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Because of their musical and technical difficulty, the Suites were not much performed until the great 20th century cellist Pablo Casals took them up, after discovering them in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain at the age of 13. His famous recordings of them were selected in 2019 for preservation in the Library of Congress.
More old-fashioned dance music today, but unlike a Minuet, a Bourrée (pronounced "boo-ray") is in duple time (ONE two, ONE two) – similar to a Gavotte. Still, like our Minuet and Trio on Day 36, this set of two Bourrées is again made on an overall A B A pattern.
Born in Venice on the day of an earthquake, Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678 -1741) is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, and during his lifetime he was famous across Europe. He composed many instrumental works, especially for string instruments - many of which were written for girls at the orphanage in Venice, whose musical skill improved their marriage prospects at a time when there were few other options for women. He also wrote a large amount of church music, and more than forty operas. His best-known work is the series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons - we featured "Spring" earlier in this series.
Vivaldi wrote a set of six cello sonatas (works for a solo instrument, usually with accompaniment by a keyboard) between 1720 and 1730. All of them have four alternating slow and fast movements (separate pieces); this is the second movement of the third sonata.
French composer Camille Saint-Saens (pronounced Sanh-Sonh) was born in Paris in 1835. By the time he was three he was picking out tunes on the piano, and his great-aunt started teaching him. He made his professional debut at the age of 10, and also became a brilliant organist.
His first job was as a church organist, which allowed him time to pursue his interests in piano and composing. He later became a beloved teacher at a school for future organists and choirmasters, and wrote his famous “Carnival of the Animals” with his students in mind (although he didn’t finish it till much later, after he left the school).
A minuet is an elegant 18th century dance – think ladies in dresses with huge ruffled skirts, and gentlemen in knee britches. This dance in 3/4 time, with small, elegant steps and many bows and curtsies, was all the rage in the fancy ballrooms of Europe (especially France and England) from about 1650 to 1750. Since Bach lived from 1685-1750, this was basically the pop music of his time. See if you can feel the 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 pulse, then get our your dress-up stuff and dance to the 18th century beat!
Giovanni (in English, John) Sammartini was an Italian composer, violinist, choir master, organist and teacher. He lived from 1700 – 1775. While he was alive he was famous both in Italy and abroad, particularly as a church composer, but his music fell out of fashion after his death and was not rediscovered till the early 20th century. He wasn’t the only famous musician in his family - his brother Giuseppe (Joseph) was known as the finest oboe player of his time.
In the opening of this cello piece, you can hear that Sammartini must have been a fine composer for voice – it’s easy to imagine this being sung by a tenor!