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Bach Series

Matthew Greco Baroque Violin

BACH Nº 9
Matthew Greco performs the Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV 1003

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PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

SONATA NO. 2 IN A MINOR, BWV 1003
Allegro

As with many influential figures throughout history, during the latter stages of JS Bach’s life opinions of his character and work had become polarised.  In 1737, composer and theoretician Johann Adolf Scheibe openly criticised Bach in his weekly journal in the name of simplicity and melodiousness, accusing him of abusing overcomplicated counterpoint and harmonic structures in his music.

Quote
This great man would be the admiration of entire nations if he had more pleasantness, and if he did not allow a bombastic and confused style to suffocate naturalness in his pieces, or obscure their beauty through excessive artifice.
JOHANN ADOLF SCHEIBE

The criticisms levelled by Scheibe did not go without reply, and in the following year the virtue of JS Bach’s music would receive a thorough and academic defence from Johann Abraham Birnbaum, a professor of rhetoric at Leipzig University situated some 500m from St Thomas Church where Bach was employed at the time. The resulting dispute would become known as the Scheibe-Birnbaum affair and to this day is recognised as one of the most important documents regarding the reception of Bach’s music before his death.

Throughout his own research, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Matthew Greco has also formulated ideas regarding JS Bach’s music that are in stark opposition to those forwarded by Scheibe nearly 300 years ago:

Quote
As historical performers, it is our job to continually ask questions about the function of music in which we have chosen to specialise. In the case of JS Bach’s collection of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, we are dealing with works whose function is to portray all the richness of harmony and multi-voiced texture that is characteristic of Bach’s music, on an instrument that is primarily melodic.  This approach makes it clear that Bach is pushing the violin to the limits of its technical and expressive capabilities. Once again when looking at function, Bach adds to this already considerable technical feat, the task of presenting these works in the model of the French and Italian dance forms.
MATTHEW GRECO

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
Although brief, the Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor is sublime proof to the contrary of Johann Adolf Scheibe’s accusations. As the final movement of this sonata, Bach provides elegant relief for both listener and performer, leaving elaborate polyphonic writing behind and adopting a simple echo technique as indicated by his alternating dynamic markings – forte and piano.

 

Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

 


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MATTHEW GRECO

In 2013, Matthew Greco graduated from the Royale Conservatoire of The Hague, The Netherlands and since then has continued to nurture his love of the Baroque and Classical violin through his employment as a soloist, concertmaster and core member of some of the world’s leading period instrument ensembles.

Matthew began studying violin at the age of twelve with Lisa Buchanan Nihill in Sydney at St Pius X College, Chatswood where he developed an early appreciation of Baroque music and period performances.

During his studies with Professor Janet Davies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, he furthered his skills on the modern and Baroque violin. Pursuing this interest professionally, at the age of nineteen, Matthew was engaged by Australia’s leading period orchestras - the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Pinchgut Opera. After establishing a successful career in Australia, he further pursued his passion for historical performance in The Netherlands, studying with world-renowned Baroque violinists Ryo Terakado and Enrico Gatti.

Matthew has been a regular member of Pinchgut Opera since his first performance in 2006; he has performed in 21 productions and has been a concertmaster since 2015. He performs in a variety of ensembles and festivals, including the Australian Haydn Ensemble, Salut! Baroque, De Nederlandse Bachvereniging (Netherlands Bach Society), Les Talens Lyriques (Paris), Festival D’Aix en Provence, Opera Nationale de Paris, and Capella Mediterranea (Switzerland). Matthew is a founding member of the Sydney-based Baroque ensemble, The Muffat Collective.  

Also an enthusiastic violin teacher, Matthew currently enjoys his work at Santa Sabina College as ensemble conductor and teacher in the senior and junior school instrumental programs. Having recently become a teacher of Baroque violin at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, he very much enjoys sharing his knowledge of historical performance practices with young professionals including those in the Brandenburg’s education program.

Matthew’s approach to music is one governed by his commitment to producing a unique and individual sound based on his knowledge of historical performance. He believes that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music is full of vitality, energy and emotions that speak to us now as much as they did in the past.

Biography: Matthew Greco, July 2020
Image Credit: TBC

BAROQUE VIOLIN

David Christian Hopf – 1760
Quittenbach, Germany
Restored to its original condition by luthier Simon Brown in 2006

I was extremely fortunate to be able to purchase my Baroque violin at the age of nineteen from luthier Simon Brown. I will always be grateful that this instrument has seen me through my entire education and performing career throughout Europe and Australia. This is so often not the case for performers who have to ‘upgrade’ their equipment at various stages of their career.

The instrument was formerly owned by the restorer and luthier who was given the instrument from his teacher and master luthier in Cremona during his studies there. Simon has beautifully restored this old instrument to its original condition and I’m eternally grateful to him for selling it to me at a very reasonable price at the beginning of my career when I needed a good quality instrument to learn on.

Ubiquitous in the violin world, the Hopf name is stamped on a vast number of undistinguished violins.

Of the Hopf family of luthiers, David Christian is rated rather highly or as one of the better makers. These violins are known for their unusual ‘square’ shaping. Sadly, they are not known for their particularly refined features and sound, especially compared with their Italian contemporaries. In any case, when I first played this violin I was immediately struck by its earthy and warm depth of sound, as well as its curious shape. I continue to love it to this day for its eccentric features and hope to continue our fruitful partnership in the years to come.

 

Instrument Notes: Matthew Greco, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Köthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

The excerpt above of the Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor comes from the 1720 autograph manuscript of Bach’s collection of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. The manuscript is currently held in the Berlin State Library.

FROM OUR PRESENTING PARTNER APA GROUP

APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

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