Another batch of Baroque treasures

A look into Tempesta di Mare’s 1000-Guilder Tune: Musical Alchemy from Baroque Moravia

In
3 minute read
A group of musicians dressed in all black playing various wind instruments.
The Tempesta di Mare chamber ensemble in performance. (Photo courtesy of Tempesta di Mare.)

It’s the 20th anniversary season for Philadelphia’s Baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare, and this week they’re presenting a concert of fascinating 17th-century rarities. The works on A 1000-Guilder Tune hail from a Moravian region of the now-Czech Republic that was devastated by a long-ago war and revived in part by great music.

What do you get for 1000 guilders?

Playing in its 15-piece chamber formation—trumpets, recorders, strings, theorbo, guitar, and organ—the orchestra will offer works by Philipp Jakob Rittler, Pavel Josef Vejvanovský, and Giovanni Valentin, three major composers working at the court of Habsburg prince-bishop and music connoisseur Karl II of Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn. After his country was torn asunder by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), Prince Karl turned to the arts to inspire morale and stimulate reconstruction in his state. He created a noted center for music, hiring a starry ensemble led by Vejvanovský, one of the era’s great trumpet virtuosos.

This concert’s title is taken from Rittler’s “1000-Guilder Sonata,” an instrumental piece possibly referencing The Pied Piper of Hamelin by the Brothers Grimm. Their story says that in 1284, Hamelin, infested by rats, contracted a traveling piper to lead the vermin out of the town. When the piper returned to collect his negotiated fee of a thousand guilders and was refused payment, he used his spellbinding music to spirit away Hamelin’s children. Richard Stone (Tempesta’s co-founder and co-director and an accomplished theorbo player) has a blog entry on the Tempesta website that follows the literary and musical arc of this folk tale.

This 17th-century music has survived in the chateau archives of the town of Kroměříž, a small city in the Czech Republic. There, Stone unearthed and transcribed the works to be heard in this performance. Incidentally, this is the same library where he also found the lost oratorios of Giacomo Carissimi recently presented by Choral Arts Philadelphia and the Bach Collegium.

The composer Rittler, like Vivaldi, was a priest, and his extant music lives nearly entirely at Kroměříž. Though some of his compositions were formerly credited to his contemporaries, examination of the Kroměříž manuscripts has established Rittler’s authorship of works that Stone considers “uniformly jaw-droppingly good, making his relative obscurity today a head-scratcher.”

The “1000-Guilder Sonata,” Rittler’s elegant dance-like work for strings, is the centerpiece of the nine compositions in a concert that will also feature festive trumpets and recorders. Tempesta will present three works by each composer in three regional venues (Wilmington, Chestnut Hill, and Philadelphia). It’s also being recorded live and will be available to stream during the holiday season from December 20 through January 19.

Tempesta was founded to unearth buried treasures in Baroque music, and the company’s 20th anniversary celebrates an impressive history: 375 concerts of more than 70 composers; 12 albums on the British label Chandos; many US tours and four to Europe (with a fifth coming up in March 2022); and more than 60 million annual US broadcast listeners, including 175 appearances on Performance Today. That’s surely a history worth 1000 guilders—which is about $10,000 today.

What, When, Where

A 1000-Guilder Tune: Musical Alchemy from Baroque Moravia. Pavel Vejvanovský, Philipp Jakob Rittler, and Giovanni Valentini. Tempesta di Mare. $29 and $39, free for students. December 3 at, Immanuel Highlands Episcopal Church, Wilmington, 2400 W 17th Street, Wilmington, DE; December 4 at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia; December 5 at Arch Street Meeting House, 320 Arch Street, Philadelphia. Streaming on-demand December 20 through January 19, 2022. (215) 755-8776 or tempestadimare.org.

Entry to Tempesta concerts requires ID and proof of vaccination, and masks are required. Check the website for the pandemic protocols and accessibility at each venue.

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