The Spirit of Christmas
Philippa Hyde, Canzona, Theresa Caudle
Recorded at the Church of the Ascension, Burghclere, 21 December 2020
Torelli: Concerto In forma di pastorale per il Santissimo Natale
Bach: Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Fatto per la notte di natale
Handel Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; I know that my Redeemer liveth
Alessandro Scarlatti: Cantata pastorale per la nascità di Nostro Signor
Among the plethora of live-streams and videod concerts Burghclere Baroque, managed to put on a real concert with a real (but limited) audience in the Church of the Ascension in the village of Burghclere, on the Tier 2 side of North Hampshire close to the border of what is now Tier 4 Berkshire. It was a well-timed event – one day later, and a concert audience may well have been impossible, although a recording could have gone ahead. The concert is now available to watch on YouTube free of charge, although donations are obviously not only welcome but, in these straightened times for musicians, are pretty well essential. Donations will be divided equally between topping up the fees of the performers and the film and sound crew, to support future concerts in Burghclere, and to the Help Musicians UK Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund.
Alongside the usual instrumental Christmas suspects of Torelli’s delicate Concerto In forma di pastorale per il Santissimo Natale and Corelli’s Concerto Fatto per la notte di natal, the concert featured Bach’s aria Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren, announcing the birth of Jesus (from the Cantata Ich freue mich in dir, BWV 133, first performed in Leipzig on 27 December 1724 for the Third Day of Christmas), two extracts from Messiah, now associated with Christmas rather than the more appropriate Eastertide, and Alessandro Scarlatti’s Cantata pastorale per la nascità di Nostro Signore.
The Torelli and Corelli pieces were played with reduced instrumental forces of two violins, viola, cello and chamber organ. Although this prevented the concertino and ripieno contrasts possible with larger pre-Covid forces, it was an appropriate interpretation, bringing an attractively intimate feel to the music. The final section of the Corelli, the Pastorale ad libitum, is particularly well judged, the little uplift at the end one of many magical moments.
Soprano Philippa Hyde was very impressive in her solos, notable in the concluding (and little-heard) Cantata pastorale per la nascità di Nostro Signore by Alessandro Scarlatti, intended for performance on Christmas Eve in Rome. After an intrumental introduction reflecting the pastoral world of the shepherds, came arias depicting the light shining “from the fair breast of a star”, the sight of Jesus in his cradle, and the shepherds as he took “his first breaths to the joyful sound of blameless bagpipes”.
They finished with an appropriate encore, the aria Jesu, nimm dich deiner Glieder (from Bach’s Cantata 40) with is wish for peace and a happy new year. The performers were Philippa Hyde, soprano, Theresa Caudle & Jean Paterson, violins, Stefanie Heichelheim, viola, Jonathan Manson, cello, and Alastair Ross, organ. The concert is well filmed and recorded. The film gives an impression of a delightful local event, bringing musicians together probably for the first time in many months.