Lament

Forces: 2 violins, viola da gamba, theorbo, harpsichord

Works by Jean-Féry Rebel, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Pandolfi Mealli, Niel Gow,
Turlough O’Carolan

“Lament” is a look at one of the most beautiful and poignant instrumental repertoires of European Baroque. From the traditional “Scottish lament”, French “tombeau” or instrumental laments in Italian or German music we will embark on a musical journey through the 17th and 18th centuries from a different and daring perspective discovering melodies inspired by the most profound sadness and discouragement but which end up becoming the most powerful apology to hope and beauty, in a world that, on many occasions, seems to be in need of beauty and hope.

Our journey begins in France, with a “Tombeau”, a type of composition very in vogue in France and that extended to other parts of Europe. It is literally, in French, a monument that stands on a tomb. It is a monumental composition, sober and meditative, but full of emotion and audacious rhetorical and compositional resources, undoubtedly a musical image of an overflowing force.

Schmelzer’s little-known “Lamenta a 3” represents another kind of lament. J.H. Schmelzer, one of the most famous and influential composers of his time, presents us with a lament of intrinsic dramatism but that represents an authentic celebration of life, full of contrasts and in a key that may surprise us: B flat major. But which from the rhetorical point of view gives us perhaps a crucial clue to understand the piece, since it is a tonality that, as Mattheson later wrote, “Ad ardua animam elevat.”

Perhaps another interesting rhetorical representation of our fleeting passage through the world is found in the so-called basso ostinato, an image of the world impassible before our ephemeral step, represented musically by the upper voices that move and talk upon the immovable bass part that is the earthly world. Exactly as it happens in the Passacaglio in C minor of Pandolfi Mealli or in the Sonata n. 6 of Purcell, where in addition that bass is written in the form of “basso di lamento”, four descending notes that are repeated “in saecula saeculorum”.


The Scottish lament deserves a special mention as a musical genre of the eighteenth century, framed in a national style with its own personality

“[…] the same harmonies and the same cadences in the compositions of the Flemish, Italian, German, French and English And nothing in them of the originality and character of those Scots and Irishmen, who possess their own peculiar style.”

(John Hawkins,” A General History of the Science and Practice of Music … Vol. 4” London, 1776)

Some pieces of the program

Jean-Féry Rebel
Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
Lamenta a 3 (Trio sonata in Bb Major, Rost Codex)
Pandolfi Mealli
Passacaglio a due violini “Il Marcquetta” (de Sonate cioè balletti)
Henry Purcell
Sonata 6 (from 12 Sonatas of Three Parts)
Turlough O’Carolan
Lament
Niel Gow
Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife”