The next concert in the 40th anniversary season of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) will see the return of the historical instrument ensemble Quicksilver. Co-directed by violinists Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski, this group last performed for SFEMS in March of 2014 with a program of “extravagant and inventive new music” from seventeenth-century Italy and Germany. That program was cleverly titled The Early Moderns; and, in a similarly ludic vein, the title of this season’s program will be The (very) First Viennese School. Once again the music will be from the seventeenth century. This time, however, the venue will be Vienna when it was the seat of the court of the Holy Roman Empire.
The chronology of the program begins in 1622 with the marriage of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, to Eleonora Gonzaga. Eleonora was the daughter (born in 1598) of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, who had employed Claudio Monteverdi, first as a performer and subsequently (in 1602) as master of music to succeed Benedetto Pallavincio. When she moved to Vienna she brought along three composers, who had been significantly influenced by Monteverdi’s so-called stile moderno (modern style): Giovanni Battista Buonamente, Giovanni Valentini, and Pietro Paulo Melli. Music by all three of these composers will be performed.
Ferdinand died in 1637, succeeded by his son Ferdinand III. However, it was his son, Leopold I, who ruled the Viennese court for the last 40 years of the century. His court musicians included Johann Joseph Fux, remembered today not only as a composer but also as the author of Gradus ad Parnassum (steps to Parnassus), which remains the single most influential documentation of Renaissance polyphony as practiced by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The book was written as a dialogue between the student Josephus and the master Aloysius, who is meant to be Palestrina himself. Fux’ music will be included in the program, along with a selection by his fellow musician in Leopold’s court, Johann Caspar Kerll.