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.
The eight violinists are Margaret Faultless, Huw Daniel, Kati Debretzeni, Daniel Edgar, Dominika Feher, Claire Holden, Debbie Diamond, and Rebecca Livermore, with Margaret Faultless, Huw Daniel, and Dominika Feher responsible for the various arrangements. The video was recorded in the church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, the Lutyens designed parish church of Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London.
The four movements of the opening Telemann Concerto for 4 Violins (TWV 40:201) nicely combine Venetian elegance in the two slow movements with lively Northern European joviality. The eight players stand in a circle, the four soloists alternating with the tutti players. Telemann’s Intrada-Suite ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (TWV 40:108) was published in his Der getreue Musikmeister (The Faithful Music Master) periodical in 1728/9, within a year of Jonathan Swift’s book being translated into German. The four movements that follow the Intrada reflect the four chapters of the book in delightful musical cameos of the fantasy story. An excellent description of the piece by Benjamin Pesetsky can be found here. Telemann reflects the character of the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnagian giants by the extraordinary time signatures of 3/32, with resulting hemidemisemiquavers (64th) and semihemidemisemiquaver notes (128th), and 24/1 for the lumbering giants.
The sensational sound of a solo violin, or violins, playing into a large church acoustic is something that is not usually heard in England, although it was a mainstay of Italian and German music in the Baroque era. A prime example in the arrangement of the Canzon duodecimi toni by Giovanni Gabrieli, a wonderful evocation of St Mark’s Venice in the late Renaissance.
Dominika Feher arrangement of Matthew Locke’s Minoit, the Second Act Music to The Tempest introduces an English sequence. It is followed by the partsong Ne’er trouble thyself about times or their tunings arranged for three violins. The text, read out before the piece, ends with the encouraging words – What fails us today, may befriend us tomorrow. John Adson is a little-known English composer who after some time in service to the Duke of Lorraine, settled in London as a member of the City Waites and the royal wind music. His Courtly Masquing Ayres of 1621 is his best-known work. Ayr 1 opens the set of dances.
The programme finishes as it opened with another Concerto for 4 Violins by Telemann (TWV 40:202a), again contrasting bustling fast and sensuous slow movements. The filming and audio quality is excellent, as is, of course, the playing. A taster video of one of the Telemann movements is attached below. The 30-minute programme can be viewed for £7 or via an OAE Player annual pass. In these increasingly uncertain times, these short videos are an excellent way of keeping up concert-going in a way that brings you much closer to the performers than is possible in a concert, and for a cost that is probably less than the cost of transport to a concert venue.