The Grand Tour: Naples

The Grand Tour: Naples
La Serenissima, Tabea Debus, Vladimir Waltham, Adrian Chandler
St John’s, Smith Square. 18 January 2017

Music by: A Scarlatti, Durante, Porpora, Sarro, Leo

The penultimate concert in La Serenissima’s current series of ‘Grand Tour’ concerts at St John’s, Smith Square focussed on the music of Naples. A complex history of multiple occupations from the founding Greeks through to the 16th century Spanish (with brief Austrian and French incursions in the early 18th century) made it one of the most cosmopolitan (and the second largest) of all European cities in the later 17th and early 18th centuries. As such, it attracted artists and musicians of extraordinary ability.

Alessandro Scarlatti (pictured) was one of the founders of the Naples opera scene. He first moved there in 1684, aged around 24, as Maestro di Cappella to the Spanish Viceroy, and spent much of his following life there. All the other composers in La Serenissima’s concert were influenced by him. He left little instrumental music alongside his operas, but one such was the Sinfonia di Concerto Grosso II in D (for recorder, trumpet, strings & continuo) that opened this concert. It can be a surprise to those not used to period instruments to realise that the trumpet and recorder can be combined as fellow solo instruments, as Bach demonstrated so well. Scarlatti was less adventurous in his combining of these instruments in this concerto, with the two instruments generally kept apart, and the two melodic Adagio movements only using the recorder. Continue reading

The Grand Tour: Bologna & Verona

The Grand Tour: Bologna & Verona
La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler
St John’s, Smith Square. 9 November 2016

Music by Torelli, Bononcini, Brescianello, and Dall’Abaco

La Serenissima have set out on a musical version of the 18th century Grand Tour of Italy, with a series of 6 concerts at St John’s, Smith Square. The started their tour with a concert in September devoted to music from Venice, their usual musical home, and for this concert travelled on to Verona and Bologna. The concert was in two distinct parts, starting with music performed in the enormous Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, at the time the largest church in Christendom. Well before the completion of the Basilica, a musical foundation had been established (in 1436), and in 1476 a magnificent organ was built on one side of the choir. This was enlarged, and a corresponding organ added to the gallery on the other side of the choir, in 1596. Both organs survive to this day, in more-or-less original condition, and are amongst the most important surviving historic organs in the world.

In San Petronio, music was performed from the organ galleries, using the music desks built into the gallery frontage, and using the large organs as accompaniment to the singers and instrumentalists. Music was therefore Continue reading

Burney’s Journeys: The Grand Tour

Burney’s Journeys: The Grand Tour
The English Concert, Mark Padmore
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 6 December 2015

The English Concert was reduced to one of its smallest formations with just four instrumentalists plus tenor Mark Padmore for their Wanamaker Playhouse concert, based on Charles Burney’s writings on music. In 1770 and 1772, Burney (painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds) travelled throughout Europe to collect information for his planned ‘General History of Music’, meeting many composers and performers in the process, and learning about the earlier pioneers of the music of Burney’s own day. Mark Padmore read extracts from Burney’s writings, as well as singing examples of the music that he experienced, starting on his home turf with music from Dowland and Purcell. Dowland’s ‘Come again, sweet love’ and ‘In Darknesse let me dwell’ were separated by an exquisite performance of Dowlands Lachrimae Pavan, by William Carter, lute. Continue reading