Sacred Cantata and Motets – an evening of Baroque sacred vocal works with Rosaline Pi
Hong Kong City Hall Theatre
March 3rd, 2019 8:00pm
Ticket: $200, $160 (available at URBTIX outlets)
In this Concert, a concert focused on Baroque’s sacred cantata and motets, I shall be singing:
- Telemann’s (1681-1767) sacred cantata Jauchzt, ihr Christen, seid vergnügt (Rejoice all you Christians, be cheerful) for solo soprano
- Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Salve Regina RV 617 for solo soprano
- Pergolesi’s (1710-1736) Salve Regina in c minor for solo soprano
- A. Scarlatti’s (1660-1725) Salve Regina for soprano and alto
- Boccherini’s (1743-1805) Stabat Mater for solo soprano
In the performance, I am working with my long-time music friend Enico Luk (counter-tenor), Prof. Michael Ryan (harpsichord & organ) and an instrumental ensemble led by violinist Lam Tim Wai (Hong Kong’s early music pioneer and expert).
是次演唱會我演出的全是巴洛克時期的聖樂作品，包括泰利曼（Telemann）的宗教清唱劇《基督中的信徒，你們要歡欣》，兩套分別是偉華第（Vivaldi）及裴哥雷西（Pergolesi）的RV617及C小調《聖母經》（Salve Regina）作品，以及兩套分別是斯卡拉蒂（A. Scarlatti）二重唱及玻凱利尼（Boccherini）獨唱的《聖母悼歌》（Stabat Mater）作品。邀來和我合作的全是我音樂上多年的拍檔：假聲男高音陸 堅智及古鏈琴/風琴家Michael Ryan，另有香港少有的早期音樂能手小提琴家林添偉及由其帶領的器樂小組。
Below are live recordings taken from our recent rehearsals for the Concert:
1.Boccherini’s Stabat Mater for solo soprano (I. Stabat Mater)
2. A. Scarlatti’s Salve Regina for soprano and alto (I. Salve Regina)
Rosaline Pi (soprano)
Enico Luk (counter-tenor)
Lam Tim Wai (1st violin)
Amy Yau (2nd violin)
Monica Johnston (viola)
Stephen Chan (1st cello)
Chong Ling (2nd cello)
Michael Ryan (organ)
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1512592838843816/
The birth of “Bel canto singing”
Singing (the human instrument) is probably the oldest instrument in history. However, serious solo singing, where one’s singing is the single highlighted “instrument”, with all other musical parts, either sung or played on instruments, as accompaniment, only began to develop at end of the 16th century. This was the time when the vocal genre of opera was “discovered”: when there was the need for the protagonists to take turn to act out the drama on stage via singing, the singers were required to sing with a projected voice. From this time on, in the history of singing, we start to hear about the term “bel canto singing”. Although “bel canto singing” literally translates into “beautiful singing”, it really refers to the techniques of solo singing with a projected voice. Although troubadours (individual traveling composers and performers who sang to audiences while playing on their instruments) flourished in the High Middle Ages (about 1100-1350), “solo singing”, as a school of singing techniques, did not come by till early 17th century.
The birth of the cantata vocal genre
The first recorded opera in history was Jacope Peri’s Dafne (performed in Florence is 1597). Once born, with its high commercial values, there was no limit to the operas’ secular content. This had upset the Church and opera was banned for a long time in Italy. Composers who were passionate about writing opera turned to write what we call cantatas: a much smaller scale of music works of drama sung by solo voices, accompanied by simple instrumental ensembles. Most cantatas were commissioned works by princes or Church bishops. These were performed in private homes.
The concertante style of writing music
As opposed to the polyphony style of writing music (for multiple, simultaneous, equally important and yet independent voice parts) that flourished in the Renaissance period (around 1400 to 1600), the dominating style of writing music in the Baroque period was concertante (one can always identity a leading part among the different parts in the music). This was also the music writing style for cantatas: it had to be if cantatas were sung only by a handful of solo singers. The writing of cantatas flourished in the Baroque period especially in Italy, the place where opera was born.
Cantatas and motets
Cantatas can be secular or sacred, although the former takes up the majority, depending on the lyrics. Motets, despite the term’s vast range of definition over the history of music, when sung by soli singers, are basically cantatas (as far as writing style is concerned) except that the lyrics of motets are taken either from the Scripture or some liturgical texts. Motets are mostly sung in Latin.
Here, I would like to make a special remark: for Bach, his over 200 vocal cantatas were mostly written for the Church he served. Hence, while cantatas in Italy are mostly secular vocal works, for Bach and his German contemporaries such as Telemann, cantatas are mostly sacred vocal works. Strictly speaking, these are not motet because while the content of the lyrics was sacred, they were not taken directly from the Scripture or liturgical texts.
Now, we can almost conclude that what the term “cantata” refers to is the type of vocal works that are composed using the concertante music writing style.
「人聲」該是史上最早的樂器。不過，「獨唱」（音樂中突出某部人聲為音樂中主要部分，其他聲部或器樂只倫為伴奏）作為正式獨當一面的表演「樂器」一事，只始於十六世紀末。當時歌劇此曲種剛冒起，劇中各主角輪流在舞台上以歌聲道出心中情，需要用有共嗚的唱法，自此之後就出現「美聲唱法」（Bel Canto Singing）一詞。Bel Canto Singing雖然直譯Beautiful Singing，但其真正指涉的是「獨唱的技巧」這門學問。雖然中世紀後期風行的遊唱詩人都是到處自彈自唱，但他們講究的並不是唱歌技巧。
史上第一套有記錄的歌劇是Jacope Peri 的 Dafne（1597年在佛羅倫斯首演）。歌劇此娛樂性重的曲種一面世，因為商業價值高，很快便傳遍意大利，在市場競爭下，內容日趨世俗化，因此引起教廷不滿，多次禁演歌劇，作曲家們技癢，唯有把劇情簡化，演出規模縮小，再用歌劇的作曲方式轉寫清唱劇。大部分的清唱劇都是由權貴委約的私人作品，在後花園演出，內容有宗教及非宗教性的，但以後者居多。音樂及作曲上清唱劇與當時的歌劇無異，內容世俗化的清唱劇可算是小型歌劇。