Handel in Italy

Handel in Italy
Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh, Gillian Webster
St John’s, Smith Square. 28 March 2017

Corelli: Concerto Grosso in D Op. 6 No. 4; Handel: Donna che in ciel HWV233; Dixit Dominus HWV232

Although, in true British fashion, George Frederic Handel is usually claimed as the quintessential English composer, some of his most exciting music was composed during the four years he spent in Italy (1706-10). Early training seemed to set Handel on course to be an organist and church musician, to the extent that he travelled to Lübeck in 1703 with a view to succeeding the great Buxtehude at the Marienkirche. But three years in Hamburg’s opera world (1703-6) changed that ambition, and resulted in an invitation by a Medici to come to Italy. He was already well-versed in the Italian music through his early training with Zachow in Halle, but his ability to immediately absorb national styles quickly became apparent, as it later did on his arrival in London in 1710. Continue reading

Die höfische Blockflöte

Die höfische Blockflöte
Astrid Andersson, blockflöten
Cornetto-Verlag COR 10040. 71’44

Corelli: Sonata Nr. 9; Fontana: Sonata Seconda; Hotteterre: Suite Op 4/2; Telemann: Fantasie Nr. 7, Sonata d-moll; Schop: Lachrime Pavaen; Eyck: Prins Robberts Masco aus “Der Fluyten Lusthof”; Dieupart: Suite Nr. 2 from “Six Suittes de Clavessin”.

Astrid Andersson - Die höfische Blockflöte, CDUsing modern copies of seven different types of historic recorder (blockflöte), Die höfische Blockflöte (The Royal Recorder) explores the link between musical instrument making and the various royal courts of Europe. The recorders range from two different versions of the two mid-17th century Rosenborg soprano recorders, one made in maple, the other (at higher pitch) in the original material, narwhale tusk, both made by Fred Morgan. The originals are to be found amongst the Crown Jewels in the Royal Collection in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen. It can bee heard in Jacob Van Eyck’s Prins Robberts Masco. Continue reading

Spitalfields Music: B’Rock & Julia Doyle

Spitalfields Music: B’Rock
Rodolfo Richter director/violin, Julia Doyle soprano
Christ Church Spitalfields. 11 December 2015

WP_20151211_18_39_34_Pro.jpgCorelli: Concertos grosso Op6/4 and Op6/8 ‘Christmas Concerto’; Handel: Gloria; Arvo Pärt arr Frank Agsteribbe: Fratres; A Scarlatti: Cantata ‘O di Betlemme altera’

Making a spectacular Spitalfields Festival debut, the Belgian group B’Rock gave one of the finest concerts I have heard in a while. It is easy for reviewers to overdo superlatives or, indeed, to run out of new ones to use; and I am always wary of writers whose every concert seems to be the ‘best they have heard’. But this really was something special.

The opening chords of Corelli’s Concerto grosso in D (Op6/4) demonstrated B’Rock’s ability to create enormous contrast out of a sparse musical text, in this case of just nine chords. Under the inspired direction of violinist Rudolfo Richter, they Continue reading

Inspired by Italy: European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO)

Inspired by Italy: European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO)
Lars Ulrik Mortensen, director, Zefira Valova, concertmaster
St John’s, Smith Square, 22 October 2015

Handel: Ouverture to Alessandro HWV21, Sonata in G HWV399, Concerto Grosso in F Op. 3 No. 4; Vivaldi: String Sinfonias in D RV124 & G minor RV157; Albinoni: Concerto for 2 oboes in F Op. 9 No. 3; Corelli: Concerto Grosso in D Op. 6 No. 4.

The European Union Baroque Orchestra was formed in 1985, and has recently successfully negotiated its way through a difficult period of financial uncertainty. It celebrated its renewed, if short term security with the first short series of concerts for the newly formed orchestra of young musicians. They are selected anew each year through combined educational and selection courses and then usually meet five or six times a year to rehearse and then tour a new programme. One of the key features of EUBO is giving the musicians the chance to experience life as a touring orchestral musician, evidenced on this occasion by Continue reading

‘Bewitched’

Bewitched
Les Passions de l’Ame, Robin Johannsen, Meret Lüthi.
Deutsche harmonia mundi / Sony Music 88843040882.  60’06.
Corelli La Follia; Geminiani ‘The Enchanted Forest’; Handel Armida abbandonata.

Bewitched
I praised the début CD (‘Spicy’, Deutsche harmonia mundi  88883748742) from the Swiss violinist Meret Lüthi and her Bern-based period-instrument orchestra, Les Passions de l’Ame in my review in Early Music Review (February 2014).  I am equally impressed with their second CD.  As with ‘Spicy’ they have produced an imaginative programme, in this case combining two pieces linked to the story of the crusader Rinaldo and his doomed love affair with the sorceress Armida, as told by Torquato Tasso in his La Gerusalemme Liberata.  After the opening salvo of Corelli’s La Follia variations, intended to represent the wildly contrasted emotions of Armida, we hear the first part of Francesco Geminiani’s orchestral suite ‘The Enchanted Forest’ (La Foresta Incantata), incidental music written for a 1754 pantomime ballet in the Grand Théâtre du Palais de Tuileries in Paris based on Tasso’s story. We do not know how the music would have been performed in the original production, as all that survives is this two-part suite, a collection of dance-like pieces of varying length and mood.

After the first part of the Enchanted Forest (in d minor), we hear Handel’s c1708 take on the story, the dramatic secular cantata Armida abbandonata (Dietro l’orme fugaci, HWV 105) for solo soprano, sung by the American soprano Robin Johannsen. I was impressed by Robin Johannsen when I first heard her in Hasse’s Romolo ed Ersilia at the 2011 Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik. Her singing is beautifully clear and focused, with a sensitively honed vocal timbre and an effective use of ornaments and da capo elaborations and the occasional use of a very gentle vibrato to colour the notes. She captures the contrasting moods of Handel’s exquisite cantata to perfection.  The opening accompagnato is interesting for having the continuo accompaniment provided by the solo violin alone, played by the director of Les Passions de l’Ame, Meret Lüthi.

We then return to the D major second part of The Enchanted Forest, the sensuous and subdued opening very effectively continuing the desolate mood of the Siciliana at the end of Armida abbandonat, before the full orchestra, with trumpet and horns blazing, takes overThe central part of the second half is a dramatic multi-section piece that could be a mini-opera in its own right. The playing of the 19 musicians of Les Passions de l’Ame is excellent, and is combined with sensitive continuo accompaniment to the Handel.  Merit Lüthi directs from the violin with an impressively light touch, bringing out both the Italian and French influences in Geminiani’s music.  At the time, Charles Burney thought he was too French, and the French thought he was too Italian! Today we appreciate the benefits of both musical styles.

You can hear extracts on the Les Passions de l’Ame website at http://lespassions.ch/cms/en/discography

[https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2015/03/24/bewitched-robin-johannsen-les-passions-de-lame-meret-luthi/]