Freiburger Barockorchester is based in Freiburg im Breisgau, a university city the size of Bergen located in the beautiful highland area on the western edge of the Black Forest in south-west Germany, close to the French and Swiss borders. In 1987 music students at the College of Music decided to form an ensemble and play Baroque music on historical instruments. Or as they expressed it themselves: ‘to bring the musical world of the Baroque alive with new sounds’. Under the musical direction of its concert masters Gottfried von der Goltz and Petra Müllejans, the orchestra performs about a quarter of its concerts with guest conductors such as René Jacobs or Trevor Pinnock. In Bergen it will however be conducted from the concert master’s desk by Gottfried von der Goltz and Petra Müllejans.
Although its central repertoire is Baroque music, headed by Vivaldi and Bach, the orchestra has also performed works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Weber and even music by contemporary composers. It is nevertheless Baroque music that is at the heart of the orchestra, not performed in Romantic style as was common for many years, but as close to Baroque practice as possible. We will have the opportunity to sample this, since the evening’s programme is devoted to two of the Baroque era’s foremost masters, Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach.
One may ask oneself if it is possible to perform music today in the same way as in the seventeenth century. Can one just leapfrog over centuries of completely different ways of conceiving and performing music? And then – so to speak – merge with musicians from an era so radically different from our own? Can that be done? Are we not children of our own time to such an extent that it remains with us, in spite of historical instruments and something that may resemble Baroque performance practice? Well, this may be discussed, but however ‘authentic’ their performance of Vivaldi and Bach may be, the use of historical instruments and Baroque performance practice brings out new and unfamiliar aspects of these composers, and in my opinion that is the most important thing. Not whether Vivaldi and Bach will nod their assent in heaven or – for all we know – pull their hair out in despair.
The concert opens with Antonio Vivaldi’s overture to the opera L’Olimpiade, which he composed in 1734 to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, who also wrote the libretto to Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito. It is a typical Italian overture in three movements – fast, slow, fast – the second short and the third in dance rhythm. The other Vivaldi work on the programme, Sinfonia for Strings RV 158, follows the same pattern. The sinfonia was a genre often used as an introduction to an opera or between acts. However, this sinfonia, composed to stand alone, served as a model for Haydn, Mozart and other composers of the Viennese school to further develop into what we know today as the symphony.
Between the two Vivaldi works is Bach’s familiar Violin Concerto in A minor and his no less familiar Double Concerto in D minor. Vivaldi’s Sinfonia is followed by Bach’s 2nd Violin Concerto in E major and his Concerto for Three Violins in D major. Bach began writing violin concertos around 1723 after studying those of Vivaldi, but when he later reworked them as harpsichord concertos, the original version was in many cases lost. However, the manuscripts of the violin concertos in this programme are all extant, with one exception: the triple concerto is an arrangement of his triple harpsichord concerto, which is believed to be a reworking of a triple violin concerto.
English version Roger Martin