Program and Notes for Ensemble Caprice in “Music of Paradise and Hell” on March 5th

Fri., Mar. 5, 2010, 8:00PM
Pre-concert talk at 7:15 p.m


Music of Paradise and Hell

Christ the King Lutheran Church
2353 Rice Blvd

Houston Early Music presents Ensemble Caprice in Music of Paradise and Hell on March 5th at 8pm at Christ the King Lutheran Church, featuring a dazzling selection of 17th century works on recorders, viola da gamba, Baroque guitar and percussion. The performance coincides with the Society of Seventeenth-Century Music annual conference at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

“The co-artistic directors, Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivièreare, are simply phenomenal players, among the best in the world,” says Nancy Ellis, Houston Early Music artistic director. “Their virtuosity, along with that of the other ensemble musicians, has earned Caprice a much-deserved reputation as one of the top early music groups on the international scene.” The ensemble also includes such outstanding musicians as Susie Napper on viola da gamba, David Jacques on Baroque guitar, and percussionist Ziya Tabassian.

Originally founded in Germany, the now Montreal-based Ensemble Caprice aims for innovation as they head into their 20th anniversary season. “We try to find Baroque music that does not sound Baroque,” says Maute, who plays the recorder and Baroque flute, and composes. “There is so much music in the 17th and 18th century that is off the beaten tracks, that it gives us great pleasure to throw these unusual styles – like Baroque gypsy music – into our program.”

Music of Paradise and Hell features music by such 17th century legends as Andrea Falconieri, Francesco Turini, Marco Uccellini, Francesco Corbetta and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. “We are all somewhere in between heaven and hell, and we like to present programs that relate to us as contemporaries,” says Maute. “Needless to say, the composers of the 17th century had a lot to say on this subject.” Contrasts abound as well in considering the pairing of Andrea Falconieri and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. “They never worked together, but when you witness the meeting of their music, it is as if John Lennon and Paul McCartney started joint song writing again,” says Maute. “It is ‘reality music,’ full of joy, conflict, dissonances, arguments, entertainment and sadness.”

Matthias Maute will give a pre-concert talk at 7:15 p.m.


Christ the King Lutheran Church, 2353 Rice Blvd., Houston, TX 77005

Limited free parking is available on the lot west of Christ the King Lutheran Church. Ample parking is available for $1.00 (credit card only) across the street at Rice University’s stadium parking lot on the southeast corner of Rice & Greenbriar.


Purchase online

and at the door: $35 for general admission, $30 for seniors, and $10 for students (with student ID.) Free admission for children under 15.



La Suave Melodia (1650)    Andrea Falconieri (1585-1656)

L’Eroica (1650)

E tanto tempo hormai (1624)    Francesco Turini (ca. 1589-1656)

La Suave Melodia (1650)    Andrea Falconieri

Rinen, y pelean entre Berzebillo    Andrea Falconieri

con Satanasillo, y Caruf, y Pantul (1650)

Bayle de los dichos Diabolos (1650)

Battalla de Barabaso yerno de Satanas (1650)

Ciaccona di Paradiso, e dell’inferno (1657)  Anonymous (17th century)

Prélude et Passacaille                                           Francesco Corbetta (1615-1681)

Passacalli della vita (1657)    Anonymous (17th century)

Passaccalle (1650)      Andrea Falconieri

Folias echa para mi Senora Dona Tarolilla

de Carallenos (1650)


        Balletto La Pastorella Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (ca.1623-1680)

        Intrada-Pastorella-Hötzer seu Amener-Gavotta tedesca-

        Gavotta styriaca-Gavotta anglica-Gavotta bavarica-Gavotta gallica

        Sonata XIII (1659)      Johann Heinrich Schmelzer

        Sonatina III (1662)

        Aria sopra la Bergamasca (1642)    Marco Uccellini (ca.1603-1680)

        Sonata seconda (1664)      Johann Heinrich Schmelzer

        Serenata con altre arie (1661)     Johann Heinrich Schmelzer

        Serenata-Arlecchino-Adagio-Allegro-Ciacona-Campanella e Lamento


        If art holds up a mirror to life, music too reflects the society that gave it birth. Since the daily life of people in the seventeenth century was drenched in religion, the belief in eternal life in paradise as opposed to painful torture in hell was ubiquitous. Everyone hoped to be gloriously resurrected in heaven but, at the same time, every sinner was afraid of being doomed to the dark caverns of hell. And who wouldn’t sin, at least from time to time?

        Many paintings reflect this sharp juxtaposition between celestial bliss and the underworld. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise to us that music was meant to express the same dichotomy.

        The Ciaccona di Paradiso, e dell’inferno, taken from an anonymous collection in Milan (1657) could not be more be clear on the issue. Both paradise and the inferno are depicted in a drastic naturalism that was designed to keep the flock of believers on the right path:


        O che bel star è star in Paradiso  O how fine it is to be in Paradise

        Dove si vive sempr’in fest’e riso  Where one lives always in celebrating and laughter,

        Vedendosi die Dio svelat’il viso  Seeing God with his face unveiled:

        O chel bel star è star in Paradiso.  Oh how fine it is to be in Paradise.


        Ohimè ch’orribil star star, nell’inferno Alas, it is terrible to be in the Inferno

        Ove si viv’in piant’e foco eterno           Where one lives in eternal weeping and fire

        Senza veder mai Dio in sempiterno Without seeing God for all eternity :

        Ahi,ahi,ch’orribil star giù nell’inferno. Ah, ah, it is terrible to be below in the inferno.

        The composers of our program excel in bringing these extreme dimensions of life closer to us. The composer and lutenist Andrea Falconiero’s Battalla de Barabaso yerno de Satanas (Battle of Barrabas, Son-in-law of Satan)takes us into the heart of the conflict between good and evil. It is however surprising that, through the religious implications of the title of this piece, Falconiero was also making a political statement. During the Spanish reign in Naples, which was accompanied by upheavals and fierce resistance by the Italians, the Spanish invaders enjoyed operatic pieces which ridiculed the oppressed people of Naples. Falconiero, despite being of Italian descent, supported the Spanish and the devils were symbols of the insurgent Italians who despised their invaders. We can easily assume that battle pieces like his Battalla de Barabaso didn’ t help to ease the political tensions during his time.

        Born in Naples, Falconiero’s itinerant life took him him to Parma, Mantua, Florence and then to Modena, where he appears to have been married around 1620-21. However, he had already departed for Spain by the summer of 1621, leaving behind his wife, one song and some copies of his (lost) book on the Spanish guitar. After years of travelling in Spain and France, he was appointed lutenist at the royal chapel at Naples in 1639 and finally, in 1647, maestro di capella. Falconiero’s variations Folias echa para mi Senora Dona Tarolilla de Carallenos are a reference to the Spanish origin of the famous Follia bass.

        Regardless of any political implications, the feeling of being part of a war between the good and evil, between God and the devil, prevailed in Falconiero’s compositions. Pieces like Rinen, y pelean entre Berzebillo con Satanasillo, y Caruf, y Pantul (Beelzebub and Satan bicker and fight, as well as Caruf and Pantul) and Baile de los dichos Diabolos (Dance of the aforesaid devils– Beelzebub, Satan, Caruf and Pantul) indicate how much the imagination of people in the mid-seventeenth century was caught by a belief in dimensions beyond our modern understanding of reality.

        Contrary to his strong awareness of war in life (Falconiero dedicated his important collection of 1650 Il Primo Libro di Canzone to the Commander of the Navy!) the concept of love counterbalanced the fierce battle of demonic powers. Love, both in its religious and worldly form, contained a taste of paradise and was therefore considered divine.

        When people in the seventeenth century listened to an instrumental version of a vocal piece, the usually well-known text served as an invisible subtitle. This principle can be found in Francesco Turini’s collection Libro primo di Francesco Turini, published in Venice in 1624, which indicates a remarkable sense of three-part writing, including a highly ornamented bass line for the cello competing in virtuosity with the two upper parts.

        The piece E tanto tempo hormai is based on the famous story of La Monica, about a young woman who is fated to spend her life cloistered in a convent despite her longing for sensual love. We might conclude that being forced to live close to spiritual paradise didn’t necessarily provide a guarantee of happiness, which is another aspect of the eternal and complicated struggle between God and the devil….

        Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (ca.1623-1680) was one of the most important composers of the German-speaking countries of the seventeeth century. Documents reveal that he performed as a violinist at the Viennese Court as early as 1649 and was promoted to become the Musical Director of the court orchestra in 1679. While Schmelzer had outstanding abilities as a violinist, this elevation to the most important musical position in the Hapsburg Empire was due mostly to his compositions, which were recognized to be the leading examples of their genre. Schmelzer’s collection of solo sonatas, Sonatae Unarum Fidium published in 1664, is considered to be among the most advanced because of its technical demands on the performer. Rising above fixed harmonic bass figures is a composition of variations of increasing virtuosity in the upper part, which could be described as a real “tour de force”.

        Schmelzer’s balletti reveal his wit and ingenuity in implanting a message into music. The balletto La Pastorella takes us to the idyll of the countryside, which was believed to be a rustic model of the refined harmony to be found in paradise. After a musically depicted procession of the nobility to the countryside, the gavottes which follow contain a folkloristic spirit of various influences: Bavarian, English, Austrian and French.

        The Serenata con altre arie concludes on a sad note: after the joys of the carnival and the wild dances of Arlecchino, the death bell tolls, interrupted twice by a lament. The Carnival must end because it is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The struggle between good and evil will linger for ever…

        We might say, that the text of the Passacalli della vita (Milan 1657), which we present in an instrumental version, resumes drastically this feeling of being caught in a difficult situation:

        O, come t’inganni    O, how you deceive yourself

        Se pensi che gl’anni   if you believe that the years

        Non debban finire   must never end:

        Bisogna morire.    you must die.

        È un sogno la vita   Life is a dream

        Che par si gradita    which appears so welcome,

        È breve il gioire :    and joy is brief:

        Bisogna morire.    you must die.

        Matthias Maute

        Ensemble Caprice is represented by Amanda Pond, Milford, CT


        Ensemble Caprice is renowned for its innovative interpretations of baroque music. Originally formed in Germany in 1989 and now based in Montreal, the ensemble continues to give concerts in Europe and has appeared at the Vlaanderen Festival in Bruges, Belgium, the Netwerk-Reihe of the Organisatie voor Oude Muziek in The Netherlands, the International Recorder Symposium in Stuttgart, the Recorder Festival in Stockstadt, and, more recently, the Internationale Händel-Festspiele in Göttingen. In 2005, Ensemble Caprice made its U.S. debut in the Boston Early Music Festival’s concert series and has subsequently appeared in many parts of the United States, with additional tours of Israel and Taiwan. In Canada, the ensemble has appeared at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, the Elora Festival, the Domaine Forget’s International Festival and has its own concert series at Redpath Hall in Montreal. Ensemble Caprice’s most recent CD, Gloria! Vivaldi’s Angels (Analekta) won Canada’s 2009 JUNO award in the category of Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance. The ensemble was also nominated for 2009 Echo Klassik awards in Germany for its CD Vivaldi and the Baroque Gypsies (Analekta) in two categories: Ensemble/Orchestra of the Year and Classics Without Borders.

        Matthias Maute has achieved an international reputation as one of the finest recorder and baroque flute players of his generation and as a composer. In 1990, he won First Prize in the soloist category at the prestigious Early Music Competition in Bruges, Belgium. Matthias is also esteemed for his artistic direction of Ensemble Caprice, for whom he produces ingenious and fascinating programs. The ensemble has appeared at several important venues in Europe, North America, Taiwan and Israel. In addition to his work with Ensemble Caprice, Matthias is invited to appear as a soloist at important festivals in Europe and the United States, as well as being a member of the baroque ensemble Rebel. In 2003 and 2005, he was the featured recorder virtuoso at the Boston Early Music Festival and he made his debut at New York City’s Lincoln Center in December 2008. His compositions hold an important place in the world of contemporary recorder music and are published by Breitkopf & Härtel, Amadeus, Moeck and Carus. Matthias has made twenty recordings on the Analekta, Vanguard Classics, Bella Musica, Dorian, Bridge and Atma Classique labels. He is a professor at McGill University in Montreal.

        Sophie Larivière has been a member of Ensemble Caprice since 1997 and is the Artistic Co-Director. In this capacity, she helps to enrich the creative direction of the ensemble in its quest for musical discoveries that blend virtuosity with expressivity. With Ensemble Caprice, Sophie has appeared in numerous concerts, in particular in Israel (Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Arts Festival), Europe (Vienna, Berlin, and Stuttgart), the United States (Los Angeles and the Boston Early Music Festival) and throughout Canada. An eloquent performer, Sophie is invited regularly to appear with such early music ensembles as the Arion Ensemble, the Opéra de Montréal, Le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, La Nouvele Sinfonie, the Theatre of Early Music, Rebel (New York), Les Violons du Roy (Quebec) the New York Collegium Musicum and Le Concert Spirituel (Paris). She has made recordings on the Analekta, Virgin Classics, Atma Classique, Antes Edition and Interdisc labels.

        Susie Napper was awarded Quebec’s “Personality of the Year” Prix Opus in 2002. She is the founder and Artistic Director of the Montreal Baroque Festival. Having grown up in an artistic milieu in London, she then studied at the Juilliard School in New York and later at the Paris Conservatory. Since then, Susie has appeared with several internationally-known early music ensembles, such as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Stradivaria in France, the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, the Trinity Consort of Portland, Tafelmusik, Ensemble Caprice and the viola da gamba duo Les Voix Humaines. Her concert tours have taken her as far afield as China, Japan, New Zealand, India, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Susie’s recordings, which include most of the known repertoire for two viols, can be heard on the Harmonia Mundi, EMI, Erato, ADDA, CBC Records, Naxos, Analekta and ATMA Classique labels.

        David Jacques was born in Saint-Georges de Beauce, Quebec in 1978 and has a  Doctorate in the interpretation of early music from the Université de Montréal.  He began his studies of classical guitar at the Cégep de Sainte-Foy, continuing at the Université Laval and later at the Quebec Conservatory. He has recorded more than 15 CDs on the XXI-21, ATMA and Analekta labels and collaborated on numerous other productions. His Pièces de guitarre de Mr Rémy Médard (Productions XX-21) won the Conseil Québécois de la Musique’s 2008 Prix Opus Disc of the Year award in the early music category. David has also published several arrangements for guitar for Les Productions d’OZ. Active both in Canada and internationally, he has performed over 2000 concerts in 30 countries on all five continents. He is currently Professor of Classical Guitar at the Université Laval and the Cégep de Sainte-Foy and is frequently invited to give master classes and workshops by other musical organizations.

        Ziya Tabassian Ziya began playing the tombak at the age of eleven. He began his formal training in Iran, pursuing his studies with Master Tehrani’s method. In Canada, he studied classical percussion with Julien Grégoire  at the University of Montreal and later returned to Iran to continue his training with M. Bahman Rajabi. Ziya is an active member of Constantinople, which he co-founded with his brother Kiya Tabassian.In addition to Ensemble Caprice he has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, En Chordais, and the Studio de musique ancienne de Montreal. His solo CD, entitled Tombak was recently released on the Ambiances Magnétiques label.