Hanover Band: Beethoven 9

Beethoven Ninth Symphony
Beethoven 250: online festival of Beethoven Symphonies and Chamber Music
The Hanover Band, Sir Mark Elder
Recorded at London’s Mansion House
First broadcast 16 December 2020 

The conclusion of The Hanover Band’s Beethoven 250 project (previously reviewed here) came with the release of the Ninth Symphony on 16 December (the assumed date of Beethoven’s birth). Unlike the previous eight symphonies, which were recorded in Stationers’ Hall, this recording with its much larger orchestra took place in the curiously named Egyptian Hall of London’s Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. All nine symphonies were recorded one after the other during August, with the Hanover Band’s associate director Benjamin Bayl as conductor for the previous 8 symphonies. He was prevented by Covid-19 regulations from travelling to the recording sessions for the Ninth Symphony, Sir Mark Elder stepped in to conduct. The recordings from the whole project can be accessed here, and Beethoven’s Ninth on the Hanover Band website here or on their YouTube channel, with programme notes, here.

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Handel at Vauxhall: Vol 1

Handel at Vauxhall: Vol 1
London Early Opera
Bridget Cunningham, Daniel Moult, Kirsty Hopkins, Sophie Bevan
Signum SIGCD428. 48’18

Preceding the two recordings of Handel in Italy (reviewed here), London Early Opera explored the music of Handel (and his contemporaries Thomas Arne and John Hebden) as it might have been performed at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Pleasure Gardens like Vauxhall were a focus for musical, and other entertainments in 17th and 18th century London. This fascinating programme (but very short, at just over 48 minutes) is based on a conjectural reconstruction of part of a typical evening at Vauxhall in the early 1740s, and includes a wide variety of music including orchestral, organ and vocal music.  Continue reading

Handel in Italy: Vols 1 & 2

Handel in Italy: Vols 1 & 2
London Early Opera, Bridget Cunningham
Benjamin, Mary & Sophie Bevan
Signum Classics
SIGCD423. 43’00.
SIGCD462. 55’12. 

Some of Handel’s most exciting and dramatic music was composed during the three short years he spent in Italy, starting when he was just 21. Despite offers of financial assistance from a Medici Prince, Handel famously ‘made his way on his own bottom’, as his biographer Mainwearing put it. Mainwearing suggests that prior to his visit, Handel ‘could see nothing’ in Italian music which, if it is true, is rather surprising, as Italian music had been at the forefront of much of the European Baroque, not least because of the developments in opera, oratorio and cantata. Handel very quickly absorbed the taste and style of Italian musicians both from Rome and also from his shorter visits to Venice, Florence and Naples. In his compositions from this period, he often outdid the Italians in writing in their style – as he did in England later in his life.

These two CDs (recorded together in 2013)  give a comprehensive account of the compositions for solo voice from that period. Interestingly, the three singers are all from the same extended Bevan family who, collectively and individually, have become prominent fixtures on the vocal scene. Continue reading

Early Opera Company: Silete venti

Silete venti
Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn, Sophie Bevan
St John’s, Smith Square. 18 March 2016

Handel: Concerto Grosso Op6/10, Silete Venti; Wassenaer: Concerto 5 from Concerti Armonici; Biber: Battalia a 10; Muffat: Concerto 5 from Armonico Tributo

Christian Curnyn, biographyThe players of the Early Opera Company, directed by Christian Curnyn, stepped out of their more usual orchestra pit for an almost instrumental evening of music making at St John’s, Smith Square, with music generally representing the Concerto Grosso format.

Their final work was one of the first examples, albeit billed under the more innocent name of Sonata, with the fifth sonata from Georg Muffat’s Armonico Tributo. These pieces were rehearsed in Corelli’s house during Muffat’s trip to Rome, and were clearly influenced by Corelli’s music and the Italian style. Muffat later spent time with Lully in Paris, and developed a skill in writing music in the French style, before combining the two. But even before then, in this early Italian work, he concludes with a very French Passagaglia, with its distinctive repeated phrases and the use of the opening passage as a refrain, with its lovely little violin motif of rising triplets. In the opening Allemanda we hear a foretaste (or should I say, forehear) of a similar swirling violin motif. With frequent passages for a trio of two violins and cello, set against the full orchestra, this was a Concerto Grosso in all but name. Continue reading