Carbonelli: Sonate da Camera 1-6

Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli: Sonate da Camera 1-6
Bojan Čičić & The Illyria Consort
Delphian DCD34194. 63’46

For a British musician, now is a very good time to be reminded of the extraordinary contribution that immigrant musicians have made to our musical history, from at least the early 1500s. This CD reflects that in at least two ways. Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli was born in Liverno in 1694. Although supposition that he studied with Corelli seems ill-founded, he certainly absorbed and developed Corelli’s style. He moved to England in, or just before 1719, possibly at the invitation of John Manners (then Marquess of Granby, and soon to become the 3rd Duke of Rutland), who was to be his only known patron in England. Almost immediately on his arrival Carbonelli became leader of the Drury Lane Theatre orchestra, a post which also involved performing concertos and sonatas. In 1735, like many of his fellow Italian immigrant musicians, he anglicised his name, in his case to John Stephen Carbonell. Continue reading

Set upon the Rood

Set upon the Rood
New music for choir and ancient instruments
Choir of Gonville & Caius College Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber
Delphian DCD34154. 68’20

Barnaby Brown (triplepipes)
Bill Taylor (lyre)
John & Patrick Kenny (ancient horns)

This recording features the music I heard in the second half of the concert reviewed here during the 2016 London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. The Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge and their director Geoffrey Webber join with four members of the European Music Archaeology Project: Barnaby Brown, playing the triplepipe and aulos, lyre player Bill Taylor and John and Patrick Kenny playing the ‘Loughnashade horn’ and carnyx. Continue reading

Il Cembalo di Partenope

Il Cembalo di Partenope: ‘A Renaissance harpsichord tale’
Catalina Vicens
Carpe Diem Records CD-16312. 66’35

The world’s oldest playable harpsichord (Naples, 1525)

Vicens CD.JPGHarpsichordist Catalina Vicens’ new CD ticks a lot of boxes. Firstly, it is recorded on the world’s oldest playable harpsichord, built in Naples c1525, and now housed in the National Music Museum of Vermillion, South Dakota, USA, where it has been recently restored. Secondly, her programme of 24 pieces represents the wide range of musical styles of the period of the instrument, played with a compelling sense of musical and period style. And, thirdly, it comes with the bonus of an imaginative story (downloadable as an audiobook) by Catalina Vicens, based on the instrument and “inspired by music, history and legends”. Continue reading

Monteverdi: The Other Vespers

Monteverdi: The Other Vespers
I Fagiolini, The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, The 24, Robert Hollingworth
Decca 4831654. 80’23

During this 450th Monteverdi anniversary year there will be many performances and recordings of the 1610 Vespers. But for this ‘not the 1610’ recording, I Fagiolini have reconstructed a Vespers service inspired by a Dutch tourist’s 1620 record of hearing Monteverdi direct a Vespers on the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. The psalms and the plainchant on this recording are from that feast, using music by Monteverdi and his contemporaries. The Monteverdi contribution comes from his Selva morale e spirituale, published in 1641, but containing music written much earlier. Whereas the 1610 Vespers are intended for feasts of the Virgin or other female saints, the 1641 collection contains psalms for feasts of male saints. Continue reading

Recital on the Wetheringsett Tudor organ

Recital on the ‘Wetheringsett’ organ, c1525
St Swithun’s, Church Street, Worcester WR1 2RH
Friday 23 June, 2017. 1.10
Andrew Benson-Wilson

the Wetheringsett organ which is a medieval replica coming on local to Halifax Minster from SuffolkThe ‘Wetheringsett’ organ is a reconstruction of a Tudor organ based on the soundboard of an organ that was found during alterations to a farmhouse in the village of that name in Suffolk. Until it was hidden away within the walls of the farmhouse, is seems to have been used as a dairy door. The many holes in the wood were initially thought to indicate some sort of protection from the evil eye, until a local organ builder recognised it as the soundboard of an organ – the bit hidden away inside the instruments where the feet of the pipes sit, and through which the air is channelled from the windchest to the pipes. Analysis of the number and size of the holes can give a pretty accurate account of the size, range and number of stops of the organ. Tree-ring dating suggests that the wood dates from around 1525, leading to suggestions that this could be the organ known to have been purchased by a large parish church in Debenham in that year.

Under the aegis of the Early English Organ Project this organ, along with a smaller instrument based on another soundboard found in Wingfield Church, Suffolk, was reconstructed by organ builders Goetze & Gwynne in 2002. Under the management of the Royal College of Organists, the Wetheringsett organ is now resident in the church of St Swithun’s in the centre of Worcester, a delightful Georgian church with box pews and a later 18th century organ.

For this recital, I will be playing English music from before, during, and just after the 1520s, with pieces from c1360 to one of Thomas Tallis’s two extraordinarily monumental Felix Namques, dating from around 1560. In contrast I will play a Voluntary by Samuel Wesley on the 1795 Grey organ, published just a few years after the date of the organ.

Robertsbridge Codex, c1360
Adesto / Firmissime / Alleluya Benedictus
John Dunstaple (Buxheimer Orgelbuch, c1460)
Sub Tuam Protectionem
Anon, c1530 (Roy 56)
Felix Namque (in 5/4)
Anon / Thomas Preston (d1563)
Uppon la mi re
Hugh Aston (c1485-1556)
A hornepype
Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Voluntary in B flat. Op 6/9 8’
Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585)
Felix Namque I (1562)

Admission is free, with a retiring collection.

The World Encompassed

The World Encompassed
Orlando Gough, Fretwork, Simon Callow
Signum Classics SIGCD453. 2CDs 41’19+41’56

This recording is based on the fact that Sir Francis Drake is known to have taken four viol players with him on his 1577-80 circumnavigation of the world, using the musicians for prayers and entertainment on board, and for diplomatic uses with the people they met. He also had trumpeters and drummers, but they are excluded from this recording, which takes as its premise the sort of music that the musicians might have played to the people they met, and also to their friends on their return to England, using their memory of the native music that they heard during their travels. Alongside music of the period by the likes of Parsons, Taverner, White, and Picforth, the principal musical contribution comes from Orlando Gough (b 1953) who was commissioned by Fretwork to compose a sequence of 13 pieces for viol consort based on the local music that Drake and friends might have heard.  Continue reading

Cimarosa: Il Matrimonio Segreto

Cimarosa: Il Matrimonio Segreto
Popup Opera
London Museum of Water and Steam. 25 May 2017

IMG_20170525_204825350.jpgIn a rather stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the opening night of Glyndebourne Festival Opera (reviewed here), a few days later saw me in the industrial surroundings of the London Museum of Water and Steam, near Kew Bridge. The event was one of the touring one-night performances by Popup Opera of Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage), one of the most popular comic operas from the 18th century. It was first performed in at the Imperial Theatre in Vienna, and is famed for having the longest encore known, when Emperor Leopold II demanded that the whole thing be repeated from the start, feeding the musicians before their return. In contrast to the elaborate Posh Frocks & Picnics atmosphere of the other place, pre-event dining at this venue seemed to be restricted to eating something unrecognisable out of a cardboard box. The setting was a cleared floor area in the Steam Hall of what, since its construction in 1838, was once a pumping station supplying parts of London with water.  Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 1, 2 & 4

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works
Volume 1 & 2 – Preludes & Fugues I & II
Ed. David Schulenberg
Breitkopf & Härtel 2013/14.
Volume 1
: Edition Breitkopf EB8801.
140 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 626 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18372-4 | Softbound + CD-ROM
Volume 2: Edition Breitkopf EB8802.
148 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 658 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18373-1 | Softbound + CD-ROM

Volume 4 – Toccatas and Fugues, Individual Works
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2012.
Edition Breitkopf EB8804.
184 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 793 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18375-5 | Softbound + CD-ROM

Further to my reviews of Volumes 3 and 8 of the Breitkopf & Härtel complete Bach organ works (see here and here), I have now been sent the remaining six published editions. Two more are in preparation. The first two volumes contain the pieces generally known nowadays (but not in Bach’s day) as Preludes and Fugues, the other (Volume 4) pieces called ‘Toccata’ and other miscellaneous individual pieces with various titles. The pieces are presented in key order, starting with C major. As with the two other volumes reviewed earlier, the production quality is excellent, with clear and good-sized print, generally (but not always) helpful page turns and, most importantly, very detailed notes on the pieces and the editorial process. All three volumes include CD-ROMs with additional pieces and variants on the main pieces. The Introductions are in German and English, but the Commentary is only in German. However an English version can be found on the CD-ROM or downloaded from the Breitkopf website. The editor for the two volumes of Preludes and Fugues is David Schulenberg, with volume 4 edited by Jean-Claude Zehnder, both well established Bach scholars.  Continue reading

Andrew Hicks: Composing the World

Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos
Andrew Hicks
Oxford University Press USA, 2017
Hardback. 344 pages, 235x156mm, ISBN 9780190658205

The idea that music and the universe were somehow linked has its roots in Plato and resurfaced in the medieval era and beyond as man sought to explain the world around them and its rather awkward relation to their concept of a creator God. Recent advances in scientific research have reduced belief in extra-terrestrial involvement in creation, but have also increased interest in the historic link between music and astrology. Andrew Hicks’ book Composing the World, with its subtitle of Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos, addresses this, starting with the introductory statement “We can hear the universe!”, the 2016 proclamation that the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory (LIGO) had detected a “transient gravitational-wave signal.” What LIGO heard was described as “the vibration of cosmic forces unleashed with mind-boggling power across a cosmic medium of equally mind-boggling expansiveness: the transient ripple of two black holes colliding more than a billion years ago”. Continue reading

Rameau: Les Fêtes de Polymnie

Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Fêtes de Polymnie
Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Glossa GCD923502. 2CDs: 59’55+67’08

This is another in the series of recordings of French Baroque music directed by György Vashegyi with his own Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra. It was recorded in Budapest’s Müpa concert hall alongside a performance given as the closing concert of the 2014 Budapest Spring Festival during the International Rameau Year, in conjunction with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. That was the modern-day première. Few would consider it Rameau’s finest opera, but in the true fashion of French Baroque opera, it is full of spectacular music. Continue reading

Glyndebourne: Cavalli Hipermestra

Francesco Cavalli: Hipermestra
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, William Christie
Glyndebourne Festival Opera. 21 May 2017

For somebody who believes an oracle that he will be murdered by one of his nephews, it was particularly unfortunate that Danao, King of Argos, had 50 of them, Hip 1.jpgthe sons of his brother Egitto, King of Egypt. As it happened, Danao had 50 daughters, so married them all off to his nephews with the instruction that they must all murder their husbands on their wedding night. With one exception, Danao’s plan worked, the exception being his daughter Hipermestra and her new husband Linceo, who had fallen for each other. The subsequent plot of Cavalli’s 1658 opera is based on the complex series of events that occurred after the 50 potential murderous nephews were now reduced to a more manageable one. Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music

‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries’
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey
12-20 May 2017

IMG_20170515_091152885.jpgAfter reforming, renaming, and regrowing itself from the long-running Lufthansa Festival, the London Festival of Baroque Music has become, phoenix-like, one of the most important early music festivals in London. Under the banner of ‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries‘, this year’s LFBM used the music of Monteverdi and Telemann, from either end of the Baroque (and both with anniversaries this year) to explore ‘some of the chronological, geographical and stylistic peripheries of Baroque Music’. With one exception, all the concerts were held in the Baroque splendour of St John’s, Smith Square. Continue reading

European Union Baroque Orchestra: Farewell

European Union Baroque Orchestra
Maria Keohane, Lars Ulrik Martensen
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square. 19 May 2017

IMG_20170519_163842318.jpgOne of the key events of the London Festival of Baroque Music was final concert of the current incarnation of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, and orchestra I have been reviewing enthusiastically for many years. After extensive annual training auditions attracting around 100 applicants, aided by leading period performers, around 30 instrumentalists are selected each year to tour a series of concerts around Europe. But this concert was also, very sadly, the very last EUBO concert in its present state as a UK-managed organisation. Founded 32 years ago as a UK initiative (during the 1985 European Music Year), and managed ever since from its base near Oxford, the vote by a small percentage of the UK population to drag the UK out of the European Union means that it is no longer viable to run an EU venture from the UK. In its 32 years, EUBO has encouraged and nurtured around 1000 young musicians, giving some of the finest period instrumentalists around an early grounding in performance practice at the start of their careers. For the future, after a hiatus of a year to allow for the transfer, when there will be no auditions or orchestra , EUBO will restart from a new base, and with new management, based in the music centre AMUZ in Antwerp. Continue reading

The Twisted Twenty

The Twisted Twenty
Penny Fiddle Records PFR1701CD. 36’02

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The Twisted Twenty is the name of the group, and of this, their first CD. With no catalogue number, and no web presence for the recording company, this has more than a feel of a self-produced affair. There is certainly nothing wrong in that. It is one of the few ways in which young musicians can get their music out there. There is a strong tradition of folk music within the world of classical musicians, notably in Scotland in the 18th century, the focus for much of this short (just 36 minutes) CD.  Continue reading

The Masque of Moments

The Masque of Moments
Theatre of the Ayre, Elizabeth Kenny
Linn Records. CKD 542. 68′

The Masque was a form of aristocratic entertainment with medieval roots that reached its English peak in the early 17th century during the reigns of James I and Charles I. Closely related to similar continental forms such as the Italian Intermedio, it included music, dance, acting, mime and singing, often to elaborate sets. They were usually based on Classical mythology combined with more than a hint of current political or royal intrigues. As well as professional performers, the promoters or subjects of the masque were often also involved in the production. For many years, Elizabeth Kenny and her group Theatre of the Ayre have studied the genre, and this is their latest manifestation of that research.  Continue reading

Poppea

Monteverdi: Poppea
Hampstead Garden Opera, Musica Poetica
Jacksons Lane Theatre, HIghgate. 13 May 2017

Poppea_Poster.jpgThe 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth will include many performances of L’incoronazione di Poppea. It was his last known opera, first performed just months before his death. But I think this one, by the young singers and instrumentalists of Hampstead Garden Opera and Musica Poetica, will prove to be one of the most memorable for me. An impressively simple staging, excellent singing and acting, and an exceptionally well judged realisation of the instrumental accompaniments, combined with the friendly acoustic of the Jacksons Lane Theatre to produce an absorbing and thought-provoking interpretation of Monteverdi’s exploration of love, lust, and power. Continue reading

OAE: The Brandenburgs

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
St John’s, Smith Square. 2 May 2017

It is not that often that all six Brandenburg Concertos are performed in one concert. One issue is the logistics of gathering so many instrumentalists together, several for just one piece. Another is the length, in this case overrunning an ambitious estimate by some 20 minutes. On this occasions, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performed the six concertos in the sensible order of 1, 3, 5 interval 4, 6, 2, providing some key contrast, and saving the most powerful concerto to the end. There had been some shifting of personal before the start of the concert, with the former second violinist Huw Daniel stepping up to concertmaster to replace the indisposed Pavlo Beznosiuk, and Naomi Burrell stepping in to take his place in the line up. Continue reading

The Courts of Earth and Heaven

Crickhowell Music Festival: The Courts of Earth and Heaven
Crickhowell Choral Society, Stephen Marshall
St Edmund’s, Crickhowell, 30 April 2017

Handel: Eternal source of light divine (Birthday Ode for Queen Anne)
Delalande: Regina coeli 
Campra: Quam dilecta
Vivaldi: Gloria (RV588 – the ‘other’ Gloria!)

A walking weekend in the Brecon Beacons happened to coincide with the annual Crickhowell Music Festival. I have reviewed the whole Festival in the past but, on this occassion, could only manage one performance, given in St Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell by the Crickhowell Choral Society and a ‘festival’ orchestra, together with a very impressive group of soloists. One of the things that most impressed me on my earlier visit was the ability of their director Stephen Marshall to attract outstanding and international renown singers such as, on this occasion, Grace Davidson, Nicholas Mulroy, and Catherine King.

The ambitious programme featured music from England, France, and Italy. It opened with Handel’s 1713 Birthday Ode – a homage to Queen Anne, and indeed, to Purcell, whose style he so perfectly absorbed. The opening arioso ‘Eternal lource of light divine’ is one of the most beautful musical creations of all time, with Handel’s understanding of Purcell’s style made obvious. It makes for a very exposed start to a concert, and one which tenor Nicholas Mulroy coped with magnificently. His high lyrical tenor voice hasn’t quite the timbre of a countertenor that Handel intended, but was nonetheless quite exquisite, in this, and in later movements. Grace Davidson’s soprano aria ‘Let all the wingéd race’ was similarly impressive. Both of these key singers demonstrated their excellent ability at singing Baroque ornaments properly, rather than using the often heard reliance on vibrato alone. Continue reading

Mondonville: Isbé

Mondonville: Isbé
Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Glossa GCD 924001. 3 CDs: 61’25+48’55+63’04

For many years the only way to hear French Baroque music performed with any degree of authenticity was by listening to French performers. Although that is still the case to an extent, the level of understanding of French performing techniques has become far better known throughout the world. One example is the series of recordings from Budapest from the Orfeo Orchestra and Purcell Choir under their founder and director György Vashegyi. I reviewed their CD of Mondonville’s Grands Motets here, and their performance of Rameau’s Naïs in Budapest here, and now turn to their more recent recording of his opera Isbé.  Continue reading

Ex Cathedra: In a Strange Land

In a Strange Land
Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore
Cadogan Hall, 26 April 2017

The latest in the Choral at Cadogan series of concerts featured the Birmingham based choir, Ex Cathedra, with their founder and director, Jeffrey Skidmore. Since they started in 1969, they have built an enviable reputation for their performing and educational work, and the encouragement they give to younger singers. On this occasion, they fielded 10 singers for music reflecting issues of captivity, religious conflict, freedom and a yearning for homeland, based on the verse from Psalm 137, How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?, . Their wide-ranging programme, including some of Ex Cathedra’s greatest hits, explored the search for heaven and earth in the Old and the New World during the 16th and 17th centuries with music from England, France, Holland, and Spain, together with the world of the Aztecs and Incas in present day Mexico and Bolivia. Continue reading

Musica Poetica: Tunder World

Tunder World: The Baroque Keyboard
Musica Poetica: Simon Lloyd & Oliver John Ruthven, organs
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, 27 April 2017

Amongst their other musical activities, the enterprising young group, Musica Poetica, are currently running a year-long monthly series of lunchtime concerts based on the music and times of Franz Tunder (1614-1667) the anniversary of whose death is this year, just three years after the anniversary of his birth. For this concert, they focussed on the keyboard music of Tunder, together with his possible teacher, Frescobaldi, his contemporary Froberger (who also died in 1667) and his successor as organist of the Lübeck Marienkirche, as his son-in-law, Dieterich Buxtehude.  Continue reading

Leuven: ‘Voices of Passion’

Alamire Foundation
Passie van de Stemmen (Voices of Passion)
Huelgas Ensemble & Park Collegium
Park Abbey, Leuven. 22/23 April 2017

Musically, Leuven, the historic city about 15 miles east of Brussels (and the capital of the Flemish Brabant province), has been rather overlooked by their fellow Belgian cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels. But as the medieval seat of the Dukes of Brabant, it was central to the geographical area that saw one of the most important developments in Renaissance choral music, variably referred to as Burgundian, Brabant, Franco-Flemish. Nowadays this approximates to the Low Country regions of northern France, Belgium, and the south Netherlands. It is therefore entireWP_20170422_18_09_47_Pro (2).jpgly appropriate that since 1991 it has been the home of the Alamire Foundation, the International Center for the Study of Music in the Low Countries, founded in conjunction with the Catholic University of Leuven and Musica, Impulscentrum voor muziek, Neerpelt. It is resident in the Huis van de Polyfonie (House of Polyphony, pictured), one of the gatehouses to Leuven’s historic Park Abbey. Continue reading

Organ music by Tunder (d1667)

Organ music by Franz Tunder (1614-1667)
St George Hanover Square (Mayfair Organ Concerts)
Tuesday 9 May 2017, 1:10
Andrew Benson-Wilson

SGHS main organ

Franz Tunder was one of the most influential organists and composers of the early to mid 17th century in North Germany. Along with a group of Hamburg organist composers, including Jacob Praetorius, Scheidemann, and Weckmann, he created the musical development that culminated in Dietrich Buxtehude, Tunder’s son-in-law, and successor at the Lübeck Marienkirche. He was key to the development of the extended Chorale Fantasia and the dramatic Stylus Phantasticus.

In 1646 Tunder founded the famous Abendmusiken series of concerts in the Marienkirche. These were funded by, and performed to, Lübeck businessmen, and were continued by Buxtehude and then well into the 18th century. In Tunder’s day, the Abendmusik concerts were usually organ recitals. In this programme, you will experience some of the organ music that could have been heard during these concerts, which were very much in the tradition of today’s London lunchtime concerts.

The 2012 Richards, Fowkes & Co organ in St George’s, Hanover Square (Handel’s church) is eminently suitable for music of this period.

Praeludium in g
In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr
Jesus Christus wahr’ Gottes Sohn
Auf meinem Lieben Gott (manualiter)
Praeludium in g
Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott

Admission is free, with a retiring collection.

The Edge of Time

The Edge of Time
Anna Friederike Potengowski (bone flutes), 
Georg Wieland Wagner (percussion)
Delphian DCD34185. 64’32

Having been not entirely enthusiastic about Dragon Voices, the last recording from the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP), it is nice to make up for that with my enthusiasm for the latest from that project, with this recording featuring Palaeolithic bone flutes and percussion. All my earlier concerns about the choice of repertoire are overcome with this imaginative look at the musical possibilities of the reconstructions of four bone flute, based on originals dating back around 40,000 years ago. Continue reading

JM Haydn: Der Kampf der Buβe und Bekehrung

Johann Michael Haydn: Der Kampf der Buβe und Bekehrung
Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Carus 83.351. 79’55

Johann Michael Haydn: Der Kampf der Buße und Bekehrung. OratoriumDespite being a lesser-known work by a lesser-known composer, the oratorio Der Kampf der Buße und Bekehrung (The Struggle for Penance and Conversion) is well worth getting to know. It is the second, and only surviving part, of a three-part oratorio, each part written by a different composer – not unusual in the fast-paced musical world of Salzburg at the time. The reason was the arrival of three sopranos bought back from Italy by the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1768. A piece was quickly required to show off their musical talents and, because of the lack of time, three composers agreed to compose a part of the libretto. Johann Michael Haydn (the younger brother of Joseph) took the central part, and this oratorio is the result.  Continue reading

Kapsberger: Toccata/Touched

Alex McCartney: Toccata: Touched
Works by GG Kapsberger
Veterum Musica. VM015. 45’27

This recording is clearly something of a labour of love, albeit a rather short one, at just 45’27. Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (c1580-1651) was the son of an Austrian colonel, and was possibly born in Venice. He spent much of his musical life in the household of Cardinal Barberini in Rome (alongside Frescobaldi, amongst others) where he quickly built a reputation for virtuoso theorbo playing. To what extent his published theorbo pieces reflect his live performances is unclear, but they are sometimes frankly rather odd, not least with his unconventional use of rhythm and harmony. Contemporary commentators hinted strongly that his compositions were not as good as his performances.  Continue reading

SJSS: Holy Week Festival

Siglo de Oro & New London Singers
St John’s, Smith Square: 
Holy Week Festival. 15 April 2017

WP_20170415_12_49_34_Pro (2).jpgThe St John’s, Smith Square Holy Week Festival (also reviewed here and here) concluded with a vocal workshop and lunchtime concert with Siglo de Oro and an evening concert from the New London Singers. The morning workshop was led by Patrick Allies, director of Siglo de Oro, and focussed on Bach’s motet Jesu meine freude, giving useful insights into the structure, text and musical contents of this most complex piece. Siglo de Oro’s lunchtime concert sandwiched this piece between two shorter meditative pieces by Purcell Hear my Prayer, and Remember not, Lord, our offences, concluding with Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater a 10.  Continue reading

Tallis: Songs of Reformation

Thomas Tallis: Songs of Reformation
Alamire, David Skinner
St John’s, Smith Square: 
Holy Week Festival. 12 April 2017

WP_20170415_18_59_25_Pro.jpgAfter the Holy Week Festival showcase Good Friday afternoon St John Passion came a concert focussed on one of England’s finest composers, Thomas Tallis. Living though the reigns of five monarchs (from Henry VII to Elizabeth), and composing in the latter four of them, Tallis managed to negotiate the complex religious twists and turns of Tudor life. The highlights of the evening came at the end, with the first modern performance of David Skinner’s reconstruction of a piece composed by Tallis  (an early version of the famous Gaude gloriosa Dei mater), but with new words (See, Lord, and behold) added by Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s eighth and final Queen. Continue reading

Dragon Voices: Celtic Horns of Ancient Europe

Dragon Voices: Celtic Horns of Ancient Europe
John Kenny
Delphian DCD34183. 66’42

The link between music and archaeology is a comparatively new field of study, helped in recent years by the enterprising European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP) in conjunction with the University of Huddersfield. I reviewed another CDs from the project here and a live concert featuring John Kenny some of the instruments on this CD here. The instruments featured here are Celtic, and include two examples of the carnyx, a two-metre-long bronze trumpet surmounted by a stylised animal head that flourished from around 200 BCE and 200 CE. The upper part of one was found in 1816 in a peat bog at Deskford, Scotland, and was reconstructed in 1993. The other is the Tintignac carnyx, discovered in southern France in 2004 and reconstructed for this project. The third instrument is a reconstruction of the Irish Loughnashade horn, also found in a peat bog, and dating from the first century BCE. Continue reading

Bach & Fauré

Bach & Fauré
Tenebrae & Aurora Orchestra
St John’s, Smith Square: 
Holy Week Festival. 12 April 2017

For many years now there has been a music festival at St John’s, Smith Square during the run-up to Easter, and similarly at Christmas. The Easter version has been re-branded as the ‘Holy Week Festival’ and is curated by St John’s itself and the choir TenebraeWP_20170415_12_08_45_Pro (2).jpg. It still includes the annual favourite Good Friday afternoon Bach Passion from Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, but has also introduced some other new faces to the Eastertide Smith Square festivities. I was away for several of the events, but did manage to catch three contrasting events, starting with a curious concert by Tenebrae themselves, together with the Aurora Orchestra, both of whom seem to have caught the public imagination in recent years, not least by some impressive publicity. Continue reading