Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Instruments in The Coronation of Poppea with Cincinnati Opera and Catacoustic Consort

The Catacoustic Consort is fortunate to collaborate with Cincinnati Opera in their second production of a Baroque opera - Claudio Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea. (There are also members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit playing modern violin, cello, and bass.) If you are interested learning more about Cincinnati Opera's summer season, visit Cincinnati Opera's website. Since some of the instruments in the opera pit are unusual and may be new to the Cincinnati Opera audience, I want to take a moment to give some information about them.
The music in this opera is played in a creative and improvisatory manner that is surprisingly similar to jazz. The composer provides the material for the solo voices, and only a skeletal bass line for the accompanying instruments remains. Instruments such as the theorbo, harpsichord, harp, Baroque guitar, and lirone are expected to know how to play the correct chords according to certain theoretical rules of harmony. This practice, called basso continuo or simply continuo, was a very common way of playing music in the Baroque period.

About the Instruments

The viola da gamba was one of the predominant instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque in Western Europe. “Viola da gamba” (or viol) literally means viola of the leg. It is a fretted instrument with five to seven strings and is played with an underhand bow grip. The viola da gamba is a family of instruments with ranges that correspond to the human voice: treble, tenor, and bass. It is not related to the viola or cello and is a separate instrument group, more closely related to a lute or guitar than a cello

The lirone (pronounced lee-roh-nay) was played throughout Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a bowed string instrument that is held similar to a cello, but it has anywhere from nine to fourteen strings. It has a flat bridge and plays chords of three or four strings at a time. The lirone was used to highlight emotional peaks in music and was considered ideal for dramatic laments. It was a great color used by musicians in 17th-century Italy in the early development of opera. 

The new harmonic language of the Baroque period called for a fuller chromatic range of notes than what came before it in the Renaissance. Whereas earlier harps only played diatonic notes (white keys on the piano), more chromatic notes (black notes on the piano) were now necessary. The Baroque triple harp has two identical diatonic rows of strings on the outside, with an inside row of chromatic notes.

In 17th-century Italy, the bent-neck lute was replaced by the theorbo (pronounced thee-ohr-boe). The bass strings were mounted on an extension, giving them nearly twice the string length of the treble strings. Naturally, this gave the bass more strength and volume. The purpose of the theorbo is to reinforce the bass, whereas the purpose of the lirone is to enrich the harmonies. The composer Giulio Caccini said that the theorbo was the perfect instrument to accompany the voice.

The harpsichord almost needs no introduction. It is a keyboard instrument with strings that are plucked by plectra, as compared to the piano, where the strings are hit by hammers. The harpsichord was a common keyboard instrument in the Renaissance and Baroque periods until the 18th century introduction of the piano, when it died out. Both harpsichords used in Poppea are made by James Campbell, who lives in Newport, Kentucky.

The recorder is a family of instruments (similar to the viola da gamba) with sizes ranging from the sopranino, soprano, treble, tenor, bass, and great bass. It is basically an extended whistle with a thumbhole and about seven holes for the remaining fingers. It was quite popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With its history tracing back to the Middle Ages, the recorder has undergone several changes in appearance and importance throughout the centuries. Characteristic for this early wind instrument are eight finger holes, including one thumbhole, as well as a block of wood set into the shaped mouthpiece, creating the place for tone production. The German and French names for the instrument “Blockfloete” and “flûte á bec” reflect this feature. Evolved from a one-piece body with cylindrical bore and single holes as seen in medieval iconography, the recorder became popular as a consort instrument during the Renaissance, forming a small ensemble of differently sized recorders from great bass to garklein (one octave above the soprano). By the 16th century, the recorder also began its development into a solo instrument. A substantial portion of recorder music was composed during the Baroque period. Eighteenth-century instruments have a conical bore, some double holes, a wider range, and often a more ornamented design than earlier models. The recorder fell out of use towards the end of the 18th century, and experienced its revival along with the rise of historical performance practice in the 20th century.

The Instrumentalists in The Coronation of Poppea

About The Catacoustic Consort

The Catacoustic Consort is a 501c 3 nonprofit chamber music group, specializing in music of the Renaissance and Baroque with period instruments. Catacoustic is in its 17th season and is dedicated to the early music community in the greater Cincinnati area. In addition to our subscription concerts, Catacoustic provides a rental program of early music instruments; offers an annual scholarship for instruments, training, or early music education; offers pre-professional mentorship and training; and offers frequent workshops and masterclasses. Catacoustic is also committed to outreach to senior citizens.

The Catacoustic Consort, lead by Artistic Director Annalisa Pappano, was the Grand Prize Winner of the national Early Music America / Naxos Recording Label Recording Competition in 2003. Their CD recording of an Italian laments program on the Naxos label was released to international critical acclaim. Catacoustic’s latest CD was released in 2014 on its own label and features rare French Baroque music for the pardessus de viole.

Three times invited to perform for the San Francisco Early Music Series, their concert touring includes Colombia (South America), Madison Early Music Festival, Columbus Early Music, Eugene Oregon, Indiana State University, and the University of Dayton. Catacoustic was also a featured ensemble at 2014 & 2017 Viola da Gamba Society of America Conclaves. Catacoustic has also worked frequently in collaboration with University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for concerts, coachings, masterclasses, and lectures. They have given collaborative performances for specially-curated art exhibits at the St. Louis and Cincinnati Art Museums. And their most recent collaboration, with Cincinnati Opera, resulted in the successful staging of Cavalli’s La CalistoOpera News praised the ensemble as “a constant source of delight,” noting their “rich” sound and “evident rapport” within the company. Catacoustic has two new CD recordings: one of 17th-century Italian vocal music with continuo (with Melissa Harvey - in this production of Poppea - and Virginia Warnken of music from the time of Monteverdi) and another of 18th-century French arrangements of opera airs for soprano (Melissa Harvey) and pardessus de viole (hybrid combination of viola da gamba and violin).


About the Catacoustic Consort Instrumentalists in Poppea

Annalisa Pappano is the founder and artistic director of the Catacoustic Consort. She studied at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute and at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Her playing has been described by critics as “mercurial and enchanting” and “with a sound that is lighter than air with the airy luster of gilding on the mirrors of a rococo drawing room.” She has performed throughout Belgium, England, Ireland, Colombia, Canada, and the U.S. and has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and has played at the Boston, Berkeley, and Vancouver Early Music Festivals and the Ojai Music Festival. Pappano is a member of Wildcat Viols and Atalante (England), and the recording she performed on with Atalante won a Diapason d’Or and Gramaphone Award. She has performed with numerous other ensembles including the Houston Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Cleveland Opera, the Portland Opera, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (San Francisco), Les Voix Baroques, Opera Atelier, the Toronto Consort, the Concord Ensemble, Cappella Artemisia (Bologna), Parthenia Viol Consort, and Consortium Carissimi. She has taught at Viola da Gamba Society of America national conclaves, the Viola da Gamba Society Pacific Northwest and Northeast chapters, the San Diego Early Music Workshop, ViolsWest, the Madison Early Music Workshop, and has been a guest lecturer at numerous universities. Pappano led the Catacoustic Consort to win the grand prize in the Naxos / Early Music America Live Recording Competition and recorded a program of Italian laments on the Naxos label. Pappano teaches viola da gamba at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Lutenist and guitarist David Walker has performed extensively throughout the US, earning praise for his “surety of technique and expressive elegance,” (Columbus Dispatch) as well as his “tremendous dexterity and careful control” (Bloomington Herald Times). David is a regular performer with the Catacoustic Consort and has appeared with Boston Baroque, Chatham Baroque, Clarion Music Society, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, Tempesta di Mare, and is a member of the chamber ensemble Ostraka. He has performed in numerous baroque opera productions, including engagements with Glimmerglass Opera and the Wolf Trap Opera Company. Festival highlights include the Savannah Music Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and solo recitals for the Bloomington Early Music Festival and the University of Louisville Guitar Festival. Recording credits include Ostraka’s critically acclaimed debut, Division, and recordings for Sono Luminus and Linn Records. David studied with Nigel North at Indiana University.

Andrew Maginley is an internationally renowned lutenist and is at home on the concert, opera, and chamber stage. A native New Yorker, after gaining a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts, he completed his studies on the lute at Mannes College of Music in New York. As a Fulbright Scholar, Andrew had further studies at the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen Germany. His second solo recording, Andrew Maginley: The Baroque Lute - J.S. Bach, S.L. Weiss & Adam Falckenhagen, on Avie Records has been highly praised by Gramophone and Fanfare magazines. He has given solo performances at the Bachhaus in Eisenach, the Bloomington Early Music Festival, Handel-Festival Göttingen, Berlin Tage für Alte Musik, Aspen Festival, Telemann Festspiele Magdeburg, the Hong Kong Performing Arts Academy, and the Händel Festspiele Halle. Andrew has performed with Sempreoper Dresden, Collegium 1704, and Oper Frankfurt, Edinburgh Festival 2013, Opera North, BBC Proms Royal Albert Hall with Glyndebourne Opera, Oper Stuttgart 1998-2006, Oper Klagenfurt, Oper Graz, Nederlandse Opera, New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Liceo Opera Barcelona, The English Concert, The Ulster Orchestra, and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, King’s Place with Steven Wallace, the Ulster Orchestra featuring Andreas Scholl and with soprano Danielle de Niese live on TV for the BBC Breakfast Show.

Jody Miller has a diverse musical career, mostly built around playing and teaching recorder.  Originally from Mississippi, Miller has actively spent the past 26 years helping promote early music and recorder in the Atlanta area.  He has served as president of the Atlanta chapter of the American Recorder Society, music director for the same organization, board member of the Atlanta Early Music Alliance, and education editor and music reviewer for the American Recorder Society.  Most of his current advocacy efforts are through a community collegium he directs, Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.  This 35-member ensemble performs several times per year and organizes educational opportunities for both musicians and non-musicians.  In addition to maintaining a recorder studio of students from throughout the Southeast, Miller serves as director of the Mountain Collegium Early Music and Folk Music Workshop.  He is a regular faculty member at the Atlanta Mid-Winter Early Music Workshop, Bloom (PA) Early Music Workshop, and Mountain Collegium Early Music and Folk Music Workshop.  Miller is also part of the Traveling Teacher program offered by the American Recorder Society.

Miller is an avid supporter of contemporary music for historical instruments.  Eighty-Eight & Eight, his duo with pianist Lisle Kulbach, performs new music for recorder and recently performed the premier of Timothy Broege’s composition Way.  Other premier performances include Dark Moods and Breakaway by Martha Bishop (recorder and percussion) and five other compositions by Broege.  Miller also performs with Ritornello Baroque Ensemble, based in Atlanta.

Miller has performed on recorder with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and New Trinity Baroque Orchestra.  He can be heard with New Trinity Baroque on the Edition Lilac compact disc Charpentier: Messe de Minuit.   Miller will also be a soloist at the 2018 Victoria (TX) Bach Festival.

Elizabeth Motter's career as a modern harpist has taken her around the globe. Highlights include concerts with Singapore Symphony, Spoleto Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, Lancaster Festival, New World Symphony, Peninsula Music Festival, a residency in Japan, and performing as a substitute in the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Columbus Symphony Orchestras. She has played in the orchestras of Marvin Hamlisch, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau, The King's Singers, and Frank Sinatra, and participated in recordings made by Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, Indianapolis Symphony, and two Christmas CD’s with Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble. Her journey into historical performance practice with the baroque triple-strung harp has led her to attend the Amherst Early Music Festival, Accademia D'Amore (Seattle), Oberlin's Baroque Performance Institute, and Tafelmusik's Baroque Summer Institute (Toronto), and Festival “le Arpe in Villa" (Italy). In addition to performing regularly with Catacoustic, Elizabeth has participated in CCM's Monteverdi Project and was a member of the continuo team for Cincinnati Opera's production of La Calisto. She can be heard in Catacoustic's recently released CD of Italian music, as well as a recent recording with Consortium CarrissimiElizabeth teaches at CCM's Preparatory Department and freelances throughout the region. She is a founding member of Three 2 Tango, a trio that specializes in improvisatory Argentine tango music.

Lauded for her “unusually probing intellect” and “passionate drive to make music come to life in the here and now,” Laura Osterlund is an avid member of the movement to promote early music performance, pedagogy, research, and appreciation throughout North America. Her focus is on polyphonic music from the 12th-16th centuries, period composition, and improvisational practices.
Laura worked as Assistant Program Manager and Recorder Specialist Teacher to Keiskamma Music Academy, a nonprofit youth development program in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. She also worked as a research assistant for McGill University’s Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries Lab, helping to develop projects such as Optical Music Recognition for Plainchant and Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis. Laura taught summer courses at the Whitewater and Madison Early Music Festivals. Laura was also Director of the West Suburban Early Music Society for their 2016 season. She sang as a cantor and choral scholar for Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville, Illinois and held solo vocalist positions at Trinity Memorial and St. Columba’s Anglican churches in Montreal. Laura maintained an early music concert series for inpatients at Montreal’s Villa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital and recorded renaissance solo repertoire for Ubisoft’s video game Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

Based in Chicago, Laura served on the Youth Advisory Board for Early Music America and was a longstanding writer for the radio program Harmonia Early Music, the author of dozens of original scripts. She is a founding member of Chicago Recorder Quartet, Ensemble Musica Humana, and the now annual Pioneer Valley Early Music Day festival. Laura has enjoyed a varied performing career as a guest artist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Bach and Beethoven Ensemble, Music of the Baroque, VOX 3 Collective, Ensemble Scholastica, New Comma Baroque, The Marion Consort, Ensemble Musical Offering, Opera Theater of St. Louis in their production of Handel’s Riccardo Primo, and Cleveland Opera Theater in their production of Handel’s Serse. In 2011 Laura was awarded Early Music America’s prestigious Barbara Thornton Memorial Award. Laura’s study of medieval repertoire with Sequentia during the 2008 Vancouver Early Music Festival proved a turning point in her career and a catalyst for the pursuit of her life’s passion.

Originally from Toronto, Michael Unger is a multiple award-winning harpsichordist and organist who appears as a soloist and chamber musician in North America, Europe, Japan, and South Korea. Since 2013, he is the Assistant Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He is a First Prize and Audience Prize winner of the National Young Artists’ Competition of the American Guild of Organists (NYACOP), First Prize winner of the International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo, and a Second Prize and Audience Award winner of the International Schnitger Organ Competition on the historic organs in Alkmaar, the Netherlands. Recent solo recitals include national conferences of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America and the American Guild of Organists, Internationale Orgelwoche Nürnberg, ‘Five Continents – Five Organists’ at Seoul’s Sejong Center, and numerous international and regional recital series. Recent harpsichord collaborations include Catacoustic Consort, Collegium Cincinnati, Publick Musick, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He received favorable international reviews for his debut solo organ recordings under the Naxos and Pro Organo labels, and his performances have been broadcast on North American and European radio, including syndicated programs Pipedreams and With Heart and Voice. He was a guest faculty at the 2015 and 2016 Smarano International Keyboard Academies in Trentino, Italy.

Michael Unger holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts with Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, where he was a student and teaching assistant of David Higgs and William Porter, and was also a recipient of the Jerald C. Graue Fellowship. He also a Gold Medal graduate of the University of Western Ontario, where he studied with Larry Cortner, and has pursued post-graduate coaching in Cincinnati with Roberta Gary. Formerly the Director of Music of Rochester’s Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word and South Presbyterian Church, he currently serves as organist of Cincinnati’s historic Isaac M. Wise (Plum Street) Temple.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Yael Senamaud-Cohen's Catacoustic Grant Report: Oberlin's Baroque Performance Institute

Yael Senamaud-Cohen is a professional modern and baroque violist and violinist, based in Cincinnati. She has played with Catacoustic, as well as numerous other ensembles throughout the world. She was one of two recipients of last year's Catacoustic grant award. We are thrilled to have Yael here in Cincinnati and that she continues to deepen her understanding of early music performance practice.

I felt privileged and honored to receive the Catacoustic Consort Grant to participate at the Baroque Performance Institute in Oberlin, Ohio. It was an enriching experience for me to meet the incredible faculty and to play with other dedicated musicians. They are so highly committed to baroque music, performance, and teaching with the most integrity, historical context, and deep knowledge. 

I started the day with viola da gamba group class. Then on to violin... We were a large group of violinists (about 40) divided in two groups for the masterclasses of the 3 violin faculty. It was interesting to start the day with a bow technique class that focused on differences with modern playing. During the masterclasses, I was impressed by the level of knowledge and stylistic nuance. The teachers suggested how to play each baroque composer. I was able to play some German, Italian, and French music: each requires a different technique to serve the style. Marilyn MacDonald was great at communicating how to play the French ornaments so they sound like embellishments and not technical difficulties. Cynthia Roberts has a way to set you up on the instrument in a natural way and infuse her knowledge through the bow to find expression in the sound. In the afternoon we rehearsed chamber music, an element of the program that presented yet another occasion to deepen our musicianship in ensemble. It was then followed by baroque dance with Julie Andrijewski, an amazing performer and dancer. This part of the program most certainly enhanced my understanding of dances in baroque music. I now think baroque dance should be taught with the instrument so that we may once again reproduce the character of the music. Following dance class, we played in orchestra to prepare the concert for the end of the week. We ended the day practicing or listening to the faculty rehearsing or performing. It was an amazing experience to share my passion for early music with people from all backgrounds and in all different sized-groups, from one to sixty.

This total immersion program has really made a big impact on me and deepened my understanding of baroque music. I cannot wait to participate in other festivals or workshops and perform more and more. I would love to do be able to do so in Cincinnati.