The Goldberg Variations is one of the most complex of all Bach’s keyboard works to understand and perform, so it is a brave move for anybody to make it their debut recording. However, Nathaniel Mander does have at least one distinguished predecessor in Glen Gould’s 1955 debut recording. It was published in 1741 under the (publisher’s) title of Clavierubung IV, following the earlier ClavierubungI, II, and III. The title implies that it is ‘Keyboard practice’, but it certainly is far more than that. Bach (who called it Aria with diverse variations for a harpsichord with two manuals) notes that it was “composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits”, which gives a far more appropriate impression of its status. The legend that Bach wrote the variations for Johann Gottlieb Goldberg is almost certainly not true, not least because Goldberg was just 13 at the time. But he was clearly a gifted player, and was a student of Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedemann in Dresden, and also took lessons with J.S. Bach in Leipzig.
Bristol Early Music Festival Online from 7-9 May 2021
The Bristol Early Music Festival was founded in 2018, and ran its first festival the following year. Covid led to the cancellation of the 2020 festival, and this year’s weekend festival is based on videos, most commissioned by the Festival, with live Zoom question & answer sessions after most of the videos. The festival videos and further information on each event are available here. They can be accessed until May 14th, but the Q&A Zooms were only available live. The videos are free to watch, but donations are very welcome through this link. Because of the nature of the event, and the ready availability of the events, I will not attempt a critical review, but rather just make readers aware of this interesting event.
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.
Directed by Handel Music from Handel’s London Theatre Orchestra
Olwen Foulkes, recorder
Barn Cottage Recordings, bcr019. 64’04
The decline of the recorder as a serious classical music instrument has long been predicted, for reasons that are quite beyond me. As an example, some years ago I was shocked to hear somebody involved with a well-known young artists competition in the north of the UK comment that a recorder player or consort would never win first prize. But evidence shows that recorder music and players are going from strength to strength, not least with through an impressive cohort of young performers making their way onto the professional circuit. One such is Olwen Foulkes a recent prize-winning graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music where she obtained a Distinction and DipRAM award for her MMus degree. I first heard and reviewed her at the 2016 Royal Academy of Music’s early music prize competition, where she was part of the prizewinning group, of two recorder players plus cello and harpsichord continuo. This is her debut recording. Continue reading →