Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht

Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht / Brahms: Andante from Sextet Op18/1
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: Night Shift
Baroquestock Summer BBQ weekend special
Heath St Baptist Church, Hampstead. 17 August 2017

This turned out to be a Tale of Two Churches. On my way to Hampstead for the first event of the Baroquestock Summer BBQ weekend at Heath Street Baptist Church in Hamstead, I stopped off at the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn, known for many years as the Musicians’ Church, and an important venue for rehearsals and concerts for many musicians and choir. There I joined a flashmob drawing attention to the recent decision by the church (now run as a ‘plant’ of the evangelical Holy Trinity Brompton) to stop all rehearsal and concert bookings – an extraordinary decision that has caused a justifiable uproar.

IMG_20170817_194155010_HDR.jpgIn sharp contrast to the situation in, of all places, the Musicians’ Church, Heath Street Baptist Church in Hamstead is one of many London churches that have actively embraced music and musicians, running a regular series of lunchtime concerts as well as occasional musical festivals, the latter recently under the title of Baroquestock in food-related weekend festivals. Their latest Baroquestock weekend includes concerts by Spiritato and Istante Classical, the latter including Haydn’s La Poule Symphony to the accompaniment of BBQ chicken. Their opening event was a performance of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, to the culinary accompaniment of, you’ve guessed – Schoenbergers!  Continue reading

Spiritato! Guts and Glory

Guts and Glory
Spiritato!
St John’s Smith Square. 15 April 2016

The young period instrument group Spiritato! is one of the most exciting arrivals on the UK early music scene. Their most recent and most ambitious project is Guts and Glory, exploring the relatively little-known repertoire of military and art music for natural trumpets, which they contrasted with more reflective (or, at least, quieter) works by the same composers for strings and continuo. A key feature of this Spritiato 2_crop.jpgperformance was that the trumpets were not only valveless, but also had no finger holes to assist in the tuning of notes.  These finger holes (or ‘venting’ or ‘nodal’ holes) are in any case a relatively recent innovation, and may not have been used in early natural trumpets, at least not for the purpose to which they are now used; to make the tuning of the higher harmonic notes easier. Indeed, it seems that the original holes found in some instruments were actually place at the anti-node, rather than the node, and were therefore intended to silence the tricky notes altogether, rather than to try to bring them into tune.

Not surprisingly, it was the distinctive tuning that results from valveless trumpets was a major feature of the evening. When played in their lower Continue reading

Zelenka: the Bohemian Bach

Zelenka: the Bohemian Bach
Spiritato & Barts Chamber Choir
St John’s, Smith Square. 20 October 2015

Zelenka: Il Serpente di Bronzo, Il Diamante, Missa dei Filii, Trio Sonata 3 in Bb, Trumpet Fanfares; Bach?: Cantata Nun ist da Heil und die Kraft.

Zelenka (1679-1745) is one of those composers that people might just have heard of, but few will be familiar with music of his music. For those in rather select audience at St John’s, Smith Sq, this was a chance to remedy the latter situation in a programme more-or-less devoted to Zelenka’s music. Born close to Prague he moved to Dresden around 1710 as a violone player in the Hofkapelle. After a period travelling in Italy and studying in Vienna, he returned to Dresden where he became more involved in composing for the Court Church(left), which had taken on a new significance after the closure of the city opera house in 1720. His career path didn’t go quite to plan. Having been temporary Kapellmeister for a short period of time, he was pipped to the post of Senior Kapellmeister by JA Hasse in 1733. He was then appointed as a church composer. A few years later JS Bach, who knew and admired Zelnka’s compositions, was appointed as an (honorary) Royal Court Composer as a result of his well-known petition accompanying his 1733 ‘Dresden Mass’ – the Kyrie and Gloria of what later part of the Mass in B minor (See PS below). On his death, his compositions were purchased by the Saxon Court as valuable objects rather than performing scores, and remained hidden away in their archives until the 1950s.

The key piece of the evening was the concluding Missa dei Filii, one of the so-called “Missae ultimae” composed during the last years of his life. A substantial Continue reading

Purcell & Charpentier: Te Deum

Schola Cantorum of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
Spiritato!  Iestyn Davies
St John’s, Smith Square. 29 April 2015

Purcell: Suite from Abdelazer, Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei, Te Deum and Jubilate in D. Rameau: Suite from Les Indes Galantes, Charpentier: Te Deum

I wouldn’t normally review a concert given by a boys’ school choir, but the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School is well-known for their music education and performances.  The Schola Cantorum supports the liturgy of the school services, but is better known as one of the few school choirs that are regularly called upon for professional engagements. These have ranged from the Harry Potter films to a recent live broadcast on BBC Radio 3 of James MacMillan’s complex St Luke Passion. Individual boy singers are also often to be heard at Covent Garden and the Coliseum.

Continue reading