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Les Ambassadeurs

Les Ambassadeurs

 

Les Ambassadeurs & Alexis Kossenko realise a dream of a European orchestra reconciling the performance on period instruments with a wide repertoire hitherto fragmented by specialization. At once sincere messengers, passionate performers and inspired creators, their mission is to share with as wide a public as possible the infinite range of emotions conveyed by the experience of music.

Tracing their path away from dogmas, fashions and schools, Les Ambassadeurs pursue an ideal of eloquence – where the grammar of period instruments, the art of rhetoric and musical instinct do not exclude each other.

Among their various projects, which include Bach, Rameau, Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Stravinsky or Debussy, Les Ambassadeurs place a particular importance on the rediscovery of the Dresden Hofkapelle in the time of Bach, then described as “the most beautiful orchestra in the world” for its exemplary discipline, virtuosity of its musicians, its shimmering colors which made it the first “modern” orchestra. It was also an extraordinary initiative which brought together musicians from throughout Europe. It is indeed in Dresden that Italian, French and German styles unite and give birth to the “Goûts Réunis” treasured by Telemann.

After acclaimed concerts at “Bozar” (Palais des Beaux-Arts) in Brussels and at the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, Les Ambassadeurs & Alexis Kossenko 2011-2012 season will take them to Austria, France, Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Slovenia. Future plans include a disc of works by Mozart (concert arias, piano concerto and opera overtures) in collaboration with Alpha records.

In the first half of the eighteen century, one orchestra had such a reputation of excellence that the best composers from whole Europe felt honoured to dedicate their works to it. It was the Dresden Hofkapelle, an « army of virtuosos » which under the leadership of the violinist Johann Georg Pisendel had reached an unsurpassed level of perfection, brilliancy and refinement of execution, instrumental wealth and power ; this which many would call in this time « the best orchestra in the world ».  Pisendel, who was loved as much as respected by his musicians, was not only a great concertmaster, but also an enthusiastic commissioner of new music who had an impressive network of friends : Telemann and Vivaldi, for instance, kept a close contact with him despite the distance, and regularly dedicated somptuous and difficult concertos to « Signor Pisendel » and « l'orchestra di Dresda ».

Les Ambassadeurs invite the listener to discover the extraordinary repertoire of the Dresden orchestra, not less impressive in the field of church music than in instrumental or opera compositions, with a strong focus on Jan Dismas Zelenka. In the last years this czech composer has been rediscovered and is little after little recovering his place among the genuises of the baroque era. Zelenka was a member of the Dresden orchestra, that he joined as a double-bass player around 1710-1711. But soon he was to hold important functions as a composer, helping and replacing often the proper Kapelmeister Johann David Heinichen, who had a declining health. When Heinichen died in 1729, Zelenka considered himself his natural successor, but the position had been secretely promised to the more charismatic (and internationally acclaimed) Hasse – a betraying which can partly explain the dark and tormented character of his music. In a way that we can almost call « romantic », it often reflects his melancholy, his rage, his despair. We can recognize Zelenka's unusually long proportions, frequent use of chromatism and painful harmonies, in the Gloria Patri from the Miserere or the Qui tollis from Missa dei Filii. This is in total contrast with the easy and luminous music of Heinichen... The Et in spiritum sanctum shows one of his favourite ideas for instrumentation : a combination of the old (the recorder) and the new (traverso) types of flute, upon delicate accompaniment of the violins, to support the solo soprano in her angelic melodic line.

The most important group of orchestral music by Zelenka is entitled « 6 concerti fatti in fretta a Praga, 1723 » - 6 concerti made in haste in Prag in 1723. The traces of this haste are quite obvious, since not only the manuscripts are hardly readable, but furthermore it contains only 4 works in total... or 3 and 1 incomplete !
   
Faustina Bordoni

The tragic character of the Ouverture – each cadence is leading to a dissonant chord, and produces a quasi tortural effect for the ear which finds no rest – is balanced by the epic middle section which brings the word « concertare » to it's uptimal meaning : to fight. The return of the slow section hardly brings things back in order, and the music will manage to finish piecefully in F major only after an ultimate « coup de théâtre ». The Aria which follows, scored only for the strings, shows a very different face of Zelenka : grace and delicacy, with some touching sighs in the viola part producing heart-breaking dissonances... After a siciliano built upon a wise counterpoint, an exuberant « Folie » concludes the work.
There was in Dresden a tradition of writing serenate, small scale operas produced without staging. Zelenka's Il Diamante belongs to this genre. Venus' aria was sung by the most famous soprano of the time, Hasse's wife, Faustina Bordoni. It shows again how tender and delicate Zelenka could be when he wanted, but here too he cannot refrain from writing in bigger proportions : with more than 10 minutes, it lasts twice a much as any normal aria written by his contemporaries !

Johann Georg Pisendel

The concertmaster Pisendel himself was a remarkable composer, although his too great modesty seems to explain the little number of works in his own catalogue, often revised more than once. But only by judging the severe and brief sonata da chiesa in c minor for orchestra, he was himself a master. He was a close friend of Zelenka (if not the only one) and this piece especially recalls the dark manner of the Czech double-bass player.

Since their meeting in Venice in 1712, Pisendel and Vivaldi remained good friends ; considering the large corpus of Vivaldi's music kept in Dresden (many of them dedicated to Pisendel), he must have been one of the most played composer there. The concerto RV 564 is originally scored for 2 violins and two cellos, but is here performed in a Dresden arrangement for two violins and two oboes.  

Haendel is known to have visited Dresden in 1719 (and attended the celebrities organized for the wedding of the Crown Prince) ; at this occasion he approached the famous castratto Senesino and managed to hire him for his London opera (the scandal caused a year later by the dispute between Senesino and Heinichen was surely intentional, in order to break his conctract in Dresden so he could join Haendel in London). The Dresden orchestra used to perform as concert pieces Haendel's opera overtures. Among them, Agrippina is probably the most striking of all, with it's theatrical modulations and it's unexpected ending.

Il Ruggiero, Johann Adolf Hasse's last opera, makes a link betwen the so called baroque and classical eras : it was premiered one day before Mozart's Ascanio in Alba. Hasse was then an old composer, but his fame was already at it's zenith when, more than 30 years earlier, he obtained the position that should have been given to Zelenka : kapelmeister of the Dresden Hofkapelle. The heroic Aria of Bradamante makes use of a very unusual level of virtuosity, requiring an extraordinary range from the soprano, from alto register til top D if in fast coloratura passages.
    






Johann Georg PISENDEL
Sonata in c minor
Largo – Allegro  

Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Qui tollis peccata mundi from Missa dei Filii ZWV 20

Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.

Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Gloria Patri from Miserere ZWV 57

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto

Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Ouverture à 7 concertanti in F major ZWV 188
Aria

Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Benedictus from Missa sanctissimae Trinitatis ZWV 17

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini

Johann David HEINICHEN
Concertino in D major from Missa 9 for flute and orchestra
Allegro

Johann David HEINICHEN
« Et in Spiritum Sanctum » from Missa 12

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem,
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit.
Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur:
qui locutus est per prophetas.
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum

Antonio VIVALDI
Concerto in D major RV 564a for 2 oboes, 2 violins & orchestra
Allegro – Adagio non molto – Allegro  

--------------------------


Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Ouverture à 7 concertanti in F major ZWV 188
Ouverture – Siciliano – Folie

Antonio LOTTI
Aria (Isilde) « Sospirando, lagrimando » from Giove in Argo

Sospirano, lagrimando, griderò che son tradita
senza padre, e senza regno.
Minacciando udite l'Idra inuitarui a Radamanto
già ministro del mio sdegno.

Jan Dismas ZELENKA
Aria di Venere « Qui piegate, qui posate » from Serenta « Il Diamante » ZWV 177

Recit (VENERE) :
Dove Amor si festeggia,
il nome moi forse posto è in oblio ?
Votra felicità render perfetta
io sola posso, illustri sposi, e scendo
dal terzo cielo al bel disegno accinta.
Vanti Giugno il suo dono,
chè ella da me con più bei doni e vinta.
Vengon meco il piacer, gli scherzi arditi,
non meno dolci e men cari,
quei che sembran ripulse e sono inviti.
Io sol porgo gli affetti,
io sol secondo i letti,
devesi a me quanto respira e vive ;
e se cosa leggiadra il mondo abbella,
tutto è virtù di mia benigna stella.
Aria :
Qui piegate, qui posate,
mie colombe, i vanni erranti.
E alternando e morsi e baci
dolci sdegni e dolci paci
insegnate alla coppia degli amanti.


Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL
Ouverture from Agrippina HWV 6

Johann Adolf HASSE :
Aria di Bradamante "Faro ben io" from Il Ruggiero

Farò ben io frà poco impallidir l'audace
che vuol turbar la pace d'un si costante amor.
Vedrà quanto più fiero divien l'ardor guerriero
quando congiura insieme con l'amoroso ardor.



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