Da Camera & Carolyn Sampson

Telemann, Bach, & Scarlatti
Da Camera with Carolyn Sampson
Kings Place. 20 September 2017

I reviewed Da Camera’s very first concert, in March 1999 at Hampstead’s Burgh House, noting that “Emma Murphy is a superb recorder player … she combines outstanding virtuosity with musical intelligence and sensitivity”, and that harpsichordist Steven Devine was (amongst other things) “clearly blessed with enviable technical skills”. In 2001, I commented on their “well-balanced programme, a friendly and informal stage manner, fine musicianship and superb playing” – a comment that they quoted in the programme for this Kings Place concert. In a later review, I praised Susanna Pell for producing a “wide range of tones and textures from her gamba, both in accompanying and in solo pieces”. Since those early days, they have each developed their own independent careers (and, indeed, families), but have now returned to the musical fray with a series of concerts and a new Telemann CD. Continue reading

Itinéraire Baroque: A Telemann year

Itinéraire Baroque en Périgord Vert
‘A Telemann Year’

27-30 July 2017

IMG_20170731_122006589.jpgThe annual Itinéraire Baroque en Périgord Vert festival is based in the communes of Ribérac and Verteillac in the northern part of the Dordogne region of south-western France. It was founded by Robert Nicolas Huet and Ton Koopman, the former a local resident and now President and Director of the organising committee, the latter the Artistic Director and an occasional import from The Netherlands, together with his musical friends and family. The festival was initially the one-day event that still gives the now festival its name – the Itineraire Baroque, a musical tour of some of the extraordinary Romanesque churches of the region. But it has now expanded to fill four days over the last weekend in July with a wide range of concerts of Baroque music.

The focus for this year’s festival (the 16th) was Georg Philip Telemann (on the 250th anniversary of his death), a composer now usually overlooked by Bach and Handel (both of whom he knew personally), but who in his time was held in equally high esteem. A self-taught musician, he started to study law in Leipzig, but quickly moved into the city’s musical world. After short spells in princely courts, he moved to Frankfurt and eventually Hamburg where he directed the music in all the city churches. He was the first choice for the Leipzig post that Bach, the third choice, eventually accepted in 1723. He left an enormous amount of music, demonstrating his musical talent and ability to absorb national styles into his own music, notably from France and Poland. Continue reading

Telemann: Concerti for Wind Instruments

Telemann: Concerti for Wind Instruments
il Gardellino
Etcetera KTC 4004.

Telemann: Concerto in e, TWV 52 e:1; Concerto in a 6, TWV 52 e:3; Concerto in a, TWV 52 a:1; Concerto in D, TWV 51 f:1; Septet in Bes, TWV 44:43.

Recorded in 2003, this is presumably a reissue, although I couldn’t anything to confirm that. It is not listed on il Gardellino’s website. Matthessohn seems to have been one of the first to wonder how Telemann managed to compose so much music. This, and the dominance of Bach in the revival of German baroque music, has always been a bit of a problem. The opening Concerto in this CD helps by including several moments that many listeners might recognise. Matthessohn also commented that “Telemann alone is beyond all praise and lauds”, and this CD demonstrates the exceptional quality of his music. Both technically and musically, his compositional skill is self evidence, as is the breadth of his creative imagination. Continue reading

Richard Boothby: ‘New discoveries for an ancient instrument’

‘New discoveries for an ancient instrument’
Richard Boothby, viola da gamba
Garrick’s Temple, Hampton on Thames,
Loki Music, 23 September 2016

WP_20160923_21_35_11_Pro.jpgOne of the most delightful of London’s music venues is Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, by the Thames just upstream from Hampton Court Palace. Built in 1758 by the actor/manager David Garrick as part of his riverside estate, this tiny octagonal room is host to a number of cultural events, including regular summer music concerts run by Loki Music. The last of this season’s Loki concerts was given by the distinguished viola da gamba player, Richard Boothby, founder of Fretwork and the Purcell Quartet.

The first half was particularly interesting, with five of the recently discovered Fantasias for solo viola da gamba by Telemann (TWV 40:26-37). Continue reading

Die höfische Blockflöte

Die höfische Blockflöte
Astrid Andersson, blockflöten
Cornetto-Verlag COR 10040. 71’44

Corelli: Sonata Nr. 9; Fontana: Sonata Seconda; Hotteterre: Suite Op 4/2; Telemann: Fantasie Nr. 7, Sonata d-moll; Schop: Lachrime Pavaen; Eyck: Prins Robberts Masco aus “Der Fluyten Lusthof”; Dieupart: Suite Nr. 2 from “Six Suittes de Clavessin”.

Astrid Andersson - Die höfische Blockflöte, CDUsing modern copies of seven different types of historic recorder (blockflöte), Die höfische Blockflöte (The Royal Recorder) explores the link between musical instrument making and the various royal courts of Europe. The recorders range from two different versions of the two mid-17th century Rosenborg soprano recorders, one made in maple, the other (at higher pitch) in the original material, narwhale tusk, both made by Fred Morgan. The originals are to be found amongst the Crown Jewels in the Royal Collection in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen. It can bee heard in Jacob Van Eyck’s Prins Robberts Masco. Continue reading

Varietas: Jean-Christophe Dijoux

Varietas
Jean-Christophe Dijoux, harpsichord
Geniun GEN 16420. 81’31

Works by Handel, Buxtehude, Böhm, JS and CPE Bach, Mattheson, and Telemann

Jean-Christophe Dijoux was the winner of the harpsichord category of the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition, and this CD stems from that success.  Born in Réunion, Dijoux studied in Paris, Freiburg and Basel, spent a year touring with the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO), and won awards for continuo playing at the 2013 International Telemann Competition. Using two harpsichords (built by Matthias Kramer of Berlin after 1701 and 1754 originals) and four different temperaments, he explores music with a connection to Hamburg. Both instruments have 16’ stops, adding an impressive gravitas to the sound.

Improvisation is at the heart of music of this period, and very clearly also of Dijoux’s own playing style. That is evident from Continue reading

Telemann: Suites and concertos for recorder

Telemann: Suites and concertos for recorder
Erik Bosgraaf, Ensemble Cordevento
Brilliant Classics 95248. 75’46

Suite in E-flat, TWV 55:Es2; Suite in A minor, TWV 55:a2;
Concerto in F, TWV 51:F1; Concerto in C, TWV 51:C1.

Telemann: Complete Suites and Concertos for RecorderTelemann taught himself to play the recorder, violin and zither before the age of 10, and continued to practice the recorder well into his teens – something very few youngsters do today. He seems to have retained a love for the recorder, judging by the number of pieces he wrote for it, including these Suites and Concertos. Incidentally, the two Suites are both titled Ouverture in their manuscripts, and are examples of Telemann’s so-called concert en ouverture style of composition, which combines elements of the traditional suite with the overture. Apart from the E-flat suite (which is intended for the flute pastorelle, which perhaps means the panpipes), all the music is from the same manuscript surviving in the Hesse Court library in Darmstadt, suggesting that they were composed for Michael Böhm, Telemann’s brother-in-law and a virtuoso woodwind player. They are all written for alto recorder.

Both types of piece reflect Telemann’s cross-cultural inspiration, taking bits of French and Italian style with a dollop of the inevitable Polish influence. Continue reading

Conversations avec Dieu

Conversations avec Dieu
Le Concert Étranger. Itay Jedlin
Ambronay AMY045. 77’17

Motets and Cantatas by Hammerschmidt, Scheidt, Telemann and Bruhns. Organ pieces by Scheidemann and Scheidt. Instrumental pieces by Monteverdi, Hammerschmidt and Rosenm:uller.

One of the musical traditions of German Lutheran church music was the sacred cantata or motet addressed directly to God, often in a conversational style, with a response to the plea coming either from God or, more frequently, from Jesus or other believers. This CD explores several examples of this genre, with a focus on the composer Andreas Hammerschmidt, given an overdue bit of exposure.  Although he was well known in his day, and composed more than 400 works, his music is not often performed today. It is in a relatively simple style, in comparison with his contemporaries, and shows the gradual development of a true German Baroque style, built on the influence of Italian models. Five of his vocal works are included here, together with an instrumental Pavane. Continue reading

OAE @ 30 – Bostridge sings Handel

OAE @ 30 – Bostridge sings Handel
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Ian Bostridge, Steven Devine
St John’s, Smith Sq. 14 October 2015

Telemann: Overture/Suite in F; Ich weiss, dass mein Erlöser lebt;  So stehet ein Berg Gottes from Der Tod Jesu;
Handel: Concerto grosso in D minor Op. 3 No. 5; Scherza infida from Ariodante; Love sounds th’ alarm from Acis and Galatea; Silete venti; Water Music Suite No. 1

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are so much a part of musical life that it is hard to realise that they are just 30 years. Founded some years after (and in direct response to) the raft of director-controlled period instrument groups, so influential in those early days, they reacted against the control of individual conductors by setting up their own self-managed orchestra, employing their own conductors as and when required, but often directing themselves. Seemingly able to bring together a disparate group of highly individual and highly qualified musicians, each with their own views (and without, it seems, too much blood letting), they set a precedence for the musical world.

Early involvement with a youthful Simon Rattle probably taught him as much as he taught them, and they soon attracted conductors of the calibre of Ivan Fischer, Roger Norrington, Mark Elder and, more recently, Vladimir Jurowski, all now honoured as Principal Artists. The distinguished Bach scholar and conductor John Butt has just joined that impressive list. They often perform without a conductor, producing excellent results through the encouragement and support of one their own. They opened their 30th birthday season in such a fashion when Steven Devine, one of their principal keyboard players and an increasingly distinguished conductor in his own right, took over the conducting reigns (from the harpsichord) for a programme of Telemann and Handel with tenor Ian Bostridge. Continue reading

The Saxon Alternative – Telemann: Music for Wind Band

The Saxon Alternative – Telemann: Music for Wind Band
Syrinx
Resonus Classics RES10154. 62’04

Overtures TWV 44:7, 55:c3; 44:2; 55:B3; 44:14

The sound of the Baroque wind band was (and still is) more often heard on the continent than in the UK, so this CD from Syrinx is a refreshing reminder of just how attractive baroque wind instruments can be.  It would be interesting to research the extent to which the weather was an explanation for this, as the wind band was often used in Germany for outside entertainment, always rather risky in the UK. Two of the five Telemann Overtures on this CD feature the traditional French-inspired German Continue reading

The OAE Night Shift – Classical Music: minus the rules

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kati Debretzeni, director & violin
Frances Kelly, harp, Elizabeth Kenny, theorbo
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 12 May 2015

Despite being no spring chicken myself, the audience at most classical music concerts make me feel rather young –  perhaps naively. Not so the OAE’s innovative Night Shift events, specifically aimed at young people and therefore making me feel rather old. Although these events have taken place in pubs and bars, I usually experience them, like this one, as late-night one-hour events repeating part of the earlier evening OAE concert. On this occasion, the OAE included three of the  pieces played in the earlier concert reviewed below (Telemann’s Violin Concerto in Bb and Handel’s Concerto for harp & lute and he Concerto Grosso, Op 6/1), unfortunately omitting Stevie Wishart’s new work which had just been given its world premiere. I would have loved to have heard what the young audience thought of that work.

WP_20150512_21_59_23_Pro 1

The Queen Elizabeth Hall stage lighting was given a sexy twist Continue reading

The Rough with the Smooth

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kati Debretzeni, director & violin
Chi-Chi Nwanoku, double bass, Frances Kelly, harp, Elizabeth Kenny, theorbo
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 12 May 2015

Telemann: Overture (Suite) in B flat, TWV.55:B8 (Ouverture burlesque), Concerto in B flat for violin, TWV.51:B1,
Stevie Wishart: Concerto à double entendre (World premiere)
Handel: Concerto in B flat for violin & orchestra, HWV.288 (Sonata a 5), Concerto in B flat, Op.4 No.6 for lute & harp, Concerto grosso in G, Op.6 No.1

Nestling in between the familiar OAE territory of Telemann and Handel was the world premiere of Stevie Wishart’s The Rough with the Smooth: Concerto à double entendre. Lasting about 23 minutes, it was structurally based on the traditional form of the concerto grosso, the three-movements headed Prelude and Fugue, Air, and Passacaglia. So far, so Baroque. But Stevie Wishart is a composer with roots in early and contemporary music. So rather than highlighting the melodic aspects of the instruments that are usually key to Baroque music, Wishart focused on the “resonance, overtones and sympathetic vibration” of the string orchestra, commenting that “the entire orchestra play only open strings and harmonics so that melodies only surface through a barrage of ‘sound clouds’ and gentle noise.” Continue reading

Candlelit Arcangelo

Arcangelo & Neal Davies
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 9 May 2015

Bach, Albinoni, Telemann

The latest of the candlelit concerts in the Shakespeare Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was given by Arcangelo (9 May). They were founded in 2010 by Jonathan Cohen, and appear in formats ranging from a duo to a chamber orchestra. On this occasion they were a small string group plus oboe, theorbo, and continuo organ/harpsichord, joined at the end by baritone Neal Davis (replacing his indisposed cousin Iestyn Davies).

The programme was one of contrasts, ranging from the frolics of Telemann’s Don Quichotte Suite to Bach’s serene cantata Ich habe genug. The size of Continue reading

Die Tageszeiten – Les Passions de l’Ame & Solomon’s Knot

Bach & Telemann’s Die Tageszeiten
L
es Passions de l’Ame, Meret Lüthi, Artistic Director
Solomon’s Knot, Jonathan Sells, Artistic Director
St George’s, Hanover Square.  17 March 2015

JS Bach: Orchestral Suite No 3 in D, Singet dem Herrn; GP Telemann: Cantata Cycle: Die Tageszeiten TWV20:39

The latter years of a composer’s life frequently see reflections on earlier times and a reversion to earlier compositional styles. But Telemann, one of the most prolific composers of the Baroque era, took the opportunity to take a peek into the musical future with his rarely performed cycle of four cantatas, Die Tageszeiten (Times of the Day), It was written in 1755 at the time when Telemann’s composing output was in decline and shows several musical insights into the forthcoming classical era. This was a difficult period in Telemann’s life – his eldest son was dead, leaving him to care for his grandson alongside his own declining eyesight and health. Although generally described as a ‘cantata cycle’, it has something of the feel of a fledgling oratorio to it, not least in its combination of elements of traditional sacred cantata and opera, both genres that Telemann had excelled in during his time in Hamburg. This performance, part of the London Handel Festival, brought together the Bern-based orchestra Les Passions de l’Ame, led by violinist Meret Lüthi, and the eight singers of Solomon’s Knot, directed by Jonathan Sells, who also sang bass.

Each of the four sections is in the same format (Aria – Recitative – Aria – Chorus), reflecting morning, midday, evening and night, and sung respectively by soprano, alto, tenor and bass – in this performance each voice type shared by two singers. Having a different soloist for the second, more reflective and sacred part of the second aria in each section emphasised the text’s link with the passing of life’s stages and the life of the Christian Soul. As if to emphasis this point, the last example was sung from the pulpit.

It was clear from the start that this was rather different to Telemann’s usual style, the opening Sinfonie seeming to switch style from Wagner to Vivaldi in just a few bars, linked by a nimble little viola figure.  The instrumental colour and texture that Telemann drew from his accompaniment continued to fascinate, another example being the halos of strings depicting first the shimmering morning stars and, later, the dew rising from an evening alpine meadow. A noisy brook murmured, the west wind swayed branches, bees raided the flowers with constant buzzing, and the death bell tolled, all meticulously reflected in Telemann’s score.

One of the delights of the score is Telemann’s use of colloquial descriptions of tempo and mood, for example noting the slow movement of the opening Sinfonie as “Dallying and dainty” and the second evening Aria as “Drowsily”. Each section uses a specific instrumental colour, most notably a viola da gamba for midday, played exquisitely by Heidi Gröger. Zoe Matthews provided the bassoon’s depiction of night.

During the first half on the evening, the two groups had performed separately, Les Passions de l’Ame giving an inventive and inspirational performance of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 3 in D, the Ouverture being not too fast, and the ever-popular Air being not too slow, with a particularly delicate reading of the melody by Meret Lüthi.  Solomon’s Knot then gave a stunning performance of Bach’s motet Singet dem Herrn, the eight singers producing a rich timbre that suited both the madrigalian intensity and joyful bounce of Bach’s varied textures. As with Die Tageszeiten, they all sang from memory, creating an ideal connection with the audience. They all took solo roles in the latter piece, most impressive being soprano Zoë Brown and counter-tenor Michal Czerniawski.

This was an excellent performance by Les Passions de l’Ame and Solomon’s Knot, both individually and together. I hope this partnership will continue.

Royal Baroque in Battersea  

The enterprising new series of monthly early Sunday evening musical events at St Michael’s, Cobham Close, Battersea continued with Royal Baroque, a group of young multinational musicians who met in 2010 at the Guildhall School of Music (8 Feb).  Their programme focussed on the French style, as represented in suites by Rebel and Telemann.  The solo instruments were played by Christiane Eidsten Dahl, violin, and Rebecca Vučetić, recorders, with Kate Conway adding many solo moments to her continuo role on viola da gamba – and demonstrating impeccable tuning well above the frets.  Continuo support came from Kaisa Pulkkinen, who didn’t have much chance to show her wares on baroque harp, and Katarzyna Kowalik, harpsichord.  Christiane Eidsten Dahl’s sensitive and delicate violin playing blended well with the quieter sound of the recorder.  All the players were well versed in French performing style, particularly evident in the gentler lyrical movements.

[https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2015/03/30/royal-baroque-in-battersea/]