The king's garden

From 16 April 2023 to 16 April 2023/ Italy / Vigevano

This concert gathers a selection of pieces of bucolic inspiration, composed for the Spanish court in the second half of the 18th century. The idealized imitation of nature became one of the key trends followed by artists. The positive valorization of the cultures of America and Asia contributed to this, thanks to published travel stories. On this matter, it arose the myth of the “noble savage”, understood by the philosophers as a person with a status of happiness in contrast to the corrupt and artificial civilized society. This idea was very attractive to the European elites, at a time when life in the cities became very uncomfortable, due to their huge expansion. Horace's slogan of "contempt of Court and praise of village" translated into an exaltation of the simple and elemental life of the villagers in opposition to the complexity of an accelerated and superfluous urban life. Thus, it is not strange that the Spanish court spent most part of their time out of Madrid, living in their rural residences at La Granja de San Ildefonso (Summer), San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Fall), El Pardo (Winter) and Aranjuez (Spring). This last one was the bucolic refuge preferred by the Spanish King during the 18th century. During its festivities, they hosted concerts, equine exhibitions with music, boat trips and operas. 
The music listened to by the Spanish courtiers was connected to this new taste for pastoral and natural themes. Musicians tried to avoid the artifices of counterpoint and harmony, while incorporating in their compositions the chants of birds, the sounds of the wind or storms and, in general, the dances of the modest rural peasants. A good example of this is the music by José Herrando. Born in Valencia around 1720, Herrando became a great violin virtuoso, getting to work for the Court by the mid-18th century. He coincides there with the famous castrato Farinelli, to whom he dedicated a collection of violin sonatas. One of his most interesting music works is the Sonata a solo intitulada el Jardín de Aranjuez en tiempo de Primavera, con diversos cantos de pájaros y otros animales (sonata a solo titled Aranjuez’s garden in Spring, with various chants of birds and other animals). In this score are indicated the actions and sounds that a walking peasant, oblivious to the hustle of civilization, could encounter in the garden of Aranjuez and which the music attempt to imitate: chant of the canary, the chant of the cuckoo, the sound of water, the sound of trees, the chant of mocking jay, tempest, the chant of quail, chant of dove…
The recreation of the chant of birds was a constant topic in the musical production during the 18th century. We find a beautiful example in the Trio in D (N.6 Op.3) by Cayetano Brunetti, dedicated to the Prince of Asturias, future Carlos IV. In its last movement, the music ingeniously emulates the chant of the hen, the cuckoo, the quail, and the mocking jay, reflecting inside of the chamber what the prince could hear outside, at the gardens of his royal palaces. 
Not always was nature imitated in a literal way, but often the composers opted for representing in a stylized manner the bucolic environment. This is the case of the graceful trios by Giordani and Stamitz, preserved in a collection of documents at the Spanish National Library, originally from the old Royal Library. 
Antoni Pons (Ars Hispana) 
The king's garden

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