Handel’s years in Italy (ca. 1706-1710) were extremely creative. His chamber cantatas were performed by the most eminent singers and instrumentalists in Rome. Exploring the art of continuo playing in Handel’s ‘continuo cantatas’, harpsichordist Christian Kjos releases an album with captivating interpretations.
The Chamber Cantata in context
The chamber cantata was a popular genre in Italy. Their main subject is passionate love in all its facets between the shepherds in the romanticized region of Arcadia in Greece. Handel wrote around seventy continuo cantatas – a lesser known genre among his rich output – performed at weekly musical gatherings in the palaces of his Roman patrons. They were a treasure trove from which he borrowed pearls and nuggets of gold throughout his life.
Christian Kjos on continuo playing:
“Continuo playing can be rendered in various degrees of complexity, depending on the skill of the performer. The treatise Grosse General-Baß-Schule (Hamburg, 1731) by Johann Mattheson – Handel’s friend from his Hamburg years – gave me the incentive to research this rarely heard approach and to try it out in Handel’s equally rarely played continuo cantatas where the continuo part is so fundamental to the result. What might be most noticeable is how frequently I abandon chordal playing to let more melodic material, imitations, parallel thirds and added dissonances into the realization, making it sound closer to an obbligato harpsichord part. Therefore, I have deliberately chosen to render these cantatas solely with harpsichord accompaniment. This chamber musical duo format – like the later German Lieder – seems especially suitable in terms of chamber musical flexibility, and in order to hear the independent realization even better.”
Ditte Marie Bræin, Marianne Beate Kielland and Christian Kjos
Ditte Marie Bræin stems from one of Norway’s oldest families of musicians and she studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Ditte has worked extensively both as soloist and ensemble singer gathering experience within baroque, classical and contemporary music. Marianne Beate Kielland is one of Scandinavia’s foremost singers, and she regularly appears in the concert halls of Europe, Japan and America. Christian Kjos is one of Norway’s most active harpsichordists. After studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music with Knut Johannessen and at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Jesper Christensen, he has been a freelance harpsichordist and continuo player in several of Norway’s early music ensembles, particularly Barokkanerne. Christian has played with Concerto Copenhagen under Alfredo Bernardini and is a founding member of the Swiss-based Ensemble Meridiana. Christian has been a research fellow at the Norwegian Academy of Music since 2015 with the artistic research project ‘Releasing the ‘Loudie’, harpsichord accompaniment in the G. F. Handel’s continuo cantatas’.