"I doubt anyone who had never heard Favella Lyrica could imagine what they do, or how well they do it: We've never heard anything quite like the duet singing of Pamela Murray and Pamela Dellal." 



Feast of Delights: A Thanksgiving Offering

with guest artist:
Daniel Ryan, baroque cello


Thanksgiving is a joyous time when we abandon ourselves to sensous pleasures of every kind, without worrying about the consequences. This assortment of luscious music is offered in the same spirit. Although each piece was selected primarily for its beauty, there is a subtle theme of "thanksgiving" woven through the material as well; most of the texts to these vocal pieces give thanks, in various ways, for the blessings of constancy, beauty, music, contentment, and happiness.

Conservate, raddoppiate is from the collection of 22 chamber duets that Handel wrote throughout his career. Dating from 1711, it is an early work written just after his sojourn in Italy and demonstrates the influence that the Italian style had on him at that time. The plangent suspensions of the opening section and the surging rhythmic energy of the second section are clearly derived from instrumental music, particularly the Adagio-Allegro overture style favored by Corelli and others.

The next three works are by Henry Purcell, the 300th anniversary of whose death we celebrate this year. Although Purcell's greatest achievements were in the field of theatrical music, his large collection of miscellaneous solo songs with continuo is a treasure trove of great works. Music for Awhile is justly one of his most famous songs. Written as an air upon a ground, a short, repeated melody in the bass, Purcell characteristically reveals the latent harmonic variety and rhythmic contrast inherent in this seemingly static form. An Evening Hymn, also upon a ground, is an expansive, more ecstatic piece that uses the ground bass to create a timeless quality.

The Elegy upon the Death of Queen Mary was written in 1695, in the last year of Purcell's life. Queen Mary II of Orange had been a great patron of Purcell, and he had written a series of birthday odes for her. The loss of her patronage was certainly quite a blow, and he responded with several pieces of staggering beauty that were performed at the State Funeral for the monarch, including this duet. Just eight months later the same piece was performed for Purcell's own funeral.

Ahi, non torna presents a truly contrasting harmonic style to the previous works. Giacomo Carissimi lived and worked in Rome during the mid-17th century, mostly as Maestro di cappella at St. Apollinare. He is most famous for his sacred oratorios, particularly Jephtha, but he also wrote a large quantity of secular vocal works. The distinctive sound of Carissimi's music is derived from a melodic sweetness colored by a rich, modal harmonic structure. At times, the harmonic shifts harken back to late Renaissance progressions. Ostensibly a dramatic dialogue between two lovers, this duet eschews overt drama in favor of lyricism.

Beato in ver chi può is a duet from Handel's maturity, written in London in 1742 during the period when he was writing the great oratorios. Alone among all the chamber duets, it is in a simple da capo aria form. This description, however, does not even to begin to express the depth and subtlety of this great piece, which blends operatic gestures with exquisite arpeggiated sequences that complement the pastoral images of the text (a philosophic hymn to moderation by Horace).

Antonio Vivaldi's Sonata in Bb Major is the last of a set of six published at Paris in 1740. This opus was the last published work of Vivaldi's lifetime, but was probably composed several years earlier in response to a commission. While the overall form of the sonata follows the conventional four-movement sonata da chiesa format, the content of the individual movements is anything but routine. The opening movement is suffused with serenity; its continuous bass-line undulations are reminiscent of the lapping of the water in the Venetian canals against a tranquilly-moving gondola. Vivaldi was clearly inspired by the lyrical quality of the cello, composing a soaring gondolier's serenade over this texture. While the third movement is a melancholy study in chromaticism, the two fast movements evoke a carnival atmosphere. Composed in a loosely-rounded binary form, their spontaneity and surprise result from the juxtaposition of regular motivic repetition with irregular phrase lengths, wayward chromaticism, and unexpected shifts to the minor mode.

I Lov'd fair Celia, written in 1692, is an example of Purcell's simple style at the service of a lovely, and rare, sentiment. It is interesting to note that a "mock" version of this song was also published, including words like "be pert and oddly dress'd; court ev'ry she, be false as hell." This indicates that the original version had been popular enough to be made fun of! O Solitude, like An Evening Hymn, is a broadly conceived air upon a ground, this time evoking the pleasures of quiet forest pathways and mountain vistas.

Although the music of the French Baroque is often considered, with some cause, to be a style apart from the largely Continent-wide Italian style, in the duets of François Couperin the Italian influence is palpable. The concerted sections of the Motet for Easter Day use the virtuosic and expressive techniques common to the duet style of Purcell and Handel -- note the passages where the voices alternate in holding a pedal note against the other's rhythmic motion, and the swinging Alleluias that recall Heinrich Schütz. The liquid prosody of the French language is still everywhere to be heard in this Latin motet, in the rhythms of the text and the many dance-meters that decorate this delightful piece.


George Frideric Handel

Conservate, radoppiate

Henry Purcell

Music for Awhile
Evening Hymn

Henry Purcell

Elegy Upon the Death of Queen Mary

Giacomo Carissimi

Ahi, non torna


G.F. Handel

Beato in ver chi può

Antonio Vivaldi

Cello sonata #6 in Bb Major


Henry Purcell

I Lov'd Fair Celia
O Solitude

François Couperin

[Motet pour le jour de Pâques]