Historical Seasons > Past Symposiums

Symposium 103 - “Gloria and Furore” Music of the Italian Baroque

Sunday, 14 October 2012 @ 5:00pm
Monday, 15 October 2012 @ 7:00pm

Italian Baroque Chamber Music
For Voice and Instruments


  • Gloria in excelsis Deo, Cantata for Soprano, Two Violins, and Basso Continuo

    Gloria in excelsis Deo
    Et in terra pax
    Laudamus te
    Domine Deus
    Qui tollis peccata mundi
    Quoniam tu solus Sanctus


    George Frideric Handel

  • Sonata in E Major, K. 531

    Sonata in D Minor, K. 141
    Domenico Scarlatti

  • Trio Sonata in D Minor, op. 1, no. 12 La Folia, RV 63
    Antonio Vivaldi

  • Sonata in A Minor for Bassoon and Basso Continuo, op. 3, no. 6     

    Tema con variazioni


    Luidgi Merci
    c. 1695-c. 1750

  • Trio Sonata in A Major, op. 3. no. 12



    Arcangelo Corelli

  • In furore iustissimae irae, Motet for Soprano, Strings, and Basso Continuo, RV 626

    In furore iustissimae irae
    Miserationem Pater piissime
    Tunc meus fletus evadet laetus






Program Notes

    Program Overview

    By the beginning of the 18th century, the demand of Italian music around Europe was so high that it became the international musical style of the time.  Foreign musicians flocked to Rome, Venice, Florence, and Naples to learn the latest musical trends, while Italian singers, instrumentalists, and composers fanned out over the continent and England, taking advantage of the voracious appetite for Italian music. Helicon’s 103rd Symposium presents music from this time, when Italian became the international musical language.

    Individual works

    George Frideric Handel
    (b Halle, 23 Feb 1685; d London, 14 April 1759 )

    Gloria in excelsis Deo
    Sacred Cantata for Soprano, Two Violins, and Basso Continuo

    Handel’s splendid sacred cantata, Gloria in excelsis Deo, was discovered in 2001 in the library archives of London’s Royal Academy of Music.  German musicologist, Hans Joachim Marx was examining a folio of handwritten Handel arias from the 1730s, when he discovered this previously unknown work.  Scholars believe the work comes from the years Handel spent in Rome at the beginning of the 18th century.

    In 1706, Handel moved to Italy and by 1707 had arrived in Rome where he experienced almost instant success.  His early Roman patrons included cardinals Carlo Colonna, Benedetto Pamphili, and the great music patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, for whom he produced a body of sacred vocal music accompanied by instruments.  That this German Lutheran should find himself writing so much Catholic music underscores the growing internationalism of the time, and Handel’s artistic flexibility.  Soon he came to the attention of one of the city’s leading aristocratic music patrons, Francesco Maria Ruspoli.  The wealthy Ruspoli court employed a number of Rome’s leading musicians, including soprano, Margherita Durastanti.  It is probable that Handel wrote his Gloria as one of a number of vehicles for Durastanti’s famous virtuosity.

    Handel moved to London in 1712 and began his successful career as an Italian opera composer in England, eventually inviting Durastanti to London as his prima donna. It is possible that she brought the original Gloria score (now lost) with her and that is where the surviving copies were made.  We know it entered the library of Handel’s friend, the singer William Savage.  Savage passed them to his son, Reverend George Savage, who, in turn, left them to a pupil, Richard John Samuel Stevens.  Stevens bequeathed them to The Royal Academy of Music, which was founded in 1822, where they remained until the 21st century.

    Domenico Scarlatti
    (b Naples, 26 Oct 1685; d Madrid, 23 July 1757 )

    Sonata in E Major, K. 531
    Sonata in D Minor, K. 141

    Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples, the sixth child of Alessandro Scarlatti.  A child prodigy, at 15 he was appointed organist and composer of the Cappella Reale in Naples.  In 1719, Domenico left Italy to take a position as court composer in Lisbon.  There, he became the personal music instructor to princess Maria Barbara.  She was an exceptional harpsichordist and Domenico began composing sonatas for her, a body of work that eventually numbered 555.  In 1728, the princess was married to the heir to the Spanish throne and relocated to Madrid.  Domenico followed her there and spent the rest of his career serving in the Spanish court. 

    The influence of his adopted country is evident throughout the harpsichord sonatas.  Ralph Kirkpatrick (Albert Fuller’s harpsichord teacher at Yale) wrote, “There is hardly an aspect of Spanish life, of Spanish popular music and dance, that has not found itself a place in the microcosm that Scarlatti created with his sonatas.  He has captured the click of castanets, the strumming of guitars, the thud of muffled dreams, the harsh bitter wail of Gypsy lament, the overwhelming gaiety of the village band, and above all, the wiry tension of the Spanish dance.”

    [The word cantata is based on the Italian cantare, “to sing,” and so indicates a work that is sung. Sonata comes from sonare, “to sound,” and indicates an instrumental piece.]

    Antonio Vivaldi
    (b Venice, 4 March 1678; d Vienna, 28 July 1741)

    Trio Sonata in D Minor, op. 1, no. 12 La Folia, RV 63 For Two Violins, and Basso Continuo

    Vivaldi published his first set of twelve trio sonatas in 1705.  The final sonata of the group is a theme and variations on the ancient dance known as La Folia, literally “folly.”  This melody has roots in 16th-century Portugal and was first published in 1627.  It is one of the oldest remembered melodies in Europe and was used by over 150 composers, including Corelli, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms, and Rachmaninov.  The name refers to the frenzied dancing that would ensue when La Folia was performed at festivals.  In Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata, op. 1, no. 12, he opens with a simple statement of the Folia theme followed by 19 variations that exploit the full virtuosic potential of the ensemble.

    If you are counting the musicians on stage for this piece, you might think that five was rather large for a “trio.”  The trio sonata was one of the most popular chamber music ensembles of the Baroque era.  The name refers to the number of melodic lines written by the composer, which would not necessarily correspond to the number of performers.  In a trio sonata, the composer writes two solo melodic lines and one bass line, thus a trio.  The Corelli and Vivaldi trio sonatas we hear tonight were written for two violins, though there are trio sonatas featuring a variety of strings and wind instruments.  The bass line is performed by what is known as the basso continuo, a flexible group of harmonic instruments (i.e., harpsichord, organ, harp, lute, guitar, theorbo) and melodic bass instruments (i.e., cello, double bass, bassoon) determined by the performers.  Throughout tonight’s concert, Helicon's continuo musicians will employ various combinations of cello, bassoon, theorbo, guitar, and harpsichord.  The melodic bass instrumentalists play the bass line verbatim, while the harmonic instrumentalists use it as the basis on which they improvise their accompaniment, very much like a jazz rhythm section.

    The second half of tonight’s program provides an interesting view of the role of fame, success, and posterity during the flowering of Italian Baroque music.

    Luidgi Merci
    (c 1695 – c 1750)

    Sonata in A Minor for Bassoon and Continuo, op. 3, no. 6

    Almost nothing is known about Luidgi Merci.  We do know he ended up in London, as did many enterprising Italian musicians in the early 18th century.  Sometime around 1720, Merci accepted a post with James Brydges, Count of Caernarvon and first Duke of Chandos. In 1730, he married an English woman named Ann Hampshire and they lived near Covent Garden. Merci's only surviving compositions are his six sonatas for bassoon. These felicitous works are remarkable for their lyricism and expression, and they provide the bass woodwind with a rare star turn.

    Arcangelo Corelli
    (b Fusignano, 17 Feb 1653; d Rome, 8 Jan 1713)

    Trio Sonata da chiesa in A Major, op. 3, no. 12

    Italian composer and violinist, Arcangelo Corelli produced only a small body of instrumental chamber music yet was immensely influential at home and abroad.  He benefitted greatly from the bourgeoning music publishing industry that began to bring Italian music to a wider European audience.  Unlike Vivaldi, whose reputation is greater today but whose music was not widely published in his lifetime, Corelli’s compositions were wildly popular, circulating widely throughout Europe and garnering him myriad slavish imitators. 

    Corelli died a successful man, with a valuable art collection and many important musical instruments in his estate.  He bequeathed paintings to Cardinals Colonna and Ottoboni, both of whom had been important patrons of Handel.

    In furore iustissimae irae, Motet for Soprano, Strings, and Basso Continuo, RV 626

    In the late 1730s, with Vivaldi’s popularity with the Venetian public waning, he did what so many other Italian musicians had done before him and embarked on a trip abroad.  He headed to Vienna in hopes of producing some of his operas at Kärntnertortheater, but fate intervened.  His intended patron, Emperor Charles VI, died on October 20, 1740, and all the theaters of Vienna were closed for the remainder of the following carnival.  Too poor to return to Venice, Vivaldi died in Vienna in poverty with the vast majority of his music unpublished, including tonight’s motet.

    A sacred motet is a sacred but non-liturgical work for singer and instruments, usually in Latin. In furore iustissimae irae is one of three surviving motets by Vivaldi.  It is believed that they were written in Rome during the carnival seasons of 1732 and 1733. Motets such as In furore used a general religious text not associated with a particular time during the church year.  Known as, “per ogni tempo” (“for all seasons”), these works made good economic sense for the composer as well as the performer because they could be programmed throughout the year for a variety of occasions.

    In furore iustissimae iraehas been called “a concerto for soprano,” and, indeed, the work crackles with virtuosic intensity.  The first aria opens with agitated string writing reminiscent of “Summer” from The Four Seasons.  The soprano sings of God’s divine wrath in the face of personal guilt.  After a brief prayer for mercy, Vivaldi writes a remarkable aria addressed directly to Jesus.  The principal music of this intimate, heart-rending aria does not use bass instruments.  The violins, viola, and soprano delicately intertwine like rising incense.  The final “Alleluia” is a tour de force for soprano that closes the motet in awe of God’s power and the singer’s prowess.

Texts and Translations

    Gloria in excelsis Deo (Handel)

    Gloria in excelsis Deo.

    Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

    Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.
    Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
    Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.

    Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
    Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
    Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.

    Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
    Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.

    Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. Tu solus Dominus.
    Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
    Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris.

    Glory be to God on high,

    And on earth peace, good will towards men.

    We praise thee, we bless thee,
    We worship thee, we glorify thee,
    We give thanks to thee for thy great glory,

    O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
    O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
    O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,

    Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
    Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
    Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy on us.

    For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord;
    Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
    Art most high in the glory of God the Father.


    In furore iusstissimae irae (Vivaldi)

    In furore iustissimae irae
    Tu divinitus facis potentem.
    Quando potes me reum punire
    ipsum crimen te gerit clementem.

    Miserationum Pater piissime,
    parce mihi dolente
    peccatori languenti,
    o Jesu dulcissime.

    Tunc meus fletus
    evadet laetus
    dum pro te meum
    languescit cor.
    Fac me plorare,
    mi Jesu care,
    et fletus laetus
    fovebit cor.


    In wrath and most just anger
    you divinely exercise power.
    When you punish me in my guilt
    the crime itself bears you in your mercy.

    Most loyal Father of mercies
    spare me, a sorrowful,
    weak sinner,
    most sweet Jesus.

    Then shall my weeping
    turn to joy
    as my heart is softened
    towards you.
    Make me cry,
    my dear Jesus,
    and joyful weeping
    will warm my heart.