The Myth of Venice

The Myth of Venice
16th-century music for cornetto & keyboards
Gawain Glenton & Silas Wollston
Delphian DCD34261. 61’50

In a very successful bit of promotional branding, medieval Venice built a perception of itself as La Serenissima (“the most serene”) and the successor of ancient Rome, with a similarly impressive range of foundation myths and ceremonials, that led historians to reference as the Myth of Venice. The myth was largely supported by its architecture, then as now a draw for visitors from around the world. This recording, The Myth of Venice explores the musical development of the Myth of Venice, exploring the 16th-century Venetian composers and performers who helped to put Venice on the musical map. Their starting point is Adrian Willaert’s arrival in 1527 on to the end of the century, with composers including Parabosco, Padovano, Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, Bellavere, Ganassi and Bassano.

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A Bach recital for Early Music Day

An International Early Music Day event
Andrew Benson-Wilson, organ, &
Poppy Walshaw, cello
St Giles-in-the-Fields, London WC2H 8LG
Friday 18 March, 1:15

This is a special concert for international Early Music Day, an annual celebration of early music that takes place around the time of the 21st March birthday of JS Bach. This concert is part of the weekly Music-at-Hill series of lunchtime Midtown Concerts in the beautiful church of St Giles-in-the-Fields, home of one of the most important historic organs in the country.

The programme will include the Italian-inspired four-movement Pastorella pro Organo, a work that raises many questions about authenticity and sources, and the majestic Partite on the chorale O Gott, du frommer Gott, whose nine variations seem to reflect the verses of the chorale. Distinguished Baroque cellist, Poppy Walshaw, will also play one of the Bach Cello Suites.

The organ dates back to the end of the 17th century. It was built in 1678 by George Dallam and was repaired in 1699 by Christian Smith, nephew of the famous organ builder ‘Father’ Smith. When the present St Giles-in-the-Fields church was opened in 1734, the organ was incorporated into a new case by Gerard Smith the younger. Much of the pipework from 1699, and some from 1678, survives today. It is one of the few historic organs in central London to have escaped 20th-century ‘modernisation’. With advice from organ historian and consultant Stephen Bicknell, William Drake restored the organ in 2006, respecting the historic pipework and musical nature of the organ.

Organ Recital: “Upon thes nots”

“Upon thes nots
Two 450th anniversariesThomas Tomkins & Michael Praetorius
Andrew Benson-Wilson, organ
St George’s, Hanover Square, London W1S 1FX
1 March 2022, 1:10

This recital contrasts the contrasting music of two composers born 600 miles apart, 450 years ago. It also reflects the way in which the two composers treat melodic lines, whether in the form of a powerful Lutheran hymn or the seven-note plainchant-based phrase upon which Tomkins based his monumental Offertory, noting in the opening bar that the piece was based “upon thes nots“.

Thomas Tomkins 1572–1656
“For Mr Arc[hdeacon] ThornBurghe”
“Mr Thomas Tomkins offertorye” [upon thes nots] (1637)
Michael Praetorius 1571-1621
O lux beata Trinitas (Hymnodia Sionia, 1611)
Chorale Fantasia: Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott (Musæ Sioniæ VII, 1609)

Thomas Tomkins was organist of Worcester Cathedral until its closure during the Civil War as well as the Chapel Royal in London. Michael Praetorius was organist and Kapellmeister in the courts of the Duke of Wolfenbüttel and the Elector of Saxony in Dresden.  

The concert is given on the Richards, Fowkes & Co organ in Handel’s church of St George’s Hanover Square as part of the Mayfair Organ Concerts series. Admission is free, with a retiring collection.

Burghclere Baroque: Messiah

Handel: Messiah
Burghclere Baroque, Theresa Caudle
The Church of the Ascension, Burghclere. 22 December 2021
7 Revisions

However often professional musicians may appear on the national or international stage, for many of them, much of their musical activity is local, whether teaching or running their own musical events, concerts and festivals. One example is Burghclere Baroque, set up in 2020 by violinist/cornetist Theresa Caudle in her home village of Burghclere, on the Hampshire border just south of Newbury. Alongside Chamber Music and Orchestral Days, they also arrange concerts when current issues permit. Just about slipping in before the latest Covid stops such things, is this performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Church of the Ascension, Burghclere. Their invitation to the concert also invited people to attend their afternoon rehearsal, which is what I did. A formal review would not have been appropriate, so this is just a record of an event. And if you are local, and see this in time, you might manage to get to the 7pm start.

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Ensemble Molière: Réunion des goûts

Réunion des goûts
Ensemble Molière
Heath Street Arts
Heath Street Baptist Church and Livestream. 21 December 2021

No photo description available.

Lully – Ouverture from Psyché
Couperin – Sonade from L’Impériale, Les Nations 
Telemann – Quatuor No. 6 in E minor from Nouveaux quatuors en six suites
Charpentier – Suites from Le Mariage Forcé
Couperin – Chaconne ou Passacaille from La Françoise, Les Nations

The last concert in the 2021 series of the Heath Street Arts’ Tuesday Lunchtime Concerts (TLC) at Heath Street Baptist Church, Hampstead was given by Ensemble Molière under the title of Réunion des goûts. Sharing the stage with an enormous Christmas tree, their programme reflected the merging of French and Italian musical styles that had been pioneered by François Couperin and developed by Georg Philipp Telemann. It was initiated by Couperin in his L’Apothéose de Lully and Les Nations. Telemann continued the trend with his 1738 Nouveaux quatuors en six suites – the ‘Paris Quartets’.

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Continuo Foundation: 2021 projects

Continuo Foundation
A video resume of eight of the 2021 grant-aided projects

Ensemble Hesperi perform with Soprano Angela Hicks

The Continuo Foundation (reviewed here) has published a whistle-stop video tour of eight of the 37 projects that were supported by their 2021 grants, with short extracts from the full concerts all of which were live-streamed on the OnJam platform. Tickets to watch the full films can be purchased until the end of January 2022 (links below). The ensembles featured are Joglaresa, The Mozartists, Ensemble Hesperi (pictured above), Boxwood & Brass, Consone Quartet, Palisander, Spiritato Baroque & The Marian Consort, and La Nuova Musica.

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Monteverdi Vespers

Monteverdi Vespers
L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar
Tue 14 Dec 2021, Barbican Hall

Monteverdi’s monumental 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine is now considered mainstream repertoire, but it was unusual to hear it performed alongside the inevitable sequence of Messiah’s in the run-up to Christmas. It was equally good that, amongst the current complicated Anglo-French relations, London could welcome the French group L’Arpeggiata and their founder/director Christina Pluhar. Current Covid and travel issues meant that they were rather more Anglo than usual, with several UK musicians drafted in at short notice to replace those unable to travel. The concert took place live on 14 December in the Barbican Hall, but was also available to stream live, which is how I saw the performance.

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Eva Saladin: The Di Martinelli Collection

The Di Martinelli Collection
Violin sonatas of the late 17th century
Eva Saladin, violin
Glossa Music GCD 922521
. 69’07

This excellent debut recording from the Swiss-Dutch violinist Eva Saladin features a selection of pieces from a manuscript of 32 late 17th-century violin sonatas, dating from the years around 1690, found amongst the 65 manuscripts and 32 prints of the Di Martinelli Collection in the archives of the University of Leuven. The pieces are of various origins, with a focus on three regions, the Flemish-Netherlands, South German & the Habsburg regions, and Italy. The collection was put together by members of the Italian di Martinelli family, who had settled in present-day Belgium. These violin sonatas seem to be connected with the second generation di Martinelli, Guillelmus Carolus, a violinist and singing master based in Diest, in Brabant.

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The Ghost in the Machine

The Ghost in the Machine
Emily Baines, recorders, Amyas

First Hand Records FHR 113. 62’41


The launch concert on Wednesday 15 December has been cancelled.
It will return in the New Year

It has long been the case that many ‘early music’ recordings and performances are preceded and supported by a considerable amount of research by the performers. This recording from Amyas is one particularly interesting example. It is based on 10 years of research by Emily Baines (culminating in her doctorate) into the evidence of 18th-century performance style found in mechanical musical instruments of the period, such as barrel organs and musical clocks with tiny organs inside them.

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Krebs: Keyboard Works Vol 1

Johann Ludwig Krebs: Keyboard Works Vol 1
Steven Devine, harpsichord
Resonus Classics RES10287. 72’00

Partita in A minor, Krebs-WV 825
Fugues in C major, E major, F major, F minor, G major, and A minor, Krebs-WV 843/848
Concerto in G major “in Italiänischen Gusto”, Krebs-WV 821

Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) is another of those overlooked composers, despite there being a large amount of surviving music. He is probably best known as Bach’s favourite organ pupil, and the focus (reflected in the CD cover photo) of Bach’s comment Er ist der einzige Krebs in meinem Bache – “He is the only crayfish (Krebs) in my brook (Bach)”, a reference to Krebs’ ability as an organist, rather than being the only Krebs pupil as Bach also taught Krebs’ father. His music falls into a slightly awkward gap between the High Baroque style of late Bach and the new Galant and Classical styles that rendered much of ‘Old Bach’s’ music out of date.

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OAE: Look, no Bass 

Look, no Bass!
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
 OAE Player from Thursday 25 November

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is a self-managed and democratic orchestra and gives its players considerable freedom to choose programmes and music. In their latest video offering on their OAE Player, Look, No Bass!, the OAE’s violinists present a programme of music for violins alone, highlighting the various textures and colours of their ubiquitous instrument. Their programme includes Telemann’s two Concerti for Four Violins, his programmatic Gulliver Suite Duo (from Der getreue Musikmeister), and arrangements by the OAE violinists of a Gabrieli Canzon and pieces by the English composers Matthew Locke and John Adson.

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Capella Claudiana: O Mirandum Mysterium

O Mirandum Mysterium
Sacred works by Giovanni Legrenzi from the music archive of the
Benedictine monastery in Marienberg in South Tyrol

Capella Claudiana, Marian Polin
Tiroler Landesmuseen. Musikmuseum 47, CD13046. 52’00

Although Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690) was well known in his own lifetime, he is one of those frequent composers whose name and music is almost unknown today. In Legrenzi’s case, he is probably only known through Bach’s youthfully flamboyant organ Fugue “on a theme of Legrenzi”, although this is either based on a lost Legrenzi work or one that is not a by Legrenzi at all. This compelling recording should help to bring him to the attention of a much wider audience. It is based on music by Legrenzi found in the remarkably wide-ranging musical archive of the remote Marienberg monastery in Vinschgau in the South Tyrol.

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Stile Antico – Journey of the Mayflower

Stile Antico
The Journey of the Mayflower

Available free on YouTube until 28 November 2021

This is not a review, but an alert that the excellent vocal group Stile Antico have re-released their 2020 film, The Journey of the Mayflower, on their YouTube channel. It is available free for one week until the end of 28 November 2021. In this music drama, Stile Antico explore the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, alongside music of the period. The Mayflower Pilgrims were puritans who sailed from Plymouth in September 1620 to what would become New England, seeking a life free from religious persecution. Despite their confidence that God’s favour was with them, their journey was beset with difficulties. Their arrival also heralded an era of destruction for the native Wampanoag tribe.

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The Albion Project: Fretwork

The Albion Project
Fretwork
Gabriel Prokofiev, Nonclassical
Kings Place, 12 November 2021

The Albion Project is an initiative from the viol consort Fretwork. They commissioned composers to arrange a wide range of significant works of British music for viol consort. This was performed in Hall 2 (a black box studio) of Kings Place as part of their 2021 London Unwrapped series of concerts. The new arrangements and remixes were performed with and together with a digital narrative from Gabriel Prokofiev (assisted by Blasio Kavuma), who linked and underlay Fretwork’s live music for five viols with extracts from live recordings, computer beats, loops, audio manipulation and various other technical wizardries. It was an attempt to answer the question – what is British identity, and what is that in music?

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Solo Recorder Competition

Society of Recorder Players/Moeck Solo Recorder Competition
London International Festival of Early Music
St. Margaret’s, Lee Terrace, Blackheath
Friday 12th November 2021

It has been 30 years since the biennial Society of Recorder Players/Moeck Solo Recorder Competition (founded in 1985) linked with what is now the London International Festival of Early Music (LIFEM), a collaboration that incorporates the competition final and a recital by the winner at the following year’s festival. This year the venue was the fascinating church of St. Margaret’s, Lee, a simple early Victorian building in Early English style with spectacular interior decorations dating from the latter decades of the 19th-century. This church was a distinct improvement from the previous venue, as was the organisation of the event – an issue in previous competitions (see my review of the 2019 LIFEM here).

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Pachelbel: Organ Works, Vol 1

Pachelbel: Organ Works, Vol 1
Matthew Owens
1965 Frobenius Organ, The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford
Resonus RES10285. 71’03

In what promises to be a comprehensive survey of Johann Pachelbel’s organ music, Matthew Owens explores what is probably this enigmatic composer’s least appreciated genre. Pachelbel (1653-1706) was based in South Germany at a time when the famous North German organ school was at its height – he died a year before Buxtehude. His music has been overshadowed by his contemporaries in the northern cities, and this series of recordings should do much to rekindle knowledge of his specific musical style. It will hopefully put to rest his unfortunate post-1970s reputation as the composer of the famous Canon – a piece that is hardly ever performing in a style that Pachelbel would remotely recognise.

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Key Notes: Early European Keyboard Music

Key Notes
Early European Keyboard Music

Corina Marti
Outhere/Ramee RAM 1916. 65’54

Keynotes. Early European Keyboard Music

It is many decades since keyboard music was assumed by many to have started with Bach. This recording offers a chance to explore a little-known repertoire of music for organ and other instruments dating from the medieval period. The recording draws on manuscripts such as the Buxheimer Orgelbuch, Lochamer Liederbuch, Ileborgh Tablature, and the Montpellier, Robertsbridge, Las Huelgas, and Faenza codices. Many of the pieces are arrangements (or intabulations) of pre-existing music by, for example, Pierre des Molins, Giovanni da Firenze, Philippe de Vitry, Francesco Landini and Jacopo da Bologna. The instruments used are a metal-stringed clavisimbalum, a gut-stringed claviciterium, two portative organs and the 1730 organ in Nicolaikirche in Altenbruch in northern Germany which contains pipework from the original 1501 organ.

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AAM. Haydn: The Creation

‘A New Created World’
Haydn: The Creation

Academy of Ancient Music, Laurence Cummings, Nina Dunn Studio
Barbican Hall. 28 Sep 2021, and online

After a successful series of AAM Live 2021 live-streamed Covid concerts, the Academy of Ancient Music returned to live performance with Haydn’s Creation, conducted in the Barbican Hall by Laurence Cummings, making his debut as the AAM’s new Music Director. Haydn’s joyous paean of praise to the Biblical creation story was a splendid way to open their post-lockdown “New Worlds” themed season. Their performance also featured inventive and elaborate video designs by Nina Dunn Studio, projected onto the wide wooden rear screen of the Barbican stage.

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Song of Beasts

Song of Beasts
Fantastic Creatures in Medieval Song
Ensemble Dragma
Ramée RAM 1901. 52’15

This is the musical equivalent of medieval bestiary, depicting in sound the animals and mythical beings that populate medieval manuscripts in a fascinating sequence of Italian and French ballate and madrigali from 14th and 15th century composers. Ensemble Dragma‘s CD is accompanied by a full-length film of illustrations from medieval manuscripts.

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Fair Oriana: Two Voices

Fair Oriana: Two Voices
Angela Hicks & Penelope Appleyard
VOCES8 records: VCM 134. 68’14

Image 1 - *PRE-ORDER* FAIR ORIANA: TWO VOICES (CD.)

Two Voices is the debut recording from the soprano duo Fair Oriana (Angela Hicks & Penelope Appleyard). It is described as “a unique, diverse collection of beguiling chamber music from renaissance to baroque, with splashes of folk, medieval and contemporary influence along the way”. The pieces are divided into four volumes, exploring the sentiments of happiness in love, intrigue and teasing in love, passion, and the loss of love. As well as all twelve of Thomas Morley’s 1595 a capella ‘Canzonets to Two Voices’, there are other pieces drawn from Fair Oriana’s’ concert programmes together with specially commissioned pieces from contemporary composers Fraser Wilson and Owain Park.

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Continuo Foundation – update

Continuo Foundation
“Preserving historical performance in the UK

The Continuo Foundation was founded earlier this year, and was soon granted charitable status by the UK Charities Commission. Their Mission is “To support a flourishing historical performance sector, sustaining the careers of its virtuosic freelance musicians, creating opportunities for the next generation of artists entering the field and widening access to performances for communities across the UK“.  They realised that, without support, the once-thriving UK historical performance sector could be permanently damaged by Covid restrictions. To that, I would add the devastating effect of a badly-negotiated Brexit deal that seems to have ignored the vital importance to musicians of easy travel within Europe. Their immediate aim was to help period instrument ensembles to remain active by developing Covid-safe projects as a way of creating employment for musicians. Their longer term aim is to “provide a new resource for connecting ensembles, musicians, audiences, and venues in order to grow the UK’s historical performance sector and preserve its celebrated tradition of excellence“. 

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Ensemble Hesperi: From Caledonia to the Capital!

From Caledonia to the Capital!
Chamber music and song by Scottish eighteenth-century composers
Ensemble Hesperi, Angela Hicks, Rory Carver
St Mary Le Bow Church, 17 September 2021

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Financial support from the Continuo Foundation allowed Ensemble Hesperi to increase their usual line up of four instrumentalists for this concert of music by 18th-century Scottish composers. Their funding also allowed the concert to be filmed for later release. Their programme was based on the composer James Oswald, known as the “Scottish Orpheus”. He was born in Fife in 1710 and was a musician and dancing master in Dunfermline before spending time in Edinburgh. He left Scotland for London in 1741 where he published several collections of Scottish tunes. He become Chamber Composer to George III and spent the last few years his life in Knebworth House, having married the widow of the Lytton owner.

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Virtuosi

Virtuosi
Johann Sebastian Bach & Prinz J E v. Sachsen-Weimar
Thüringer Bach Collegium, Gernot Süßmuth
audite 97.790. 66’54

The Thüringer Bach Collegium are based in Arnstadt, home to various Bachs since 1620 and one of five Thuringian towns associated with the young Bach. In 1703, at just 18 years old, Bach (then a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar) was asked to check the new organ of the Arnstadt Neue Kirche and was soon after was appointed as organist. He stayed for four years, apparently “confusing” the congregation with his harmonisation of the chorales and running into probems with singers and the church authorities, culminating in his famous 1705/6 walk to hear Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck, overstaying his approved absence by several weeks. 

He then moved briefly to Mühlhausen (and was succeded by his cousin Johann Ernst Bach) before returning to Weimar as organist and director of music where he met the young music-loving, and tragically short-lived, Prince Johann Ernst IV of Sachsen-Weimar, nephew of the reigning Duke and a pupil of bach’s cousin, Johann Gottfried Walther. Bach knew the young prince’s compositions and arranged some of his Italian-influenced concertos for keyboard. The Thüringer Bach Collegium’s debut recording was of some of the concertos of the Prince.

This recording feature two examples of Bach’s organ versions of Johann Ernst’s composition, the three-movement Concerto for Organ in G, BWV592 and the short Concerto, BWV595. Although most of the recording was made in the Oberkirche rather than the Bachkirche (formally the Bonifaziuskirche or Neue Kirche), I am told that the organ pieces were recorded in the Bach church, although there is no indication in the CD notes to confirm that. The Bachkirche organ has changed a lot since Bach’s days, but has its roots in the 1703 organ with the case and some of the pipework that Bach knew. It is far closer to the sound world of Bach than the 1902 Sauer in the Oberkirche. Jörg Reddin plays with clarity and precision.

The other organ piece is an Allegro from Walther’s Concerto in D minor, an arrangment of a piece by Torelli. The young Prince is represented by a reconstruction of violin concerto. The remaining Bach pieces put the soloists of the Thüringer Bach Collegium through their paces – Gernot Süßmuth, David Castro-Balbi & Raphael Hevicke, violins, and, in particular, oboist Clara Blessing.

One of the problems with this recording is the availability of all the pieces on other recordings, performed, dare I say, by rather more sophisticated ensembles. The playing here has a rather rustic quality, with punchy rhythms and forceful playing. The recorded sound adds to the boldness of the performance with a very close acoustic image, as though you are sitting in the front pew of the church. A promotional video can be viewed here.

Véronique Gens: Passion

Passion: Lully, Charpentier, Desmarets
Véronique Gens
, Ensemble Les Surprises, Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas
Les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
ALPHA 747. 57’12

This recording showcases soprano Véronique Gens in the form of a five Act “opera imaginaire”, based on the repertoire of two of the greatest divas of the 17th-century Paris Opera: Mlle Saint-Christoph (her first name is not known) and her successor Marie Le Rochois. They both dominated the Paris opera scene between 1675 and 1698. Concentrating principally on the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully, we also hear music from operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Henry Desmarets, and Pascal Collasse, with extracts from Lully’s Amadis, Proserpine, Atys, Armide, Persée, Alceste, and Le Triomphe de l’Amour, together with Charpentier’s Médée, depicting heroines such as Alceste, Armide and Médée, and the deities Juno, Ceres and Aeolia.  

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Josquin 500: Pie memorie

Josquin 500
Pie memorie: A valediction in voices and viols
Linarol Consort, Binchois Consort
, Andrew Kirkman
Recorded in Leominster Priory. Available online until 31 October 2021


The Linarol Consort’s Josquin 500 festival, marking the 500th anniversary of Josquin des Prez’s death, is taking place during August and September 2021 with a series of live and streamed events. There are several options for booking online access to the events. The first of these events was Pie memorie: “A valediction in voices and viols” with The Linarol Consort & The Binchois Consort, recorded at a live concert in Leominster Priory on 20 August 2021 and available online from 27 August, the anniversary of Josquin’s death, until 31 October 2021. The premise for this concert was to imagine Josquin’s friends, colleagues and admirers coming together to pay their funeral respects in a house near the church of Condé sur Escaut. Viols and voices join in songs and motets of lamentation, including Richafort’s Requiem, as they hoped to aid Josquin’s soul’s route to salvation.

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BBC Proms: Saint-Saëns ‘Organ’ Symphony

BBC Proms: Saint-Saëns ‘Organ’ Symphony
Hallé, Sir Mark Elder, Benjamin Grosvenor, Anna Lapwood

Royal Albert Hall, 7 September 2021

The anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall and its monumental organ has resulted in rather more than the usual number of organ events during this year’s BBC Proms. Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings (reviewed here) made a wonderful start on the first night. It was followed by two solo recitals (reviewed here and here) and two other very different Proms, both including the organ, on successive nights. The second of these is reviewed here, from the BBC Radio 3 broadcast.

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BBC Proms: James McVinnie


BBC Proms: ‘organ’ Prom

BBC Concert Orchestra, Anna-Maria Helsing, James McVinnie
Royal Albert Hall, 6 September 2021

The anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall and its monumental organ has resulted in rather more organ events tha usual in this year’s BBC Proms. Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings (reviewed here) made a wonderful start on the first night. It was followed by two solo recitals (reviewed here and here) and two very different Proms, both including the organ, on successive nights, reviewed here from the BBC Radio 3 broadcasts.

The first, on 6 September and available from BBC Sounds here, was a programme of late 20th and 21st century music with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing. They were joined for a few pieces by the adventurous organist James McVinnie who, having survived spells at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey is now an enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music.

The programme opened with Einojuhani Rautavaara’s evocative 1972 Cantus Arcticus, which combines recordings of bird song with the orchestra. Judith Weir’s Still, Glowing provided a moment of calm before James McVinnie’s performance of Philip Glass’s 1989 Mad Rush, a tour de force of virtuosic energy contrasted with sections of gentle repose. It is usually assumed to be for piano but was originally performed by Glass on the organ for a visit of the Dalai Lama.

Pieces by Johann Johannsson and Arvo Pärt led to Messiaen’s Dieu est immense, a movement from his vast 1985 Livre du Saint Sacrament. James McVinnie mastered the massive Albert Hall organ well, finding just the right colours and textures for this powerful piece. The soto voce ending must have sounded magical in the hall.

Johann Johannsson’s A Sparrow Alighted on Our Shoulder was followed by Missy Mazzoli’s 2012 Holy Roller. It is presented as “devotional music for a non-existent religion” and draws on the melodies and harmonies of Thomas Tallis’s Psalm settings.

The evening concluded with the UK premiere of Canadian composer Samy Moussa’s 2014 c10′ single movement concerto for organ and orchestra: A Globe Itself Infolding. Referencing William Blake’s poem, Milton, and the Hebrew Book of Ezekiel, both of which contributed to the title, the sustained harmonies give a timeless quality to the piece. Filigree patterns appear from the organ, woodwind and brass as the piece builds to a series of climaxes. A central solo organ passage brings about a reverse in the texture, with the organ providing the sustained harmonies while the strings join in the filigree flourishes. It ends with a crescendo on a long-held open 5th, with the brass and timpani providing the inner pulse. Through well-judged registrations, James McVinnie successfully melded the organ into the texture of the orchestra.

BBC Proms: Bach & Handel

BBC Proms: Bach & Handel
Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Ann Hallenberg
Royal Albert Hall, 1 September 2021

Handel: Donna, che in ciel HWV 233
Bach: Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4
Handel: Dixit Dominus

Eschewing all the social distancing provisions that the BBC Proms had arranged for orchestras, John Elliott Gardiner’s own Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists crammed tight onto the (specially enlarged) Royal Albert Hall stage for a performance of two pieces seemingly written for the same Sunday in 1707 by two 22-year-old composer, Bach and Handel, both at the start of their very different careers. This review is based on the BBC Four televised broadcast.

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Tiranno

Tiranno
Kate Lindsey, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
Alpha Classics. Alpha 736. 75’34

ALPHA736

Extracts from five operatic scenes from the early to mid Baroque form a showcase for American mezzo Kate Lindsey. With compositions by Alessandro Scarlatti, Handel, Monteverdi, and Bartolomeo Monari, the pieces are based on the everyday story of Roman folk: Nero, Agrippina, and Poppea. Tirany is just the start of it!

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BBC Proms: Organ recital 2

BBC Proms: Organ recital 2
Peter Holder, organ
Royal Albert Hall, 4 September 2021

Meyerbeer: Le prophète Coronation March, transcr. W. T. Best
Bach: Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 537
Widor: Symphony No. 5 – Allegro vivace (1st movt)
Saint-Saens: Fantaisie No. 1 in E flat major
Liszt: Fantasy & Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam

The second of this year’s BBC Proms organ recitals was given by Peter Holder, sub-organist of Westminster Abbey, replacing Thomas Trotter. As part of the joint anniversaries of the Royal Albert Hall and centenary composer Saint-Saëns, the programme recreated elements of Saint-Saëns’ legendary performances on the Royal Albert Hall organ in the opening season of 1871 and in 1880.

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