Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik

Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik
Innsbruck, 21-23 August 2017

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music runs annually for about three weeks during August. It was founded in 1976 and since the start has focussed on Baroque opera, in recent years usually performing three each season. Between 1991 and 2009 René Jacobs was the director of the opera programme and, from 1997, the entire festival. Since 2010 the festival has been directed by Alessandro De Marchi, who instigated the International Singing Competition for Baroque Opera Pietro Antonio Cesti, named after Antonio Cesti, a 17th-century Italian singer and composer who served at the Innsbruck court of Archduke Ferdinand Charles of Austria.  The focus this year was on the music of Monteverdi, and included a staged performance of Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for three days, so my review is necessarily limited in scope.  Continue reading

BBC Proms: Reformation Day

BBC Proms: Reformation Day
Prom 47: Bach’s ‘Little Organ Book’ past and present
Prom 48: A Patchwork Passion
Prom 49: Bach’s St John Passion
Royal Albert Hall, 20 August 2017

Prom 47: Bach’s ‘Little Organ Book’ past and present
William Whitehead, Robert Quinney, organ

The BBC Proms’ acknowledgement of the anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation came with three concerts on Sunday 20 August, starting with a lunchtime organ recital featuring the premieres of three pieces from The Orgelbüchlein Project played by its founder/director, the organist William Whitehead. The programme opened and closed with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E flat (from the Clavierübung III, BWV 552), played by Robert Quinney (who also played Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata in A major (Op. 65/3)). It also included the fourth of Schumann’s Fugues on B-A-C-H and two of Bach’s own Orgelbüchlein chorale preludes played by William Whitehead and, just before the final Bach Fugue, Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s ‘Prelude to the Grand Organ Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach’: a duet for both organists. Continue reading

Festival de Saintes

Festival de Saintes
Abbaye aux Dames: la cité musicale, Saintes
14-22 July 2017

The Abbaye aux Dames was founded in 1047 by the Count of Anjou as a Benedictine abbey for women, usually of aristocratic origin. Around 1120, the Abbey church was altered and the spectacularly carved west end facade and belIMG_20170717_094834230.jpgl tower were added. Internally, the Romanesque triple-aisled basilica was altered, rather inelegantly, by inserting two enormous domed cupolas into the original external walls, resulting in a bit of an architectural mess. After two major fires in the 17th century (which destroyed the cupolas), the church was restored, and impressive new convent buildings were added, with cells for 45 nuns. During the Revolution, the Abbey first became a prison (1792), and then a barracks (1808). In the 1920s, the Abbey complex was purchased by the town of Saintes. In the 1970s, restoration of the monastic IMG_20170716_191740421.jpgbuildings (abandoned since the war) was started and, in 1972, an annual Festival of Ancient Music was created, later becoming the Festival de Saintes. In 1988 the Abbey was launched as a cultural centre by President François Mitterrand, and in 2013 it became la cité musicale, housing a Conservatoire of Music and a range of year-round musical activities, including many for young people. The former nun’s cells now sleep visitors and guests of the Festival.
Continue reading

OAE ‘Bach goes to Paris’

‘Bach goes to Paris’
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, William Christie
The Anvil, Basingstoke. 28 June 2017

Campra Suite: Les Fêtes Vénetiennes
JCF Fischer Suite no. 7 from Le journal de printemps
Bach Suite no. 4
Rameau Suite: Les Indes Galantes
Bach Suite no. 3

‘Bach goes to Paris’? No, of course he didn’t, but in a way Paris, or at least, France, came to Bach, through the experience of other musicians and of studying scores, notably De Grigny’s Livre d’Orgue, which he copied out by hand. But, if he had have gone to Paris, I wonder what he would have made of Campra’s Les Fêtes Vénetiennes, an early example of the opéra-ballet genre. Much revised and revived after its 1710 opening, it clocked up around 300 performances over the following 50 years. With sections with titles such as the Triumph of Folly over Reason during the Carnival, Serenades and gamblers, and The acrobats of St Mark’s Square, or Cupid the acrobat, the lively series of depictions of carnival time in Paris gave a wonderful introduction to the livelier side of French music of the period. Particularly notable were Stephen Farr’s delightful little harpsichord twiddles during the rests in the Gigue, and Jude Carlton’s inventive percussion including, at one stage, castanets. it ends in a surprisingly elegant Chaconne – an example of French bon gout that was perhaps absent in some of the earlier moments. 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

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

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

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

Clare Reformation 500 Project

The Clare Reformation 500 Project
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Clare Baroque, Graham Ross
St John’s, Smith Square. 30 March 2017

Bach Gott der Herr ist Sonn und SchildEin feste Burg ist unser Gott
Brahms Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen?
Mendelssohn Wer nur den lieben Gott laßt walten
Vaughan Williams Lord, thou hast been our refuge

As part of their Clare Reformation 500 Project, the choir and associated period instrument orchestra of Clare College, Cambridge, gave a concert of music inspired by the musical legacy of Martin Luther’s 1517 Reformation. It was the culmination of the Lent Term series of Sunday services in the College chapel, each featuring a liturgical performance of a Bach cantata, using a variety of instrumental groups to accompany them. On this occasion they used Clare Baroque which, despite its name, was not a student orchestra but was made up of many of the ‘usual suspects’ from London’s early music performers, led by the ex-Clare violinist (and Director of Performance in the University Faculty of Music) Margaret Faultless. Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 3

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works
Volume 3 – Fantasias & Fugues
Ed. Pieter Dirksen
Breitkopf & Härtel 2016.
Edition Breitkopf EB8803. ISMN: 979-0-004-18374-8
159pp + CD-ROM

Bach Orgelwerke IIIThe new 10 volume Breitkopf & Härtel critical edition of Bach’s organ music is arriving in dribs and drabs. I reviewed volume 8 here last July, and have now been sent Volume 3. It contains all the pieces entitled ‘Fantasia’ together with isolated Fugues. In that context, it is worth stressing that there are no surviving authorized and complete Fantasia and Fugue pairs, not even the well-known Fantasia & Fugue in G minor (BWV 542). Indeed, many of the popular Preludes and Fugues were also put together by later editors, rather than by Bach.

Peter Dirksen’s detailed introductory notes (in German and English), include a discussion of discussion the historic background to the Continue reading

Bach: St Matthew Passion

Bach: St Matthew Passion
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, James Gilchrist, Kati Debretzeni,John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG725. 2CDs. 2h40′

Some 28 years after their famed 1988 Archiv recording (made under studio conditions in Snape Maltings), the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists return to the St. Matthew Passion. This extraordinary piece can evoke enormous emotional responses, regardless of the religious views of the listener. I vividly remember taking my young daughter to a performance of their 1988 Matthew, sitting in the front row, and watching the bass player just a few yards away gently shedding tears as she played. For this version, on their own label, they opt for a live recording, made in Pisa Cathedral during the Anima Mundi Festival as the culmination of a six-month tour.  Continue reading

AAM: Bach and the Italian Concerto

Bach and the Italian Concerto
Academy of Ancient Music
Milton Court Concert Hall, 15 February 2017

Bach: Concerto for oboe d’amore in D major
Vivaldi: Concerto for violin in G minor
Albinoni: Concerto for oboe in D minor
Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in A minor
Bach: Italian Concerto
A Marcello: Concerto for oboe in D minor

Groups like the Academy of Ancient Music often perform with soloists drawn from their own ranks, with understandably excellent results. This was one such occasion, when four of the AAM’s regular orchestral players stepped into the soloist limelight. The focus was on the influence of Italian music on Bach, with a sub-plot of the Italian music that Bach transcribed for harpsichord organ. Indeed Alistair Ross, the AAM’s principal keyboard continuo player, suggested during the pre-concert talk that he could perform the entire concert programme on his own on organ and harpsichord.

The instrumental focus of the concert was on the oboe and oboe d’amore, played by Frank de Bruine. He opened with the latter instrument in Bach’s Concerto for oboe d’amore in D, the husky tone of the oboe d’amore (pitched lower than the normal baroque oboe) revealing exactly why it was one of Bach’s favourite instruments. Continue reading

EUBO: Heaven’s Sweetness

Heaven’s Sweetness
European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) & Singers of Barock Vokal
Alfredo Bernardini, director & oboe
St John’s, Smith Sq. 27 January 2017

Bach 
Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D BWV 1069a (original version); 
Cantata: Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen BWV 123; 
Cantata: Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt BWV 151;
Cantata: Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut BWV 117.

Image may contain: 2 people, people on stage and indoorPart of the 2015 expansion of the European Union Baroque Orchestra’s activities has been the EUBO Mobile Baroque Academy (EMBA), a cooperative project aimed at finding new and creative ways of addressing the unequal provision of baroque music education and performance across the European Union. The touring orchestra (EUBO) still forms the core activity of the EMBA, reforming each year with a new intake of talented young period instrumentalists chosen from educational auditions held each spring. For more than 30 years EUBO has provided specialist training and experience, and has encouraged and supported many of the top period instrument specialists around today. One such is the distinguished oboist and director Alfredo Bernardini, a member of the very first EUBO in 1985 and the director of this EUBO tour.

The current EUBO incarnation represents 14 different EU countries. They have been performing together since last July, and last performed in London in November 2016 (reviewed here) with a programme based on Handel and his London contemporaries. For this concert they focussed on Bach, performing three of the cantatas that he wrote for Leipzig festivals along with one of his most complex Orchestral Suites, here performed in the rarely heard original version, lacking the trumpets and timpani of the later version. Continue reading

Bach Through Time

‘Cello Unwrapped’ – Bach Through Time
Christophe Coin, cello & piccolo cello

Kings Place. 11 January 2017

Domenico Gabrielli: Ricercar No. 3 in D
JS Bach: Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008
Dall’Abaco: Capriccio No. 8 in G; Capriccio No. 6 in E minor (collage)
Bernhard Romberg: Praeludium in C minor
Félix Battanchon: Pièce caractéristique (Enterrement de Carnaval c1850)
JS Bach: Cello Suite No. 6 in D, BWV 1012 (performed on cello piccolo)

Following on from last years’ Baroque Unwrapped series of concerts, the latest in the Kings Place ‘Unwrapped’ series is devoted to the cello (see here). Included within that series are threWP_20170111_21_41_56_Pro.jpge concerts under the title of Bach Through Time, the first of which featured Christophe Coin playing solo cello – or, in this case, two solo cellos with three different bows. He opened with one of the very first compositions for solo cello, the third of Domenico Gabrielli’s Ricercars, a lively piece in the trumpet key of D major which included many triad fanfare motifs. This Gabrielli (no relation) was part of the rich musical foundation of the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna and also worked for the d’Este family in Moderna. Continue reading

Bach: B Minor Mass

Bach: B Minor Mass
The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Stephen Layton
St John’s, Smith Square, 22 December 2016

The annual St John’s, Smith Square Christmas Festival is now in its 31st year, the last 20 of which have been curated by Stephen Layton, conductor of Polyphony, who traditionally give the final concert, and Director of Music at Trinity College Cambridge whose choir gives the penultimate concert of the series. This year’s penultimate concert was a re-run of last year’s, reviewed here. I will not repeat the comments I made about last year’s concert, so it is worth reading that review before this one.

This year the Trinity College choir was 46-strong, two up from last year, with 16 additional alumni singers bought in to reinforce the 30-strong current student choir. Several of the alumni singers have been making their way in the post-university musical world, with at least two receiving honorable mentions on this website. This year a mezzo-soprano was added to the line up, alongside the countertenor  Iestyn Davies. Mezzo Helen Charlston is one of the alumni I have already spotted as a singer of real promise and, although she only had a brief moment front stage (at the start, in the duet Christe), she again demonstrated a excellent voice.

Continue reading

Spitalfields Music: Solomon’s Knot

Spitalfields Music: Solomon’s Knot
Bach B minor Mass
Shoreditch Town Hall. 11 December 2016

The Spitalfields Music Winter Festival concluded in spectacular style with the welcome return of Solomon’s Knot, a group that had impressed previous Spitalfields audiences – and have also impressed me in the past with their innovative approach to music performance. Their full title is the Solomon’s Knot Baroque Collective, a name that sums up their approach. Founded in 2008, they perform with small forces, singing from memory, with no conductor and with a relaxed stage presence, helped by an informal dress code. For this Bach B minor Mass, they transfixed the audience with an extraordinarily powerful performance.

They used Joshua Rifkin’s edition of the piece, and his proposal that the work was intended to be sung as an ensemble piece for eight one to a part solo singers. The need for two extra singers for the concluding section led to Solomon’s Know using the 10 singers throughout to reinforce the choruses. The 20-strong orchestra, led by violinist James Toll, completed the well-balanced line-up of musicians. The fact that the singers do not use scores directly involves the audience in the music, as the singers eyes scan the audience and as they visibly respond to the music they are singing. Continue reading

Bach: transcriptions for Viola da Gamba

J S Bach: transcriptions for Viola da Gamba
Susanne Heinrich
dagamba100. 79’30

Partia 3 in E Major (D Major), BWV1006; Sonata 2 in a minor, BWV 1003; Partia 2 in d minor, BWV1004

Js Bach Transcriptions for Viola Da GambaAlthough this CD was released in 2012, it has only just emerged from an embarrassing pile of CDs, still in their wrappers, that I found in one of my rare tidy-ups. I have missed four years of listening to some outstanding playing from Susanne Heinrich. As her own very personal programme note explains, this is something of a labour of love. A youthful player of the violin, Susanne Heinrich attempted the Bach solo violin works, but never with much success. Her viola da gamba playing was already beginning to take over from the violin, and she lamented the fact that Bach left so little music for the viol. But the draw towards his solo violin works never left her, leading to a much later attempt to play them on the gamba – very far from an easy thing to do.

That led to a considerable amount of work in trying to work out how they could be played successfully on the gamba, raising questions as to Continue reading

London Bach Society’s Bachfest 2016

Bachfest 2016
London Bach Society 70th anniversary

St John’s, Smith Square & St George, Hanover Square. 4-8 November 2016

Image result for bachThe London Bach Society was founded 70 years ago by Dr Paul Steinitz under the rather unambitious title of the ‘South London Bach Society’, but soon lost the ‘South’ part of the name. 1946 might not seem to be the ideal time to concentrate on things musical (and, indeed, devoted to a German composer), but they were not alone: The Arts Council and BBC Third Programme were launched around then, as were a number of orchestras. From the start, the focus of the LBS was to ‘get back to Bach in its original form’ at a time when Bach performance was very far from what we could no consider as being in any way ‘authentic’ with enormous choirs and orchestras, and a funereal approach to tempo and romantic notions of instrumentation, phrasing and articulation. To this end, the Steinitz Bach Players was founded, in 1968, bringing together a small group of professional musicians interested in period performance techniques on period instruments.

Two years after Paul Steinitz’s death in 1988, his widow founded an annual Bach festival, initially known as the London Bach Festival, but now rebadged as the London Bach Society’s Bachfest. It celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. This year’s 70th anniversary Bachfest featured three concerts and an event for the Society’s 18-30 Bach Club. Continue reading

James Gilchrist Directs: Bach and Purcell

James Gilchrist Directs: Bach and Purcell
Academy of Ancient Music
James Gilchrist, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Rachel Brown
Milton Court, 19 October 2016

The Academy of Ancient Music’s 2016-17 London and Cambridge concert series features two occasions when guest directors are being invited to plan programmes and direct the orchestra. The first of these was with the tenor, James Gilchrist. Renowned as a Bach performer (most notably in the role of Evangelist in the Passions) Gilchrist has been a regular soloist with the AAM. After a musical grounding as a boy chorister at New College, Oxford and a choral scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge, Gilchrist helped to pay his way through the rest of his medical training by singing in professional choirs such as The Sixteen, Tallis scholars and Cardinall’s Musick. He moved from his earlier career as a doctor to become a full-time musician twenty years ago.

On this occasion, the word ‘curator’ rather than ‘director’ is more appropriate. Gilchrist selected the vocal works from Purcell and the two Bach cantatas, handing over to the AAM’s leader, violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk, to select Continue reading

Dynamisch: the ‘Wind Organ’

Dynamisch
Die Orgeln der Stadtkirche Biel
Pascale Van Coppenolle
Tulip Records. Ture 201521. 2CDs 75’03+ 64’24

CD1. ‘From Hexachord to Chromatiscism’: Scheidt, Byrd, Frescobaldi, Bull, Sweelinck, Bach, Liszt
CD2. ‘Wind organ’ improvisations: Whistle for a While (Hans Koch, bass clarinet), Clusterizing (organ solo), Zebra (Jonas Kocher, accordion), Fusion (Hannah E. Hänni, voice), Sprinkling (Luke Wilkins, violin).

The city of Biel (official known as Biel/Bienne) in the Swiss canton of Berne lies on the boundary of the German and French speaking areas of Switzerland, hence its bilingual name. Rather appropriately, its town church contains two organs which also speak in two (or more) languages, from ancient to (very) modern, as represented on this fascinating double CD.

The first CD is based on the use by composers of the Hexachord, the first six notes of the major scale, usually written as Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la. The first three pieces (Scheidt, Byrd, and Frescobaldi) are played on a modern (Metzler, 1994) version of the late Gothic organ of 1517 that briefly survived in the church until the Reformation authorities dismantled it just 10 years later. It has two manuals with pull-down pedals. The compass of the two manuals is the usual Gothic/Renaissance one of C-a” and F-a”, Continue reading

BBC Prom 60: Bach & Bruckner

BBC Prom 60: Bach & Bruckner
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, Philippe Jordan
Royal Albert Hall, 30 August 2016

Bach: Cantata No 82, Ich habe genug; Bruckner: Symphony No 9 in D minor

Such was the power and influence of the period instrument movement that, for several decades, mixed period concerts like just didn’t happen. As the mainstream modern instrument orchestras become more knowledgeable and confident in their ability to play the earlier repertoire, such concerts are less rare nowadays, but this was still a particularly bold pairing of Bach’s moving meditation on death Ich habe genug, with Bruckner’s rather grander final symphony, generally assumed to be his own contemplation on death.

Bruckner dedicated his 9th Symphony to ‘the dear Lord God’. It would appear that the Lord God wasn’t playing ball, as Bruckner died while still composing the massive work, leaving only sketches of the final, fourth, movement. God also seemed to be attending to other things after Bruckner’s death, as Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig Manuscript
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2015
Edition Breitkopf EB8808
184pp + CD

Editions of Bach’s organ works are something of a minefield, even when there are clear autograph scores available. In many cases that is not the case, so the role of the editor and the availability and accuracy of available sources becomes an important consideration. Of all the publishers to be involved in Bach, Breitkopf & Härtel are perhaps the most appropriate. Founded in Leipzig in 1719  four years before Bach took up his post there, they were the first to publish the complete works of Bach, between 1851 and 1900 for the Bach-Gesellschaft. Unfortunately, at the moment, I only have access to one volume of their latest complete Bach Organ Works, so cannot comment on the 10 volume set as a whole.

The chorales from the Leipzig Manuscript are known by a variety of names, one of which is the ‘Eighteen Chorales’. This is misleading, not least because there are arguably either 15, 17 or 18 chorales in the collection. The first 13 Continue reading

Leipzig Bachfest 2016

Leipzig Bachfest 2016
‘Secrets of Harmony’
June 10-19 2016

Under the title of ‘Secrets of Harmony’, this year’s Leipzig Bachfest featured 114 events and welcomed visitors from 35 countries. Alongside the mainstream concerts were b@ch for us! events for young people and BACHmosphere concerts in venues like the Markt and the grand Hauptbahnhof. For many years now I have been able to review the whole of the Leipzig Bachfest but unfortunately, this year, my time in Leipzig was limited to just a few days. So I missed most of the opening weekend and the final few days.

Sunday 12 June

My first event was the German-French Choir Academy, the Continue reading

Varietas: Jean-Christophe Dijoux

Varietas
Jean-Christophe Dijoux, harpsichord
Geniun GEN 16420. 81’31

Works by Handel, Buxtehude, Böhm, JS and CPE Bach, Mattheson, and Telemann

Jean-Christophe Dijoux was the winner of the harpsichord category of the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition, and this CD stems from that success.  Born in Réunion, Dijoux studied in Paris, Freiburg and Basel, spent a year touring with the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO), and won awards for continuo playing at the 2013 International Telemann Competition. Using two harpsichords (built by Matthias Kramer of Berlin after 1701 and 1754 originals) and four different temperaments, he explores music with a connection to Hamburg. Both instruments have 16’ stops, adding an impressive gravitas to the sound.

Improvisation is at the heart of music of this period, and very clearly also of Dijoux’s own playing style. That is evident from Continue reading

Bratwurst, Beer & Bach

Hampstead Baroque Festival: Bratwurst, Beer & Bach
L’Istante, Pawel Siwczak
Heath Street Baptist Church, Hampstead, 3 April 2016.

Bach: Orchestral Suite 1, Brandenburg Concerto 4, Concerto for violin and oboe, Cantata 42 ‘Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths’.

A number of churches are accepting the inevitable reduction in congregations and opening their buildings to wider community use. Heath Street Baptist Church, prominently positioned in the middle of Hampstead, is one such, reducing their services to Sunday mornings, but enabling a wide variety of activities during the rest of the week, including frequent lunchtime and evening concerts and, on this occasion, a complete weekend devoted to the ‘Hampstead Baroque Festival’. After four earlier events of English, Italian and French music, all accompanied by food, the weekend concluded with a Sunday evening concert devoted to ‘Bratwurst, Beer & Bach’, given by the newly-formed group L’Istante (not, incidentally, the only early music group to adopt that name *and now renamed as Isante) directed by harpsichordist/conductor Pawel Siwzak.

Their ambitious programme of Bach opened with a stirring account of Bach’s first Orchestral Suite, strong on rhythmic pulse and Continue reading

Bach: French Suites

Bach: French Suites
Julian Perkins, clavichord
Resonus RES10163. 58’11+67’26

Bach: French Suites BWV 812-817; Froberger: Partita 2 in d; Telemann: Suite in A.

The programme notes explain the rational for recording these pieces on clavichord rather than harpsichord, with a convincing argument based on the four-octave compass of the pieces and the didactic nature of their composition, in this case, for his recent (and second) wife Anna Magdalena. This is private, domestic music for home performance or teaching purposes, rather than the more elaborate pieces Bach wrote for public performance, using the larger compass of the harpsichord, for example the three non-organ parts of the Clavierübung. It is also the case that the clavichord was the principal home practice instrument for organists, because the arm to finger weight transfer required is similar for both instruments.

Julian Perkins’ playing is sensitive and musical. He makes excellent use of ornaments, both realised from the score and also added improvisational ornaments, Continue reading

Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich: organ recital

Ourania Gassiou, organ
Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. 13 March 2016

Music by CPE Bach, Böhm, Froberger, Fischer, Gottlieb Muffat, Sweelinck, JS Bach.

WP_20160313_19_33_10_Pro.jpgChrist’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich was consecrated 400 years ago, in 1616. The chapel and adjoining almshouses were the first of the charity foundations set up by the wealthy actor, Edward Alleyn, owner of the manor of Dulwich.  Shortly afterwards, the foundation’s status as a educational college was confirmed, leading to the present day Dulwich College.

At about the same WP_20160313_19_35_32_Pro.jpgtime the Chapel’s first organ was installed. In 1760 it was replaced by a new organ by George England which, despite the usual additions and alterations over the years, still survives with a considerable amount of mid- 18th century pipework and a fine Gothick case. In 2009 it was restored back to its 1760 state (with modest additions) by the UK’s leading specialist on historic organs, William Drake. The original pitch (A430) and modified fifth-comma meantone temperament was restored.  It is now one of the most important historic instruments in the UK.

The Chapel arranges a regular monthly series of 45 minute Sunday evening organ recitals, the latest of which was given by the prizewinning Greek organist, Ourania Gassiou, Continue reading