John Worgan: Complete harpsichord music Julian Perkins, Timothy Roberts Toccata TOCC0375. 76’34
John Worgan (1724–90) is one of several London-based 18th-century organist composers that have escaped the present-day acknowledgment of their more famous contemporaries. However, Worgan was well respected in his day, not least by Handel and Burney, who described him as ‘a very masterly and learned fugueist on the organ’. Nowadays he is merely an overlooked byline, with an occasional organ piece popping in anthologies. His surviving harpsichord music is even less well-known. All that survives is a set of six sonatas, thirteen teaching pieces, a ‘New Concerto’, and an independent Allegro non tanto, all included on this recording. Although very far from being fine music, they feature a fascinating variety of styles, some showing the influence of Domenico Scarlatti.
Bristol Early Music Festival Online from 7-9 May 2021
The Bristol Early Music Festival was founded in 2018, and ran its first festival the following year. Covid led to the cancellation of the 2020 festival, and this year’s weekend festival is based on videos, most commissioned by the Festival, with live Zoom question & answer sessions after most of the videos. The festival videos and further information on each event are available here. They can be accessed until May 14th, but the Q&A Zooms were only available live. The videos are free to watch, but donations are very welcome through this link. Because of the nature of the event, and the ready availability of the events, I will not attempt a critical review, but rather just make readers aware of this interesting event.
Fortuna desperata: Gothic and Renaissance Organ Music Daniel Beilschmidt University Church of St Paul, Leipzig Genuin GEN17453. 77’22
I have been a regular visitor for Leipzig over many years, and was always fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of the city, not least in the construction of the striking new university buildings on the Augustusplatz (pictured). This includes the Paulinum, the combined assembly hall and university church, built on the site of the old St Paul’s University church which was controversely blown up in 1968 by the city’s then communist authorities. As well as a large multi-purpose organ at the liturgical ‘west-end’, there is to one side of the chancel a swallow’s-nest organ that will ultimately be based on the late Gothic/early Renaissance instrument later described by Michael Praetorius in his 1619 Syntagma Musicum. In its currently incomplete state, it reflects a late 15th-century Gothic ‘blockwerk’ organ, allowing for performance of an important but little known repertoire that forms the foundation of all later organ music.
Senza Basso — Auf dem Weg zu Bach Music by Baltzar, Matteis, Westhoff, Torelli, Corelli, Vilsmayr, Pisendel, Purcell and Biber Nadja Zwiener, Violin Genuin GEN 21728.65’57
Well known in the UK as the leader of The English Concert and in Germany as leader of the Bachakademie Stuttgart, Senza Basso — Auf dem Weg zu Bach (Without bass — on the way to Bach) is violinist Nadja Zwiener‘s first solo CD. It explores a fascinating genre of music for solo violin preceding Bach’s famous 1720 Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. In his programme essay ‘Melodic polyphony, polyphonic melody – composing senza basso in the Baroque era’, Michael Maul points out the challenges of composing, playing and listening to music with a normal bass line, describing it as “an art of omission and of sensing the unplayed”.
English Motets Gesualdo Six, Owain Park Choral music of the English Renaissance St Martin-in-the-Fields, London First broadcast 15 April 2021
The relationship between the Church of England and musicans has not always been an easy one. In London, two examples of turmoil in recent years have been the decision by St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn (historially known as The National Musicians’ Church and for many decades a well-known concert and rehearsal venue) to ban musicians from hiring the church for rehearsals and concerts following a take over by an Evangeical wing of the church. This was followed by a similar situation at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a venue that over the years has attracted an enormous number of visitors to the regular candlelit and other concerts promoted by individual orchestras and musicians. They stopped all outside musicians hiring and replaced it with a plan to bring all concerts in-house using their own musicians, although it does seem that at least some of the groups that helped bring international attention to the church will be giving concerts there later this year. Following these controveries, the notion of a ‘Musicians’ church’ is now subsumed with a website with around 22 churhes who are still willing to let musicians hire their buildings for music.
In stil moderno: Castello, Strozzi & Claudio Monteverdi Academy of Ancient Music Streamedfrom West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. 14 April 2021
Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) : L’eraclito amoroso & Lagrime mie Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): Et e pur dunque vero & Si dolce e’l tormento Dario Castello (c1602-1631) : Sonate concertante in stil moderno, Libro Secondo
The second in the three-concert series of AAM Live 2021events was initially billed as a farewell to their outgoing Music Director, Richard Egarr, who is now replaced by Laurence Cummings who directed the first of their AAM Live 2021 concerts, reviewed here. Although Egarr may have been an inspiration behind this programme of music from 17th-century Venice, the concert listed two directors, the AAM’s principal violinist Bojan Čičić and keyboard player Steven Devine. They were joined by mezzo Helen Charlston. Continue reading →
Bach: Matthew Passion Amici Voices Filmed in St John’s, Smith Square First broadcast 3 April 2021
Before the 2020 Covid-19 sequence of lockdowns, the run-up to Easter in London was musically dominated by the St John’s, Smith Square series of concerts. These traditionally culminated in a Messiah and one of the Bach Passions for the final two sell-out concerts. The concert recorded there by Amici Voices and first broadcast on Easter Saturday was as far removed from previous years as you can get. Their Matthew Passion was performed in the round in the middle of the space with no audience. It was a very refreshing alternative to the usual Easter fare.
Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel Graham O’Reilly Boydell Press, Woodbridge Hardback, 388 pages, 234x156mm, ISBN13: 978 1 78327 487 1
The approach of Holy Week seems an appropriate moment to publish this rather delayed review of this study of the Allegri Miserere – one of the most loved, discussed and performed pieces of classical music. It was composed in the 1630s for the exclusive use of the Papal Choir during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. Much of its fame comes from the story of the young Mozart transcribing it from memory after a single hearing – something that was specifically forbidden by the Vatican authorities under pain of excommunication. The Miserere that we hear performed today has little resemblance to either the original composition or the early methods of performance. This book gives a detailed and readable account of the Miserere‘s performance history in the Sistine Chapel and beyond, notably during the peak of its popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the history of the version commonly heard today – the “English Miserere”.
Messe Da Pacem Music by Pierre Villette, Yves Castagnet and Maurice Ravel Choir of Royal Holloway, Rupert Gough Cavaillé-Coll organ of the Notre-Dame d’Auteuil in Paris Ad FontesAF004. 75’27
Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte / Requiem æternam Pierre Villette: Messe Da Pacem; Élévation; Hymne à la Vierge; Salutation angélique Yves Castagnet: Messe Breve; Veni Sancte Spiritus
This recording from the Choir of Royal Holloway brings together three composers spanning 20th-century France, including arrangements of the Ravel and Villette Messe Da Pacem by the choir’s director, Rupert Gough. It was recorded in the summer of 2019 (apparently in sweltering heat) in the church of Notre-Dame d’Auteuil in Paris, using the important newly restored Cavaillé-Coll organ, originally completed in 1855 with an inaugural recital given by Widor.
Early Music Day 2021 Andrew Benson-Wilson 21 March 2021
This time last year, I had planned to give four concerts for Early Music Day, with three Bach organ recitals (shared with baroque cellist Poppy Walshaw and flautist Annabel Knight) and a special evening concert combining Art Of Moog with the historic organ of St Giles-in-the-Fields. A year later, there is still no possibility of live events in the UK, so here is a far more modest contribution to Early Music Day 2021, with links to recordings of early organ music played on important European historic organs, either from my own recitals or more informal playing.
More than a dull ripieno! Baroque Sonatas for Viola Francesca Venturi Ferriolo, Hwa-Jeong Lee, Johannes Berger Da Vinci Classics C00280. 72’12
Sonatas by Johann Gottlieb Graun, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Felice Giardini, William Flackton.
“The viola is commonly held to be of little importance in the musical context. Apparently the cause of this may be the fact that it is often played by people who are not yet very advanced with their studies, or who do not have particular natural gifts … or because this instrument offers few advantages to those who play it“.
So wrote Johann Joachim Quantz in his 1752 treatise On Playing the Flute. The intervening centuries have done little to enhance its reputation, the continuation of ‘viola jokes’ amongst orchestral players being just one example. This imaginative recording by viola player Francesca Venturi Ferriolo is an important contribution to recognising the importance of the viola, in particular during the transitional period towards the end of the Baroque era, when a wide variety of styles developed in Europe including the Galant style, the Empfindsamer Stil centred on Berlin, and the emerging Mannheim and Viennese styles.
Life Pictures: Scenes of the Life of King Christian IV English, Dutch, German & Spanish organ works before, around & after 1600 Peter Waldner 1610 Compenius Organ, Frederiksborg Castle Church, Denmark Tastenfreuden 8. 79’44
The 1610 organ in the rear gallery of the Frederiksborg Castle Chapel is one of the most important surviving historic instruments. It was originally built by Esaias Compenius for the summer residence of Duke Heinrich Julius, Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, with Michael Praetorius, organist and Kapellmeister of the Duke’s castle chapel, as the consultant. Compenius and Praetorius almost certainly met during the famous 1596 Gröningen Castle Organ Congress, an event which gathered 53 of the finest organists to test the new David Beck organ in Duke Heinrich Julius’s castle chapel of Gröningen. Although much smaller than the Gröningen organ, the Compenius organ had many similarities, not least a demonstration of the wide range of tone colours that could be produced, unusually, in the case of the Compenius organ, with all 1001 pipes (over 27 stops) made of wood. After Heinrich Julius’s death, his wife gave the organ to her brother, the music-loving Danish King Christian IV, where it was installed in the Frederiksborg castle by Compenius in 1617.
Rameau: Danse des Sauvages from Les Indes Galantes Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & Acland Burghley School, Camden Video released 9 March 2021
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is now based at the Acland Burghley School in Camden. In this video, a group of talented year 10 Acland Burghley students perform an original dance they choreographed for their GCSE exam, with the OAE performing Rameau’s Danse des Sauvages from Les Indes Galantes. The collaboration is an important first step in demonstrating how working together can enrich an appreciation of the arts and reinforce the positives when joining forces creatively. More information here.
Divina Spiritual and secular baroque rarities by Schmelzer and Biber Les Passions de l’Ame, Meret Lüthi Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 19439763522. 62’05
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644–1704) Psalm 127: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum; Psalm 22: Laetatus sum; Rosary Sonata No. 16 Guardian Angel; Partitas No. 2 & 7 from Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1623–80) Sonatas No. 7 & 8 from Sacro-profanus concentus musicus
Following previous recordings in their Biber-Schmelzer-Fux series (Spicy, Schabernack and Variety), this new CD from the Bern-based early music group Les Passions de l’Amefocusses again on the music of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644–1704) and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c1623–1680), completing their recording of all the Biber trio sonatas from his Harmonia Artificiosa-Ariosa. As well as the instrumental pieces they also include two Biber vocal works.
Inviolata Marian motets by Josquin des Prez, intabulated for solo lute or vihuela by lutenist-composers old and new Jacob Heringman, lute & vihuela Inventa Records, INV1004. 65’07
Inviolata, integra et casta es; Missa de Beata Virgine; Salve Regina; Ut Phoebi radiis/Ut re mi fa sol la; Stabat Mater
Jacob Heringman follows his pioneering 2020 recording of lute intabulations by Josquin des Prez with a new album of arrangements for lute and vihuela arranged by Hans Gerle, Alonso Mudarra, Enríquez de Valderrábano, Hans Neusidler, Simon Gintzler, composers of Josquin’s time, and Herringman himself. It is a fitting contribution to the 2021 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death.
Beyond Beethoven Works for natural horn & fortepiano Anneke Scott, Steven Devine Resonus ClassicsRES10267. 77’51
Ferdinand Ries: Grande Sonate in F major, Op. 34 Friedrich Eugen Thürner: Grande Sonate in E major, Op. 29 Friedrich Starke: Adagio und Rondo, Op. 105 Hendrik Coenraad Steup: Sonate in E flat major, Op. 11
The early years of the 19th-century saw the rise of pieces for horn and piano, following Beethoven’s 1800 Sonata in F major, Op. 17. Catching on to the coat-tails of Beethoven were composers such as the four featured on this Beyond Beethoven recording, all little known except, perhaps, to horn players. They were all close contemporaries, born within 11 years of each other, with links between themselves, Beethoven, and his Op. 17 Sonata. Anneke Scott and Steven Devine perform on original instruments: a c1810 cor solo by Lucien Joseph Raoux, and an 1815 fortepiano by Johann Peter Fritz from the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection, formally at Finchcocks and now in Waterdown House, the home of the Finchcocks Charity in Tunbridge Wells.
Mayfair Organ Concerts The Grosvenor Chapel South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA Tuesday 24 August 2020, 1:10
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays music by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck(1562-1621)
On the 400th anniversary of the death of the famed ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621), Andrew Benson-Wilson gives an organ recital of pieces reflecting the different styles and genres of Sweelinck’s music. He was the most influential teacher of his day, attracting many students from German-speaking areas who went on to create the Hamburg school of organ composition which culminated in Buxtehude and Bach.
Lunchtime Live David Allinson Friday 1pmlunchtime informal online talks
Amongst the many online activities of musicians during Covid 19 is a fascinating series of informal 45-minute Friday lunchtime chats from David Allinson, a distinguished early music conductor, singer and lecturer based in Canterbury, UK. With all his conducting engagements cancelled for the past year, he has taken to the internet in a most imaginative and engaging way. As well as running a number of online workshops for local Early Music Fora, since October 2020 he has been giving regular Friday lunchtime chats via his Facebook page and accessible on his website, where past sessions remain available.
La Riturnella Cavalli, Monteverdi & Barbara Strozzi Musica Antica Rotherhithe, Oliver Doyle Live-streamed from the Sands Films Music Room, 21 February 2020 Available on-line
In their online performance, La Riturnella, Musica Antica Rotherhithe concentrate on three generations of Italian Baroque composers – Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, and Barbara Strozzi. All three are related through teacher-pupil relationships, with Monteverdi teaching Cavalli who, in turn, taught Strozzi. The imaginative programme also featured a piece by Girolamo Kapsberger and some folk songs of the period from Calabria in the far south of Italy, arranged by soprano Camilla Seale. The socially distanced performance was broadcast live from the attractive little Sands Films Music Room, located in a former granary in Rotherhithe, on the south bank of the Thames, just east of the City of London.
Cavalieri Imperiali Zenobi & Sansoni, the great cornetto masters InALTO, Lambert Colson Ricercar RIC419. 64’36
The cornett was the principal solo instrument in the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, before losing that role to the violin. Its sound closely resembles that of the human voice, to the extent that, in a review, I once referred to a talented young soprano as being “a cornett on legs”. This excellent instrumental recording from InALTO pays tribute to two notable cornett players from the decades on either side of 1600, both of whom were knighted by an emperor.
Suonare è danzare Academy of Ancient Music, Laurence Cummings, Bojan Čičić Live from West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. 12 February 2020
MuffatArmonico Tributo Sonata in G BachSonata in E minor for violin and keyboard, BWV 1023 TelemannConcerto polonoise in B flat major Handel Sonata in G Op.5, No.4
It is often said by music commentators that practically all Baroque music is fundamentally based on dance. Dance was certainly a key part of 18th century life, a fundamental part of the education system, and underpinned many aspets pf social and political discourse. This is the first of a three-concert mini-festival from AAM Live 2021, live-streamed (via ticket purchase) from their Cambridge home in the West Road Concert Hall. The Acadamy of Ancient Music under Laurence Cummings (pictured), their Music Director designate, directing from the harpishcord, joined with the AAM leader, violinist Bojan Čičić for a programme of music in celebration of dance.
Embers of Romanticism Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Geoffrey Paterson OAE Player, Available online from 10 February 2020
Webern (1883-1945): Passacaglia Wagner (1813-1883): Prelude & Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde Pfitzner (1869-1949): Act 2 Vorspiel from Palestrina Richard Strauss (1864-1949): ‘Interlude’ from Salome Wagner: Act 3 Vorspiel from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
In this 45-minute long on-line concert (originally intended as a cancelled live concert in March 2020) the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has come up with a striking departure from their usual repertoire. Although they have ventured well away from the historical Age of Enlightenment before, this concert, curated and arranged by OAE principal horn, Roger Montgomery, is a particularly inventive bit of programme planning. Playing instruments from the late Romantic era, they present a programme of music by Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Anton Webern and Hans Pfitzner composed during the dying embers of the Romantic era. Through direct references and thematic inferences, the music is based on Thomas Mann’s 1947 novel Doctor Faustus. In the novel (which has the sub-title of The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn, Told by a Friend), the composer enters into a pact with the devil in which he trades his soul for artistic and musical genius. The concert is available, for a moderate fee, via the OAE Player.
Al Capriccio Concertos and symphonies by Johann Zach (1713–1773) Barocksolisten München, Dorothea Seel, Anne Marie Dragosits Musikmuseum MMCD 13035. 66’47
Barocksolisten München, directed by flautist Dorothea Seel, explore the music of the idiosyncratic composer Johann (Jan) Zach. He was born into a family of wheelwrights near the pilgrimage town of Brandýs nad Labem in central Bohemia, site of the murder of Duke Wenceslas. In 1724 he moved to Prague where he worked as a violinist and studied organ. His short-lived career as organist seems to have culminated in an unsuccessful application in 1737 for the position of organist at St. Vitus Cathedral. He reappears in early 1745 in Augsburg just before his appointment as Kapellmeister at the court of the Prince Elector of Mainz.
Meine Tage sind wie Schatten Alexander Utendal Psalms from Septem Psalmi poenietentiales & Magnificats Profeti della Quinta Musikmuseum 37, CD13036. 56’18
This 2018 recording in the impressive series of recordings from the Tiroler Landesmuseen in Innsbruck, (under the banner of musikmuseum), focusses on the now little-known composer Alexander Utendal (c1530-1581). His link with the Tyrol started from his early days in Hapsburg Flanders where he was a choirboy at the court of Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands. He then sang alto in the Court chapel of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol, moving to Innsbruck in 1564 where he suceeded Jacob Regnart as Vice Kapellmeister. In his time, he had a strong reputation. His collection of four-part penitential psalms, printed in 1570, have been compared to those of Orlando di Lasso (published some years later). Utendal worked for linked courts, and would have known each other well.
Mattheson: The Melodious Talking Fingers Colin Booth, harpsichord Soundboard SBCD 220. 69’47
Many music lovers will have heard the name of Johann Mattheson (1681-1764), and may perhaps have heard of his 1739 Der vollkommene Capellmeister, his rather shaky polemic on music theory, but few will know much of his music. An enigmatic figure in 17th century Hamburg, he is perhaps best known today for nearly killing Handel during a fight in the Hamburg opera, Handel apparently surviving by a well-placed button that deflected Mattheson’s sword. His early career as an organist (at the long-since demolished Mariendom), singer and opera composer was combined with that of an Anglophile diplomat, serving as secretary to the English Envoy Extraordinary to the Hanseatic city-states. He is sometimes referred to as the first music critic. This recording is of his complete Die Wolklingende Fingeraprache (translated on the recording as The Melodious Talking Fingers), first published in 1735.
Apparatus musico-organisticus Baroque organ works from Tyrolean sources Peter Waldner Musikmuseum 51 MMCD 13050. 65’29
In this recording, the prolific Innsbruck-based organist Peter Waldnerplays two historic organs in the western part of the Italian South Tirol close to, and just over, the border with Switzerland. The choice of organs, and to an extent the music, is focussed on that region, not least because the nearby Benedictine Abbey of Marienberg contains the Tyrol’s only known copy of Georg Muffat’s 1690/1721 Apparatus musico-organisticus which forms the bulk of the CD.
Baroque at the EdgeFestival Recorded at LSO St Luke’s, London Broadcast online between7-10 January 2021, available to 31 March 2021
In pre-coronavirus days, the musically barren early days of January have been enlivened by the imaginative Baroque at the Edge Festival, usually spanning a weekend in venues around their home base of LSO at St Luke’s in London. Previous festivals are reviewed here and here. Run by Artistic Director Lindsay Kemp and Festival Manager Lucy Bending (the team behind the London Festival of Baroque Music and its predecessor, the Lufthansa Festival), the festival has secured a place in the London concert scene with their refreshing approach to Baroque music, as exemplified by such banners as “No rules, no boundaries – just Baroque music set loose” and “Imagine if Vivaldi was a folk-fiddler, Purcell a protest-singer, or Bach a techno-geek”. The more succinct and apt “No rules, no walls” for this year’s Covid-constrained festival reflected the on-line nature of the events.
Tallis Kerry McCarthy Oxford University PressUSA:Master Musicians series Hardback, 288 pages, 235x156x31mm, ISBN13: 9780190635213
Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) survived the complex Tudor period in England, adapting to the various musical and liturgical demands of the period’s religious toing and froing. For one so influential on English music, it is unfortunate that very little is known about his life, something that is immediately apparent from reading Kerry McCarthy’s book. Based on surviving documents from his life, she is obliged to weave a web of historical and observational information around the bare facts of Tallis’s life.
Stile Nuovo Weihnachtsmusik Von Christoph Sätzl& Marienvesper im Dom zu Brixen 1641 Odhecaton, La Venexiana, Prishna Musikmuseum 41, CD13040. 2CDs 59’12+57’57
I have been sent several CDs published by the Music Museum of the Tiroler Landesmuseen in Innsbruck. One of which is this set of two CDs, the first of which is of early Baroque Christmas motets from Tyrol and Italy (recorded in 2016) with a second CD (recorded, live, in 2000) of Marienvespers music from Brixen Cathedral as might have been heard around 1641. The two CDs do not seem to be related, although it is not clear if this is a re-release of earlier published recordings.
Beethoven Ninth Symphony Beethoven 250: online festival of Beethoven Symphonies and Chamber Music The Hanover Band, Sir Mark Elder Recorded at London’s Mansion House First broadcast 16 December 2020
The conclusion of The Hanover Band’s Beethoven 250 project (previously reviewed here) came with the release of the Ninth Symphony on 16 December (the assumed date of Beethoven’s birth). Unlike the previous eight symphonies, which were recorded in Stationers’ Hall, this recording with its much larger orchestra took place in the curiously named Egyptian Hall of London’s Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. All nine symphonies were recorded one after the other during August, with the Hanover Band’s associate director Benjamin Bayl as conductor for the previous 8 symphonies. He was prevented by Covid-19 regulations from travelling to the recording sessions for the Ninth Symphony, Sir Mark Elder stepped in to conduct. The recordings from the whole project can be accessed here, and Beethoven’s Ninth on the Hanover Band website here or on their YouTube channel, with programme notes, here.