Ah, Valentine’s Day – a time to cherish a new romance or rekindle an old flame! This hour on Harmonia, we explore the sounds of flute d’amore, viola d’amore, and oboe d’amore. These instruments, which bear the suffix d’amore, meaning “of love,” produce special sounds due to their unusual construction. So snuggle up with your sweetheart, open up that box of chocolates, and settle in for “that’s d’amore!”
Music by Attilio Ariosti, the aria “Bel che col rigor.”
Love triangles…can’t live with them, can’t live without them – just ask Cleopatra! This hour on Harmonia, we’re examining a love triangle of a different sort – one among instruments! The flute d’amore, oboe d’amore, and viola d’amore, all of which carry the suffix “d’amore,” meaning, “of love,” are known for possessing a softer, sweeter tone than their more typical counterparts. They reached the height of their popularity around the beginning of the eighteenth century. Let’s hear Telemann’s concerto in E major for traverso, oboe d’amore, viola d’amore, strings, and continuo.
We heard music from Telemann’s concerto in E major for traverso, oboe d’amore, and flute d’amore, performed by Bell’Arte Salzburg, from the 2010 recording Telemann, Graupner, Vivaldi: Concerti d’amore.
If Love is Blind…
They say that love is blind…and so is the carved cupid’s head that sits on top of a viola d’amore’s scroll! Like members of the viola da gamba family, the viola d’amore has sloping shoulders and a flat back. However, like the violin, it does not have frets, and is played under the chin. Most violas d’amore have six or seven strings that are played with a bow, and an additional set of sympathetic strings that are strung below the bridge and the fingerboard. These sympathetic strings are not played directly, but rather vibrate when the regular strings are played. Let’s listen to one of Vivaldi’s concertos for viola d’amore, performed by Rachel Barton Pine.
Music from Vivaldi’s concerto in D minor for viola d’amore, performed by Rachel Barton Pine with the ensemble Ars Antigua.
Bach in Love
Welcome back, this hour on Harmonia, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a variety of instruments d’amore – instruments of love!
Bach had a particular affinity for oboe d’amore and viola d’amore. Compared to the typical baroque oboe, the oboe d’amore has a larger bore, greater distance between holes, and larger reeds. It is pitched a third lower than the oboe and can be thought of as a sort of “alto oboe.” Let’s listen to a pair of oboes d’amore in a duet from Bach’s twenty-third cantata.
That was the duet “Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn,” performed by Collegium Vocale Gent.
Bach wrote extensively for viola d’amore as well. Let’s listen to an aria from the St. John Passion, featuring two violas d’amore and a tenor soloist.
Music from Bach’s St. John Passion, performed by tenor Andrew Kennedy with the Academy of Ancient Music Choir and Orchestra, led by Richard Egarr.
CPEB: The Piano Quartets
Our featured release is CPEB: The Piano Quartets, recorded in 2013 by the ensemble Musical Offering. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach composed these quartets in Hamburg in the final year of his life. We’ll start off with the first movement of his piano quartet in D major. Musicologist Tom Moore notes that the scoring is unusual in this piece and includes, “obligato parts for flute and viola joining a virtuoso part for fortepiano (and no sign of any original part for a cello to join in on the bass line).”
We heard the first movement of C. P. E. Bach’s Piano Quartet in D Major, performed by the Boston-based ensemble Musical Offering.
C. P. E. Bach spent much of his adult life in Berlin. While serving in the Prussian court, he worked under Frederick the Great, an amateur flutist and strong supporter of the arts. In 1742, Frederick hired a second keyboard player, a gesture which allowed Bach, finally, to pursue some musical interests beyond composing and performing for the court. During this time, Bach wrote his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, an important German-language treatise on harpsichord and continuo playing. Let’s listen to a violin sonata from Bach’s time in Berlin.
We heard the first movement of C. P. E. Bach’s Violin Sonata in B-Flat Major, from our featured release CPEB: The Piano Quartets.
Break and theme music
:30, Attilio Ariosti: The Stockholm Sonatas, Vol. III, Emma Kirkby, Thomas Georgi, Lucas Harris, and Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann, BIS 2009, Tr. 19 Viola d’amore Sonata No. 19 in A Minor: IV. Rondeaux
:60, Telemann, Graupner, Vivaldi: Concerti d’amore, Bell’Arte Salzburg, Berlin Classics 2010, Tr. 2 Concerto in E Major, TWV 53:E1: II. Allegro
:30, J. S. Bach / Cantatas BWV 22, 23, 127, 159, Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent, harmonia mundi 2009, Tr. 9 Chorale: Christe, du Lamm Gottes
Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, Tr. 12 La Prime Estampie Royal
The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Sarah Huebsch.
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