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.
Irlandiani An exploration of musical life in 18th Century Ireland Penny Fiddle Records. PFR2005CD. 57’33
The musical life of 18th century Dublin is often overlooked in recordings, concerts and in many a musical history. With that in mind, the debut album Irlandiani from the Irish baroque cellist Carina Drury is particularly welcome. Taking its title from the name given to early Italian settlers in Ireland, the recording pictures the musical life of early 18th Century Dublin. It explores the influence of Irish folk music on Italian baroque composers living in Ireland, and the influence of the Italian baroque style on Irish composers. With Irish flute player Eimear McGeown and a combination of historic and traditional instruments, the album explores Irish music from The Neal Collection, the first printed collection of Irish music, together with cello sonatas by Italian composers who lived in Dublin during the 18th century.
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
London Sound Gallery Fieri Consort, Helen Charlston, The Hermes Experiment, Ensemble Augelletti, Matilda Lloyd,The Gesualdo Six Filmed concerts, released weekly between 25 October to 29 November
Amongst the many online events becoming available during these Covid-constrained times is a weekly Sunday afternoon series of six hour-long concerts under the banner of the London Sound Gallery. Promoted with the help of a crowdfunding campaign by The Gesualdo Six (who, as part of the deal, are collaborating with the other five performers) “to provide a focal point for new programming and collaborative performance during the current crisis for the arts”. The six concerts have an underlying theme of “reconnection, new beginnings and reconciliation” and are being released between 25 October and 29 November. The concerts were filmed in front of a small audience in Mayfair’s Grosvenor Chapel.
25 October. Fieri Consort Another Dawn 1 November. Helen Charlston & Toby Carr Abbandonata 8 November. The Hermes Experiment I am happy living simply 15 November. Ensemble Augelletti New Beginnings 22 November. Matilda Lloyd and Martin Cousin Notes of yearning 29 November. The Gesualdo Six Heavenly Spheres
‘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.
Haydn: Die Schöpfung Il Giardino Armonico, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks Giovanni Antonini Outhere/Alpha 567. 2CDs. 72’52 +27’26
The Joseph Haydn Foundation’s Haydn 2032 project plans to produce and finance the recording of all 107 of Haydn’s symphonies in the lead-up to the 300th anniversary of Haydn’s birth. These recordings are usually with Il Giardino Armonico and the Basel Chamber Orchestra under Giovanni Antonini, but this recording of The Creation, which sidesteps the symphony series, pairs the period instruments of Il Giardino Armonico with the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Although I have some reservations, it is a powerful and revealing account of Hadyn’s extraordinary work, a homage to the Handel oratorios that he experienced in London.
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.
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.