vivaldi Gloria RV 589 and Magnificat RV 610 and more. Details
Not all the women performing on the 23 are represented here. I have posted only those that I have managed to photograph.
In 1971 my students at a high school in Mexico City where I was teaching asked me, “Mr. Hayward have you heard Alice Cooper?” My answer, “Who is she?” doomed me. We made an agreement that they would listen to my music and I would listen to theirs. Thanks to them I discovered The Allman Brothers Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
I took them to a concert in a baroque church that had been converted to a museum. On the program was Vivaldi’s Gloria in D major, RV 589. There was a sudden big lightning flash with a loud thunder and the lights went out. The Italian director told us to wait as the music would continue. From a nearby restaurant waiters brought candles. The flickering of the light on the Churrigueresque altar was magical.. I believe my students may have added Vivaldi to my students' play list.
My adventure with Vivaldi’s more famous Gloria (I also have his Gloria in D major,RV 588), began a few months before when I purchased an Acoustic Research amplifier and AR-3A speakers and turntable. My second record after Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (very important to hear the beginning low notes of the organ) was a Turnabout TVS-34029 Vivaldi Gloria.
Henceforth the Gloria became part of our family Christmas Eve dinner routine. This 23 my wife, our two daughterr, one granddaughter and I will be sitting all in a row at the Chan!
Most important my introduction to live baroque music with period instruments happened in 1996. My wife, two daughters and I went to Ryerson United Church in Kerrisdale for a Pacific Baroque Orchestra (directed my Marc Destrubé) that featured the Gloria. What made this most special is that the chorus, was the all female Elektra Women’s Choir. The soloist were the red-haired sisters Caitlin (Alto) and Phoebe MacRae.
|Caitlin & Phoebe MacRae|
In 1985 I read [Gore] Vidal in Venice and this stopped me:
Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, which was behind today’s Pietà Church was not a hospital, but a hostel for orphaned girls. In other cities, these church-run institutions, sponsored by the government, were also called conservatori, which meant poorhouse or orphanage, and which gave us the term ‘music conservatory’. It was there that Vivaldi tried out his new compositions on his captive choir. Since one of his several hundred works is today, if not a jukebox hit, at least a standard Muzak favourite – The Four Seasons – it seems appropriate that probably the first audience to hear it in rehearsal was that of the young orphan girls.
|Cassie Webster - soprano|
Charles de Brosses, who was president of the Burgundy Parliament, visited Venice in 1739. His description of the Piet orphanage is dated two years before Vivaldi’s death:
The girls are educated and maintained at the expense of the State, and their sole training is to excel in music. Thus they sing like angels, and play the violin, flute, organ, oboe, violoncello, and bassoon – in fact there is no instrument so big as to intimidate them. They are cloistered like nuns. They perform without outside help, and at each concert forty girls take part. I swear there is nothing prettier in the world than to see and young and charming nun, dressed in white, with a spray of pomegranate flowers over her ear, conduct the orchestra and give the beat with all the exactness imaginable.
That revelation became much more startling when I discovered Alejo Carpentier's, Swiss-born Cuban novelist (and music critic of renown), novella Concierto Barroco which I read in Spanish. The translation into English (available at the Vancouver Public Library's main branch) keeps that title.
|Christi Meyers del violino|
A Mexican silver potentate (unnamed) of the 18th century visits Venice with his black (Cuban) servant Filomeno. The run into the red priest (quite drunk) at a café sitting with a Saxon (Handel) and a Neapolitan (Domenico Scarlati). Vivaldi asks the Mexican about his costume (dressed as Moctezuma). It is Vivaldi’s drunkenness that according to Carpentier our purveyor of realismo maravilloso led Vivaldi to write his opera and include elephants and other false facts.
But it is Carpentier’s description (he elaborated on the Charles de Brosses account) of the Mexican, his servant, and the three composers witnessing a performance at the Pietà that is delightful:
|Chloe Meyers del violino|
The Maestro- for so they called him- took charge of the introduction: Pierina del violin…Cattarina del cornetto…Bettina della viola…Bianca Maria organist…Margherita del arpa doppia…Guiseppin del chitarrone… Claudia del flautino…Lucieta della tromba…
And gradually since they were sixty-six and Maestro Antonio was in his cups mistaking some of the orphans for others, each name became reduced to that of the instrument she played. As if the girls had no personalities of their own and were metamorphoses as sounds, he pointed his finger at them: Clavicembalo…Viola da brazzo… Organo di legno…Regale…Violino alla francese…Tromba marina…Trombone…
|Katrina Russell del fagotto|
Before I finish this long-winded personal memoir on my fondness for Vivaldi’s Gloria I must add this wonderful account of a picnic in Venice’s cemetery. The Mexican, his servant and the three composers decide to escape the noise of the Venetian carnevale for a silent repast.
Carried by the breeze and wafted away, sounds of the distant din of cornets and clackers reached them from the city, still dark with shadows under the greyish clouds of the slow dawn. The revelry continued between taverns and stalls whose lights were beginning to go out, the night-roving masquers unconcerned with refurbishing disguises that were losing their lustre and their spells in the growing clarity…
The Mexican’s servant Filomeno, notices a gravestone.
‘I-GOR STRA-VIN-SKY,’ he said, separating the syllables.
‘That’s he, all right,’ said the Saxon, following suit. ‘He wanted to lie in this cemetery.’ [Stravinsky in the cemetery in the 18th century is just an example of Carpentier’s brand of magic realism. Stravinsky did not die in Venice but was buried there. Wagner died in Venice but was transported to Germany in Turner’s Train!]
‘Good musician,’ said Antonio, ‘but at times, very traditional in his approach. He draws on the same antiquated subjects: Apollo, Orpheus, Persephone…when will it ever end?’…
The Saxon suddenly reminisced with malice, ‘Stravinsky once said that you had written the same concerto six hundred times.”
‘Possibly,’replied Antonio,’but I never composed a circus polka for Barnum’s elephant.’
‘But there are going to be elephants in your opera about Montezuma,’ said George Frideric.’
Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant was written by Igor Stravinski in 1942. He composed it for a ballet production that the choreographer George Balanchine did for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The ballet was performed by fifty elephants and fifty ballerinas. In 1944, Stravinsky published an orchestration of the piece, which is now part of the repertoire of many orchestras.
Stravinsky Circus Polka on YouTube
The novella Concierto Barroco ends with Filomeno (a trumpet under his coat given to him by Catarinna del cornetto) at a concert featuring the Saxon's (Handel) Messiah with Louis Armstrong on the trumpet. It ends with Armstrong's rendering of 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby.'
|Christina Hutten del clavicembalo|
|Kathleen Allan - soprano|
|Kris Kwapis del cornetto|
|Linda Melsted del violino|
|Natalie Mackie della viola da gamba|
|Marina Hasslelberg del violoncello|
As music critic Alejo Carpentier intimates that the mezzo-soprano that sang in Motezuma, Anna Girò, was one of two (the other was Anna's'half sister the chaperone) of Vivaldi's traveling companions. By the standards of the 21st century Vivaldi would have never written those similar sounding 600 concerti.