Sherezade Panthaki©David Fung

Sherezade Panthaki, soprano with The Helicon Ensemble

Sun, October 20, 3:00pm

Overview

First introduced to Caramoor audiences in 2018’s Atalanta, soprano Sherezade Panthaki is an acknowledged star in the early-music world. With a lush and commanding voice, she remains “wonderfully agile, riding her rapid vibrato up and down passagework and trills with admirable fluency” (The Wall Street Journal). In this program featuring both instrumental and vocal pieces, Panthaki is joined by some of the most celebrated early music players on the East Coast, performing as The Helicon Ensemble. Recognized by The New York Times as “an important early music organization,” Helicon seeks to explore period chamber music at a high level.

“Panthaki’s voice is a force of nature and quite exceptional, as indeed is her remarkably accurate tuning and the evident ease with which she tossed off even the most difficult passages.”
— Kenneth DeLong, Calgary Herald
Artists

Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
The Helicon Ensemble
Aisslinn Nosky and Beth Wenstrom, baroque violins
Maureen Murchie, baroque viola
Ezra Seltzer, baroque violoncello
Doug Balliett, baroque violone
Adam Cockerham, theorbo and baroque guitar
Avi Stein, director and harpsichord

Program

Love and Revenge: The Baroque Diva
Vivaldi Concerto for Strings in G Minor, RV 157
Vivaldi “Gelosia, tu già rendi l’alma mia” from Ottone in villa
Handel “V’adoro, pupille” from Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Handel Chaconne (Terpsichore)
Graupner “Agitato da tempeste” from Dido, Königen von Carthago
Kapsperger “Toccata Arpeggiata” from Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone
Vivaldi Trio Sonata in D Minor, RV 63 (Variations on “La Follia”)
— Intermission —
Purcell Suite from Dido and Aeneas
Jacquet de la Guerre Trio Sonata in D Major
Clérambault Scene from Medée
Duphly “La Fourqueray” and “La Médée” from Pièces de clavecin, Livre 3
Handel Overture from Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Handel “Da tempeste il legno infranto” from Giulio Cesare in Egitto


Sherezade Panthaki©David Fung

Sherezade Panthaki, soprano

Artist Website Listen Watch

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki’s international success has been fueled by superbly honed musicianship; “shimmering sensitivity” (Cleveland Plain Dealer); “radiant” voice (The Washington Post); and vividly passionate interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines” (The New York Times). An acknowledged star in the early-music field, Ms. Panthaki has ongoing collaborations with leading early music interpreters including Nicholas McGegan, Simon Carrington, Matthew Halls, and Masaaki Suzuki, with whom she made her New York Philharmonic debut. A recent performance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and conductor Nicholas McGegan was described as “a breathtaking combination of expressive ardor, tonal clarity, technical mastery, and dramatic vividness” by The San Francisco Chronicle.

Ms. Panthaki’s 2019/20 orchestral season includes returns to both Minnesota Orchestra (Messiah) and Winter Park Bach Festival (Brahms Requiem) and performances with Houston Symphony (Messiah), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, St. Thomas Church in New York, and Santa Fe Pro Musica (Telemann’s Passion Cantata). This season she also returns rejoins the viol consort Parthenia for an “Elizabethan Christmas” program and returns to Boston Early Music Festival for their overseas trip to Bremen, performing the role of Ellenia in Graupner’s Antiochus und Stratonica. In recital Ms. Panthaki will be featured at Caramoor Music Festival in “Love and Revenge: The Baroque Diva” with Helicon Ensemble.

Ms. Panthaki’s repertoire extends well beyond the music of the Renaissance and Baroque to works such as Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Houston Symphony, John Tavener’s The Last Discourse with Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with American Classical Orchestra, and Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, and Strauss lieder at the Bari International Music Festival.

Ms. Panthaki holds an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and a Masters degree from the University of Illinois.

 

Aisslinn Nosky

Aisslinn Nosky, baroque violin

Hailed as “a fearsomely powerful musician” by The Toronto Star, Canadian-born violinist Aisslinn Nosky is one of the most versatile and dynamic violinists today. She is in demand as a soloist, conductor, and director and has performed in solo and chamber music recitals across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Recent collaborations include the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Holland Baroque, the Calgary Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Her past roles include Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony and concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society (Boston). Nosky is a founding member of the Eybler Quartet, which in 2018 released a recording of Beethoven’s Op.18 string quartets on the CORO label.

Nosky studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Steans Music Institute of the Ravinia Festival as a member of the Metro String Quartet. She currently serves as Program Director at EQ: Evolution of the String Quartet at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

 

Beth Wenstrom

Beth Wenstrom, baroque violin

Beth Wenstrom is a dynamic performer, taking her skills as chamber musician, soloist, concertmaster, and orchestral violinist around the U.S. and internationally with a variety of ensembles. Praised for her “vitality and eloquent phrasing, as well as agility” (The Strad), Wenstrom has performed as a soloist and concertmaster with Trinity Wall Street Baroque Orchestra, Sebastian Chamber Players, New York Baroque Incorporated, Quodlibet Ensemble, and the Washington National Cathedral Baroque Orchestra.

Wenstrom is a founding member of Wayward Sisters, winner of the 2011 Early Music America/Naxos Competition, as well as an original member of the “vital and vibrant” ensemble, ACRONYM (Classics Today). She has also appeared in Apollo’s Fire and the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra.

Wenstrom is a regular guest conductor with the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra, leading from the violin, and is the string coach for SUNY Stony Brook’s baroque ensemble. In addition, she is a recurring teacher at Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute and recently joined the faculty of the Amherst Early Music Festival.

 

Maureen Murchie

Maureen Murchie, baroque viola

Maureen Murchie performs on modern and baroque violin and viola across the U.S. as well as in China, Japan, and Europe, where a tour with period ensemble El Mundo included a concert at the Tage Alter Musik Regensburg.

Recent and upcoming engagements include: Handel+Haydn Society, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, American Classical Orchestra, NOVUS, American Bach Soloists Academy, Grand Harmonie, Garth Newel Piano Quartet, Mark Morris Dance Company, Mercury Ensemble, Staunton Music Festival, Boulder Bach Festival, REBEL, Bethlehem Bach Festival, The Sebastians, New York Baroque Incorporated, Eybler Quartet, and the Broadway run of Farinelli and the King.

Murchie holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she wrote a dissertation on the history of the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra. Having grown up in Japan and attended Japanese schools, Murchie is also in demand as a Japanese translator and interpreter. She lives in New York City and works as Sales & Marketing Administrator at BIA, a Manhattan-based eDiscovery firm.

 

Ezra Seltzer

Ezra Seltzer, baroque violoncello

Ezra Seltzer is the principal cellist of the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, New York Baroque Incorporated, the Sebastians, and Early Music New York. He has frequently appeared as guest principal cellist of Musica Angelica, Orchester Wiener Akademie, the Washington National Cathedral Baroque Orchestra, Yale Schola Cantorum, the Quodlibet Ensemble, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Seltzer performs Bach cantatas weekly at the acclaimed Bach@One series at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City. With New York Baroque Incorporated, he has appeared throughout the U.S., including collaborations with Vivica Genaux, Richard Egarr, and The St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and in venues from the Spoleto Festival USA to Carnegie Hall. Seltzer is a founding member of the Sebastians, which have been called New York’s “leading young early-music ensemble” (The New York Times) and also performs frequently with the vocal ensemble TENET.

Seltzer attended Yale University and graduated from the inaugural class of Juilliard’s historical performance program.

 

Adam Cockerham

Adam Cockerham, theorbo and baroque guitar

Adam Cockerham has performed with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, the Mostly Mozart Festival, Tenet Vocal Artists, Four Nations Ensemble, Artek, New York Baroque Incorporated, New Vintage Baroque, the Academy of Sacred Drama, and J415. He founded voice and plucked string duo Jarring Sounds with mezzo-soprano Danielle Sampson, and he helped form chamber ensemble Voyage Sonique.

Beyond chamber music, Cockerham concentrates on 17th-century Italian opera and has served as assistant conductor for dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s production of Cavalli’s La Calisto. He has also performed for the premiere of operas and major works with the Prototype Festival (Pulitzer Prize-winning Angel’s Bone), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (The Judas Passion), and Opera Parallèle (Gesualdo).

Cockerham is a doctoral candidate at the Juilliard School and holds Master and Bachelor of Music degrees in Classical Guitar Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory.

 

Doug Balliet

Doug Balliett, baroque violone

Doug Balliett has performed as principal or solo double bass with Les Arts Florissants, Ensemble Modern, the San Antonio Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, and many other ensembles. Balliett is a member of 17th century string band ACRONYM, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, and has appeared with all of the major northeastern American baroque ensembles.

As a composer, Balliett has received commissions from the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Center, the San Antonio Symphony, William Christie, Le Consort (Paris), and has written for some of New York’s finest singers. Notable projects include the octet Gawain’s Journey, premiered by St. Lawrence and JACK Quartets at the Spoleto (USA) Festival, the evening-length A Gnostic Passion, written with his twin brother and commissioned by CANTORI NYC, and an ongoing series of cantatas based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which have been commissioned from musicians across America and France.

He has held composer-in-residence positions with the Spoleto Festival (USA), the Lucerne Festival Academy, and the Chelsea Music Festival.

 

Avi Stein

Avi Stein, director and harpsichord

Avi Stein, director and harpsichord Avi Stein has served as the Artistic Director of The Helicon Foundation since 2013 and is the Associate Organist and Chorusmaster at Trinity Church Wall Street. He performs a wide range of repertoire, from specializing in the avant-garde of the 17th century with his group Quicksilver to presenting the complete survey of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sacred music, and preparing the Grammy Award nominated Trinity Choir for performances of music from the Renaissance to recent festivals celebrating new commissions.

Stein teaches at The Juilliard School where he recently conducted a production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, including a tour to the Opera Royale in the palace of Versailles. He performed on the 2015 Grammy Award winning recording by the Boston Early Music Festival of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s La Descente d’ Orphée aux Enfers and La Couronne de Fleurs.

He has directed the International Baroque Academy at Musiktheater Bavaria and the young artists’ program at the Carmel Bach Festival, and he has conducted a variety of ensembles including the Opera Français de New York and a critically acclaimed annual series called The 4×4 Festival.

 

The Helicon Foundation

The Helicon Foundation ventures beyond the standard scope of early music by presenting programs that explore the context of music, from the Baroque to the canon of chamber music and into repertoire from the 20th century, using period instruments throughout. Helicon’s innovative programming sheds new light on celebrated works and brings the obscure out of the shadows, including American premieres of works from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Since its founding in 1985 by harpsichordist Albert Fuller, the Helicon Foundation has presented 33 seasons of “intimate, immaculately fashioned symposiums” (The New York Times). It has released several commercial recordings, and has been presented by Carnegie Hall, the Mostly Mozart Festival, Yale University, and the Morgan Library.

About the Music.

Program at a Glance

Sherezade Panthaki and the Helicon Ensemble’s program lives up to its title Love and Revenge: The Baroque Diva by showcasing arias, both famous and little-known, that reveal the operatic soprano ensnared in the most extreme emotional states. Of course, high emotions demand high virtuosity, and we’ll hear plenty of that in selections by Handel, Purcell, Vivaldi, Graupner, and Clérambault. Complimenting the vocal fireworks will be instrumental selections of the same period from Italy, England, and France.

 


The Program
ANTONIO VIVALDI
(1678–1741)

Concerto for Strings in G Minor, RV 157

“Gelosia, tu già rendi l’alma mia” from Ottone in villa, RV 729

Trio Sonata in D Minor, RV 63 (Variations on La Folia)

The popularity of the music of Antonio Vivaldi shows no sign of waning in the 21st century. Typically, we turn to the Baroque era for music of serenity and order that provides a respite from the pressures of harried contemporary lives. But as the renowned scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has suggested, Vivaldi’s appeal may lie partly in the fact that his music does uniquely match our time. He writes of the Italian’s “wiry nervous sound:” a kind of nonstop energy and vivacity rooted in rhythm that was unmatched by any other Baroque composer.

For decades, Vivaldi presided as music master at Venice’s L’Ospedale della Pietà, a charity school for orphaned and indigent girls, and he made its concerts among Venice’s leading cultural attractions. Superbly trained as singers and instrumentalists, the young ladies amazed Venetians and foreign visitors with their virtuosity. Vivaldi left behind some 500 concertos for a wide variety of instruments created for himself and his pupils to play at the Pietà.

The Concerto for Strings in G minor is one of Vivaldi’s ensemble concertos — or concerti grossi — in which several instruments play in contrast with the full ensemble. In keeping with its G-minor key — associated in the 18th century with storm and stress — the Allegro first movement is full of turbulence, with strongly accented, conflicting rhythmic play and sharp dissonances between the instruments. Though in a much slower tempo, the Largo second movement maintains this intensity with a pileup of imitative entrances between the instruments again producing dissonance. And the tension does not dissipate in the fast finale, a whirlwind of battling virtuosity.

If Vivaldi is now best known for his instrumental works, in his own time he was equally famed for his operas. He claimed to have composed more than 90, of which 21 survive today and have begun to be staged again. They vividly demonstrate that he was as gifted at showing off the virtuosity of singers as of violinists.

Composed in 1713 for the small opera house at Vicenza, Ottone in villa was his first opera and brought him immediate success. Set to a libretto by Domenico Lalli, it is a diverting entertainment of romantic mischief in ancient Rome. Cleonilla, the fickle mistress of Emperor Ottone, decides to try her hand at flirting with two young Romans, one of whom, to complicate matters, is actually a woman in disguise and in love with the second, Caio. However, Caio takes Cleonilla’s advances very seriously and realizing he’s been duped, responds with a fiery aria of jealousy, “Gelosia, tu già rendi.” Here Vivaldi combines two different emotional worlds within the span of one fairly brief da capo aria. Caio’s rage at his betrayal is portrayed by an A section featuring a flood of extremely exacting coloratura taken at a Presto pace. Shortly into the B section, the tempo suddenly slows to Largo for beautiful legato phrases that poignantly depict his genuine heartache.

Later in the program, we hear yet another aspect of Vivaldi’s genius: his Variations on La Folia. A tune that may have originated in Portugal in the 15th century, La Folia (“Madness”) became associated with frenzied singing and dancing in early 17th-century Spain. During the Baroque period, variations on the tune became a mini-obsession for many composers. Italy’s Arcangelo Corelli concluded his opus 5 violin sonatas (1700) with 25 variations on this intoxicating melody. Inspired by them, the young Vivaldi between 1703 and 1705 published his opus 1 trio sonatas for two violins and bass continuo, which concluded with 19 La Folia variations. These variations exploit virtuosity more than did Corelli’s, with Vivaldi’s use of a second violin part adding to these possibilities. They also show greater dramatic flair and stylistic variety: one of the slow variations even suggests a soul wailing in torment. Vivaldi designs his closing group to create a thrilling climactic drive to the finish line.

 

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL
(1685–1759)

Selected Arias and Dances

Premiered in 1724 in London when he was at the peak of his illustrious career, Giulio Cesare in Egitto is Handel’s most popular and oft-performed opera today. Aside from its glorious musical score, it is adored for its central female character, Cleopatra, here not the tragic lover of Mark Antony, but a young queen competing for the Egyptian throne with her rather nasty brother Ptolemy. Handel and his favorite librettist Nicola Haym made her into a fascinating personality who uses her beauty, her well-honed seductive skills, and her political wiles to lure the visiting Julius Caesar to her side and bring about the defeat of Ptolemy.

At the beginning of Act II, Cleopatra, masquerading as the Egyptian noblewoman Lidia, sings the da capo love song “V’adoro, pupille” while adorning herself in her chamber, knowing Caesar is watching and listening outside her door. Handel fills it with seductive power, combining a warmly sensuous orchestra with one of his most beautiful vocal melodies in the style of a slow sarabande dance. Of course, Caesar is unable to resist Cleopatra’s allure!

In 1734, Handel was invited to bring his company to perform in the newly opened opera house at Covent Garden. To celebrate the occasion, he revised his old opera Il pastor fido and added to it an opera/dance Prologue called Terpsichore for the Greek muse of dancing. Patterned after similar French theatrical hybrids, it starred the fascinating French ballerina Marie Sallé, whom the London public loved. Handel created a variety of dances for Sallé in which she demonstrated different emotions. Among them is the gracious Chaconne: a dance in three beats built from continuous variations on a repeated chord pattern.

At the end of this program, we return to Giulio Cesare for two more selections. The opera’s Overture follows the traditional Baroque overture formula of combining a slow opening section, full of grand ceremonial dotted rhythms, with a much faster closing section of fugue-like imitative counterpoint. Here to match this opera’s emphasis on the ancient military hero Cesare and the battle for imperial dominance, a trumpet part is included to intensify the weight and brilliance of this music in A Major. Then we meet Cleopatra again, this time not as a soft feminine seductress, but instead as a courageous warrior in her own right. Earlier in Act III, she had heard that Cesar had been killed and temporarily despaired of her fate. Now having been told he is still alive, she erupts into the militant coloratura of the da capo aria “Da tempeste il legno infranto,” exulting with her rapid roulades that she will soon defeat Ptolemy.

 

CHRISTOPH GRAUPNER
(1683–1760)

”Agitato da Tempeste” from Dido, Königen von Carthago

Born just two years before Handel and J.S. Bach and also in the German kingdom of Saxony, Christoph Graupner today does not enjoy their legendary status. But in his own day, he was a much sought-after composer, who created a prolific and impressive collection of operas, church cantatas, and orchestral works. In fact, in 1722–3, the city fathers of Leipzig offered the post of Kapellmeister of St. Thomas Church first to him rather than Bach, whom they considered a mediocrity by comparison!

Graupner’s career began simultaneously with Handel’s in Hamburg, which had in 1678 built the German states’ first public opera house. For that cosmopolitan theater, Graupner wrote his first opera, Dido, Königin von Carthago, which told the tragic story of Dido’s love for the Trojan prince Aeneas and her suicide when he leaves her to found Rome. In this concert’s second half, we will hear Henry Purcell’s very different take on this story drawn from Virgil’s The Aeneid.

Graupner’s is the more flamboyant treatment of the two, featuring spectacular battles and interventions from the gods, who stand in Dido’s way to happiness. This approach was chosen to capitalize on the elaborate Baroque stagecraft Hamburg’s opera house was well equipped to provide. Using a familiar metaphor, Dido’s aria “Agitato da tempeste” vividly likens her torments to a ship struggling toward port in a storm. The accompaniment’s fierce dotted rhythms give Dido the stature of queen and courageous heroine. Instead of extensive coloratura display, Graupner emphasizes powerful dramatic declamation enhanced by unexpected harmonic and rhythmic shifts.

 

Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger
(1580–1651)

Toccata Arpeggiata from Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone

Despite his German name, Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger was born in Venice and spent his entire career in Italy. The son of a highly placed Austrian military official who had settled in Venice, he established himself as a virtuoso on the lute and its larger brother, the theorbo (known to Italians as the chitarrone). In 1605, he moved to Rome, where he was close to the Barberini family and to its most powerful member, Pope Urbain VIII.

Though he also wrote vocal music, Kapsberger was most renowned for his compositions for his chosen instruments, which helped to establish the theorbo as a solo instrument. He published six extensive collections of music for these instruments, of which four survive today. “Toccata Arpeggiata” comes from the first book of his Intavolatura di chitarrone, published in 1604. One of Kapsberger’s loveliest and most frequently played pieces, it is built on a sequence of harmonic chords, which the player should improvise as flowing arpeggios.

 

HENRY PURCELL
(1659–1695)

Suite from Dido and Aeneas

Despite his short lifetime, Henry Purcell is still revered today as perhaps England’s greatest native-born composer. At age 20, he was appointed organist at Westminster Abbey. The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 after Cromwell’s republic ushered in a brilliant musical and literary period at the English court in which Purcell, a born musical dramatist, flourished.

Working with the librettist Nahum Tate, Purcell created his only opera — one of the greatest of all Baroque operas — Dido and Aeneas, which was probably written in 1689 for Josiah Priest’s boarding school for girls in Chelsea. It is a taut and powerful re-telling of the story of Queen Dido of Carthage’s destruction taken from the fourth book of The Aeneid and focuses far more on her than on her lover. In Purcell’s version, Dido is opposed not by the classical gods but by a coven of witches who actively plot to take Aeneas away from her. Because Priest was a dancing master, the score features many short dances.

The slow-tempo, minor-mode Overture predicts the tragedy to come; its quicker second section, lightened by a pizzicato accompaniment, suggests the busy plotting of the witches. However, Act I closes joyfully with the elegant “Triumphing Dance” of Dido’s court as Dido finally accedes to Aeneas’ wooing. More disturbing is Act II’s “Echo Dance of the Furies,” in which the witches call to each other, their voices echoing eerily in their subterranean cavern.

“Oft she visits this lone mountain” is sung by one of Dido’s attendants as the two lovers embark on an ill-fated hunt, where they will be separated by a storm. Ominously, this song references the fate of the hunter Actaeon who came upon the goddess Diana bathing in a stream and paid for this with his life. The song’s winding ground-bass theme depicts the lovers wandering hopelessly in a wilderness both physical and psychological.

Also built over a repeating ground bass is Dido’s noble, profoundly moving lament before dying, “When I am laid in earth.” This ground bass descends inexorably by half steps: a pattern adopted earlier by Italian composers as a musical expression of love conjoined with death.

 

ÉLISABETH-CLAUDE JACQUET DE LA GUERRE
(1665–1729)

Trio Sonata in D Major

In the brilliant court of the “Sun King” Louis XIV, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre shone as an outstanding performer on the harpsichord and one of the rare woman composers of her era. A child prodigy born into a family of musicians, she first performed before the king at age five. When she reached her teens, she moved to court and her education was taken over by Louis’ mistress, Madame de Montespan. Jacquet de la Guerre made her creative mark through an extensive variety of compositions, including an opera and a ballet. She was an early exponent of the refined Baroque genre of the trio sonata — two violins and a bass instrument – developed by the Italian composer Corelli.

Helicon will play her graceful Trio Sonata in D Major, which opens with a lovely, flowing Grave, then accelerates to a quicker and more rhythmic Vivace.

 

LOUIS-NICOLAS CLERAMBAULT
(1676–1749)

Scene from Médée

Born into a family of prominent musicians, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault became one of France’s greatest organists, presiding over the consoles at both the royal chapel at Versailles and the famous Parisian church of St. Sulpice. Today, however, he is remembered as the composer of cantatas for solo and multiple voices: a form new to France that he carried to extraordinary expressive heights.

In his solo cantata Médée, published in 1710, he brings to terrifying life the mythical sorceress Medea, the lover of Jason who enabled him to escape the Minotaur in the labyrinths of her father’s palace in ancient Crete. When Jason later abandons her to marry the beautiful princess Glauce, Medea’s rage is overwhelming. At first, she wants to kill Jason, but as we enter halfway through the cantata, she realizes she still loves him and he might also be rewarded with immortality by the gods. In the closing sections, she decides to wreak her vengeance instead on Glauce. In her aria “Cruelle fille,” she invokes the hellish goddess of jealousy to come to her aid and destroy her rival; Clérambault keenly depicts her savage powers in a dark, implacable accompaniment. The cantata closes with the frenzied coloratura of the da capo aria “Volez, Démons,” in which Medée commands demons to fly away and enact her infernal deeds.

 

Jacques Duphly
(1715–1789)

La Forqueray (Pièces de clavecin, Livre 3)

Médée (Pièces de clavecin, Livre 3)

One of France’s finest harpsichordists and also a renowned teacher of the instrument, Jacques Duphly had the odd distinction of dying in Paris on July 15, 1789, the day after the fateful Storming of the Bastille that launched the French Revolution. His quality as a composer is preserved in four books of his harpsichord pieces, and we will hear two very contrasting works from the Third Book published in 1756. The first is named La Forqueray in tribute to Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, a revered older master of the instrument. It is a rondeau dance in which a stately theme featuring a grand trill and descending scales keeps returning to tie together the intervening episodes.

Duphly once described his pieces as “in general … sweet and amiable: they take after their father.” If the first piece is in keeping with such a temperament, certainly his programmatic Médée is anything but. Here Duphly provides a vivid keyboard depiction of the legendary sorceress we met earlier. Her ferocity provides the harpsichordist with spectacular opportunities for nonstop virtuosity at a testing pace.

 

— Janet E. Bedell