Silbermann Days: {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczn

Silbermann Days
Oh! Frohlockung
Concerti for two orchestras by Handel, Fasch, Richter and others
{oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna
Martyna Pastuszka, director, Arvid Gast, organ
Stadtkirche Frauenstein and livstream. 3 September 2021

Under the auspices of the Gottfried-Silbermann-Gesellschaft (the Gottfried Silbermann Society, celebrating its 30th anniversary), the 24th Silbermann Days festival (based in the region between Freiberg, Dresden and the Ore Mountains) opened on 3 September with a concert combining organ music with pieces for double orchestra. It was held, and lives-treamed, from the Stadtkirche in Frauenstein, some 33km southwest of Dresden. I am reviewing this from the live stream, which can be viewed here.

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Bach: Harpsichord Concertos II

Bach: Harpsichord Concertos II
Francesco Corti, il Pomno d’Oro
Pentatone PTC 5186 889. 61’36

Cover J.S. Bach: Harpsichord Concertos, Vol. 2

This is the second of a two-disc series of the Bach harpsichord concertos. It includes Concertos No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054, No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056, and No. 6 in F Major, BWV 1057, and, to complete the timing, the Concerto for harpsichord, flute and violin in A Minor, BWV 1044. The choice of concertos for the two discs was based on the orchestration forces, with these concertos using solo, rather than multiple strings. The balance works well in all four concertos.

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The Trials of Tenducci

The Trials of Tenducci
A Castrato in Ireland
Irish Baroque Orchestra, Peter Whelan, Tara Erraught
Linn Records CKD 639. 65’57

COVER CKD 639

Following their 2019 recording Welcome home, Mr Dubourg, Peter Whelan, and the Irish Baroque Orchestra return to their explorations of the musical heritage of Dublin, in this case in the shape of Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci (c1735-90), a notorious Italian castrato singer who spent 3 years there in around 1765. He was born in Siena and first came to London in his early 20s. Apart from his brief time in Dublin and a very short return in later years, he spent most of the rest of his life in London. During his time in London he had contact with Johann Christian Bach (the ‘London Bach’), singing the title role in his opera Adriano in Siria. He briefly taught singing to the c20 year old Mozart in Paris, and received a now-lost concert aria in return.

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Music at the Tower: Bach for Good

Bach for Good
Music at the Tower
St Mary’s Tower, Hornsey
21 August 2021

Music at the Tower was founded in the summer of 2020 by soprano Mary Bevan MBE and cellist Jonny Byers to provide much needed employment for freelance musicians in and around London whose livelihoods had evaporated during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the summer of 2020, they employed 128 musicians and other performers in a total of 11 outdoor performances at St Mary’s Tower in Hornsey. Their most recent project was the free Bach for Good festival of Baroque music, held on Saturday 21 August at St Mary’s Tower.

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Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Sweelinck

Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA
Tuesday 24 August 2020, 1:10

WP_20150721_15_17_12_Pro.jpg

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays music by
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of the famed ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-16 October 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. Several of them went on to create the Hamburg school of organ composition which culminated in the music of Buxtehude and Bach.

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Bach: Well-tempered Consort- II

J S Bach: Well-tempered Consort – II
Phantasm
Linn CKD657. 70’05

cover-CKD657

Phantasm’s first ‘Well-tempered Consort’ recording, reviewed here, was a rather anarchic collection of Bach keyboard pieces arranged for viol consort. This, their second recording on the same theme, is far more coherent, combining Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Of the 24 tracks, seven are from Book I, the rest from Book II. It is not surprising that there are far more fugues than preludes on the recording, with just six prelude and fugue pairs. The tracks are not in key order, but make perfect sense in terms of key relationships and mood. Four tracks are transposed down a semitone: the C# pair, and the F# and D# minor fugues.

Any reservations I might have had over their first recording are resolved here. The balance between the instruments is perfect, as it should be, particularly for the fugues. They avoid the temptation to accent fugal entries and, although there are far more subtle nuances of tone on an individual note available on a viol than on a keyboard instrument, such expressive devices are only used with sensitivity.

The programme notes are rather too romantic and flowery for my taste, as can often be the case when written by an academic. “Even the slightest musical turn of phrase might trigger intense disquisitions on the human condiction” is one such example.

It was recorded in Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford over a four day period. The recording rate of some six tracks a day is reflected in the quality of the performance. Despite the size of the space, the acoustic remains suitably domestic in scale.

BBC Proms: Josquin


BBC Proms: Josquin des Prez
The Marian Consort
Cadogan Hall, 9 August 2021

Josquin des Prez: Praeter rerum seriem
Sethus Calvisius: Praeter rerum seriem
Josquin des Prez: Benedicta es, caelorum Regina
Adriaan Willaert: Benedicta es, caelorum regina
Josquin des Prez: Inviolata, integra et casta es
Vicente Lusitano: Inviolata, integra et casta es

Josquin des Prez (c1450/1455 – 1521) is one of the composers’ anniversaries celebrated during this years BBC Proms season, 500 years after his death. In this lunchtime concert, the Marian Consort, making their Proms debut, gave a programme of musical borrowings, contrasting three of Josquin’s greatest motets with three later musical homages that each reworked Josquin’s own music for a new age. Josquin pieces were themselves borrowings, as they use pre-existing melodies.

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BBC Proms: Organ Recital 1

BBC Proms: Organ Recital 1
Bach and Improvisations
Martin Baker
Royal Albert Hall, 1 August 2021

Yet again, the BBC Proms has programmed an organ recital at a time (11:45 on a Sunday morning) when most organists are at work. A modest audience was the obvious result. It was originally intended to have been given by Oliver Latry, organist at Notre Dame but Covid-related travel problems resulted in Martin Baker stepping in at short notice to replicate the planned programme of Bach and improvisations. The Royal Albert Hall opened in 1871, along with the mighty Father Willis organ, then powered by two steam engines and now magnificently restored by Manders. Subsequent alterations and rebuilds have now resulted in 9,999 pipes that would stretch for nine miles if laid end to end. Bizarrely, it has its own Twitter account!

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BBC Proms: First Night

BBC Proms: First Night
BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers
Dalia Stasevska, Daniel Hyde

Royal Albert Hall, 30 July 2021

And so, after two years’ absence, only partially relieved by last year’s shortened and audience-free Proms season, here we sat, to let the sound of music creep in our ears. Dalia Stasevska, the Finnish Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and director of last years’ Last Night, opened this year’s Proms season with a well-conceived programme of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, Poulenc’s dramatic Organ Concerto, a newly commissioned work by Sir James MacMillan and Sibelius’s Second Symphony. It was a night to remember, for many reasons.

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Gothic Voices: Echoes of an Old Hall

Echoes of an Old Hall
Music from the Old Hall Manuscript
Gothic Voices
Linn CKD644. 76’03

cover-CKD644

This magnificent recording from Gothic Voices takes a refreshing look at the much-recorded repertoire from the famous Old Hall Manuscript, the most substantial collection of English sacred music of the medieval period. It was compiled over several years leading up to c1420. The manuscript contains a number of examples of the influence of French composers on English music of the time. One example is the first piece on this recording, the wonderfully bouncy Arae post libamina / Nunc surgunt by Mayshuet de Joan, a French musician who spent some time in England in the mid 14th century.

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Music and Instruments of the Elizabethan Age: The Eglantine Table

Music and Instruments of the Elizabethan Age: The Eglantine Table
Ed. Michael Fleming and Christopher Page
The Boydel Press, Woodbridge, 2021
Hardback, 310 pages, 245x176x31mm, ISBN 978 1 78327 4212

 

Visitors to the National Trust’s Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire (architect Robert Smythson’s Renaissance masterpiece of “more glass than wall” fame) may have noticed a large highly decorated table in the bay window of the spectacular upper floor High Great Chamber. This is the Eglantine Table (or Aeglentyne), probably commissioned for the 1568 marriage of Bess of Hardwick to her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, followed the year after by the marriage of her two children to his two. The 3.0mx1.3m oak table includes detailed inlaid depictions of a lute, bowed instruments, recorders and other wind instruments, a gittern and cittern, together with sheet music, playing cards, backgammon and other gaming boards, and various armorial devices, including the aeglentyne/eglantine, a white briar rose.

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Music for the King of Scots

Music for the King of Scots
Inside the Pleasure Palace of James IV
The Binchois Consort, Andrew Kirkman

Hyperion CDA68333. 55’17

Anonymous (Carver Choirbook):
Missa Horrendo subdenda rotarum machinamento; Magnificat
William Cornysh: Ave Maria, mater Dei

There is more to this recording than meets the eye – or, indeed, the ear. At one level it is an impressively performed sequence of music from the Carver Choirbook, one of just two surviving large-scale collections of music from pre-Reformation Scotland. But it is also part of two interesting research projects: ‘Space, place, sound, and memory: Immersive experiences of the past’ and ‘Hearing historic Scotland’. These have combined to bring back to life the lost performance space of the now ruined Chapel Royal of Linlithgow Palace as it existed at the turn of the sixteenth century.

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Rameau: Pigmalion

Jean-Philippe Rameau: Pigmalion
Dunedin Consort, John Butt
Spitalfields Music Festival, Christchurch Spitalfields
Online premiere, Tuesday 6 July

Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pigmalion is an acte de ballet first performed in August 1748 at the Opéra in Paris to a libretto by Ballot de Sauvot. It was apparently composed within a week at the request of the management as a means of raising much needed revenue. It has since become one of Rameau’s finest one-act works, although performances are rare. It is based on the story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Pigmalion falls in love with the beautiful female statue he has just sculpted, to the chagrin of his fiancée Céphise. Pigmalion pleads with L’Amour (the goddess Venus) to bring the statue to life. As the statue comes to life and learns to sing and dance, Cupid arrives and praises Pigmalion for his artistry, followed by dancing and singing in praise of the power of love. Cupid helps Céphise to find a more appropriate lover.

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Bach Rework’d

Bach Rework’d
A film by Matt Belcher
Spitalfields Music Festival

Premiere 5 July 2021

Spitalfields Music continues to promote early and contemporary music, currently through the Spitalfields Music Festival 2021 and a series of events, some online and all ‘live’ in Covid-secure conditions. One of the early online events was the premiere of a new film by Matt Belcher, commissioned by Spitalfields Music, exploring “the enduring power of Bach’s music” through the experience of four composers. The documentary explored the importance of music for them over the past year, the works by Bach that have inspired them, and their own musical responses to those works as they returned to post-pandemic performance.

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr, Rachel Podger

Live from The Barbican
First broadcast 27 June 2021. Available on-line until 29 June
.

Corelli: Concerto Grosso No 1 in D major, Op 6
Maria Grimani: Sinfonia to Pallade e Marte
Corelli: Concerto Grosso No 2 in F major, Op 6
VivaldiThe Four Seasons

Vivaldi’s Four Season’s is an inevitable war-horse guaranteed to attract audiences – in this case, a reduced socially-distanced audience for the live performance together with on-line viewers who have the option to view, for a modest fee, until 8pm on Tuesday 29 June. There are limits as to what performers can do with the Four Seasons, one being musical taste. But there is no limit as to the context in which a performance is set. And that is what makes this airing interesting, with its rare performance of the Sinfonia to Pallade e Marte by Maria Grimani, alongside two of Corelli’s well-known Concerto Grossi.

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OAE: Sea Voyages and Salvation

Sea Voyages and Salvation
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Roderick Williams, Kati Debretzeni
Recorded at New St Lawrence Church, Ayot St Lawrence
First broadcast on OAE Player 8 June 2021

Graupner Fahre auf in die Höhe 
Telemann Concerto for 3 oboes & 3 violins in Bb
Bruhns Mein Herz ist bereit  
JS Bach Cantata BWV 56 Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen 


The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment continue with their Covid series of on-line OAE Player concerts with Sea Voyages and Salvation, with music by Grauper, Telemann and Bruhns, culminating in Bach’s cantata Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen. Whether by design or default, two of the composers were the first and second choices for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig which Bach was eventually offered after Graupner and Telemann turned it down.

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John Worgan: Harpsichord music

John Worgan: Complete harpsichord music
Julian Perkins, Timothy Roberts
Toccata TOCC0375. 76’34

John Worgan: Complete Harpsichord Music

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.

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Bristol Early Music Festival

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.

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Fortuna desperata: Gothic and Renaissance Organ Music

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.

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Senza Basso — Auf dem Weg zu Bach

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”.

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Gesualdo Six: English Motets

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.

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AAM Live: In stil moderno

In stil moderno: Castello, Strozzi & Claudio Monteverdi
Academy of Ancient Music

Streamed from 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 2021 events 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

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.

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Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel

Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel
Graham O’Reilly
Boydell Press, Woodbridge
Hardback, 388 pages, 234x156mm, ISBN13: 978 1 78327 487 1

`Allegri`s Miserere` in the Sistine Chapel

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”.

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Messe Da Pacem

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 Fontes
AF004. 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.

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Early Music Day 2021

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.

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More than a dull ripieno!

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.

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Life Pictures: Scenes of the Life of King Christian IV

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.

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OAE & ABS: Rameau’s Danse des Sauvages

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.