František Tůma: Te Deum

Tůma: Te Deum
Czech Ensemble Baroque, Roman Válek

Supraphon SU 4315-2. 54’11

Te Deum (1745)
Sinfonia ex C (1770s?)
Missa Veni Pater pauperum (1736)

This is a very welcome recording of music by František Ignác Antonín Tůma (1704-1774), a little-known composer outside of the Czech Republic. He was born in Bohemia-born and was active during the transitional period between the Baroque and the Galant and Classical eras. After early studies in Prague, he spent most of the rest of his life in Vienna, initially as Kapellmeister for Count Kinsky, the High Chancellor of Bohemia, who encouraged him to study with Johann Joseph Fux, the influential theorist who also influenced Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. After Kinsky’s death, he became Kapellmeister to the dowager Empress, the widow of Charles VI. In addition to his composing activities, he was also an organist, bass gambist and theorbist

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OAE: Mozart in Basingstoke

Mozart in Basingstoke
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kati Debretzeni, Luise Buchberger
The Anvil, Basingstoke. 20 May 2023

CPE Bach Symphony in F
Mozart Symphony no 34
JC Bach Sinfonia concertante for violin and cello
CPE Bach Symphony in B minor
Mozart Music from Don Giovanni
Gluck Dance of the Furies

A short tour of related programmes saw the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment visit Birmingham Town Hall, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Basingstoke’s Anvil. Alongside the Mozart Symphony No 34, the CPE Bach Symphony in F, and the JC Bach Sinfonia concertante for violin and cello, common to all three, the Basingstoke concert added CPE Bach’s Symphony in B minor, extracts from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Gluck’s Dance of the Furies. Travel was the key to the choice of composers – they all left their hometowns to develop their own musical language. They also contributed in various ways to the musical developments during the extended transition into the classical era.

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La Grande Chapelle

London Festival of Baroque Music
Music for the Planet King’
La Grande Chapelle

St John’s, Smith Square, 12 May 2023

The London Festival of Baroque Music has been an annual fixture at St John’s, Smith Square for several decades, including its earlier time as the Lufthansa Festival. It is good that it has survived the Covid years and the changes at that venue, not least the takeover by the Southbank Sinfonia. Rather than the independent management team that has been behind the festival in the past, it now seems as though it is being run by the new team at St John’s, Smith Square itself. Perhaps inevitably, given the changes and the current situation in UK arts, there was a reduction in the events on offer for this year’s offering, but the programme did include some of the international contributions that have been a feature of the festival over the years.

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Academy of Ancient Music: Il Trionfo del Tempo

’Tis Nature’s Voice
Handel: Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (HWV46a)
Academy of Ancient Music, Laurence Cummings 
Milton Court, 11 May 2023

Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno was Handel’s first oratorio. It was composed a year after his 1707 arrival in Italy after three years in Hamburg where he exchanged his early career as a cathedral organist (in Halle) to that of a fledgling opera composer. He quickly fell in with an influential group of patrons in Rome, including Cardinal Pamphili who provided the libretto for Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Usually translated as The Triumph of Time and Disillusion, the alternative option of Time and Enlightenment was used for this excellent performance from the Academy of Ancient Music.

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Bach: A Cembalo Certato E Violino Solo

A Cembalo Certato E Violino Solo
Bach: Complete Sonatas for obligato harpsichord and violin, plus 
Sonatas by CPE Bach, Graun, Schaffrath, Scheibe, Telemann

Phillipe Grisvard, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records. ADX 13783. 3CDS. 60’28, 73’10,75’07

Johann Sebastian Bach: Complete Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin
BWV 1014–1019, BWV 1022, BWV 1020
Johann Adolph Scheibe: 3 Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord
Christoph Schaffrath: Concerto in A Minor CSWV F:30
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Sonata in B Minor, Wq 76
Johann Gottlieb Graun: Sonata in B-flat Major GWV Av:XV:46
Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto in D Major, TWV 42:D6

This 3-CD package sets Bach’s Sei Sonate a Cembalo certato e Violino solo (together with two others whose authenticity is questioned) against similar pieces by other composers of Bach’s time, several of which are world premiere recordings. Each CD is a complete concert in itself, with two or three of the Bach Sonatas, a Sonata by Johann Adolph Scheibe plus related pieces by Georg Philipp Telemann & Christoph Schaffrath (CD1), Johann Gottlieb Graun (CD2), and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (CD3).

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‘Byrd’s World’. St George’s, Hanover Square. 1 August 2023

Mayfair Organ Concerts
St George’s, Hanover Square
Tuesday 1 August 2023, 1.10pm

Byrd’s World
Andrew Benson-Wilson

As part of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd (“Father of British Music”), Andrew Benson-Wilson is giving two commemoration organ recitals. The first is in The Chapel of Christ of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich Village on 9 July at 7.45 on the 2009 William Drake restoration of the 1750 George England organ. Details here.

This second concert will be in St George’s Hanover Square on 1 August at 1pm. With the title of Byrd’s World, it will contrast Byrd’s music with that of his English and continental contemporaries. These will include Antonio de Cabezón, court organist to the Hapsburg Philip of Spain, who the young Byrd may have heard playing in 1554 at the wedding of Philip with Queen Mary.

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William Byrd. Dulwich: College of God’s Gift. 9 July 2023.

The Chapel of Christ of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift
Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD

Sunday 9 July 2023, 7.45

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays William Byrd (d 6 July 1623)

As part of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd (“Father of British Music”), Andrew Benson-Wilson will give two commemoration organ recitals. The first is in the delightful venue of The Chapel of Christ of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich Village. It will feature a range of Byrd’s own keyboard music and will finish with the elaborate Salve Regina Misere Cordi by Byrd’s pupil John Bull, probably composed for Antwerp Cathedral. The Dulwich recital is played on the 2009 William Drake restoration of the 1750 George England organ.

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Programme Notes: “A Farewell to Mr Handel’s organ”

The Handel Friends
St George’s Hanover Square
Tuesday 25 April 2023

A Farewell to Mr Handel’s organ”
A Handel recital on the 1998 Goetze & Gwynn chamber organ
and the 2012 Richards Fowkes & Co organ

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Allemande – Courante – Air and Variations
(HWV 428, from Suite in D minor, Eight Great Suites, 1720)

A Voluntary on a Flight of Angels
(HWV 600, ‘Ten Tunes for Clay’s Musical Clock’, c1735)
Fugue in A minor
(HWV 609, ‘Six Fugues or Voluntarys for the Organ’, 1735)
(HWV 350, ‘The Celebrated Water Musick Set for the Harpsicord’, 1743)

Organ Concerto VI in G minor
Largo e Affettuoso – A tempo Giusto – Musette – Allegro – Allegro
(HWV 300, Second Set of Six Concertos, c1740)

* * *
Voluntary III Slow – Cornet
Voluntary V Largo – Trumpet & Echo
(From Twelve Voluntaries, 1776)

Organ Concerto in G in Alexander’s Feast
Larghetto – Allegro – Adagio – Andante
(HWV 289, Opus 4/1, 1738)

Chaconne in G
(HWV 435, Eight Great Suites, 1720)

The Goetze & Gwynn chamber organ was commissioned by the Handel House Trust. It is based on a larger surviving 1749 organ that Thomas Parker built for Charles Jennens, the Messiah librettist, with a specification suggested by Handel. It was intended for the Handel House Museum but was too large for the space available at the time. It has since lived in St George’s Hanover Square. As part of the Hallelujah Project of what is now known as the Handel & Hendrix in London, the organ will move into Handel House in May. In the first half of this recital, we explore how Handel’s music might have been played at the time on a chamber organ, as revealed by 18th-century publications of his keyboard music.

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A farewell to Mr Handel’s organ

The Handel Friends
“A farewell to Mr Handel’s organ
A recital on the Handel chamber organ
before its move to The Handel House Museum
Andrew Benson-Wilson
St George’s, Hanover Square, Tuesday 25 April 2023, 7pm

The Handel chamber organ was made in 1998 by Goetze & Gwynn for the Handel House Trust. They opened the Handel House Museum in 2001 in Handel’s own house at 25 Brook Street, his home for the last 36 years of his life. As the Handel organ was too large for the limited space available at the time, it has lived in St George’s Hanover Square, Handel’s nearby parish church. As part of the Hallelujah Project, which will enlarge the space of the museum and add the flat next door where Jimi Hendrix lived in the 1960s, the chamber organ is being moved into Handel House in May. The organ is based on the chamber organs of Richard Bridge and Thomas Parker, who built the organ which belonged to Charles Jennens, the librettist of Messiah, which still exists close to its original condition.

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Bach: Music for alto

Bach: Music for alto
Barnaby Smith, Katie Jeffries-Harris

The Illyria Consort, Bojan Cičić
. 72’16

Bach composed some of his finest music for the alto voice. This recording from countertenor Barnaby Smith and Bojan Čičić’s Illyria Consort features two of the best-known alto cantatas, Ich habe genug (BWV 82) and Vergnügte Ruh, Beliebte Seelenlust (BWV 170) alongside a wide selection of Bach’s other pieces for alto from the Matthew and St John Passions, the Mass in B minor, the Easter Oratorio and, on the digital version, the Christmas Oratorio. The music is arranged in a cycle moving from Candlemas, through the Passion to the Resurrection.

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Fugue State Films: Bach and Expression

Bach and Expression
Fugue State Films: Organ Cinema

Film documentary.

Will Fraser’s Fugue State Films have built an impressive reputation for producing high-quality film documentaries on the world of organ music. Originally available in sumptuous box sets of DVDs and CDs and illustrative booklets, they have since expanded into digital access for their film. In the light of changing aspects of access to recorded content and the increase in streaming media, Fugue State Films, in conjunction with the Royal College of Organists have just announced an important new initiative, Organ Cinema. To celebrate and promote the launch, they are allowing free access to all their film documentaries for three days over this weekend, Friday 31 March to Monday 3 April. After that, a range of subscription options will be available.

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The Chevalier

The Chevalier
The life and music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Concert Threatre Works

St Martin-in-the-Fields. 21 March 2023

The composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) has been having a well-deserved resurgence in recent years with several performances of his music, generally from period instrument orchestras. This “unique piece of concert theatre” from Bill Barclay’s Concert Theatre Works at St Martin-in-the-Fields contrasted episodes from Bologne’s eventful life with extracts from his music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Matthew Kofi Waldren, with Braimah Kanneh-Mason as the violin soloist. The very sparse programme note was nothing more than an advertising flyer (view here) and gave precious little information. It did bill it as a “concert version”, although it looked pretty well staged to me. I gather it was a reduced version of a show that was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, premiered and toured in the USA and was first performed in the UK at the Snape Maltings on 19 March.

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OAE: Bach B Minor Mass

Bach in Excelsis
Bach B Minor Mass
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Václav Luks
Royal Festival Hall, 19 March 2023

Making his debut with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Royal Festival Hall, Czech harpsichordist Vaclav Luks presented what was advertised as a “chamber interpretation” of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, “based on his study of the performance practices of recent decades”. Vaclav Luks is best known for his orchestra and vocal consort Collegium 1704 and his championing of the Czech composer Zelenka. I have only heard him conduct his orchestra once before, in Leipzig in 2015 when Collegium 1704 was the orchestra in residence (whole festival review here). His excitement at this RFH booking was evident, not least bringing his own score onto the podium several minutes before the start (a ritual usually undertaken by an underling), peeping out from the stage entrance and snapping a mobile phone photo of the audience. Of course, a conductor only sees the audience as he walks on and at the end, so I can fully understand his wanting a preliminary peep.

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Programme notes: Bõhm & Bach

Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays music by
Bõhm & Bach

Bõhm. Partita: Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
Trio: Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
Bach. Fantasia pro Organo a 5 Vocum BWV 562i
Bõhm. Vater unser Im Himmelreich
Bach. Praeludium con Fuga in c BWV 546

This special Early Music Day concert contrasts two of Bach’s most powerful organ works with the music of one of his earliest influences. When he was 15, Bach became a student at the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg. Georg Böhm (1661-1733) had recently been appointed organist of the nearby Johanniskirche, the principal town church with its 1553 Hendrik Niehoff organ. The young Bach certainly knew Bõhm, and may have been a pupil of his – one of the earliest Bach manuscripts is a copy of a piece by Reinken that Bõhm owned.

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This is my Body – Membra Jesu Nostri

This is my body
Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri

Figure Ensemble, Frederick Waxman
Swiss Church, Covent Garden. 15th March 2023

The “forward-thinking historical performance ensemble” Figure gave their impressive thought-provoking interpretation of Dieterich Buxtehude’s 1680 sequence of seven cantata meditations on the body of Christ, Membra Jesu Nostri. They described this as “an immersive, surround-sound performance” which allows the audience to “experience every emotion up close and stand within the Passion scene – in the body of the sound”. The sparse white-washed of the acoustically lively Swiss Church provided the perfect venue. Apart from a few chairs around the edge of the empty space, the audience stood in a space surrounded by four stages and a central platform. The seven instrumentalists were in the apse at the business end of the church. The five singers moved around the space, singing from the five platforms in various groupings. On one side wall was a projection of the texts in English while the other showed evolving drawings based on a statue that survives from Buxtehude’s time in Lübeck’s Marienkirche.

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Hail! Bright Cecilia

Tis Nature’s Voice
Hail! Bright Cecilia
Academy of Ancient Music, Laurence Cummings
Milton Court. 9 March 2023

Matthew Locke etc. Suite from The Tempest
including Pelham Humfrey’s Masque of Neptune
Henry Purcell. Ode to Saint Cecilia: Hail! Bright Cecilia Z.328

Under the banner of the Academy of Ancient Music’s current concert series, ‘Tis nature’s voice! Laurence Cummings led them in a tour of English mid to late-17th-century music with a comparison between the music written by several composers for a 1674 production of The Tempest and the largest of Purcell’s Odes to Saint Cecilia, composed for the 1692 Saint Cecilia’s Day celebrations in Stationers’ Hall, a venue that still exists.

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Angela Hicks: channelling Francesca Cuzzoni

Channelling Francesca Cuzzoni
Angela Hicks, Opera Settecento
London Handel Festival
The Charterhouse, 9 March 2023

The first of the London Handel Festival’s ‘Lunchtime in the City’ concerts featured soprano Angela Hicks and Opera Settecento in a concert following the career of the famous 18th-century soprano Francesca Cuzzoni (1696-1778), one of Handel’s most famous singers. She was born in northern Italy and, after her debut in 1714, spent eight years performing in Florence, Milan, Bologna, Turin), Padua and Venice before her first visit to London in 1722. These early Italian years were represented by the opening showpiece aria Fra catene ognor penando from Vivaldi’s Scanderbeg (RV 732) and gentler Lasciatemi in pace from Orlandini’s 1721 Nerone.

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Bach: Six Motets

Bach : Six Motets
BBC Singers, Academy of Ancient Music, Peter Dijkstra
Milton Court Concert Hall, 3 March 2023

This BBC Singers’ Milton Court performance of the traditional grouping of Bach’s Six Motets (BWV 225–230) was imaginative and thoughtful, notably in two specific aspects. With one exception, they were sung in reverse order of BWV numbers, that exception being Komm, Jesu, komm (BWV 229) which was sung in the middle of the cantata Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl. The concert will be broadcast on Wednesday 22 March on BBC Radio 3.

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Alexander’s Feast 

Handel: Alexander’s Feast 
London Handel Orchestra & Singers, Laurence Cummings 
London Handel Festival
St George’s, Hanover Square. 23 February 2023

Handel’s birthday seemed a particularly appropriate day to open the 2023 London Handel Festival and to hear his ode for St Cecilia’s Day Alexander’s Feast. The libretto is based on John Dryden’s 1697 Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Music, written to for Saint Cecilia’s Day. It recounts the story of a banquet held by Alexander the Great and his mistress, Thaïs, in the captured Persian city of Persepolis, during which the musician Timotheus sings and plays his lyre, arousing various moods in Alexander. The power of music takes a turn for the worse when Alexander is incited to destroy Persepolis in revenge for his dead Greek soldiers.   

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Alamire: Anne Boleyn’s Songbook

Anne Boleyn’s Songbook
Alamire, David Skinner
St Martin-in-the-Fields, 17 February 2023

This was a welcome return of Alamire’s ‘Anne Boleyn’s Songbook’, following their 2015 recording and Wannamaker Playhouse performance. The songbook is a manuscript in the Royal College of Music that seems to have belonged to Anne Boleyn. It includes the inscription ‘Mistres ABolleyne nowe this’ the ‘Mistres’ suggesting that the songbook was started before she became Queen in 1533. ‘Nowe thus’ is her father’s motto.


This programme combines pieces from the Songbook with readings from what I assume were the published love letters between Anne and Henry VIII which somehow or other ended up in the Vatican Library.

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La Serenissima: Vivaldi Double Concertos

Vivaldi Double Concertos
La Serenissima,
Adrian Chandler 
St Martin-in-the-Fields. 11 February 2023

In what was described as “a carnival of double concertos from 18th century Venice – music of fantasy, flamboyance and virtuosity to the power of two”, La Serenissima and its “charismatic founder” Adrian Chandler bought its “no-holds-barred flamboyance” to St Martin-in-the-Fields. It was a reminder of St Martin’s endless ‘Vivaldi by Candlelight’ tourist concerts, although their concert promotions are rather more elevated these days. As the publicity blurb enthused: “Baroque Venice was a city of doubles – of shimmering reflections and masked revellers. And since nothing succeeds like excess, when Vivaldi wrote concertos for two soloists, the results were spectacular: a carnival of colour, illusion and sparkling sonic conversation”.

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Handel Around the World

Handel Around the World
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Steven Devine, director, Ian Bostridge, tenor
Queen Elizabeth Hall. 1 February 2023

Handel Around the World was originally intended to be the title of an Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment concert tour that extended into Asia but political and other issues meant that was cancelled. This concert, now part of the OAE’s Songs of Travel series, is a compilation of some of the pieces that were to have been performed during that tour. Compiled by Ian Bostridge and OAE colleagues, the selection of arias from Handel operas and oratorios covered quite a bit of the world including Lombardy, Turkey, Sicily, Armenia, Egypt, Scotland, an unidentified island – and Edgware, where the first performance of Acis and Galatea took place, at Cannons House.

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Secret Byrd: An Immersive Staged Mass

Secret Byrd
An Immersive Staged Mass on the 400th anniversary of William Byrd

The Gesualdo Six with Fretwork
Bill Barclay, Concert Theatre Works
St Martin-in-the-Fields crypt, 27 January 2023

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of William Byrd, The Gesualdo Six combined with the viol consort Fretwork for a theatrical recreation of a secret Catholic Mass with Byrd’s Mass for 5 Voices performed, as he intended, for a secret act of private domestic worship. It was directed by Bill Barclay, produced by Concert Theatre Works, and supported by The Continuo Foundation. The premiere performances were held in the splendidly restored crypt of London’s St Martin in the Fields.

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OAE: Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns: Sounds for the End of a Century
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor 
Steven Isserlis, cello, James McVinnie, organ 
Royal Festival Hall, 26 January 2023

Phaéton symphonic poem, Op.39
Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.33
Danse macabre

Symphony No.3 in C minor (‘Organ Symphony’)

The first stop on the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s 2023 ‘grand tour’ from London to Mongolia was the Paris of organist and composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921). Towards the end of the 19th century, French music looked to create its own style, breaking away from the German musical influence of the time. Saint-Saëns, although retaining the influence of Franz Liszt, was part of this but he also looked back into the past, notably the music of Rameau (1683–1764) as well as acknowledging the music of the much younger Ravel. This concert of compositions from the early 1870s to the mid-1880s paired the well-known Danse macabre and the 3rd (Organ) Symphony following the lesser-known (to me, at least) Cello Concerto and the symphonic poem Phaéton.

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Biber: Rosary Sonatas

Biber: Rosary Sonatas
Daniel Pioro, violin, James McVinnie, organ, harpsichord
Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer & Purcell Room
Sunday 22 January 2023

Described as “a day-long deep dive into the world of Biber’s virtuosic Rosary Sonatas, with performances and talks stretching from sunrise to sunset”, this event divided the three sections of Biber’s Rosary (or Mystery) Sonatas into separate concerts, the first starting at 8 in the morning, one at midday, and then at 4 in the afternoon. The three concerts were interspersed with two pairs of “Deep Dive” talks – “deep dive” being the phrase of the moment as far as the Southbank is concerned, with more references in the January programme booklet, although it is a new one to me. This event seems to be part of the Southbank’s process of post-Covid rethinking, trying to rebuild audiences and attract younger people.

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Mandolin on Stage

Mandolin on Stage
The Greatest Mandolin Concertos
Raffaele La Ragione

Il Pomo d’Oro, Francesco Corti
Outhere/Arcana A524. 66’56

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Mandolin Concerto in C Major RV 425
Baldassarre Galuppi (1706-1785): Sinfonia: from Il mondo alla roversa,
Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816): Mandolin Concerto in E-Flat Major; Sinfonia in B flat
Francesco Lecce (1750-1806): Mandolin Concerto in G Major
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Sinfonia in D Major Hob.I:106
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837): Mandolin Concerto in G Major

The Vivaldi Mandolin Concerto that opens this disk from Raffaele La Ragione and Il Pomo d’Oro will be well known to many people, but the other three lesser-known concertos are well worth getting to know. Using three different mandolins appropriate to each period, this recreation of the evocative sound world of this comparatively rare instrument covers the period from Vivaldi around 1700 to Hummel in 1799 via the Neapolitan composers Giovanni Paisiello and Francesco Lecce. The four concertos are interspersed with brief opera Sinfonias by Galuppi, Haydn, and Paisiello.

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Goldberg Variations

Bach: Goldberg Variations
Nathaniel Mander, harpsichord
ICSM / Chronos ICSM018. 42’28

The Goldberg Variations is one of the most complex of all Bach’s keyboard works to understand and perform, so it is a brave move for anybody to make it their debut recording. However, Nathaniel Mander does have at least one distinguished predecessor in Glen Gould’s 1955 debut recording. It was published in 1741 under the (publisher’s) title of Clavierubung IV, following the earlier Clavierubung I, II, and III. The title implies that it is ‘Keyboard practice’, but it certainly is far more than that. Bach (who called it Aria with diverse variations for a harpsichord with two manuals) notes that it was “composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits”, which gives a far more appropriate impression of its status. The legend that Bach wrote the variations for Johann Gottlieb Goldberg is almost certainly not true, not least because Goldberg was just 13 at the time. But he was clearly a gifted player, and was a student of Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedemann in Dresden, and also took lessons with J.S. Bach in Leipzig.

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Early Music Day concert – Bach & Böhm

Andrew Benson-Wilson, organ
Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA
Tuesday 21 March 2023, 1:10

Bõhm: Partita Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
Trio Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
Bach: Fantasia in c BWV 562i
Bõhm: Vater unser Im Himmelreich
Bach: Praeludium con Fuga in c BWV 546

This recital is a contribution to Early Music Day, the international celebration of early music that takes place annually on 21 March, the anniversary of Bach’s birth. The programme contrasts the music of one of Bach’s earliest influences with two of his mature organ works. When he was 15, Bach became a student at the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg. Georg Böhm was organist of the nearby Johanniskirche, the principal town church. The organ there was built in 1553 by Hendrik Niehoff, and is pictured below.

There is clear evidence that the young Bach knew Bõhm, and may have been a pupil of his. One of the earliest Bach manuscripts is a copy of a piece by Reinken owned by Bõhm. The two Bach pieces are powerful examples of his mature style, the first demonstrating the clear influence of French music, that he may have first experienced in Lüneburg and nearby Hamburg. The monumental Praeludium et Fuga in c shows the influence of Italian music, notably in the concerto-like Praeludium. Both Bach pieces were played as final voluntaries during the late Queen’s funeral and committal.

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Les Arts Florissants: Charpentier at Christmas

Charpentier at Christmas
Les Arts Florissants, William Christie
The Barbican, 19 December 2022

Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Antiennes ‘O’ de l’Avent, H36–43 and Noëls pour les instruments, H531 and 534
Sur la Naissance de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, H482
In nativitatem Domini Canticum, H416

photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

A delightful alternative to the endless Messiahs and carol events in the lead-up to Christmas came with the visit of Les Arts Florissant to The Barbican for their concert, Charpentier at Christmas. Despite the decades of work by William Christie and the regular visits of his Les Arts Florissant to The Barbican, the French baroque repertoire is still not as well known as it deserves to be. This was a wonderful chance to absorb the distinctive sound of French music, singers, and orchestral colours.

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The Mysterious Motet Book of 1539

The Mysterious Motet Book of 1539
Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies

Delphian DCD34284. 67’14

The Mysterious Motet Book of 1539 of the title refers to a collection of sacred music assembled by the choirmaster of Milan Cathedral and sent, for reasons that are unclear, to Peter Schöffer, a Protestant publisher in Strasbourg. They were published in 1539 as Cantiones quinque vocum selectissimae. One of the mysteries is why such strongly Catholic music should be published in the equally strongly Protestant Strasbourg? In a collaboration with Cambridge University researcher Dr Daniel Trocmé-Latter, Siglo de Oro has selected 12 of the 38 Latin motets from the collection. These include pieces by Arcadelt, Willaert, and Gombert together with some lesser-known (or, indeed, completely unknown) composers such as Johannes Sarton.

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