Columbia Pro Cantare goes for Baroque

Howard County Times

When the Columbia Pro Cantare performs “Go for Baroque!” on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre, the program is sure to please the crowd.

“We did an audience survey and a lot of people said they wanted to hear the Baroque and Bach,” said Columbia Pro Cantare music director Frances Motyca Dawson.

She added that her ensemble typically does not perform a lot of music from the Baroque period, and therefore the upcoming concert will be a welcome opportunity to explore it.

Joining Columbia Pro Cantare will be its own CPC Chamber Singers, plus the Howard County Concert Orchestra, soprano Sarah Hayashi, and organist Sammy Marshall.

“There is so much Baroque music from which to choose!” Dawson exclaimed about a musically rich period in a number of European countries during the 17th and 18th centuries. “It’s good that most of these pieces are short, not complex and easy to listen to. This music is exuberant, and the style of each piece is so different.”

One of the earliest pieces on the program is by the 17th-century English composer Henry Purcell. Composed around 1682, “Hear My Prayer, O Lord” is set to the first verse of Psalm 102.

If a composer such as Purcell is known mainly to ardent fans of the Baroque repertory, the 17th-century German composer Johann Pachelbell’s Canon in D will be familiar to everybody with ears. Curiously, this famous piece did not gain such widespread popularity until the late 1960s and 1970s. Recordings and classical music radio stations made it a Baroque greatest hit that is still often heard at weddings and funerals.

Arguably the greatest of Baroque composers is J.S. Bach. This 18th-century German composer is represented on the program by two pieces. Bach dedicated his Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 to his patron, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721. This concerto and the other five Brandenbury concertos are justly celebrated in our own era, but it’s worth recalling that the musical manuscript was essentially neglected in its own time and only rediscovered in the Brandenburg archives in 1849.

The second Bach piece on the upcoming program, “Lobet den herrn” Motet VI, derives its text from Psalm 117. Again curiously in terms of musical rediscoveries, this score was not published until 1821.

Like Bach, the German composer G.F. Handel was a prolific musical genius who ranks with the greatest of his era. Handel's “Laudate Pueri Dominum” was set to a Latin psalm in 1707. Although Handel is best known for pieces composed in England during his later career, “Laudate Pueri Dominum” is a relatively early piece composed during a stay in Rome.

Speaking of Italy, the 18th-century Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa created more than 80 operas, as well as orchestral music, during a very full career. He lived in various Italian cities, but like other Baroque-era composers he also traveled throughout Europe as he chased commissions. In his case, these travels included a few years in St. Petersburg in Russia, where he composed music for Empress Catherine II. The Cimarosa piece on the upcoming program, “Magnificat,” has a Latin text and was composed around 1785.

Columbia Pro Cantare performs on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. There is a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m., a silent auction, and a post-concert reception. Advance tickets are $23, $20 for seniors and students; $2 more at the door. Tickets for children 15 and under are $10. Call 410-799-9321 or go to procantare.org

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