The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The early music, period-instrument group Sonata à Quattro plays a very varied “fringe concert” during the Madison Early Music Festival this Wednesday night | July 9, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

The new early music, period-instrument group Sonata à Quattro (below, in a photo by Lori Skelton) will perform a “Fringe Concert” during this year’s Madison Early Music Festival of a program called “The Lübeck Connection.”

The theme of this year’s MEMF, which is taking place all this week, focuses on music in the fabled choir library at St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck (below). All the works on the program were written by composers represented in that library. The program will run 90 minutes with one intermission.

The concert takes place on this Wednesday night, July 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Pres House, 731 State St.

Tickets will be available at the door, for general seating, at $20 for general admission and $10 for seniors, students and MEMF participants. Cash, check or charge will be accepted. A marzipan reception follows.

The first half of the program of Baroque music from the 17th and 18th centuries includes works by Giovanni Gabrieli, Heinrich Schütz, Michael Praetorius, Hermann Schein, Johann Staden, Heinrich Biber, Antonio Vivaldi and Samuel Capricornus.

The second half is all-Dietrich Buxtehude (below). You can hear a section of Buxtehude’s Trio Sonata in B-flat Major, Bux259, which is on the program, in the YouTube video at the bottom.

The ensemble (seen at the top of this story) is composed of violinists Nathan Giglierano and Christine Hauptly Annin; violist Marika Fischer Hoyt; cellist Charlie Rasmussen; and harpsichordist Daniel Sullivan.

Additional musicians include soprano Kristin Knutson, violinist Thalia Coombs, violist Micah Behr, and Phillip Serna and Eric Miller on violas da gamba.

You can get more information and follow the group on Facebook at:

One other performance of this program will take place. It is this coming Sunday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in St. Matthias Episcopal Church, 11 E. Main St., in Waukesha. For information, go to:


  1. One other query for you, Marika Fischer Hoyt.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but your group obviously strives to replicate the sounds of “original instruments” but from your explanations above, it seems that you are replacing the kind of music most frequently heard in the 17th and 18th centuries (the trio sonata form) with something that includes “the middle voice” on the viola. Isn’t that a more fundamental change in the sound than whether or not you would play on “original instruments”? Or to put it another way, isn’t there a contradiction there?

    At any rate, good wishes to you and I do enjoy the music of that period, as many others do.


    Comment by fflambeau — July 10, 2018 @ 1:58 am

    • Fflambeau, thank you for your good wishes – I hope you are able to join us Wednesday evening – there is some marzipan waiting with your name on it (what ever your name actually is!).

      Thank you also for your questions – I very much appreciate your interest and I’m sure others are wondering the same things. No, SAQ is not “replacing” some music with other music. We are bringing to light music that was written in that time period that includes the viola, but is very rarely programmed now. People who program for period instrument groups tend to be violinists or keyboard players themselves, and naturally favor repertoire that features those instruments, which is great.

      But there are many baroque chamber pieces that include viola, or two violas, or viola d’amore, who knew? Some of these pieces may be deservedly neglected, but there are many others that are just gorgeous and glow with the warmth of the viola sound. JS Bach understood this when he wrote his Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Bach’s biographer Forkel wrote “In musical parties… he took pleasure in playing the viola. With this instrument he was, as if were, in the centre of harmony, whence he could best hear and enjoy it on both sides.” I’m with Bach, in this as with so many other things.


      Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — July 10, 2018 @ 9:45 am

      • Nice explanation and I salute you and your group. Best wishes.


        Comment by fflambeau — July 11, 2018 @ 12:07 am

  2. From the website: The ensemble’s name refers to baroque chamber music scored for three melody lines plus continuo. The more-familiar trio sonata format, which enjoyed great popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, employs a continuo with only two melody instruments, typically treble instruments like violins or flutes. In contrast, a sonata à quattro includes a middle voice, frequently a viola, in addition to the two treble instruments and continuo; this scoring has a fuller, richer sonority, and can be seen as a precursor to the string quartet.


    Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — July 9, 2018 @ 6:47 pm

    • If you need to explain a name, especially with an explanation as wordy as yours (and theirs), then it is better to get a new name.


      Comment by fflambeau — July 10, 2018 @ 1:08 am

      • Seriously? I think having an intriguing name can pique people’s interest. Take the ensemble that just performed at MEMF Sunday evening, Piffaro. There is a specific reason why that name is perfect for the ensemble and for their mission, but it’s not a name that the average person on the street would hear and say instantly, ‘ah yes, a period-instrument ensemble featuring wind instruments, harkening back to the official wind bands of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods.’

        Or take Apollo’s Fire – can you tell instantly from their name that they’re a baroque orchestra in Cleveland? No, you can’t. And yet this internationally-acclaimed ensemble is enjoying fabulous success.

        On a related topic, ‘Consort’ is usually identified with Renaissance music, not Baroque. If you’re interested in Consort music you should check out the Madison Youth Viol Consort, led by Eric Miller.


        Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — July 10, 2018 @ 9:57 am

  3. The current keyboardist for the ensemble may be Daniel Sullivan, but the person in the above photo is clearly Mark Brampton Smith.


    Comment by bratschespeilerin — July 9, 2018 @ 10:56 am

    • This photo is taken from a performance in March, and yes, the harpsichordist on that occasion was Mark Brampton Smith. There are several different personnel playing this week, including violinists Nathan Giglierano and Christine Hauptly Annin, and harpsichordist Daniel Sullivan.


      Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — July 9, 2018 @ 6:49 pm

  4. […] Click here for the link. […]


    Pingback by SAQ on the Well-Tempered Ear – Sonata à Quattro — July 9, 2018 @ 7:55 am

  5. Nice program but what a horrible (and pretentious) name for this group. I suggest: the Madison Consort.


    Comment by fflambeau — July 9, 2018 @ 12:07 am

    • Horrible is a matter of taste; there is a specific reason for this name that is not pretentious at all but very grass roots. It refers to specific pieces of baroque music that include that underdog of instruments, the viola.


      Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — July 9, 2018 @ 6:52 pm

      • If you need to explain reasons for a name, it’s better to find a new one.


        Comment by fflambeau — July 10, 2018 @ 1:07 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,245 other subscribers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,426,557 hits
%d bloggers like this: