NPR: Performance Today -- Parnassus Avenue Baroque -- Live in Studio 4A
NPR

| Back to npr.org


 
Regular Features
 
Live in Studio 4A
Our showcase for artists invited to perform on the program and talk about their music
The PT 50
Our list of 50 essential classical CDs
Piano Puzzlers
Bruce Adolphe's "name that composer" piano quiz
 
 
 
Live in Studio 4A:
Parnassus Avenue Baroque
This baroque quartet was formed just over a year ago by four established musicians in the early music scene, to present imaginative programs of eighteenth-century music.
Based in the San Francisco Bay area, the group takes its name from Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco, where cellist Tanya Tomkins's father worked.

Listen to the entire feature Artist Profiles
Program Notes

Selected Program Audio Excerpts

The Musicians
David Tayler on the theorbo On the group and the theorbo
Learn about how the group formed; David Tayler demonstrates on his theorbo (left)
Baroque vs. Modern
Tanya Tomkins on the baroque cello vs. the modern cello

The Music

Corelli: Sonata in E Major, Op. 5, No. 11
Sammartini: Sonata in D Minor for two recorders
Bigaglia: Sonata in A Minor for fourth flute


Program Notes

Cellist Tanya Tomkins The opus-5 violin sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli are among the most published works ever. The greatly admired collection was printed more than a record forty times in the eighteenth century, and generations of composers copied the music and learned the sonata form by studying the twelve sonatas. The collection is divided into two parts. The first six are called Sonate di chiesa and have more intricate, abstract counterpoint, whereas the six remaining sonatas, the Sonate di camera, have more dance-like movements in what seems to be an Italian version of the French suite form. The E-Major Sonata is a playful story told in five inspired movements, in which the composer seems to combine the learned wit of the Sonata da chiesa with the more relaxed entertainment of the Sonata da camera.
The first broad Preludio gives way to a bouncing Allegro with plenty of room for both parts to display eloquent passagework. A brief Adagio allows players and listeners alike to take a breath and prepare for the intelligent counterpoint of the fourth movement, and the sonata concludes with a Gavotta.

The Sonata in D-Minor by Giuseppe Sammartini has been a long-time favorite with recorder players despite some odd stylistic features. In the third movement, for example, the setting is rather odd, with the two top parts playing repeated notes in a slow tempo, whereas the bass line and the chord progression are slow with very little motion. We decided to play the repeated notes like a string pizzicato and David added a flowing part for the cello to connect the chord changes with the static expression of the recorders. The effect is that of halted emotion, a standstill before the eruptions of the last movement.

The little sonata by Diogenio Bigaglia is a remarkable piece of music that really stands out in comparison with his other instrumental works. The score calls for a "fluta di quatre," which translates as "fourth flute." The lowest note of the fourth flute, a B-flat, is a fourth higher than the lowest note of the regular alto recorder, which is referred to by the English as the "common flute." This sonata, however, is in A Minor, creating all sorts of problems for a player using a fourth flute, which is more suited for flat keys. Today, most players perform Bigaglia's sonata on a soprano recorder, but we wanted a more extreme sound suitable for the dramatic character of the music. By using my the higher register of the baroque G alto recorder, without changing the original key of the music, the resulting tone color is more flexible as well as louder. Noteworthy is the lack of the traditional slow third movement, for which Bigaglia substitutes a lively Minuetto.

-Information for the notes provided by Parnassus Avenue Baroque

Back to top

Artist Profiles

Dan Laurin's debut concerts in the United States featured him as a soloist on tour with the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble and with his Trio Dan Laurin. He has alsotoured the United States with the Swedish lutenist Jakob Lindberg. Appearances at the Boston, Berkeley, and Amherst Early Music Festivals followed as well as performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Stockholm's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Laurin is a frequent voice on Swedish national radio as a reviewer of books on aesthetics and a commentator on music, and he is on the board of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Hanneke van Proosdij (PROOZ-jee) studied harpsichord, organ, recorder, and composition at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. She performs with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the American Bach Soloists, and Chanticleer as well as with numerous chamber music ensembles. She teaches at the East Bay Waldorf School and is the director of the Baroque Academy at the Amherst Early Music Festival.

David Tayler is a member of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and is the director of the Bay Area Collegium Musicum. He has appeared with the American Bach Soloists, Tafelmusik, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, among others. Tayler has recorded over 50 albums for a variety of labels. A specialist in the art song of the early seventeenth century, he has performed in lute recitals throughout Europe and the United States, and is guest conductor of the Amherst Early Music Festival.

Tanya Tomkins received a Soloists' Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, as a student of Anner Bijlsma. Her interest in period instruments led her to the founding of the Trio d'Amsterdam with whom she has recorded and performed. She is a member of the American Bach Soloists and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, which has featured her as a soloist. In 2001, Tomkins became the first cellist to win the prestigious Erwin Bodky Competition for Early Music Soloists. Tomkins's virtuosity extends to the modern cello, and she has performed to critical acclaim on Lincoln Center's "Great Performers"series and the 92nd St Y's "Meet the Virtuoso."