Christmas with Corelli Baroque Orchestra Soloists

December 28.-29. 2022. Corelli Baroque Orchestra Soloists, Tartu Youth Choir, conductors Martin Sildos and Markus Leppoja. Tartu St. Paul’s and Tallinn St. John’s. The Corelli private agency organizes at least two annual orchestra projects: Eastern and Christmas. However, this time the orchestra was down to a handful of players, so let’s better call in an ensemble: 3 violins, cello, theorbo, harpsichord, and double bass.

Soloists: Mirell Jakobson (soprano), Helen Lepalaan (alto), Markus Leppoja (tenor), Atlan Karp (bass). Due to all the Christmas baroque going on in Estonia at the time, we had to borrow a cellist from Latvia. Māra Botmane from Sinfonietta Riga did a great job in our continuo group.


G. F. Telemann. Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied

Mart Jaanson. Christmas Triptychon (Premiere!)

A. Corelli. Concerto grosso No. 8, Op. 6.

F. Durante. Magnificat

This time there was a modern piece in the program. Between Telemann and Corelli, the choir with Markus Leppoja premiered Mart Jaanson’s Christmas Triptychon. This work, based on the lyrics by Urmas Petti, was composed several years ago but received its first performance now. Beautiful composition and well sung by the young singers. Unfortunately, theorbo was not needed for this piece, as you can see from the video:

In addition to Jaanson’s premier, we could say that Telemann’s cantata ‘Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied’ also received its first staging in Estonia. At least no one could remember of an earlier occasion. No wonder, considering how productive Telemann was.

The Real Author Deserves Credit

The Magnificat in Bb is a 12-minute masterpiece, but its heritage is confusing. It was attributed to Giovanni Battista Draghi, also known as Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died young from tuberculosis at age 26. However, in 1910 it was discovered that the piece was actually written by Francesco Durante, who was highly respected by his contemporaries and considered one of the greatest Italian church composers of all time.

The confusion likely arose because Pergolesi was a student of Durante. Durante’s Magnificat is considered one of his most important compositions and a significant setting of the text in cantata form, blending traditional polyphonic notation with early Classical elements.

A Few Words Regarding the Instrumentation

As the bass was fairly high in both Telemann and Durante, and there were several fugato-like movements, I played a good portion of the pieces ‘tasto solo.’ Especially the tutti sections. This makes theorbo sound out of the mix and lets it provide more than just a visual supplement. In my experience, less is more on theorbo.

Regarding the Corelli Concerto grosso, I really would have liked to use the guitar in the fast movements, but there’s just no time to change the instrument. So I limited my strummed chords often to just three first courses to gain speed. Although a world-famous piece, for me it was the first time to play it.

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