The first digital concert of the 2020-2021 season premieres this Sunday, October 11th, at 7:00PM Pacific Time on the Byron Schenkman & Friends YouTube channel.

Step into the courts of Louis XIV and Frederick the Great, patrons of the arts who inspired some of the best European music of the 18th century. “This music is both opulent and intimate,” says Byron Schenkman. “All of it was intended for private performances in the homes of royal patrons. Now you get to be our royal patrons and enjoy this music in your own homes!”

The program begins in the French royal court as we hear music composed by François Couperin for Louis XIV’s private concerts. This is followed by an extraordinary violin sonata in the Italian style by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre—who is among the small number of well-known female composers of her time and one of very few musicians granted permission to dedicate their work to the king. Jacquet created a sensation as a child prodigy when, at just five years of age, she played harpsichord and sang at the court of Louis XIV.

Moving to the Prussian court, we present a piece by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. “I think one of [C.P.E. Bach’s] most beautiful works is the sonata for unaccompanied flute which Joshua Romatowski will be playing for us,” says Byron. “It begins with a heartbreaking slow movement followed by two quite passionate and virtuosic fast movements. Josh plays this music with incredible focus, intensity, and sheer beauty.”

This is followed by a sonata from Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous gift to Frederick the Great, “The Musical Offering,” based on a long and complex musical theme presented to Bach by the monarch himself. “Playing Bach with Ingrid Matthews is a special treat,” says Byron. “We’ve played a lot of Bach together over the years but this is something new: we’re playing [this] trio sonata as a duo sonata for violin and obbligato harpsichord. There are examples of both J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach doing this exact type of adaptation. The way it works is that Ingrid plays the violin part as written, I play the flute part with my right hand, and I play the continuo part with my left hand.”

The program concludes by returning to France in the late 18th century with music by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who is best remembered today as being among the earliest classical composers with African ancestry. Born in the French colony of Guadalupe, he was the illegitimate son of a wealthy French plantation owner and a slave girl of Senegalese descent. His father broke custom at the time and acknowledged Joseph as his son, bringing him to Paris to attend boarding school, and later enrolling him in Boëssière’s Royal Polytechnic Academy for Fencing and Horsemanship. Bologne enjoyed a reputation as a brilliant swordsman, unequalled equestrian, athlete, dancer, violin virtuoso, composer and orchestral conductor. The sonata we present dates from 1781 and Bologne may well have played it as a duet with Queen Marie Antoinette during one of his frequent invitations to the court of Versailles.

We hope you enjoy listening to this free concert as much as we did bringing it to fruition! If you would like to show your appreciation, please consider making a donation to support Byron Schenkman & Friends in our mission of presenting artistically excellent Baroque and Classical chamber music to audiences in Seattle and beyond.