- PHOTO BY GERRY SZYMANSKI
- For "Dido in France and Italy," Publick Musick is (left to right) Mary Riccardi, Boel Gidholm, Naomi Gregory, Deborah Fox, and Christopher Haritatos.
The most famous example is probably the first great English opera, Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” but as Publick Musick’s Artistic Directors Boel Gidholm and Christopher Haritatos explain, there are hundreds of others from all over 17th and 18th-century musical Europe. “Dido in France and Italy,” the first Publick Musick concert of the season — on Sunday, October 27, at Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word — offers examples in the form of chamber cantatas from France (Michel de Montéclair’s “La mort de Didon”) and Italy (Bernardo Pasquini’s “Sovra un’accesa pira”).
Directors of Publick Musick since 2011, Gidholm and Haritatos are also performers on Baroque violin and cello, respectively. They see the group’s mission as bringing “underperformed” music to light, and Sunday’s concert will certainly do that. The featured composers may not be household names now, but they were forces to be reckoned with in their day, and not just as composers. Montéclair (1667-1737) was one of the first and most successful Parisian music publishers, and Pasquini (1637-1710) was an elite keyboardist. Montéclair’s cantata, “La mort de Didon,” has always been one of his most popular works; the Pasquini work is virtually unknown.
“We’re very excited by the chance to do the Pasquini piece,” Gidholm says. “If music was not written for a specific occasion, it was often not published at all.” At least the manuscript survived and was eventually published in a collected edition of Pasquini’s cantatas, where Gidholm encountered it.
As was common for Baroque-era chamber cantatas, each piece is about 10 to 15 minutes long, and is divided into a recitative (imitating the spoken word), an aria, and a freer, more fanciful arioso section. And as might be expected, the texts of the two works are similar, though a bit different in tone.
The French and Italian styles were both florid and virtuosic for the singer, though somewhat different in both ornamentation and temperament. To put it simply, the French approach to ornamentation is more abstract, with a language of trills, a different style of vibrato, and so on. Italian music tends more toward overt emotion and word painting, though Gidholm points out that Montéclair’s cantata includes a vivid instrumental section depicting a storm battering Aeneas’s ship.
- PHOTO BY SASHA GREENHALGH
- Publick Musick will be joined on October 27 by soprano Madeline Apple Healey for cantatas by Montéclair and Pasquini.
The two Dido cantatas will be complemented by several chamber works from various composers. The most famous of them, Italy’s Arcangelo Corelli, was one of the most popular and influential composers throughout Europe. In addition, there’s a cello sonata by another Italian baroque giant, Francesco Geminiani — a work that Haritatos describes as “quirky and wonderful” — as well as compositions by Alessandro Stradella, Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, and François Couperin. All are intended as a lighter counterpoint to the drama of the Dido cantatas. For the chamber works, Gidholm and Haritatos will be joined by violinist Mary Riccardi, harpsichordist Naomi Gregory, and lutenist Deborah Fox.
These varied composers may be intriguingly interrelated, Gidholm says, “but each of them is a unique and inventive musical voice.”
Publick Musick presents "Dido in France and Italy" on Sunday, October 27, 3 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, 597 East Avenue. Free, ages 17 and under; $10, students/low income; $20, general admission; $50, patron. 244-5835. publickmusick.org.