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.
Ach Jesus stirbt Andreas Hammerschmidt Vox Luminis, Clematis, Lionel Meunier Outhere/Ricercar, RIC418. 70’27
The ever-excellent Vox Luminis strike again with this magnificent recording of vocal works by the little-known Bohemian organist-composer Andreas Hammerschmidt (1612-1675). As a result of the Thirty Years War, his (Protestant) family moved to the important city of Freiberg in Saxony when he was about 15, where he became organist at the Petrikirche. In 1639 he moved to Zittau where he stayed until his death as organist of the Johanneskirche. Despite the ravages of the war, he became famed as an organist and a composer of music in the concertato tradition of Heinrich Schütz.
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.
Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Volume 2 Steven Devine, harpsichord Resonus Classics RES10261. 2 CDs. 73’03+75’42
Following his Volume 1 of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier reviewed here), Steven Devine returns with a very welcome recording of Bach’s second book of Preludes & Fugues, published around 20 years after the first book. Unlike the Book 1 Preludes and Fugues (BWV 846-869) which survive in Bach’s autograph, Book 2 (BWV 870-893) has two principal sources with contribtions by Bach’s family, but only one withs any evidence of Bach’s hand.
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“.
Handel: Ode for St Cecilia’s Day Bach Choir of Bethlehem Bach Festival Orchestra, Greg Funfgeld Analekta AN 2 9541
The first thing to understand is that this is not the Bach Choir of Bethlehem – or at least, not of that Bethlehem. This Bethlehem is in Pennsylvania – and the Bach Choir is a 120-year-old amateur choir. It is the oldest Bach choir in America and gave the first performances in the USA of Bach’s B minor Mass and the Christmas Oratorio. This recording reflects their anniversary.
Bach David Schulenberg Oxford University Press: Master Musicians series Hardback, 448 pages, 235x156x23mm, ISBN13: 9780190936303
Bach must be one of the most written about of all composers, so the addition of another outline of his life and music needs to have something extra to offer. Bach scholarship continues to discover new works and new evidence and ideas about his life and music. Since Malcolm Boyd’s original 1983 Master Musicians Bach volume and its three revisions, understanding of Bach and his music’s historical and cultural context has shifted substantially, reflecting new biographical information and insights. So David Schulenberg’s contribution to the Master Musicians series is very welcome.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704) Requiem in F minor Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c1620-1680) Sonata IX in G Andreas Christophorus Clamer (1633-1701) Partita I in E minor Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Sonata VIII à 5 in G František Ignác Antonín Tůma (1704-1774) Stabat mater in G minor
The Pluto-Ensemble was founded by Marnix De Cat to “perform music based on Truth of the human being, with a message of beauty and joy”. It takes its name from the planet Pluto, “the third mistery-planet of the Aquarius-era. After Uranus and Neptunus, influencing the heart and the mind, Pluto is the re-creator of man as a higher being”. Their companions for this recording of music from Hapsburg Vienna and Salzburg is the Hathor Consort (directed by Romina Lischka) takes its name from the Egyptian mother goddess Hathor.
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.
Literary history is full of laments, from the very earliest writings. They occur in all religions and have been the foundation of much musical expression in all parts of the world. So an entire CD devoted to such Lamento is not such an unusual approach to building a satisfying musical programme. And this recording from the French ensemble Café Zimmermann fulfils the brief excellently with music from the 17th-century German speaking realms.
Journeys to the New World Hispanic Sacred Music from the 16th & 17th centuries The Queen’s Six Signum ClassicsSIGCD626. 66’23
The Queen’s Six are all based at Windsor Castle where they are Lay Clerks at St George’s Chapel. They promote themselves as providing a “unique style of entertainment” with a repertoire that “extends far beyond the reach of the choir stalls: from austere early chant, florid Renaissance polyphony, lewd madrigals and haunting folk songs, to upbeat Jazz and Pop arrangements”. Perhaps fortunately, on this recording they remain firmly in the choir stalls for some Renaissance New World polyphony dating from the mid-16th century to c1700.
Duarte Lobo (c1565-1646) was one of the most prominent composers of the Portuguese Golden Age, gaining an international reputation during his lifetime. He is not to be confused with the Spanish Alonso Lobo (1555-1617). Early musical studies at Évora Cathedral led to posts as maestro di cappella at Évora Cathedrak, the Hospital Real de Todos-os-Santos, Lisbon, and at Lisbon Cathedral where he remained for nearly 50 years. This very welcome recording includes many premiere recordings of this remarkable composer in outstanding performances by Cupertinos, under Lius Toscano.
Georg Friedrich Händel: Neun Deutsche Arien Penelope Appleyard, Florisma Convivium Records CR043. 52’00
Handel’s Neun Deutsche Arien (Nine German Arias) were composed around 1725, some sixteen years after his arrival in London. In sharp contrast to his compositions at the time (which included the operas Tamerlano, Rodelinda, and Alessandro), these nine short arias, all but one in da capo form, are intimate small-scale pieces for a solo singer, a solo instrument and continuo bass. Continue reading →
From the GROUND up David Hill, Peterborough Cathedral organ Regent REGCD539. 67’48
There is more to this recording than a ‘mere’ display of 20th-century British organ music, most based on a ground bass, usually in its particular incarnation as a Passacaglia, played on a grand English cathedral organ by one of England’s most distinguished organists. But that alone is enough to recommend the recording. It encompasses a wide range of music styles, generally influenced by German organ composers, dating from 1910 to the present day, together with a lovely little contrasting contribution from Orlando Gibbons, from the early 17th-century. Two major gems of the repertoire and a substantial new piece are balanced by a sequence of short pieces.
Lachrimæ Lyræ: Tears of Exile Sokratis Sinopoulos, Lacheron, François Joubert-Caillet Outhere/Fuga Libera, FUG 753. 65’38
If you thought the sound of a consort of viols was etherial, plaintive and evocative, wait till you hear this exotic combination of a viol consort combined with a Greek lyra. Taking John Dowland’s 1604 Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares as its point of departure, the recording aims to “paint a transverse and stateless picture of melancholy, set against the joyful hope of a shining future that appears in these improvisations and timeless Anglo-Byzantine dances”. Continue reading →
Henry Aldrich: Sacred Choral Music Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford James Morley Potter, David Bannister, The Restoration Consort Convivium Records CR052. 80′
You would be forgiven if, like me, you had never heard of Henry Aldrich (1648-1710). He was something of a polymath, combing roles as Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and later Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University with interests in logic, architecture and music, composing works for the Christ Church Chapel (which doubles as Oxford’s Cathedral). He is probably best known today, if at all, for his 1750 book on logic Artis Logicæ Compendium, but he also designed the church of All Saints, Oxford (now the library of Lincoln College) and the Peckwater Quadrangle in Christ Church. This timely recording brings some of his music to well deserved public attention. Continue reading →
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).
What’s next Vivaldi? Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini Outhere/Alpha ALPHA624. 70’56
If you manage to get past the unremitting frenzy of the opening Vivaldi La Tempesta di Mare Concerto there is a chance that you might be able to appreciate the rest of this extraordinary recording. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja has been described as an “irresistible force of nature: passionate, challenging and totally original in her approach”, in the citation for her 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society award as Instrumentalist of the year). When combined with the energy of Il Giardino Armonico the result is potent.
Bachs Mentoren (Bach’s Mentors) Peter Waldner Tastenfreuden 4. 75’16
This recording was self-pubished by Peter Waldner in 2012 as part of his Tastenfreuden series but has only just been sent to me for review. It includes music by the North German composers Buxtehude, Reincken and Bõhm, noted as Bach’s “mentors”, played on harpsichord, octave spinet and muselar. The word “mentor” might a little wide of the mark, as there is no evidence any of these three musicians actually taught the young Bach, although he was certainly strongly influenced by them in his early years.
Duo1702+ – Coffee Edition Louise Hjorth Hansen, recorder Katrine I. Kristiansen, organ Gateway DUO170201. 58’56
“Baroque music in the name of coffee – induced by Covid-19” is the sub-text of this recording from Duo1702 and friends. Made in response to the Covid crisis, the two Danish members of Duo1702, Louise Hjorth Hansen, recorder, and Katrine Kristiansen, organ, are joined by five of their musical friends to perform music by Bach, Finger, Telemann, Morten Ræhs, Purcell, and Vivaldi. Their intention is to recreate the atmosphere of the Zimmermann Kaffeehaus in Leipzig where Bach and his sons made music to the accompanyment of coffee drinking.
Laus Polyphoniae: Polyphony connects 21-30 August 2020
In normal circumstances I would be on my way to Antwerp for their annual Laus Polyphoniae festival, but current events have led to it moving on-line for a virtual festival. Under the title of Polyphony Connects, their programme looks back on past editions of Laus Polyphoniae as well as looking to the future. Combining music from different centuries in archive recordings and live events, it also includes documentaries, introductions, a book presentation, an international summer school, and an educational music holiday.
Purcell: Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II. Vol II The Sixteen, Harry Christopers Coro COR16173.72’27
The Sixteen continue their series of music written by Purcell for royal occasions with this 2019 recording. Designed to promote King Charles II as a strong and stable (a familiar phrase) and divinely appointed monarch, the music is by turn delicate and grand, celebrating the nobility of the King and his apparent political triumphs. The highlight is the 1683 Welcome to all the pleasures notably the jubilant concluding chorus in praise of St Cecilia: In a consortof voices.Continue reading →
The contrast between the music of JS and CPE Bach continues to puzzle many music lovers. Born 29 years apart, CPE Bach’s compositional style was well into the early classical era well before the death of his father, whose music had for some time been considered rather out of date. This 2018 recording focusses on the music of the last few years of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s life. It shows his music at its most developed with more than a hint of the forthcoming Romantic era. His use of the empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style) is very evident in the choice of music in this programme. Continue reading →
Stay, ye angels. J S Bach Cantatas
Gaechinger Cantorey, Hans-Christoph Rademann
David Franke (1746 Hildebrandt organ, Naumburg) Accentus Music ACC30466. 73’47
The crowning glory of this recording is the use of one of the finest Baroque (and Bach) organs in the world – the 1746 Zacharias Hildebrandt organ in the Stadtkirche Sankt Wenzel in Naumburg, Saxony- Anhalt, Germany. It was Hildebrandt’s finest and most substantial organ and involved advice from Bach himself. They had met in 1723 when Bach opened Hildebrandt’s first organ in the delightful little village church of Störmthal, just south of Leipzig. Bach and the organ builder Gottfried Silbermann (who had earlier fallen out with Hildebrandt) carried out the final examination of the instrument. It was restored back to its 1746 state in the year 2000.Continue reading →
JS Bach: The Trio Sonata Project Tripla Concordia, Walter Van Hauwe
Outhere/Arcana A114. 63’08
The tradition of rearranging music for different forces is a long one, and one that Bach himself used frequently. The Bach ‘Trio Sonata Project’ is inspired by this practice, and includes one piece that Bach himself arranged from an earlier work of his (BWV 1027). The other transcribed pieces are BWV 527, 997, 1028 & 1029. Three of them were originally for viola da gamba and harpsichord, one for lute, and one from the famous set of organ Sonatas. Continue reading →
The Dubhlinn Gardens
Anna Besson, Reinoud Van Mechelen
A Nocte Temporis
ALPHA 447. 69’17
Described as “an evening in the high society of 18th century Dublin, where traditional music was ‘civilising’ itself for the salon…”, the Dubhlinn Gardens recording draws on traditional Irish music and the outcome of a research project by flautist Anna Besson. She writes that “I discovered traditional Irish music at the age of ten, and began to train with Irish flautists … my affinity for the wooden flute drew me to the Baroque transverse flute and historical performance. The Dubhlinn Gardens is the outcome of this twofold musical practice, and results from extensive research into the most popular airs in eighteenth-century Ireland, from a time when traditional and ‘art’ music were in no way opposing concepts…”. Continue reading →
Mr Handel’s Musicians
Teatro del Mondo
Benoit Laurent, Marie Deller, Andreas Küppers
Perfect Noise PN1703. 63’20
We would normally associate Mr Handel’s Musicians with the various singers that he did battle with, to the extent of threatening to throw some of them out of the window. This 2017 recording redressed the balance in favour of some of the instrumentalists that worked with or were in the wider musical circle of Handel during his time in London. Continue reading →
‘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 →
Mottetti e Canzoni Virtuose
La Guilde des Mercenaires, Adrien Mabire
L’encelade ECL1703. 66’36
The principal interest in this 2018 recording of virtuoso Venetian music is in the choice of organ as accompanying instrument. Most of the programme notes are about the use of the organ in the 16th and 17th century, and its prominence in the repertoire of the time. The important thing, and the factor that sets this recording way above most others of a similar repertoire, is that they use a full-sized ‘church’ organ, rather than those weedy little box ‘continuo’ organ that are nearly always used by early music groups. 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 →