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the sydney consort

Concert Series 2014

Con Amore

"I am called Viola d’amore rightfully because my extraordinary resonance places lovers in a mood of pleasure and joy. Yet, I am often praised by troubled people since in their great pain my sweet tone delights them. Whoever understands and loves music will freely admit that I should be called gracefulness itself by everyone"Johann Christoph Weigel (1720)

Johann Sebastian Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto is a good place to begin an exploration of Baroque music. The concerto form itself, with its alternation of soloists and orchestra, was a product of the Baroque era and was one of six "concertos with several instruments" that the composer gathered together in 1721 and dedicated to the music-loving youngest son of the Elector of Brandenburg, which explains the title.

To keep the “Con Amore” theme, Jane Downer, oboist based in London will present a very special Concerto. In many of Bach’s cantatas, passions and oratorios, the oboe – and its various relatives such as the oboe d’amore and oboe da caccia – plays a prominent role. Using it as his preferred obbligato instrument, Bach obviously cherished the versatility of the oboe and selected it to accompany arias that deal with grief and heavenly joys, repentance and pastoral calm. Researchers have for a long time thought that his keyboard concertos were originally composed for other instruments, and much evidence points to certain them being intended for the oboe, or oboe d’amore.

For the overwhelming audience demand, our ensemble will present again a recently discovered manuscript of a Concerto for Viola d’amore, two flutes and string ensemble. In a work speculatively dated to about 1750, we have a kind of valedictory tribute to an Italian Baroque style on the part of an unknown Polish musician/composer. Whoever he was, he must surely have known Vivaldi’s music. Likewise reminiscent of Vivaldi is the choice of the solo instrument. The Viola d’amore was a very popular instrument in 18th century Poland with many great virtuosos of this instrument. The recent discovery of this concerto places it fortunately in a relatively small amount of repertoire for this wonderful instrument.

An undated Triple Concerto of Telemann displays his most gracious style of composition that embraces the finest of the rococo traditions. This Concerto is a real discovery and the undoubted gem of this set is the triple concerto for the unusual combination of oboe d’amore, flute & viola d’amore. This composition is not merely a virtuoso display piece, neither should it be judged simply for curiosity value as it contains some serious and appealing musical ideas. It is a fascinating, melodious and satisfying piece with episodes of real serenity.

Stabat Mater

Charles Avison named Antonio Caldara along with Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti and George Frideric Handel as the composers …

“… whose works have been thoroughly proved and have stood the never failing test of time.”

Antonio Caldara (1670–1736) is primarily known for his numerous oratorios and operas, which brought him great popularity during his lifetime. Besides these large-scale compositions, Caldara also wrote smaller vocal works, of which his “Stabat mater” is the best known.

The Stabat Mater is an elaborate setting of the full poem, which reveals Caldara’s mastery both of homophonic and imitative writing. Chromaticism, suspension and instrumental colour are the most prominent features of the Stabat Mater. As it is expected from an opera composer, Caldara’s writing shows in this work an affinity for mood and effective text setting. A fondness for fugal–style writing and occasional harmonic surprises is apparent throughout.

The breathtaking beauty of Biber’s Rosary Sonatas reaches across the centuries to touch our modern ears with rich new harmonies and colours. Written over three hundred years ago as meditations in music, the Sonatas are also artistic masterpieces, dazzling in their originality, virtuosity and depth. Biber’s X Sonata is perhaps the most dramatic of the Rosary Sonatas. The slashing chords at the beginning have been likened to the striking of the nails into Jesus’ body, and the final flourish has been compared to the storm and earthquake that is described after his death. This Sonata closes the set of Sorrowful Mysteries.


The distinctive characteristics of the Elements may be recognised, separate or merged together, in whole or in part, on their various appearances in that I call Chaos, each of which indicates the efforts made by the Elements to free themselves from one another. At the 7th appearance of Chaos these efforts diminish as order finally asserts itself.

Jean–Féry Rebel
Foreword to Les Elemens

For centuries, standard philosophy held that the world was made of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. In the 18th century, it was understood that God created the world not from nothing, but from chaos, which consisted of the four elements in contention with each other.

The most remarkable music in this program if not the entire 18th century, is found in Les élémens by Jean–Féry Rebel, long time leader of the elite Versailles orchestra called the 24 Violons du Roy. The opening, Chaos, has tone clusters that would have been considered avant-garde in the 20th century.

To celebrate the richness and diversity of our modern society, the Sydney Consort explores musical intersections between old and new, tradition and innovation. The concert emphasises the continuity between early music of Europe and modern Australia with the pairing of music by baroque masters by celebrated Dutch and Australian composers. We then explore links in harmony between baroque French and contemporary visions of the landscape in a rich program that integrates Western instrumental music. Like our contemporary culinary tradition, this musical journey presents a fascinating fusion of influences to create a refreshingly spicy dish of sonic delight.

The Organ Recital

“There is nothing remarkable to playing the organ. You only have to hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself”.

Johann Sebastian Bach

We welcome you to the first concert of the new series – The Organ Recital. On this occasion our guest organist will be Merethe Lammert Køhl Hansen from Denmark, who will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, Gade & Lorentzen on the heritage William Hill 1886 pipe organ at St Augustine’s.

The great organ instrument of St Augustine’s – Hill & Son, previously installed in the concert hall in Pitt Street, was built in 1886. In 1907 it was moved to St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, and then in 1912 was transported for the last time to St Augustine’s Balmain. The organ sits high up in the west galley, and speaks down the nave into a lively acoustic. This instrument was reconditioned by Arthur Jones in 1966.

Only a small number of William Hill organs in original condition have survived in Australia. This famous English organ maker exported organs all around the world including the one in Sydney Town Hall.

The organ has three manuals (top called swell, middle called great, and lower called choir) and a full pedal board. The beautiful stenciling on the show pipes erupt in a blaze of colour when the sun shines. Perhaps the only organ in Australia to be decorated with the lotus blossom and other Egyptian motifs. The late 19th century saw a craze in all things from ancient Egypt which William Hill and Son extended to their organ decorations!

The excellent acoustics of the church make it a favoured place for concerts and recordings. The Sydney Consort made all their recordings at this church and its chapel.


“What good does it do if a work is well written but stirs no feelings in the listener? Many people judge music on the basis of its notation and do not know how it sounds. Such people claim this right for themselves although they would do better not to practice it.”

Padre Soler (18th C)

The music of 17th century Spain was infused with a spirit of adventure and exploration, closely mirroring the exploits of travelers and adventurers of the time. The New World was opening up, and new influences were coming to the Old World in a startling and vigorous way. This new music is full of energy, beauty, and sheer brilliance. Our band reveals the music that was so closely integrated with the life of 17th century Spain as it sought to change the world.

The fandango first appeared in the early eighteenth century, later on with regional derivations – the malagueña, granadina, murciana, and rondeña, named for their places of origin. They are lively dances, usually in triple metre, traditionally accompanied by guitars and castanets or hand-clapping. Fandango can both be sung and danced. Sung fandango is usually bipartite: it has an instrumental introduction followed by "variaciones". Probably the most famous, and certainly the most played, of Soler’s harpsichord works is the ubiquitous, dazzling Fandango, which has frequently been compared to Ravel’s Bolero. What Padre Soler may have done was borrow or adapt an existing bass line.

The Mannhein School

“With what extraordinary art and facility he (Karl Stamitz) plays the viola! With what heavenly sweet tone and cantilena he enchants our ears with his viola d’amour - and with what fire and surety he plays the violin as Konzertmeister!”

E.L. Gerber (1792)

In the old days the music of the so-called Mannheim school, a group of 18th-century composers who assembled themselves in the city of Mannheim, Germany, under the patronage of Duke Karl Theodor (reigned 1743–99), the elector palatine. They distinguished themselves particularly in their instrumental music, which proved to be of great significance in the development of the mature Classical style (as exemplified in the works of Joseph Haydn and W.A. Mozart; the latter particularly admired the Mannheim orchestra).

The Mannheim school consists chiefly of two generations of composers. The first includes Johann Stamitz, who was the founder and inspired conductor of the orchestra; Ignaz Holzbayer; Franz Xaver Richter and Carlo Giuseppe Toeschi. These men established the supremacy of the Mannheim school and, in their orchestral works, initiated many of the effects that were to popularize it. Carl Stamitz is generally considered to be the leading figure of the second generation of these composers, among which Cannabich and Stamitz’s younger brother Anton are to be counted. The Mannheim School of composers was of great significance to the development of the Viennese classical style and of orchestral technique.