Saturday, October 29, 2022, 4:00 pm
First Parish, Sudbury, MA and live-streamed at oldpostroad.org

Sunday, October 30, 2022, 4:00 pm
Emmanuel Church, Boston, MA

For over three decades, Musicians of the Old Post Road has delighted in introducing audiences to “rediscovered” works that history has overlooked. Based in the Greater Boston area, the ensemble specializes in the period instrument performance of dynamic and diverse music from the Baroque to early Romantic eras, focusing on works that have been lost to audiences for centuries. In October, the group opens their 34th season with a program loosely based around Frederick II of Prussia, but perhaps not in the way that most people might think.

Frederick the Great, as he’s come to be known, was no stranger to the power and importance of music and composition. He was a passionate and accomplished flutist, and wrote an astonishing number of pieces for the instrument; he was also a librettist and an opera aficionado. He surrounded himself with prominent musical masters of the time, including his flute teacher J. J. Quantz, his concertmaster Franz Benda, C.P.E Bach, and Carl Henrich Graun.

But there were some composers in his circle who don’t get the same recognition today as those men: their female counterparts, the women who lived and composed in the same time and space as those men, but whose work, over time, has been somewhat neglected. Among these forgotten female composers were two of Frederick the Great’s sisters, Princesses Anna Amalia and Wilhelmine, who shared his passion and talent for music.

Like many of her siblings Anna Amalia endured a difficult and often violent childhood, mainly at the hands of her father, King Frederick I, who viewed music as self-indulgent and morally corrupt. Seeking comfort and joy where she could, Anna Amalia secretly turned to music. She received clandestine lessons from her older brother, then Crown Prince Frederick, who taught her to play the harpsichord, flute, and violin. Upon the death of her father, her formal instruction began, and with it the start of her musical career. In addition to her own compositions of trios, marches, cantatas, and fugues (of which she was said to be extremely critical), she was also a collector and curator of music. She preserved over 600 volumes of work by such composers as Bach, Handel, Telemann, Graun, and C.P.E Bach. Today her collection is stored in the Berlin State Library.

Her eldest sister, Wilhelmine, shared the same unhappy childhood, frequently enduring physical abuse from both her father and her governess. She escaped her father’s court by marrying Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. As Margravine, she and her husband sought to make Bayreuth an intellectual center of the Holy Roman Empire. They rebuilt their summer residence and Bayreuth palace, renovated the Bayreuth Opera House, and constructed a new opera house, theater, and university. An accomplished lutenist, Wilhelmine was also a gifted composer and supporter of music. Among the intellectuals and artists in her court was a young singer and composer by the name of Anna Bon.

Anna Bon was born in Venice to a musical family; her father, Giralamo, was a librettist and scenographer, and her mother was the singer Rosa Ruvinetti Bon. While her parents were in the service of Wilhelmine and her family in Bayreuth, young Anna received her early training at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a music school and orphanage for girls perhaps best known as the school where Vivaldi taught. Anne Bon joined her family at the court in Bayreuth as a teenager, quickly proving herself to be a skilled harpsichordist and gifted composer; she wrote her Six Flute Sonatas, Opus 1, at the age of sixteen, and dedicated them to the Margave. Very little else is known about the rest of her life; she went on to marry a singer named Mongeri, and composed chamber sonatas, sonatas for harpsichord, and more.

In order to bring these extraordinary women, their stories, and their music to audiences today, the Musicians of the Old Post Road will give two performances of a program featuring their compositions, as well as works by other composers of Frederick’s court. Masterful Madames: Women Composers in the Circle of Frederick the Great will feature Anna Amalia’s Flute Sonata in F Major, her only surviving multi-movement work. Also included will be Wilhelmine’s brilliant Harpsichord Concerto in G Minor, one of the earliest surviving works in this genre. An evocative trio sonata by Anna Bon will also be included, as well as trio sonatas by Franz Benda, J.J. Quantz, and Christoph Schaffrath.

The performers for the concerts, all of whom will play on period instruments, will include flutist Suzanne Stumpf, violinists Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violist Marcia Cassidy, cellist Daniel Ryan, and harpsichordist Michael Sponseller. The first performance will be on Saturday, October 29th, 2022, at 4 pm EDT at First Parish in Sudbury, MA. The second will be the following day, Sunday, October 30, 2022, at 4 pm EDT at Emmanuel Church in Boston, MA. In order to reach a wider audience, as well as patrons who might still be wary of the risks of Covid, the Saturday concert will be live-streamed at oldpostroad.org. The program is supported, in part, by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Boston Cultural Council, and the Sudbury Cultural Council. The Sudbury concert is presented in collaboration with the Sudbury Historical Society and is being offered in honor of Sudbury resident Tom Hollocher for his long service on Musicians of the Old Post Road’s Board of Directors.

The rest of the season for Musicians of the Old Post Road promises to be equally exciting; on December 10th and 11th, the ensemble will present American Originals: A Moravian Christmas, featuring beautiful music for the season by a unique 18th-century community. For Moravian immigrants to the American colonies, music was an essential part of everyday life. Performing with the ensemble will be soprano Jessica Petrus and mezzo-soprano Hilary Anne Walker. On March 11th and 12th, 2023, Musicians of the Old Post Road will present Baroque Diva: A Tribute to Faustina Bordoni, featuring soprano Teresa Wakim performing dazzling arias and cantatas written for superstar Faustina Bordoni, whose vocal celebrity inspired a long list of works by such composers as J. A. Hasse, Leonardo Vinci, and Handel. To finish the season, on April 29th and 30th, 2023, Into the Light: Unearthed Treasures by Christoph Graupner will celebrate the unveiling of lost works by Graupner, an unsung German composer who was as legendary in his day as his contemporaries Bach and Telemann.  The program will include some of his concertos, suites, and sonatas.

Musicians of the Old Post Road takes its name from its acclaimed concert series that brings period instrument performances of music of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to beautiful historic buildings along New England’s fabled Old Post Road, the first thoroughfare to connect Boston and New York City in the late 17th century.

Winner of the 1998 Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society, Musicians of the Old Post Road has also received programming awards from Chamber Music America and the US-Mexico Fund for Culture. The ensemble has toured in Germany, Austria, and Mexico, and has appeared at festivals and on concert series in the US, including the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival Concert Series, the Academy of Early Music (Ann Arbor), the Castle Hill Festival, the Artists Series at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and the Connecticut Early Music Festival. The ensemble has held a residency at Dartmouth College and was featured on WCVB television’s “Chronicle” program and 99.5 All Classical radio’s “Live from Fraser” program.

For more information, visit www.oldpostroad.org, email [email protected], or call 781-466-6694.