St. Anne’s International Bach Festival

Music-at-Hill Golden Jubilee
24th St. Anne’s International Bach Festival

St. Mary-at-Hill, Lovat Lane, City of London
19 & 26 July 2019

The Music-at-Hill Concert Society was founded 50 years ago as the St Anne’s Music Society based in the church of St Anne & Agnes Church in Gresham Street, then the home of London’s Lutheran congregation. The church and the music society moved to St Mary-at-Hill in 2013. Music-at-Hill arranges weekly Friday lunchtime concerts, often of early music. During the four weeks in July leading up to the date of Bach’s death, they present the annual St. Anne’s International Bach Festival now in its 24th year, run in conjunction with its partner organisation, the City Bach Collective, who run regular Bach Cantatas for the St Anne’s Lutheran congregation in St Mary-at-Hill. The final two Fridays of the four-week festival featured two lunchtime recitals and a Gala Bach Concerto Finale from the City Bach Collective.

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Forgotten Vienna 2: Amadè Players

Forgotten Vienna 2: Amadè Players
St John’s, Smith Square. 1 July 2015

Carl Ordonez Sinfonia in C; CPE Bach Cello Concerto in g; Georg Mathias Monn Cello Concerto in G Minor; Alessandro Rolla Violin Concerto in G BI 520
Poppy Walshaw, cello, George Clifford, violin, Nicholas Newland, director.

WP_20150429_19_09_23_ProThe Amadé Players returned to St John’s, Smith Square for the second in their Forgotten Vienna series. The title is a bit misleading – it is not Vienna that has been forgotten, but the wealth of composers from central and eastern European lands that flocked there in the 18th century. On this occasion the composers represent Moravia, Germany, Vienna itself, and Italy.

As with their last concert, names were an issue – the first composer (from Moravia), was listed as Carl Ordonez, but is also known as Karl von Ordoñez, Carlo or Carl d’Ordonetz, Ordonnetz, d’Ordóñez, d’Ordonez and Ordoniz. Such was social life in 18th century Vienna that his ranking in the lower nobility prevented him from working as a musician, instead having a career in the civil service. His rather conservative Sinfonia in C (Brown C1), with its delightfully delicate opening Adagio, demonstrated a tentative move from the Baroque to the Classical era. There followed the first of two cello concertos, played by Poppy Walshaw. The conductor, Nicholas Newland, explained that the addition of a second concerto was to replace the originally advertised Waňhal’s Concerto for 2 Bassoons, omitted because of the lack of the requisite number of bassoons.

The first cello concerto to be played was the more advanced in style of the two. CPE Bach’s Concerto in a opening in typical Empfindsamer Stil with an orchestral unison, immediately challenged by contrary-motion scales and a yearning melody for the solo cello followed by a motif built on rapidly repeated notes – a typical CPE Bach mix of colours and textures.  The first movement ended with the first of Poppy Walshaw’s excellent cadenzas, all kept well within the bounds and style of the piece. In the slow movement, the sound of the solo cello was allowed to grow delicately out of the orchestral texture. The skittish final movement saw the cello finally break free from its former collaborative role with a virtuoso series of flourishes.

The second cello concerto, after the interval, was the little known Concerto in g by Georg Matthias Monn (aka. Johann Georg Mann). In the pre-classical Galant style, his slightly formulaic compositional style was balanced by some very tricky passages for the solo cellist, with wide-spaced melodic lines and leaps using the whole gamut of the cello. Poppy Walshaw dealt with all these challenges with apparent ease, relishing the technical complexities and flourishes. Her playing in both these concertos (a big ask for any soloist) demonstrated a natural and sensitive understanding of the music, and the importance of working with the orchestra, rather than challenging it. The stifling heat of the hottest July day since records began no doubt added to the intonation woes of the violins, but a tuning pause after the first movement might have helped.

PictureThe evening ended with the Violin Concerto in G (B1:520) by Allessandro Rolla, an Italian composer better known today as the teacher or Paganini than for his own compositions. Clearly in a later genre that the other works on the programme, this was very obviously a work written by a violin virtuoso to demonstrate his own skills. In contrast to the earlier composers, the solo moments were accompanied by the full orchestra, rather than a Baroque-style continuo group. As with Poppy Walshaw earlier, George Clifford produced a superb extended cadenza towards the end of the first movement, building on the advanced techniques already demonstrated. Switching between arco and pizzicato (and on one occasion, both at the same time) and taking the melodic line well towards the top of the violin fingerboard, Rolla would have approved.