The period-instrument ensemble Sonata à Quattro was formed in 2017, as the Ensemble-In-Residence for Bach Around The Clock, the annual community music festival in Madison, WI.
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.
The initial mission of SAQ was to accompany singers and other soloists who needed backup musicians to perform Cantatas, Concertos, and choral works at the festival. But SAQ quickly expanded its scope to embark on a career independent of BATC.
Its initial launch was astonishingly successful, with an appearance on March 4, 2018, on the coveted Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen concert series on the UW-Madison campus. Coverage of this performance resulted in BATC and SAQ being featured on the website of Early Music America, as the first in a series of articles in connection with EMA’s Early Music Month.
SAQ accompanied two singers on Cantatas at BATC 2018, and also performed the Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor, with Marc Brampton Smith at the keyboard. These performances were streamed live and viewed by hundreds of people, to great acclaim.
SAQ appeared next at a ‘Bach’s Birthday Bash’ fundraiser at Essen Haus restaurant on March 21, 2018, a benefit event for the Madison Early Music Festival. SAQ players accompanied Paul and Cheryl Rowe and Chelsie Propst in movements from several Cantatas, and accompanied the crowd in Renaissance drinking songs as they toasted J.S. Bach on his 333rd birthday.
The summer of 2018 sees the début of SAQ’s first full-length recitals. The July program springs from the MEMF 2018 theme, ‘Journey to Lübeck,’ which centers on the famous music collection of the choir library at St. Mary’s Church in that city. The collection contains mostly liturgical vocal works, but the composers represented in the catalogue also wrote wonderful Canzonas, Dance Suites, Sinfonias and Sonatas for purely instrumental forces. SAQ has had a wonderful time exploring this little-known repertoire, and looks forward to sharing it with audiences in Madison and Milwaukee.
SAQ is in the process of planning its 2018-2019 concert season, and will publicize further information as it becomes available.