CantiaQuorum plays Cage and Telemann






Living Room Music


Silete Venti HWV 242 - G.F. Handel

Concerto in D minor for two violins BWV 1043 - J.S. Bach

Living Room Music - John Cage

Tafelmusik II: Ouverture (Suite) in D - G.P. Telemann


7.30pm, 20th February 2015

The Colyer-Fergusson Hall, University of Kent


Ali's programme notes from the concert


Silete Venti HWV 242 - Handel (1685-1759)

Handel composed his Latin motet Silete Venti sometime between 1724 and 1730. During this period he was living in London composing operas, and it has been suggested that the work was written either for one of his English opera stars, or else for an Italian during his trip to Italy in 1729. 

As was the practice of the time, much of the music is borrowed from previous compositions, and yet the result is one of Handel's finest motets. The piece reveals his abundant skill in both vocal and instrumental writing: the virtuosity required by the soprano soloist confirms that it was composed for a professional. Just as Handel borrowed from previous compositions, Silete Venti then took on new life when he reused the material in Esther and in the Concerto in B-flat major for organ.

The motet is striking from the outset. A traditional French overture (akin to Telemann's opening to Tafelmusik) dramatically gives way to the soprano who bids the blustering winds to be silent. Seeking repose for her Christian soul, she then paves the way for one of Handel's most intricate and mesmerising works. In spite of its beauty Silete Venti is one of Handel's lesser known masterpieces, and CantiaQuorum is delighted to be able to perform it this evening.

Concerto in D minor for two violins BWV 1043 - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

1. Vivace

2. Largo, ma non tanto

3. Allegro

Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor is undoubtedly one of his best loved works. Nevertheless, scholars are divided as to when the work was written. It has long been assumed that Bach composed it between 1717 and 1723 when he was the Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Köthen in Germany. While there he worked with a group of eighteen accomplished musicians who inspired many works including the six Brandenburg concertos.

However, the manuscript parts date from 1730-1 and there is no evidence to be certain that the work was composed any earlier. In 1729 Bach had agreed to direct a local group of musicians who performed in coffee houses, and this provided an outlet for more secular works distinct from his Church responsibilities. While in Leipzig in 1739 Bach arranged the concerto for two harpsichords, transposing it into C minor as BWV 1062. It has been assumed that this was to accommodate the musicians he had available, suggesting the violinists there were not quite as Bach would have wished!

Bach was himself a brilliant violinist: he greatly admired Vivaldi's violin concertos, even transcribing and arranging several of them. However, the two composers differ significantly in style. Where Vivaldi places emphasis on violinistic virtuosity, Bach instead champions intricacy of counterpoint and detailed development of motivic material. A major reason that scholars consider the concerto to have been written later in Bach's career is the sheer brilliance and maturity of the work.


Living Room Music - John Cage (1912-1992)

1. To Begin

2. Story

3. Melody

4. End

Composed for "percussion and speech quartet" Living Room Music was written by American composer John Cage in 1940. The instruments are unspecified, but Cage instructs the performers to use any household objects or architectural elements, giving examples such as magazines, cardboard, "largish books", or even window frames and the floor. In the second movement Cage requires the performers to transform into a speech quartet, drawing on text from Gertrude Stein's poem "The World Is Round".

The piece is dedicated to Cage's then-wife Xenia. It epitomises the composer’s experimentation with the boundaries of the concert stage and reality, while also demonstrating his exploration of objets trouvés.

Tafelmusik II: Ouverture (Suite) in D - Telemann (1681-1767)

1. Ouverture: Lentement. Vite. Lentement

2. Air 1: Tempo giusto

3. Air 2: Vivace

4. Air 3: Presto

5. Air 4: Allegro

6. Conclusion: Allegro

Telemann was a superstar of the Baroque period. Celebrated as the greatest German composer of his time, his fame far eclipsed that of his contemporaries Bach and Handel. He composed more than 3000 works, including more than 40 operas, 46 Passions, 125 orchestral suites, 125 concertos, 130 trios and 145 pieces for keyboard. In 1725 he began publishing his own music, and the release in 1733 of Tafelmusik was masterminded by Telemann himself.

Tafelmusik stands as the largest work that Telemann ever published, and its scope served to prove his virtuosity and versatility as a composer. The collection consists of three "productions", each of which is a collection of smaller orchestral and chamber suites. Many scholars have compared the collection to the Brandenburg concertos in the range of instrumentation and styles that it explores. The high profile of the publication came to fruition: of the 206 subscriptions to Tafelmusik, 52 came from outside Germany, including an order from Handel in London.

The second part, performed by CantiaQuorum tonight, was issued on Michaelmas (September 29) in 1733. It opens with the Overture (Suite) in D major, and is distinct from the other suites in the collection by its use of trumpet and oboe.

The title Tafelmusik has its roots in the tradition of music composed for banquets, though the term eventually fell out of use in favour of the divertimento. CantiaQuorum is excited to be exploring the juxtaposition with Cage's Living Room Music in tonight's concert - hopefully music and tables are back in fashion!


Ali - Violin.

Ali - Violin.

Suzy - Soprano. 

Suzy - Soprano. 

Performance. Bach Double. Ali and Kathy.

Performance. Bach Double. Ali and Kathy.