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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Handel: Messiah Orchetstra & Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, Christian Curnyn recorded in St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, released 27 December 2020
This recording of Messiah was made over a couple of days in the lead up to Christmas under London’s just-applied Tier 4 Covid-19 regulations. It was rehearsed and recorded in the sumptuous mid-to-late 19th century Anglo-Catholic church of St Paul’s, Knightsbridge. One of the first of the Oxford Movement churches, it’s 1843 galleried preaching-box design gained some Victorian bling with the addition of Bodley’s 1892 chancel with its rood screen and reredos which, along with the 1870/1920 wall painting and panels, form the visual background to the performance.
Rydale Festival: 12 Days of Christmas Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort Sarah Latto, Owain Park, Anita Datta Filmed in Castle Howard, North Yorkshire Released daily from 25th December to 6th January
A bit of Christmas enterprise comes from three UK choral ensembles, Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort, in association with the Rydale Festival and Tidze. Under the banner of Give the gift of a Choral Christmas, they present a series of 12 short concerts, filmed in Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Links to the videos are emailed every day between 25th December and 6th January, with catch up available until the end of January 2021. There are options for simple digital delivery (for £12) or two types of gift boxes (£24/34) with additional goodies. They can be used as a gift to friends, or to yourself.
Handel: Messiah Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr Live-stream from The Barbican, 19 December 2020
In what is becoming the ‘new normal’, the annual Academy of Ancient Music’s London performance of Handel’s Messiah was live-streamed (from behind a paywall) from London’s Barbican Hall. The socially-distanced, modest-sized period instrument orchestra (5,4,2,2,1 strings) and 17-strong choir filled the entire width of the stage with no apparent loss of acoustic focus in the recorded sound – the acoustics were excellent. Like any well-designed concert hall, the Barbican Hall retains the same acoustics whether or not there is an audience presence, the empty seats designed to have the same acoustic properties when empty as when sat upon. As far as I can tell, the concert is no longer available to watch, although this website might lead you to a possible viewing. The programme notes can be accessed here.
Burghclere Baroque 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.
Beethoven 250 An online festival of Beethoven Symphonies and Chamber Music The Hanover Band, Consone Quartet, Benjamin Bayl Recorded at the Stationers’ Hall in The City of London & Arundel Town Hall, West Sussex Wednesday broadcasts, September to December 2020
One of the most enterprising and musically successful of this year’s online Covid concert series is the Beethoven 250 programme of concerts from The Hanover Band (who are also celebrated their own 40th anniversary this year) and the Consone Quartet, all playing appropriate period instruments. The series started with four concerts of chamber music, followed by the complete symphonies. The symphonies were recorded in London’s musically significent 1673 Stationers’ Hall while the chamber concerts were recorded in the Town Hall in Arundal, The Hanover Band’s home town. The venues were chosen to be similar to the size and acoustic of the venues where the original performances might have been first experienced. The homepage for the Beethoven 250 festival is here, with links to the brochure for the festival and all the broadcasts. The concerts can also be viewed on The Hanover Band’s homepage or their YouTube channel. Although the concerts can, commendably, all be viewed for free, donations are obviously not only welcome but, in these straightened times for musicians, are pretty well essential.
How Lonely Sits the City Dunedin Consort, Nicholas Mulroy Filmed at Greyfriars Kirk 19 November 2020
One of the finest of the many online concerts available during the Covid calamity comes from the Edinburgh based Dunedin Consort. Under the direction of their new Associate Director, the distinguished tenor Nicholas Mulroy, their programme was built around the rarely heard Orlande de Lassus Lamentatione Hieremiae Prophetae (Quinque vocum), the three sections of the Primi Diei acting as a binder amongst music from the 16th, 20th and 21st centuries. Unlike many such performances, the concert is, commendably, free to watch although donations are clearly not only encouraged but in the current climate, absolutely essential for the future of music making. Full details about the performance and programme notes can be found here and donation can be made here.
Orlande de Lassus: Lamentatione Hieremiae Prophetae(Quinque vocum) Cecilia McDowall: I know that my redeemer liveth Lassus: Lamentatione Hieremiae Prophetae Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade: Vigil I Rudolf Mauersberger: Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst Lassus: Lamentatione Hieremiae Prophetae William Byrd: Ne irascaris Domine – Civitas sancti tui James MacMillan: Miserere
‘Seeing Double’ Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Jonathan Cohen Kati Debretzeni,Nicola Benedetti, Rudolfo Richter Katharina Spreckelsen,Sarah Humphrys OAE Player. 19 November 2020
Avision Concerto Grosso no.5 in D minor Vivaldi Concerto in D for two violins RV 513 Vivaldi Concerto in D for two violins RV 514 Vivaldi Concerto in A minor for two oboes RV 536 Bach Concerto in D minor for two violins BWV 1043 Purcell Rondeau from Abdelazer
The second of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s premieres on their digital platform OAE Player was a concert of Vivaldi and Bach double concertos recorded at the Snape Maltings in front of a socially-distanced audience. Many people will have already heard or seen an expanded version of the programme as one of the live concerts of the much reduced 2020 BBC Proms season. The principal violin soloist for both concerts should have been Alina Ibragimova, but the death of her father (the distinguished double bass player Rinat Ibragimov) the day before the Prom resulted in Nicola Benedetti stepping in for the Proms and this concert, which seems to have been recorded the following day in the far more suitable acousics of the Snape Maltings.
Apollo e Dafne Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Roderick Williams Rowan Pierce, Katharina Spreckelsen OAE Player. 9 November 2020
Telemann Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus TWV 1: 364 JS Bach Cantata, Ich habe Genug BWV 82 Handel Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No. 2/1 HandelApollo e Dafne HWV 122
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) has responded to the Covid crisis by opening a new digital platform, OAE Player. For this Premiere Night concert, they were billed as returning to their resident home at the Southbank Centre for the first time since the first lockdown although, as you will read, that turned out to be not quite the reality. Each of the filmed concerts (there are currently twenty available on the OAE Player) are available to watch individually for a great deal less than a concert ticket (and without the costs of travel) or there is an option of accessing all the concerts with an annual pass.
Mozart à Portuguesa Mozart’s Requiem(Eborense version) Americantiga Ensemble, Ricardo Bernardes São Roque, Lisbon. 6 November 2020 & online
Davide Perez (1711-78) Subvenite sancti dei; Trio in G minor José Joaquim dos Santos (1747-1801) Lamentação de Quinta-Feira Santa Frei Joan de Santa Cruz (1542-1591) Noche oscura Mozart Requiem (Eborense version)
An interesting live-streamed concert from Portugal caught my eye and ear, with the help of a friend who managed to get there and back to perform just before the UK lockdown. It included a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in an early 19th-century arrangement by composers of Évora Cathedral, alongside pieces by composers of the Lisbon Court such as David Perez and José Joaquim dos Santos. The manuscript of the arrangement is in the archives in Évora, hence the name of the “Eborense version”. The concert was performed live by the Americantiga Ensemble during the 22nd Music Season in São Roque in the São Roque Church, Lisbon, and is available to view via the link below.
Early Music Young Ensemble Competition MokkaBarock, Ensemble Pro Victoria, Ensemble Hesperi LIFEM: DIGITAL London International Festival of Early Music 8 November 2020
The London International Festival of Early Music series of events continued, under the banner of LIFEM: DIGITAL, with their Early Music Young Ensemble Competition, the final of which usually occurs every two years during their live festival. This year the competition took place online, with the three finalists’ recitals streamed on the festival’s website on Sunday, 8th November. After a preliminary round of the competition based on video entries, the three finalists’ recitals were recorded under ‘live’ conditions. Two of the groups were UK based, the other being from Salzburg.
Fretwork London International Festival of Early Music 5 November 2020
Another festival to turn to an online rather than a live presence is the annual London International Festival of Early Music with a series of nightly concerts under the banner of LIFEM: DIGITAL, recorded in their usual venues in and around Blackheath is south-east London. The first concert was given by the viol consort Fretwork, who celebrated the 30th anniversary in 2016. The concert ended with a world premiere of The Tudor Pull by John Paul Jones who many will know as the most modest member of the legendary multi-instrumentalist of the 1970/802 rock group Led Zeppelin.
Arcardian Wilderness Ensemble Augelletti Brighton Early Music Festival 24 October 2020
One of the many festivals going online is the Brighton Early Music Festival with ten events broadcast on YouTube and Facebook between 23 October to 1 November 2020. They are then available for seven days afterwards. It is possible to view for free within that period, but viewers are encouraged to buy online tickets and donate. One particular concert that caught my eye, and ear, was from the young group Ensemble Augelletti. The Facebook link to the concert is here.
A Glimpse of Earthly Delights Northern Star Festival 2020 Online The Swedish Church in London. 18 October 2020
When one coffee-loving soul meets another . . . A love story riding on the river of ground bass surrounded by all delights on earth and everything wonderful in life.
With little chance of a live audience, many musicians are taking to online concerts. One such is this delightful video from the Northern Star Festival, with a performance of “music and poetry about food, drink, love and all that’s wonderful in life“.
Fantasy & Design A digital video recital for one recorder player alone in three episodes Anna Stegmann July, August, September 2020
Shorn of live performance opportunities, many musicians are taking to the internet to display their wares. One such in the German-born but Amsterdam-based recorder player Anna Stegmann, a regular teacher at in the UK at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. She released the three episodes of Series One, Fantasy and Design, during July, August and September 2020. It is the first of a continuing programme of short (15/20′) recitals, with Series Two following monthly from October to December. The videos can be previewed and seen in full for “a small financial contribution” with the option to add donation after each episode.
St John’s Smith Square – Welcome Back! The return of public concerts to a socially distanced audience.
Following a successful pilot concert with a live audience in July, St John’s Smith Square are delighted to be able to welcome audiences back to enjoy live performances this Autumn. Between now and the end of 2020 a programme of 63 public concerts is planned. There will also be 50 digital events as part of the St John’s DIGITAL EXCHANGE programme, some of which are hybrid versions of concerts featured in the live programme and some of which are bespoke events created specifically for our digital audience. The 35th Christmas Festival, running from 8th to 23rd December, will include 22 public concerts, whilst the inaugural digital ‘Christmas Festival London’ will feature content from these live concerts alongside specially created material and will run from the 8th December through to 5th January 2021. The programme for November and December (including the Christmas Festival) will be announced in full on 5th October, whilst the programme for the month of October, consisting of 21 public concerts and 17 digital events is launched today (Tuesday 15th September).
‘Arts of Fugue’ series of broadcast concerts St John’s, Smith Square, 4 August 2020
As UK music performers slowly begin to peep out from beneath the Covid-19 covers, London’s St John’s Smith Square has initiated a short series of ‘Arts of Fugue’ concerts, tracing the development of the Fugue. They will be broadcast at 8pm every Tuesday during August as part of the Digital Exchange Programme. They opened the series with the 2016 St John’s Smith Square Young Artists, the choral group The Gesualdo Six. They were socially-distanced on stage for a concert pre-recorded in front of a much-reduced and socially-distanced audience. Continue reading →
Helen Charlston, Michael Craddock, Alexander Soares City Music Foundation
St Pancras Clock Tower Concerts, 29 July 2020
Since mid-March, musicians have been denied their chance to play in public and many have also been denied their financial livelihoods. Their response to this has varied, from adapting to the joys of Zoom teaching to producing their own impressively imaginative lockdown videos on social media. If have so far avoided the temptation of reviewing these for a variety of reasons, not least because they are readily available anyway, so comments from me would be largely irrelevant. But we are now seeing the slow emergence of live concerts, albeit nearly always on-line. Continue reading →
London Handel Festival
Handel Singing Competition: Semi-Final
St George’s, Hanover Square, 6 March 2020
UPDATE: It is intended that the final of the competition will be held at some future date.
I would normally wait until the final of the annual Handel Singing Competition before mentioning some of those who I heard in the semi-final but, with the Coronavirus cancellation of the entire London Handel Festival, this turns out to be the only review of the festival that I will be writing. The final would have been this evening, 24 March, so it seems an appropriate time to post this review of the semi-final. The reason I try to attend semi-finals of competitions like this is that I frequently hear people who, in my view, should have got through to the final but, for reasons best known to the judges, don’t make it. The London Handel Festival’s annual Handel Singing Competition is no exception to this situation.
A. Scarlatti: Sedecia – Re di Gerusalemme Alessandro Stradella Consort, Estévan Velardi Brilliant Classics BRI95537. 2CDs 62’24 + 67’40
This is a reissue of a 1999 studio recording by the Alessandro Stradella Consort of Alessandro Scarlatti’s 1706 oratorio Sedecia: Re di Gerusalemme. It shares many characters with Verdi’s 1841 opera Nabucco, both based on an Old Testament story of military ambition and corrupted power.
Click the links below to take you to publically available videos of the pieces that we would have performed during the informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals that would have taken place in London’s St Giles-in-the-Fields on Early Music Day at 4, 5 & 6pm. This is the programme for the final 7:30pm concert, given by
Art of Moog & Andrew Benson-Wilson (organ)
The poster for the series of events can be found here, as amended after the earlier pull out of Art of Moog because of the Coronavirus. Their 7:30pm evening concert with the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ is recreated with video links although sadly, none will have the combined Art of Moog and pipe organ. All the organ pieces below would have been combined with the Art of Moog instrumentalists.
If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/. UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.
Click the links below to take you to publically available videos of the pieces that we would have performed during the informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals that would have taken place in London’s St Giles-in-the-Fields on Early Music Day at 4, 5 & 6pm. This is the programme for the third, 6pm concert, given by
Andrew Benson-Wilson (organ) playing organ chorales from Bach’s Leipzig manuscript Poppy Walshaw (cello)
The poster for the series of events can be found here, as amended after the earlier pull out of Art of Moog because of the Coronavirus. Their 7:30pm evening concert with the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ will be similarly recreated with similar video links although sadly, none will have the combined Art of Moog and pipe organ.
If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/. UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.