Don’t you sometimes wish time travel was really possible?
Folks who attended the Trio Settecento concert got to experience at least an approximation of a trip back to Rome in the year 1700 at this world class concert this afternoon. The music was gloriously performed on instruments from that time, and in the style of the Baroque era!
The title for the concert Five at Twenty is taken from Opus 5 (opus means ‘work number’) at the 20-year point now that the group has been playing together. In order to sound like the instruments must have sounded in 1700, the violin had only gut strings rather than metal we use more now. The pitch was lowered about half a step so an ‘A’ written on the page sounded like what we would call an A flat (since the actual pitch of musical pitches has been steadily rising through the centuries). The bows were extra taut and were held part way up from the end, and the violinist held her violin further down on her shoulder rather than her under her chin. All 3 performers are professional scholars and performers who have long been working on how to play stringed instruments as they most likely would have sounded in 1700.
Trio Settecento Recreates the High Baroque era
It turns out the group, formed 20 years ago to play baroque era music, is well-named – Settecento is Italian for ‘700’ - and in Italy is slang for the important musical year 1700. Called the beginning of the ‘high Baroque’, this was about the time Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi, and other composers began to flourish. During this time music was assumed to need ornaments added by the performers like trills, mordents and even a mix of improvisational devices, similar to jazz, gospel and blues is performed today. This was before classical music got to be so carefully adhered to at every note and nuance on the page.
Our composer for today’s concert, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) wrote these pieces which have seriously influenced how music was written for violin for at least a century. These pieces, called ‘sonatas’ are an early version of purely instrumental music which has survived to our time and influenced most, if not all classical composers.
Each of the performers spoke and explained the significance of these violin pieces accompanied by cello and harpsichord. When the violinist, Rachel Barton Pine charmingly spoke, she mentioned that there is a direct lineage back through her teacher to her teacher’s teacher, to that teacher’s teacher and so on ALL the way back to Mr. Corelli, who was a violin teacher and innovator of violin music! When John Mark Rozendaal spoke, he explained that the 3 sonatas played during the first half were considered Church sonatas, suitable for performance in Church, and the second half 3 sonatas were written for dancing specific baroque dances. These dances include the corrente, the sarabande, the gavotte, and the giga, where ‘dancing a jig’ came from.
The filled Nichols Concert hall goers certainly enjoyed each of the sonatas and gave a rousing standing ovation at the end. Fortunately the trio was ready with an encore, and played a newer version of one of the sonatas from Corelli’s own hand. Rachel Barton Pine explained that she had taken lessons in Baroque style with both David Schrader, the eminent harpsichordist in the group, and with John Mark Rozendaal, and that this was the first piece she ever played for Mr. Rozendaal.
The trio always played precisely together, as a unit, and pitches were always perfectly matched. One would like to hear more of this seemingly perfect Baroque group and recordings are available for sale on cd and free on YouTube.
Rachel Barton Pine, baroque violin
John Mark Rozendaal, baroque cello
David Schrader, harpsichord
More information on upcoming performances can be found at the Rachel Barton Pine website.
Photos by Janette Beckman
About the Author:
Mark Lindeblad is a working pianist and bassoonist in Chicagoland. He received the Bachelor's of Music performance degree, bassoon major, piano minor from Wichita State University in 1978 and the Master's of Music performance degree in bassoon from Roosevelt University in 1983 in Chicago. While doing piano accompanying was always happening on the side from high school and college years, it stepped up to be Mark’s primary occupation in the 1990's. Today he is a piano accompanist at Glenbard South High School, and plays principal bassoon in the Southwest Symphony, and also finds time for about 20 private students studying either bassoon or piano. For more information, visit Mark Lindeblad’s website: www.markspianostudio.com