The Music

Salsih Sea Players Logo Our concert repetoire is for two violins and harpsichord or two violins alone. We continue to add new programs and repetoire to our list. Here is the list of music we are currently performing.

(Please click the «» for Fred’s program notes.)

B. BARTÓK (1881-1945)                             Duos for Two Violins, Sz. 98                                                                                                                                                                                                       «»L. BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)             Sonata for Two Violins in G Major

C. W. R. VON GLUCK (1714-1787)           Trio Sonata II in G Minor

«»J. G. GOLDBERG (1727-1756)              Trio Sonata in C Major

«»G. F. HANDEL (1685-1759)                  Trio Sonata in G Major, op. 5 no. 4

«»J.M. LECLAIR (1697-1764)                   Sonata for two Violins in B flat Major, op. 12 no. 6                                                                          Sonata for Two Violins in A Major, op. 3 no. 2

«»P. A. LOCATELLI (1695-1764)             Trio Sonata in G Major, op. 5 no. 1

«»M. LOCKE (c. 1621-1677)                       Set 4 from The Broken Consort

J. F. MAZAS (1782-1849)                           Duo for Two Violins in G Major, op. 38 no. 2

«»H. PURCELL (1659-1695)                     Pavan in B flat Major

«»A. REICHENAUER (c. 1694-1730)      Trio Sonata in D Major

«» G. PH. TELEMANN (1681-1767)        “Gulliver Suite” for 2 violins w/o bass in D Major

J. P. SOUSA (1854-1932)                            The Liberty Bell

M. UCCELLINI (1603-1680)                      Aria sopra la Bergamasca (1642)

«»F. ZAPPA (active 1763-1794)                  Trio Sonata in D Major, op. 4 no. 2

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)                              Sonata for Two Violins in G                                                                                                         (from Opus 54 #2, G114)                                              Allegro con moto, Tempo di Minuetto, Rondeau: Allegro giusto

With the music of Boccherini we move completely away from the soundworld of the Baroque to the high-Classic period, or more properly, the pre-Romantic. In his time Boccherini was seen in most of Europe as an equal of Mozart and Haydn, and his amazing revival in the last two decades has made it newly true.  German musicology in the 19th century saw the psychological development of themes as the backbone of sonata form and therefore of all instrumental music. The Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven path became the road most travelled. In Boccherini we find a sensibility that finds ravishing beauty to be music’s highest goal. This finds an obvious continuance in Schubert and many other 19th century greats. Boccherini’s music blends an incredible variety of string textures and sounds with a constant flow of melody and subtle changes of emotion. One violinist who plays a lot of Boccherini says that he “finds an intimacy of expression that is almost painful”. Even sadness is muted by the healing beauty of sound. When confronted by the “real” world my inner response is usually “why can’t life be more like Boccherini?”

The G Major duo is a transcription of a trio for two violins which dates from 1796. It was published by Pleyel, a once-popular composer who turned to publishing and piano-making in his last two decades.

Although the content of Boccherini’s music is not formed by the developmental manner of Haydn and Mozart, he nonetheless tinkered with Classical forms a great deal and gave an unusual amount of thought about the movement cycle as a whole, with countless examples of thematic unity between separate movements, incomplete movements that may or may not be finished later, etc.  The first movement of the trio/duo is a sonata form, the last a rondo but the structural details are quite different from those of his German contemporaries. Again, more like Schubert than Haydn. Only the Minuetto is in a traditional shape, although it uses rhythms that are more fluidly folk-like than Classical. Incidentally, Boccherini had a few dancers in his family. One of his relatives did the choreography (unfortunately lost) for Beethoven’s only ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus.     -©F.Hauptman 2012   top

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756)          Trio Sonata in C Major                                                                                                          Adagio, Alla breve, Largo, Gigue

The provenance of this work, one of the most beautiful trio sonatas of the 18thcentury,  has been bedeviled by controversy for 250 years,  as has been the biography of its composer.  Most of this is due to an anecdote related by Johann Nikolaus Forkel, the first biographer of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Here are the bare facts of Goldberg’s life: born in Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland),a child prodigy as a keyboard player, which led to his association with Count Keyserlingk, the Russian ambassador to Saxony in 1737. Examples abound in the 18th century of very young and talented musicians (Goldberg was 10 at the time) becoming protégés of rich and famous men (were their families paid?) perhaps passed without comment then but seems a bit sinister now. In any rate, Goldberg left that count in 1745 and signed on with another one, Count Brühl from Dresden in 1751. He died there at age 29, in 1756, of tuberculosis. Not much to go on.

This is where Forkel enters the picture. In 1802, he writes that “Count K often came to Leipzig in order to have Goldberg study with JSB. The count had sleepless nights, during which Goldberg entertained him with harpsichord music. The count asked Bach to write something lengthy and lively for this occasion and Bach obliged with the Aria with 30 Variations.” This sublime masterpiece has been known ever since as the Goldberg Variations, in honor of its supposed first performer. Forkel dates this at 1741, which means that Goldberg was 14 at the  time.  Within the range of possibility, provided that the youngster was talented enough to play one of the most difficult of all harpsichord pieces, and didn’t need much sleep.  There is no other evidence of Goldberg’s contact or study with JSB, or with his elder son W.F.Bach who was in Dresden for some of that time. The thought that he was a Bach student has colored critical thinking of Goldberg all this time. Indeed, our trio sonata in C was attributed to Bach for most of those years. It is certain that the sonata, as well as his other earlier works (cantatas and other trios) has that special combination of extreme polyphonic complexity with lyricism and clarity of expression that we associate with Bach. His later pieces are much more homophonic and pre-classical, if we can speak of “later” pieces of such a young man. But Bach’s more well-known pupils (Krebs, Altnikol, etc.) do not show the fluent mastery displayed by Goldberg and the sons of Bach who, of course, studied with him.  All that remains is guesswork and the wish to further investigate Goldberg’s output.

The sonata itself is a delight to the ears. The first movement has long contrapuntal violin melodies over a walking bass line. Towards the end, the bass joins the tuneful flow as well. A strict and exciting three-part fugue follows, with a fugal subject (in long notes) and two faster moving countersubjects. In the Largo the violins are in canon at the unison throughout: the second violin has exactly the same melody as the first, but two measures behind. Following both lines is a bit hard on the brain at first but it can be done! The closing Gigue is a burst of energy in free counterpoint throughout. -©F.Hauptman 2012             top

George Frideric Handel  (1685-1759)            Trio Sonata in G, Opus 5 #4                                                                                    Allegro; A tempo ordinario – Allegro, non Presto;                                                                                           Passacaille; Gigue; Minuette

Handel needs no introduction, as he was the only Baroque composer except for Bach to remain in the concert repertoire from his own day right up to our own. Most of his massive output is vocal, most notably operas (secular works which were staged) and oratorios (sacred ones that weren’t, such as “Messiah”). Right from his early days in Rome Handel concentrated on this sort of music, with instrumental works seemingly more of a practical sidelight. In the 18th century, three months was considered a reasonable amount of time to write a three-hour opera, and to have it copied, rehearsed, staged and readied  for performance.  The time pressure was intense, so much so that the high quality of much of the music is astonishing. Naturally, Handel very often re- used some of his older works in new settings to meet the demand. Like many of his fellows, he was not averse to using other’s people’s music as well whenever necessary: “intellectual property” was not a term in use then, as publishers also thought nothing of putting a famous name like Handel or Haydn on the work of a lesser-known composer to increase sales.

The trio sonata Opus 5 #4 is the only one by Handel that is an entirely recycled work (hence, better for the environment). All of the movements first appeared in Handel operas, either as overtures or dance pieces. Some of them also show up as orchestral works in his concerti.  He obviously thought highly of them, as do I.

The most surprising is the opening Allegro, a lively straightforward piece in binary form (two parts, both repeated) that seems more like an ending than a beginning. However Handel, unlike Bach or Vivaldi, never went along with the standard forms or styles in his instrumental music, preferring the older, looser collections of sections used by Corelli. This is epitomized by the second movement which is in the style of a “French Overture”, the standard beginning for all operas as well as many concerti, with a march-like first half with dotted rhythms followed by a faster contrapuntal part. Having this sort of movement come second is likably unusual.  The longest movement is the Passacaille, in a moderate triple meter with a repeated harmonic progression of eight measures. Using the French name rather than the Italian “Passacaglia” is revealing, as this movement is as close as Handel comes to the idiom of Lully and his contemporaries. The last two movements are brief and wonderful dances in the same binary form as the first movement.                      -©F. Hauptman 2012  top

Jean-Marie Leclair  (1697-1764)

Leclair almost single-handedly brought the level of French violin playing up to that of their Italian competitors. When Corelli’s solo sonatas began to circulate in the 1690’s it was said that in France they needed three violinists at a time to play them, since multiple-stopping was completely unknown to them. By the 1730’s and 40’s there had arisen a whole generation of French fiddlers that had developed a new style of playing and pedagogy, one that led directly into the 19th century. Leclair’s playing, and more importantly, his compositions, were the driving force.

Leclair was born in Lyons, to a family of musicians, and his descendants include many musicians as well. While he was perfecting his playing and writing his first pieces, he was a professional dancer at the Lyon Opera. The French love for ballet in the 18th century is another stylistic trait that continued in future centuries, hence Wagner’s inserted ballet in the French version of Tannhäuser. He then moved to Italy and Amsterdam, making a final return to Paris in 1745. His output is mostly for the violin: 49 solo sonatas, 12 concerti, 12 duos, and a few trios. The one exception is the opera Scylla et Glaucus, performed at the Paris Opera in 1746. This wonderful piece languished in obscurity until revived by John Eliot Gardiner and is now becoming a standard work.

In October 1764 Leclair was murdered by his nephew. The cause was apparently money, and the nephew claimed that Leclair had squandered the family fortune. Since Leclair kept publishing music and earning money until late in life, this seems odd. However, an old colleague of mine at CCNY, Neil Zaslaw (now the editor of the Rameau complete works) did his dissertation on our composer and theorized that he had written all of his music (except the opera) quite early and had saved the more “advanced” ones for later publications. It would seem that Leclair lost some of his interest in music in his last years of his life. Perhaps gambling was also involved. Since one of the two duos in our repertoire is “early” and the other “late” we can offer a comparison of sort

Sonata for Two Violins in A, Opus 3 #2 (1730)                                                                    Allegro, Sarabande, Allegro                                                                                                   

This delightfully buoyant work demonstrates another step in the synthesis of French and Italian music begun by Francois Couperin. The outer movements have a lot of Vivaldi, occasionally flavored by the sounds of a hoedown. There is some multiple-stopping but the difficulties are quite reasonable and in general the music is straightforward and harmonically simple. The middle movement is entirely French, a melting slow dance that breathes the same air as Rameau. In the finale there are some touches of the coming galant era, as we found in Locatelli.

Sonata for Two Violins in B Flat, Opus 12 #6 (1746)                                            Allegro,  Allegro Moderato,  Andante, Allegro non Presto                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This sonata, published 16 years later, is more ambitious and profound than the one in A. Here the French and Italian elements appear together rather than segregated by movements.  It has a noticeably Baroque gravitas due to the frequent polyphony and a richer harmonic palette. The first two movements make up a prelude and fugue: a bracing and wide-ranging introductory section followed by a fugue on a sinuously serpentine subject which is handled in a quite “learned” manner. The slow movement is one of Leclair’s most remarkable. No tunes here, just a slowly moving series of chromatic harmonies in four or more parts, punctuated by swirling runs. The overall effect is reminiscent of some of the preludes in Bach’s “Well-Tempered” as played by a viol consort or organ. Here the multiple-stopping is extremely awkward and dangerous. A really haunting and rarified few minutes of music.  The typically moderate French gigue provides a bright ending.

The fact that the supposedly later sonata is more Baroque and the earlier one more Classical would  add support to the Zaslaw theory. It is also possible that Leclair meant the Opus 3 sonatas to be teaching pieces (as were most violin duos from the 18th century) and the Opus 12 to be concert works. This would explain the greater virtuosity required.          -©F. Hauptman 2012 top

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764)              Trio Sonata in G Major, Op. 5 no. 1                                                                                              Andante, Largo, Allegro, Vivace

Locatelli was a flamboyantly virtuosic Italian violinist who regularly travelled throughout Europe, amazing people with displays of new techniques. He was an 18th century version of Paganini and was similarly described as “diabolic”. In his opus 3, “The Art of the Violin,” a set of 12 concerti, he included 24 cadenza-like passages called “Capricci”, of maximal difficulty and minimal substance which became the touchstone and bane of most violinists of the next fifty years. Their musical nullity caused the rest of his music to disappear from sight shortly after his death.

The past few decades have seen a welcome re-evaluation of his compositional skills, which turn out to be impressive indeed. Except for the Capricci, very little of his music is centered on virtuosic display, and when it does occur, it is exciting and organic. In addition, Locatelli had an enviable grasp of all the stylistic trends of the first half of the 18th century, beginning with his opus 1, concertos very much in the manner of Corelli, to the high baroque in the wonderful concerto “Il pianto d’Arianna”, a full-blown operatic scene with the violin replacing the soprano. Most surprisingly, starting in the 1730’s strong traces of the “galant” or pre-Classical era begin to appear, often anticipating the great composers of the 1770’s and 80s. Unlike many musicians whose non-musical interests are limited to “what’s for dinner?”, Locatelli’s library was full of books on history, philosophy, and ornithology.

The opus 5 no. 1 is most galant in its opening and closing movements. The first is not a “slow” movement but a perfect example of the moderate, lyrical opening common around 1750.  Beauty of sound, extending to harmony as well as melody, is the main characteristic of this style, with a slower rate of harmonic change, basses which use repeated notes instead of snippets of melody, and the playful use of dynamics. This is even clearer in the Vivace, a classically fast Minuet and Trio. The second half of the minuet proper includes a passage which could be by another of our favorite composers, Luigi Boccherini. The same could be said of the plaintive, vaguely Iberian theme of the g minor trio section.

The Largo has a real baroque walking bass in even eighths notated in four-four, but the violins play in triple rhythms throughout, written in twelve-eight. We find that Dramamine helps them through it. The Allegro is a pure blast of energy in rondo form.   -©F. Hauptman 2012  top

Matthew Locke (c. 1621-1677)                           Set 4 from The Broken Consort                                                                                                Fantasia-Courant-Ayre-Sarabande

The career of Matthew Locke clearly shows the risks and rewards of working for a royal court. Born in Devon, and a choirboy at Exeter, Locke is known to have made a trip to the Netherlands in 1648, but little else is known of his early activities or whereabouts. In 1649, Charles I of England was executed for treason by the forces of Oliver Cromwell and England became a Commonwealth as opposed to a monarchy. During this period, many British composers died either in warfare or the Black Plague which raged in the 1650’s. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Locke found himself the leading composer in England, since other living candidates were much too old. For the next 25 years he served the King in various ways, eventually becoming the leader of the royal orchestra, called the Twenty-four Violins. This post went to Henry Purcell after Locke’s death.

All this is reward (at least for Locke) but the new King, Charles II, was not fond of the complicated music that Locke favored, famously saying that “he only liked music to which he could tap his feet.” This reduced the orchestra to basically a dance band, but Locke found solace in composing church music for the Catholic Queen and writing stage works for Davenant’s famous London theater company.

The midcentury turbulence insulated England from some important Italian innovations: the development of a virtuosic violin style, and a type of piece called the sonata, essentially several short sections of contrasting character. Locke’s chamber music appears old-fashioned in that it shows no trace of these novelties, but seems more than modern today in its typically English quirkiness, which is manifested by harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic irregularities which give pause to players and audiences alike.

Locke devised a mix of free pieces alternating with dances and uses it in most of his instrumental music. Our “set” begins with a fantasia, which means anything goes. This one is a somewhat bewildering kaleidoscope of little motives and sections, some of which sound almost like something played backwards. The other three movements are in binary form: two parts, both repeated. The Courante is a triple-meter dance, the Ayre a passionate slow piece that starts with a simple melody above a striding bass that marches up and down the octave. Typically, the second half has completely new material. The set ends with a Sarabande, not the very slow dance of the 18th century, but a wild thing that lasts about thirty seconds. By the way, the term “broken consort” does not refer to a spouse whose batteries are winding down, but an ensemble made up of different instrumental families. In the first half of the 17th century, it indicated a group of violins, viols, flute, three different types of lute, and harpsichord. By Locke’s era this was no longer feasible. -©F.Hauptman 2014 top

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)                         Pavan in B Flat Major, Z. 750 (1680)

Purcell was not only the finest English composer of the baroque era but quite possibly the best ever from the UK. Within a tragically short lifespan he poured out music of exceptionally high quality in almost all of the known genres of the time and in a few that were quite antiquated by the end of the 17th century.

The pavane (the most common modern spelling) was a slow, processional dance in duple meter, consisting of three sections, or “strains”, each repeated to form an aabbcc pattern. It definitely had an Italian origin but was by far more widespread in England, beginning in the last half of the 16th century, where it was frequently paired with the galliard, a fast triple meter dance. Often the two dances shared thematic material. Many composers, such as William Byrd, wrote their pavanes in three eight-bar homophonic strains, while Others, such as Orlando Gibbons or William Lawes, preferred strains of varying lengths and textures, with a wider harmonic range and frequent dissonances. Occasionally bursts of triple meter will occur, showing that those pieces were not meant to be danced.

By 1680 the pavane was far outdated, and Purcell’s use of both it and the even more old-fashioned fantasia, shows a temperament far out of the ordinary for such a young composer. We must remember that before the 20th century most people were only interested in the newest music and not at all in hearing things that were not of their time. A travelling virtuoso-composer had to write new music for each concert tour or risk ridicule. This is as far from our own day as possible, but the invention of recordings changed everything and now the majority prefers to dine on the old favorites.

Purcell’s Pavan is more like Lawes than Byrd. The strains contain 12, 12 and 16 bars respectively. There are dissonances aplenty, of a type not usually heard in late 17th-century music. By that time, the basics of the tonal system had been codified by Corelli and others, and what dissonances remained were what we call “functional”, meaning that they served to accentuate or color the chord progressions which were the motor of the tonal engine. The ones used by Purcell here and elsewhere are more like stinging intrusions which disturb rather than strengthen the harmonic flow.  That the piece maintains the sort of serenity characteristic of the traditional pavane is something of a small and tender miracle.   -©F.Hauptman 2012  top

Antonín Reichenauer (c. 1694-1730)                               Trio Sonata in D Major                                                                                           Adagio, Allegro, Adagio, Temop di Menuet

One of the nicest things about today’s renewed interest in early music is the continual discovery of “new” composers and repertory. All over the world, countries who were quite sure they had no important musicians way back then have been diving into libraries and coming up with treasures. The Prague composer Antonín Reichenauer is one of those finds.

The area once called Czechoslovakia was one of the centers of music in the 18th century. Many late Baroque and Classical composers were born there, and many of them took up jobs in the most prestigious European capitals, especially in Vienna and Dresden. Zelenka and Dussek were two good examples.  Others worked at home, but their music circulated in those cities as well, usually carried there by friends and pupils. In Reichenauer’s case it was probably done by one his patrons, Count Wenzel Morzin, whose name is closely associated with that of Antonio Vivaldi. Vivaldi’s Opus 8 is dedicated to Morzin, and many manuscripts by many composers in Morzin’s library found their way to Dresden, for use by the court orchestra of Augustus the Strong.

This band was one of the best in Europe and contained many famous players. Composers knew that when they wrote for Dresden they could call on the utmost virtuosity and expect a high level of musical intelligence.  Bach, for example, wrote the Kyrie and Gloria of his Mass in B minor for Dresden in 1733, Vivaldi’s most difficult violin concerti were commissioned by the Dresden concert master Pisendel, etc. So the fact that much of Reichenauer’s instrumental output can be found in that city is proof of his good reputation.

Our trio sonata is indeed a gem, if a very small one.  If the extended works in this form by Handel and others can be called oaks, ours is more like bonsai. If you sneeze you might miss a whole movement! Still, within this tiny frame much is accomplished with superb craftsmanship and subtle thematic links providing unity among the movements.  The opening Adagio is over a walking bass in the style of Corelli, the second has a fugal beginning but is more about brightness and joy than counterpoint. The plaintive third movement is in B minor and leads directly into a fast minuet. -©F.Hauptman 2013  top

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)    Gulliver Suite for two violins (1728)                     Intrada, Lilliputsche Chaconne, Brobdingnagische Gigue, Reverie der Laputier-nebst ihren Aufweckern, Loure der gesitteten Houyhnhnms/Furie der unartigen Yahoos

The amount of good music that Telemann composed during his long and fruitful life staggers the imagination, but it was by no means all he accomplished. He was a man of letters as well, writing the libretti for “at least 20 operas”, according to his first autobiography of 1718.  Telemann’s interests also extended to publishing, including a groundbreaking periodical called Der getreue Musik-Meister, (“The Trusty Music Master”) launched in 1728.  This magazine included music by Telemann and many of his fellows, including Bach, Veracini, and a host of others, and some educational material. For example, he printed fugue subjects and encouraged readers to complete the fugues and send them in (prize unspecified). All the music was intended to be within reach of talented amateurs. The Gulliver Suite appeared in one of the first issues.

This work is an extreme example of what is now called “program music”: music with extra-musical connotations of some sort. There are two basic types: pieces with vague titles which suggest a certain affect but could easily have been added to the music after it was composed, and works with very specific titles which are depicted comprehensively in the music itself. To fully understand this sort of program music, some knowledge of the non-musical source is necessary.

Telemann’s Gulliver falls emphatically in the second camp. Jonathan Swift’s immortal novel Gulliver’s Travels was published in England in 1726. By 1728, it was available in Germany, but only in a French translation. This means that the literary-minded Telemann knew it by then, and what is more, could count on his readers to know it as well! This is actually much faster than fiction travels today, despite the advances in technology. In America, when translated literary fiction from around the world does appear, it usually takes about four years, and then no one reads it anyway.

Except for the relatively generalized opening movement, the Intrada, an active-sounding march, all the movements of the suite are drastically programmatic and are all jokes of one The Lilliputian Chaconne and the Brobdingnagian Guigesort or another. The “Lilliputian Chaconne” is all in tiny notes, mostly 128th notes, has an unheard-of meter of 3/32, and lasts about 20 seconds. All these factors of course stem from the miniscule Lilliputians themselves. The Gigue of the Brobdingnagians (huge creatures) is all in whole notes with a meter of 24/1, an attempt to depict the clumsy and boorish dancers. These two dances are perfect examples of augenmusik, or eye music. The point is designed more for the players than the audience, which makes sense since the work was written to be played in the home.

The last two movements are quite different. The Laputians are absent-minded philosophical types whose gossamer thoughts are created by their sleepy minds. Therefore, they need servants who awaken them to avoid social and physical disasters. Telemann’s reverie has three thematic ideas: a three-note figure which is like a lullaby; a motive in fast higher notes for their wispy ideas; and violent large intervals which suggest the banging of the “flappers”. It sounds a bit like they are being thrashed to a pulp, but I guess anti-intellectualism is as old as intellectuals. The finale has two melodies played at the same time: the elegant tune of the gentle Houyhnhnms (horses) and the furious scratchings of the Yahoo (human beings like us, unfortunately). I especially enjoy hearing my gentle wife Olga impersonate the roars of a Yahoo. She is getting better at it, which does worry me a bit. -©F.Hauptman 2012  top

Francesco Zappa (active 1763-1794)               Trio Sonata in D Major, op. 4 no. 2                                                                                        Andantino Cantabile-Minuetto Allegro

Francesco Zappa was a cellist and composer, probably from Milan. In 1763 we find him there giving cello lessons to the Duke of York (brother of George III of England).  Starting in 1764, along with his friend Francesco Ricci, he lived the life of a traveling virtuoso throughout Europe until he finally became principal cellist at the Dutch court at The Hague sometime in the 1770’s.  The actual dates of his birth and death are unknown, which was not unusual in his day, when parish records were frequently lost, as were most court contracts.

Many people (including myself) first heard the name of Francesco Zappa from his almost-namesake, the American rock musician and composer Frank Zappa (1940-1993). The two Zappas (or Zappi) are not related, but Frank became quite interested in Francesco, bringing out a weird LP of his music, or, really, improvisations on his music, played on the synclavier. He also wrote an article on the earlier composer which was published in America and England. For those who were never fans of Frank Zappa, he also wrote many large orchestral works which have been championed by some very intellectual conductors, including Pierre Boulez and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Although Zappa was widely known throughout Europe (his name appears a few times in Mozart’s letters) he left relatively little music. Much of it consists of trio sonatas. Stylistically, his music is typical of the early classical period. Comparing it to other Italian composers we have performed, it fits right between the late baroque of Locatelli and the late classic of Boccherini. Zappa has a lot of their elegance and sweetness, as well. Music of Zappa’s era was very different from that of the previous generation. It was characterized by homophonic textures (melody plus accompaniment), simple chords which move at a slower pace, and an aversion to minor keys.  “Noble simplicity” was their motto and entertainment their goal.

Many chamber works by Zappa and others back then were in just two movements: usually a moderate first movement followed by a livelier dance. In the D Major trio, the first violin has almost all of the melodic lines, while the second violin provides harmony and occasional antiphony. The bass (me) is mostly repeated notes, what they called the “drum bass” style.  The overall effect is charming and euphonious. Zappa was not a trailblazer, but the beauty of his work is an example of one of the most wonderful things about music: the seemingly inexhaustible number of little-known composers out there whose work can provide us both the pleasure of contented listening and of joyful discovery. -©F.Hauptman 2013 top


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