Tamesis Issue 243 May 2014
Thanks very much to all our contributors this month. What a variety of different
topics! Luckily I don’t need space to write anything myself this time.
The Rosenmüller Vespers workshop seemed to go pretty well, though it gave me some
anxious moments in sourcing the music. Clifford Bartlett's edition would have been
fine if only we had been able to field three violas to go with the two violins playing the
obbligato parts. I'm not sure quite why we don't get many strings at these events,
but it has been suggested that it is because the players like to know that they have
'proper' string parts, rather than just doubling the singers. Of course TVEMF can
usually come up with a decent number of brass instruments so in this instance there
were three sackbuts trying to discover their inner viola tendency. Not all entirely
managed this but the result was entertaining, if not quite what the composer had in
mind. Anyway, to return to my original point, there was the little matter of sackbut
players not wanting to play from tenor clef. The sources of many of Clifford's
excellent editions are still languishing on an Acorn Archimedes computer dating from
1988, so producing parts in alternative clefs was not straightforward. Modern
technology did allow me to scan the parts, convert to Capella format and change the
clefs, though not without a good deal of hand correction of the result.
The joint workshop with EEMF next Saturday poses a challenge of a different nature,
in that we tackle the Padovano mass in 24 parts under Philip Thorby. With over 70
participants the sound is sure to be sumptuous and I am looking forward to it. I shall
try to avoid the top cornett part, as I recall playing it at Beauchamp one year and
discovering that most of the entries are on top A and it doesn't descend very far
during subsequent bars.
I ventured deep into SEMF territory last week to Challock and David Allinson's 12th
workshop at that location. David was on good form, and somewhat to his surprise we
managed to get through all six pieces, including a trio of settings of O Sacrum
Convivium. I believe the initial event was the first fully-tutored workshop for SEMF
but its success has ensured a change of policy subsequently.
As well as the Padovano event I am looking forward to Peter Syrus's workshop in June
where we will sample some church music by Johann Hermann Schein, known to me
only for a number of suites and canzonas.
Anne Harrow 1959-2014
Anne was a teacher of the horn, recorder and voice and had been a member of TVEMF
for some ten years as well as being a historical re-enactor and member of the Lumina
singing group. About six years ago she got in touch with me to ask what early
instrument she ought to play apart from the recorder. Knowing that she was a horn
player, I suggested the sackbut because it has a similar size of mouthpiece and would
be a good match as regards embouchure and not too challenging. However she also
asked the opinion of a sackbut player, Edward James, who immediately said that she
should play the cornett. That is not an instrument to be taken up lightly but clearly
he knew Anne better than I did, because before very long she had reached a very
acceptable standard on it. Indeed, last year she was able to play the third cornett
part in two public performances of the Monteverdi Vespers in spite of suffering severe
symptoms of the cancer that would eventually cause her death.
Anne was a dedicated musician who set high standards for herself but was a joy to
play with as she had enormous enthusiasm for music and a very positive attitude to
life. She was delighted to discover the musical treasures of the renaissance that
became available as her skill on the cornett increased. The world of music has lost a
much-loved teacher and performer and I have lost a dear friend.
* * *
Anne used to play with me (Victoria) in the Crosswinds wind quintet, and another of
member of the group, the composer Liz Sharma, has written “Calling”, a horn quartet
dedicated to Anne. There are four movements, ‘Calling’, ‘Meditation’, ‘In Perpetual
Motion’ and ‘Banter’. It was written for four horns but she has created two more
versions - brass quartet (2 trumpets, horn, trombone) and wind quartet (oboe,
clarinet, horn and bassoon). Perhaps she might be persuaded to produce a cornett
and sackbut version as well. The deal is that anyone who wants a copy needs to give
a donation of a minimum of £5 to Cancer Relief, Cancer Research or Macmillan
nurses. You can have it as a Sibelius file or PDF. Contact me secretarytvemf.org if
you’re interested and I’ll pass the message on.
I was very sorry also to learn of the recent death of Edwin Griggs, the chairman of
Midlands Early Music Forum. A lot of us knew him because he came to some of our
TVEMF events, helped on the Greenwich stand and regularly attended the Beauchamp
renaissance music summer school.
From the MEMF obituary written by Mike Ashley I learned that Edwin was born and
brought up in Hong Kong. In his mid-teens he joined the choir of St John’s Cathedral
in Hong Kong and began his lifelong interest in early ecclesiastical music. He came to
England in 1968 and began to listen to and enjoy traditional jazz and English folk
music. He joined the Blackheath Morris Dancers, playing the accordion and fiddle for
them, as well as dancing.
After Edwin moved to the Midlands he attended an inspiring course on Renaissance
dance in Birmingham and went on to join an active early dance group. He took violin
and singing lessons and joined MEMF in 1986. He later joined the Committee, was
unanimously elected as Chairman in 2010, and was busy in this position until ill health
caught up with him.
Lost music stand
Did you accidentally take home the wrong music stand after the baroque day? Kate
Gordon put hers on the table in the corridor at the end of the day and when she came
back to pick it up it had disappeared. It’s black, light-weight, without wings, and her
name and address are under the ledge the music rests on.
Baroque in the Methodist ambience
Following the highly successful singing day at the Wesley Memorial Church Hall on 7
September last with David Allinson, TVEMF returned to the venue on 5 April, under
the direction of another conductor with local connections, James Weeks. Many of the
59 participants had had the pleasure of working with James on previous occasions,
whereas it appeared that relatively few were acquainted with the delights of
It is something of an oddity that a meeting-place whose name carries associations of
temperance and rectitude should be the venue, on successive occasions, for the study
of composers whose lives might be described, euphemistically, as “controversial”. In
“A Methodist Renaissance” your reviewer commented on the episode in the life of
Gombert which led to his falling out of favour with Charles V, though he was
rehabilitated and may have died in the odour of sanctity. Rosenmüller, who
matriculated in the theological faculty at Leipzig in 1640, worked his way up the
Saxon musical hierarchy, obtaining appointments to the Nikolaikirche, the
Thomaskirche (prospectively) and the court at Altenburg, but in 1655 his career in
Germany terminated abruptly; Manfred Bukofzer, (Music in the Baroque Era, Norton,
1947) describes him as “a composer of unquestionable genius [who] wrecked his
promising career by questionable morals, which made it necessary for him to flee
Leipzig and live in Venice”, where he next surfaces in musical history as a trombonist
at San Marco in 1658. He remained in Venice as organist, teacher and composer,
until at least July 1682, when his term as composer to the Ospedale della Pieta came
to an end. He returned to Germany at some time during the last two years of his life,
becoming Kapellmeister at the court of Wolfenbüttel, which was at that time the seat
of the dukes of Brunswick, and was buried there on 12 September 1684, where his
epitaph declared him to be “the Amphion of his age”. The mythological Amphion,
however, played the lyre, not the organ or the trombone.
In order to prepare us for our encounter with Rosenmüller, James directed some
warm-ups which were unremarkable until we reached the “Bella Signora” stage. The
simple arpeggio which your reviewer recalls from singing the Monteverdi Vespers with
James at Dartington in 2006 has now developed into a baroque operetta involving
encounter, attempted seduction, passion (not entirely requited), the imprisonment of
the ardent lover, his attempt to rebuild the relationship on his release, and crushing
final rejection and despair. From this simple story of ordinary folk we moved on to
the first of the three psalms for Vespers which constituted the programme.
Rosenmüller was a prolific composer of vocal sacred music and his output includes
over 50 psalm settings. Most of them, says the New Grove, share a clear overall
structure articulated by instrumental ritornellos. All three which we sang are scored
for SATB, five instrumental parts (played, on the day, by violins, double-bass,
theorbo, cornetti, sackbuts and curtal) and continuo.
Laudate pueri dominum (psalm 102) opens with the cantus firmus in the soprano part
and the servants being firmly exhorted to praise the Lord. Sit nomen domini
benedictus is both more rapidly moving and more rhythmically complex, and this
alternation of style continues throughout the text, the cantus firmus moving down to
the alto at a solis ortus usque ad occasum and to the tenor at quis sicut Dominus
Deus noster; then follows some very expressive word painting at the point where the
poor are raised out of the dust and the needy from the dunghill. The basses take over
the cantus firmus for the last two verses of the psalm until, in the thirteen bars
leading up the Gloria, the barren woman becomes a joyful mother of children. The
Gloria is scored for soprano and tenor for the 43 bars up to the final spiritui sancto,
when it goes back into four parts in a structure which initially mimics the opening
section of the psalm, with an Amen rhythmically similar to the excelsus section.
Having mastered this piece to James’ expressed satisfaction, we were dismissed for
an early lunch; it was decided that in the afternoon, we would work on each of the
other psalms in similar detail and not have a sing through at the end.
Lauda Jerusalem, which is a setting of psalm 147 from v 12 to the end, provided a
very distinct contrast to laudate pueri dominum; there is a great sense of urgency
from the outset, and even when we are being filled with the finest of the wheat (the
King James translation of adipe frumenti) the music does not suggest a leisurely
banquet. From then on it is all rapid action; his word runs with extreme swiftness and
the various meteorological phenomena are very vividly painted. It was our rendering
of nebulam sicut cinerem spargit which led James to refer to “fluffy tenors” (an epithet
new to your reviewer in that context) and, at a slightly later stage, he remarked of the
basses that they had reached heights (or possibly plumbed depths) of subtlety not
usually achieved. The Gloria is scored for four voices throughout, with the three-time
section, as before, ending with spiritui sancto, but the concluding section does not, as
in laudate pueri dominum, mimic the opening.
James had, at an earlier point, referred to the Italian influence on the German
traditions in which Rosenmüller had grown up, mentioning on the one hand Pachelbel
and Buxtehude, on the other, Monteverdi and Gabrieli. Nisi Dominus (psalm 126) he
found reminiscent of Monteverdi’s Dixit Dominus, and one point of resemblance
(though it may well not be what he had in mind) is that both works have quite
substantial sections for one or two voices. Thus, at bar 43 of Nisi dominus, it is the
altos who inform us that it is vain to rise before dawn, and the basses who call upon
us to arise, before the message is taken up by the choir as a whole, while from bar
153, sicut sagittae has passages for alto and bass interspersed with some declamation
by the full choir. Similarly in the six-part Monteverdi Dixit dominus there is a passage
beginning at virgam virtutis tuae initially for soprano I who is joined by soprano II and
bass before the full choir returns to the action quasi parlando, and a similar sequence
of events later on, at juravit Dominus, where the solo parts are for tenor I and II and
bass. It was at bar 155 of the sicut sagittae passage that the basses were exhorted
to be worthy of their top D. It is not altogether clear to your reviewer why that D is
so noteworthy, though the late Victorian literary figure, J.K.Stephen, presumed, in his
“sincere flattery of Walt Whitman” that the fundamental note of the last trump was D
natural. The setting of the last verse of the psalm text decisively affirms that the
blessed man with his quiver full of arrows shall not be ashamed, and this is followed
by a sixty-bar Gloria which alternates between highly ornamental settings of the
single word “Gloria” in 4-time and a more broadly rhythmical setting of Gloria filio et
spiritui sancto in the usual 3-time. Unlike the corresponding section of lauda
Jerusalem which was sung by sopranos and tenors en masse, this was sung as a solo
by Amélie Saintonge, who gave us a most admirable rendition before we came
together for the rousing finale.
TVEMF has done its members proud in recent years by unearthing hidden treasures
from the Renaissance mines - Richafort and Phillip van Wilder, Josquin’s Phoebe radiis,
Jaquet of Mantua and Loyset Pieton, and this foray into the luxuriant Baroque
woodlands was equally enjoyable. We are greatly indebted to James for directing the
event, and if chance has had it that he has become the evangelist, so to speak, for
Rosenmüller, it is to our good fortune. Warm thanks are due to Nicola Wilson-Smith
for organising the event and to all the unidentified toilers in the vineyard who
arranged sustenance for the labourers.
Accompanying Polyphonic Music on the Theorbo
In the March issue of Tamesis David Griffiths raises the interesting question of how to
find appropriate chords on the theorbo to accompany Renaissance polyphony, given
that we had some highly unusual combinations of voices and instruments in one or
two of our sessions at the January Renaissance playing day (e.g. recorders,
transverse flute, theorbo, curtal and voice!).
In reality, such a conundrum probably never occurred during the Renaissance period,
at least in England, since the theorbo was not widely used until the reign of James I,
and even then in a distinctive English adaptation of the lute rather than in the form of
the true Italian theorbo (one of which was supposedly impounded as a suspect Popish
weapon of regicide). However, the lute was certainly used to accompany vocal and
instrumental polyphony, and presumably the same principles also apply to
accompanying a vocal score on other chordal instruments such as the virginals.
Essentially, the theorbo can be used to play a moving bass line and/or an improvised
chordal accompaniment. Ideally, a figured bass line is required in order to indicate
the correct chord, but this would be anachronistic in Renaissance music. The “rule of
the octave*” can therefore be used to predict which chords should be played in root
position and which in first inversion, with frequent upward glances for accidentals in
the vocal lines – not a perfect solution, but one that can be used to provide a
reasonably useful accompaniment.
*The "rule of the octave" provides a formula which allows the continuo player (lute,
keyboard, or even modern guitar) to predict the chord that will be required in order to
accompany each bass note, according to its position on an ascending or descending
scale, and can be useful when only an unfigured, or partially figured, bass line is
Victoria in Avila
‘Run by Singers’ has been organising choral singing holidays in Europe for over 10
years and ‘Victoria in Avila’, 30th March to 6th April with an optional stay in Madrid the
day before was the second such holiday I have attended. My first had been in Assisi in
August 2011 with David Allinson directing and I had enjoyed it immensely. It was
made clear that booking, once open, would be swift for the Avila course and indeed
within a day or two there were already waiting lists.
The day in Madrid was organised primarily for an outing to a Flamenco Club that was
highly recommended. I decided to participate in this experience but alas I arrived
feeling rather unsettled as I was mugged in the Metro on the way to our hotel.
Fortunately only cash was stolen. The Flamenco session certainly lifted my spirits
however as the quality of the singers, dancers and guitarists were outstanding. From
a musical point of view there is an extraordinary contrast between the guitar music
that is purely diatonic as determined by the frets and the singing that is full of
microtones and portamento. It was frustrating to have no idea the meaning of the
texts although the steps and facial expressions of the dancers gave general indications
The following morning, those of us who had been staying overnight in Madrid travelled
by coach to Avila, about 70 miles west of Madrid. Avila is a UNESCO World Heritage
Site. It is a walled city with an impressive cathedral, an abundance of storks and a
chilly climate as it is about 3700 feet above sea level. Having left a delightfully mild
London the cold wind and rain were unwelcome guests but it did mean that
throughout the week we all focussed our energies on music making and were not
tempted to play truant.
Although the rehearsal schedule was fairly intensive there was time in the afternoon
to look round Avila and visit places of interest such as the cathedral and the church
where Victoria was baptised. There was also time to socialise during the morning
coffee break, lunch and at the organised dinners at various hotels. The food was very
variable, sometimes excellent but, especially in the evenings, very unbalanced without
a trace of any vegetable except the ubiquitous potato. Clearly Spain does not
subscribe to the ‘five a day’ philosophy. By the end of the week I was suffering from
considerable withdrawal symptoms and longed for a plate of broccoli. On the Thursday
rehearsals finished at lunchtime and most of the group went by coach to Segovia and
visited the cathedral, a castle that was a source of inspiration for Walt Disney’s
Cinderella Castle and encountered yet more stalks.
There were around 60 singers including quite a few TVEMF members in the group.
Women outnumbered men by 2 to 1 although the overall balance of parts was not at
all bad. From the very start it was apparent that the group’s standard was extremely
respectable. It must have helped that the music had been provided several weeks in
advance so that those who were not were not confident readers had plenty of time to
learn the notes. The blend of voices and overall tone quality were very pleasing and
David was most complimentary about the singing. The one constant problem however
was that pitch kept on dropping.
As well as being a top class music director, David Allinson can be relied upon to
choose wonderful repertoire and every work we studied was a gem. There were four
works by Victoria, (Missa Gaudeamus, Lamentations for Holy Saturday, Versa est in
luctum and a magnificent setting in 8 parts for double choir of Salve regina). In
addition we studied works by Morales (O sacrum convivium, Emendemus in melius,
Circumdederunt me), Guerrero (O Domine Jesu Christe), Vivanco (Versa est in
luctum) and, the only non-Spanish composer, Gombert (Lugebat David Absalon).
On the last night we gave a concert in a church outside the city walls. We had a large
and enthusiastic audience, possibly as a result of press coverage during the week. We
rose to the challenge and even kept pitch far better than at the rehearsals. David
certainly demonstrated his confidence in the group by requesting that most of the
pieces were to be performed with the singers scrambled. We had indeed scrambled
frequently during the week so this caused little if any consternation at the concert.
The audience cheered as well as applauded and the Salve Regina was especially
popular and made a good ending. There was further press coverage on the day after
the concert and clearly we had left our mark on this otherwise somewhat sleepy
though very attractive city.
The World of Bagpipes
Mention bagpipes in the UK, and what springs to most people's minds is a picture of
fluttering tartans and the Edinburgh Festival tattoo. But the Scots do not have a
monopoly of this instrument, or its music, and while many early music enthusiasts will
be aware of the fact that there are many different forms of bagpipe in every country
in Europe and beyond, the variety covered in the Second International Bagpipe
Conference (at London University's Senate House), which clearly only represented the
tip of the iceberg, was quite an eye-opener. The instrument in its different forms
dates back to mediaeval times and probably further, and many types survive virtually
unchanged. The organisers (the International Bagpipe Organisation) managed to
squeeze in 11 papers (less than half the number submitted), which ranged,
geographically, over Belarus, Greece, Mallorca, France, Hungary, Scotland, and the
USA (this last represents a more recent tradition, of course), and also dealt with
composing for the pipes, and with people's attitude to them. In several countries
there has been a revival of interest in recent years, so that a tradition which appeared
to be dying out is being saved in the nick of time and passed on to a younger
To describe the day in detail would take up a good deal of space, so a very brief
abstract of the papers must suffice. Eugen Baryshnikau, leaving aside the "mediaeval
bagpipe" which was found all over Europe, told us about the Belarussian dudá, also
found in adjacent areas of Latvia, Lithuania and Russia, an instrument with one, two
or three drones (most of the instruments surviving in museum collections are single-
drone, the two-drone one is known only from drawings, and there is just one example
of the three-drone one, which apparently could have up to six), distinguished by large
carved wooden horns on the chanter and the bass drone (except for the 3+-drone
dudá-maciánka, which does not have horns). The memory of the instruments and the
traditions associated with them had survived in some of the villages, and out of this
has grown the Dudarski Klub of enthusiasts, now numbering some hundred pipers,
plus makers, a festival, bands, dance parties, and more. George-Pericles Schinas
covered the history of one of the two types of bagpipes played in Greece, the
tsamboúna, which basically has a 6-note double chanter and no drone, but varies
slightly from island to island in sound, capabilities, technique and repertoire. It mostly
acted as the centre for improvised occasions in which everyone, not just the
musicians, took part, in small local communities, and this remains an important part
of its nature today, though since the revival there have been innovations, meaning
that the old means of expression can be applied to new situations. The role of the
bagpiper as the leader of an occasion also applied In Mallorca, as we discovered from
the paper given by Cassandre Balosso-Bardin (who also organised the whole
conference) about the xeremier, a term applied both to the piper and the player of the
flabiol and tambor (similar to pipe and tabor) who worked together as a duo. There is
a certain mystique attached to the xeremier, who was originally a shepherd, though
nowadays can come from any background (some of the flabiol and tambor players are
women, working with male pipers - the pipers are still all men, though the speaker,
who is herself a piper, was accepted as a player while she was conducting her
research). They lead many official ceremonies besides playing for dancing, and
nowadays perform in other contexts as well. Like other wind players one could name,
they have a reputation for heavy drinking!
We crossed the pond to hear from Martha Moore Davis about the University of Iowa
Scottish Highlanders, set up in 1936 and originally all-male, which became an all-
female band during WWII when the men were called up - this paper was more a
sociological gender study than anything relating to the instruments or the music.
When the men came back from the war they formed a marching band to which
women were not admitted until the outlawing of discrimination in this context, after
which some men joined the Highlanders and a few women joined the marching band,
but world events and the changes in university life led to the disbanding of the
Highlanders in 2008. Will Connor from Hawaii told us about making pipes, specifically
for the "Neo-Mediaevalist goth and metal communities", following the reintroduction
of bagpipes into popular music, while the use of the musette in French opera from
Lully to Rameau was investigated in some detail by Jean-Christophe Maillard, whose
paper was beautifully illustrated with many contemporary drawings and paintings as
well as several illuminating sound clips (tantalisingly short, as each speaker only had
20 minutes) - I had not realised that the drone on a musette was constructed along
the lines of a rackett, with a long convoluted airway wound round inside a short fat
cylinder. He gave us a brief live performance on one of his instruments at the end of
his talk (several of the speakers did this, or used live illustration), which really gave a
flavour of the musette, hearing it on its own rather than in the operatic context. From
France we went to Hungary, to learn from Ron Atar about the influence of the peasant
bagpipe performing style on some of Bartok's piano music - we heard one of Bartok's
recordings of peasant music from his collecting trips - it was in a terrible state (as are
some of the ones I have heard from Vaughan Williams' collections which were
discovered in Cecil Sharpe House fairly recently), but one could just catch the
character of the music sufficiently to hear the echo of it in the piano examples which
were also played. Rohan Kriwaczek gave us a rather philosophical discourse on the
nature of music, using the bagpipe (a Swedish single-drone instrument) as
illustration, and firing off a lot of provocative remarks which we unfortunately lacked
the time to go into when it came to questions, but which left us with food for thought.
Eric Montbel gave us a fascinating account of the chabretas (cornemuses à miroirs du
Limousin), which were played at the court of Louis XIII as the Cornemuses et hautbois
de Poitou, eventually making their way to the Limousin - they relate to 16th-century
Italian bagpipes, the phagotus and the sourdeline, and have a religious significance
(the mirror-inlaid decoration usually bears a cross). The final two papers did concern
Scotland - Vivien Estelle Williams spoke on the Romantic legacy of the bagpipe in
Scotland, tracing the path from the disregard in which the instrument, along with
other icons of Scottishness, was held following the failure of the Jacobite risings
(though many writers regarded it as a symbol of masculinity, even machismo), to the
view of it as a Romantic instrument, influenced by Scott and the Ossianic fragments
along the way; and finally Hugh Cheape surveyed the concept of the bagpipe as the
national instrument of Scotland, pointing out various contradictions, such as the
Scottish involvement with Baroque music, Scottish fiddle music, pipes other than the
great Highland bagpipe (such as union pipes, and pastoral pipes), and the rise of
A tremendous amount was packed into the day, of which I can only give this sketchy
account, and as a bonus we had a concert the night before, featuring 1) Goran Farkaš
from Croatia, who gave us Istrian music on what looked like a whole pigskin with a
double chanter, which held enough air for him to be able to abandon the blowstick
and sing now and again, 2) Habelas Hainas, a very lively group of 4 girls from Galicia,
one played pipes/accordion/a flat square double-sided drum for which I don't know
the name, another played pipes/the flat square drum, a third played a small side-
drum hung round her middle or held between her knees when sitting (brilliant) and
the fourth played a smallish bass drum slung at an angle so that she could beat it with
a padded stick from above and her hand from below, also tambourine - and they all
sang, and two of them danced, using Celtic-looking steps, a very varied programme,
and 3)Andy May playing small pipes with a fiddler, an accordionist and a guitar player
gave us traditional tunes and some they had composed themselves. All very enjoyable
- but the Galicians stole the show! They came and did an impromptu performance
before the afternoon session of the conference, and we had an impromptu piece of
xerimie music in the morning from a couple of Mallorcans who were attending it.
There was also a dance after the conference, to which I could not go - not that I can
dance any more, but it would have been interesting to listen to the music and watch
the dancing - the music was to be cornemuse and melodeon, and there was to be an
dance instruction session at the beginning, so presumably one did not have to be an
expert in Baroque dance to participate. There was also a small philatelic exhibition,
stamps featuring bagpipes from various countries, more than one would have perhaps
expected, and not many used the same illustrations.
It was sometimes a little difficult to follow the speakers when they had wonky English
or heavy accents, but in my, admittedly limited, experience of international
conferences this is par for the course - one cannot expect all the speakers to have
perfect English, and supplying an interpreting setup makes everything impossibly
I went along out of an interest in old instruments and past participation in Scottish
country dancing, and it was altogether a most interesting and enjoyable event which
definitely broadened my horizons - and there is to be another one in February 2016 in
Glasgow, over a day and a half (so things should be a bit less rushed, and more
papers may be fitted in). Also there may possibly be a "Bagpipe day" in Oxford next
spring, as there was last year (the first conference was the year before). I would
recommend it to anyone who is at all interested - one doesn't have to be a piper!
More Music on the Page
My favourite opera-related read is Robert Barnard`s "Death and The Chaste
Apprentice", set in Buxton/Wexford. However many operatic whodunits are more
gruesome than the operas themselves. Aficionados of Historically Informed
Performance Practice who have strong stomachs will enjoy "The Last Castrato" (John
Spencer Hill) in which a Ph.D. candidate researching the Camerata - we are in
Florence - flirts with the dishy detective and dines in a number of restaurants. I found
myself re-visiting Grout and Palisca with a deeper understanding. If you’re in
Florence, The Cantoria (opposite the Duomo itself, and quite pricey) rivals Sir John
Soanes’ Museum (gone mad!) Buy a few postcards.
There’s a choral society whodunit with a title like "Who is killing all the second
sopranos?" It was published by Victor Gollancz about twenty years ago. I used
Google to try to find the author/title but gave up after 2,000 hits on James Gandolfini
Interested in Mantua/Salomone Rossi/Vivaldi...? "False Relations" (Micheline Wandor)
is a multi-layered collection of interlinked novelle with no "caveat lector". In total
contrast, Jilly Cooper’s "Score!" (about a conductor) and "Appassionata" (about a
violinist) are bonk-busters. It’s so long since I read Donna Leon’s "Death at La
Fenice" that I remember nothing about it. Be aware if you buy Donna Leon that you
are supporting her work with Alan Curtis and revivals of Vivaldi operas which is a
GOOD THING! In Dona Leon’s "The Jewels of Paradise" the detective is a Venetian
female musicologist who uncovers enough Steffaniana to make an article for Clifford
Bartlett's Early Music Review. In complete contrast "Murder Duet " (Batya Gur) has
Israeli mores, Bach, Brahms, Wagner, kvetching, art thefts, murders and a lost
"The Tanglewood Murder" (Lucille Kamen aka C.B.Greenfield) captures the genius loci
perfectly. (The background is symphonic music, not one-to-a-part madrigals.) The
description of the romantic hideaway is seriously misleading - the hotel exists, but
room-prices are astronomical, and it turns out to have a private landing strip!
Meanwhile in Restoration London Susanna Gregory’s viol-playing spy enjoys the music
of Louis Grabu. (In Gregory’s "A Murder on London Bridge", The Green Man is not a
distinguished publisher of early music, but is instead Master of The Royal Fireworks,
who in Papageno-garb lights the blue touch-paper and retires.)
Next ("If music be the food of love..") a post-structuralist leap takes us , via Derrida,
"Back to Bologna" (my favourite - inter pares - Michael Dibden .) It’s delicious! (nb If
you find yourself in Bologna don’t miss the UT ORPHEUS bookshop, the museum of
the Conservatoire and the semi-private musical instrument collection.) Still in Italy,
but further south, in the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, a distinguished but unpopular tenor
is murdered in "I Will Have Vengeance" (Maurizio de Giovanni). Meanwhile, in the Big
Easy, "To Die Upon a Kiss" (Barbara Hambly) involves a Creole repetiteur and rival
American opera companies, while in Vichy France a deranged archbishop seeks to
restore the Papacy to Avignon while directing Madrigali Amorosi in "poses plastiques".
("Madrigal"- Robert Janes.)
Under the pseudonym "Bernard Bastable" Robert Barnard has written not one, but
two, Mozart mysteries ("Dead, Mr. Mozart" and "Too many notes, Mr. Mozart"). I am
happy with the idea of Aristotle/Dr. Johnson/Daniel Mendoza... as detective, but I find
the conceit of a longer-lived Mozart irritating (sorry, Vicky!) However I love "The Bee-
keeper’s Apprentice" and "O Jerusalem" (Laurie R. King) where an impossibly long-
lived Holmes acquires a young female Talmudic-scholar assistant. Reader, she
marries him! Maybe that’s why he seems no longer to play the violin.
In "Dargason" by the late Colin Cooper, audiences are impelled to act out the
emotions expressed in the music. Despite the occasional ATTACCA SUBITO! no
sopranos are injured in the course of this work. (A Dargason is a Sir Roger de
Coverley.) While on the subject of synaesthesia, Dennis Severs’ House (18 Folgate
St, Spitalfields) vaut le voyage, especially for "The Sounds and Smells of Christmas",
as does the little Renaissance organ in Montepulciano, whose cedar(?)/sandalwood(?)
pipes emit puffs of scented blue smoke with every note - Skryabin would have been
delighted! (For descriptions of a DIVA erupting, watch out for Zeinab’s appearances in
Iain Pears’ "Mamur Zapt" series. My favourite is "The Mamur Zapt and the Mingrelian
Rose Tremain’s "Music and Silence" features an English lutenist at the C17 Danish
court - I found it heavy going. (By the way, what is the name of the book where
Thomas Coryate fails to impress the Khan with his Dowland, while the oudh-player
delights with improvisations on a time-related maqam?) Set in Northern Italy against
a background of the Grand Tour, "The Devil in Music" (Kate Ross) features a fully-
functioning heterosexual male soprano, voice coaches and a convoluted plot.
Meanwhile in C20 Paris, Olympia Press published "Pauline the Prima Donna", a
translation of the (bogus) autobiography of Wilhelmina Schroeder-Devrient (friend of
Beethoven and Goethe, and probably not as sexually voracious as Pauline.) I have a
copy of the German original in my collection of Esoterica.
In my twilight years I find that I prefer Brigid Jones to Long Day’s Journey into Night-
unfortunately it’s a Celtic twilight tinged with sadness. Was it Yeats who said "For all
his wars were merry, But all his songs were sad"? Is it diet/the weather/religion/genes
which predisposes the Irish to melancholy? James Joyce’s short story "The Dead"
(from "Dubliners") involves Victorian/Edwardian drawing-room ballads and Irish folk-
song references. The final paragraph is unparalleled word-music. In the John Huston
film, the music is Jeremy Sparks’ "Irish Folk-Song Suite" for Guitar Quartet.
some reflections by Brian O’Hagan
following Penny Vinson’s article in the September Tamesis
QUARTER PAGE SPACE
FOR TRY A VIOL DAY AD
FROM VIOLA DA GAMBA
Harpsichord, single manual German style made in Amsterdam in 1987. 2x8', G to d3,
transposing keyboard A415/440. Very good condition. £5500 including permanent
stand and padded cover. Contact Barbara Moir (0118 941 2994)
barbaramoir119.freeserve.co.uk for more details.
available from teacher with over 18 years experience.
Whether you are looking to pass exams, diplomas,
improve your continuo playing, or just want to learn for fun,
lessons are designed to suit individual needs.
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email
Recorder Player and Tutor - Heidi Fardell
Over ten years teaching experience in primary, secondary and junior conservatoire.
Specialist in 17th and 18th century
www.handelhouse.org/whats-on To book tickets please call the booking line on
020 7399 1953.
Tuesday 13 May, 6.30-7.30pm. BHS Recital: Circé and the Peacock
Iris Pucciarelli (harpsichord) performs a programme immersed in the D minor tonality, defined
by Marc Antoine Charpentier as ‘grave et dévot’. JS Bach, Jean-Henry d’Anglebert, François
Couperin and Antonio Soler.
Thursday 15 May, 6.30-7.30pm. Ciaconna
Eloisa-Fleur Thom (violin) will explore the early solo violin repertoire, opening with Biber’s
Guardian Angel Passacaglia from the Mystery Sonatas, considered the most outstanding work
of its kind before JS Bach’s Ciaconna. These works are joined with a Suite by Westhoff, a
composer who inspired Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin.
Thursday 22 May, 6.30-7.30pm. Heimweh in the House of Hanover: wind music for
the homesick German
Homesickness prompted George I’s infamously frequent trips to his native Germany, but
Handel had no such inclination. Luckily, Telemann was not one to fall out of touch; he kept up
with his old school friend Fasch, his godson CPE Bach, and traded letters with Handel
throughout his life. Listen to rarely-performed music for wind duo to soothe the heart of any
homesick Hanoverian. Ensemble Tempus Fugit are Oonagh Lee (recorder, oboe), Jakab
Kauffmann (bassoon), Alex McCartney (baroque guitar) and Katie De La Matter (harpsichord).
Saturday 24 May, 2-3.30pm. BHS Weekend Recital: Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer
Harpsichordists Tom Foster and Pawel Siwczak return for another afternoon of keyboard music
by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656-1746). An important influence and forerunner of
Bach and his generation, Fischer is one of several German composers of the period to be
strongly influenced by Lully. The event will feature suites and preludes and fugues from
Ariadne Musica, Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein and Musikalischer Parnassus.
Thursday 29 May, 6.30-7.30pm. Composer-in-Residence: Duets
Bass viol specialist Liam Byrne and Handel House Composer-in-Residence Cevanne Horrocks-
Hopayian (voice, harp) perform together at Handel House. Both are inspired by composers of
past and present, West and East, who moved between courtly and popular cultures (Handel
included). Be transported through ancient and modern music with compelling narratives.
and contemporary recorder repertoire.
Beginners to Advanced.
All ages welcome!
Based in Oxfordshire
Thursday 5 June, 6.30-7.30pm. Handel and the Hanoverians
Handel’s life and career were both entwined with the Hanoverian dynasty. As well as teaching
the younger Hanoverians, he would add the pomp to their very public events: coronations,
weddings and the spectacular Royal Fireworks all benefitted from Handel’s deft touch.
Performed by The Burney Players who are Ian Wilson (recorders), Tuomo Suni (violin),
Natasha Kraemer (cello) and Kasia Tomczak-Feltrin (harpsichord).
Tuesday 10 June, 6.30-7.30pm. BHS Recital: Old and New, Tried and True
Harpsichordist Elaine Funaro performs two sonatas by the Italian composer Giovanni Benedetto
Platti, a toccata by Tarquinio Merula and pieces from For Children Suite by Béla Bartók
interspersed with three contemporary compositions, each of which use these older pieces as
basis for re-composition to give them a contemporary twist.
Thursday 12 June, 6.30-7.30pm. Royal Handel
The Denner Ensemble will explore the wonderful chamber music for winds by Handel. The
programme will include sonatas, the ‘Oxford’ Water music; keyboard music for a Princess as
well as trios by Telemann and an impostor cashing in on Handel’s fame. Mark Baigent (baroque
oboe), Rebecca Prosser (rec), Nathaniel Harrison (bar bassoon) and Karen Glen (harpsichord).
Thursday 19 June, 6.30-7.30pm. Duets for the Duchess
Secular duet cantatas by Bononcini who composed for the Royal Academy of Music in London
during the 1720s. It recreates an evening from 1726 when the Duchess of Marlborough, Sarah
Churchill, hosted two of the most famous singers from the London stage, the alto castrato
Senesino and the soprano Cuzzoni, for a private audience at her home. Randall Scotting
(countertenor), Rowan Pierce (sop), George Ross (cello) and Aidan Phillips (harpsichord).
Saturday 21 June 2014, 6pm. Acis and Galatea: Back Where it Began
La Nuova Musica, Chorus of NLCS and Harrow School students
Nearly 300 years after its first performance Handel House has organised for Acis and Galatea
to be performed once more in the place where it was first written and seen. The gardens at
Canons, now part of the North London Collegiate School, will form the setting for a drinks
reception and picnic supper afterwards. The opera itself will be performed in the School’s
theatre, alongside the gardens. For a ticket application form, please contact Elizabeth
Nicholson on enicholsonhandelhouse.org or 020 7495 1685.
Thursday 26 June, 6.30-7.30pm. Handel and the Burlington Circle
The social network provided to Handel during his lodging with Lord Burlington included writers,
rivals, patrons and royalty. Handel dedicated Teseo and Amadigi to Burlington and through a
Burlington House regular, Dr Arbuthnot physician to Queen Anne, wrote the Birthday Ode.
Baroque Encounter perform and are Glenn Kesby (countertenor), Lauren Brant (recorder),
David Beany (recorder, baroque flute) and Claire Williams (harpsichord).
Thursday 3 July, 6.30-7.30pm. The Royal Favourite
This programme commemorates Handel as a composer of opera, chamber and solo works, and
as a dedicated teacher to the daughters of George II, celebrating the popular appeal of his
music during his lifetime. Yu-Wei Hu (baroque flute) and Jane Chapman (harpsichord).
Saturday 5 July, 10am-7pm. Handel House Singers; Come and Sing Zadok the Priest
As part of the tercentenary celebrations of the Hanoverian Succession, join Handel House
Singers to work through Zadok the Priest, ending with a public performance. at 6pm.
Saturday 5 July, 6-7pm. Handel House Singers perform Zadok the Priest and other
Coronation Anthems, to celebrate 300 years of the Hanoverian Succession. The choir will be
accompanied by a baroque orchestra and conducted by Laurence Cummings Venue: Hinde
Street Methodist Church, 19 Thayer Street, London, W1U 2QJ
Tickets: £5. Also available on the door.
Tuesday 8 July, 6.30-7.30pm. BHS Recital: Transmutation through Transcription
Harpsichordist and composer Satoko Doi-Luck explores works that were transcribed for solo
harpsichord including works by JS Bach, Forqueray, D’Anglebert and Geminiani.
Thursday 10 July, 6.30-7.30pm. Seductive Sorcery amongst Handel’s Rampant
Royals. The queens and princesses portrayed in his operas were women of power. The
mystical queen Alcina, princess Deidamia of Scyros and Cleopatra all address Gods in their
quests for power, love and happiness. Christina Raphaelle Haldane (soprano) and Carl Philippe
Thursday 17 July, 6.30-7.30pm. A Sinfony for a King
Sonatas written by royal musicians of the Georgian era. Ensemble Anciennes et modernes
explore the King’s Musick with a dazzling sinfonia by Handel, believed to have been composed
shortly before he became Kapellmeister to Prince Georg in 1710. Maya Enokida, John Bowker
(violins), Corrina Connor (cello), and Nathaniel Mander (harpsichord).
Thursday 24 July, 6.30-7.30pm. The Baroque Guitar
Guitarist Benjamin Bruant performs works by Handel, Scarlatti and JS Bach all of whom were
born in 1685.
EXHIBITION AND DISPLAYS
On display at Handel House is a magnificent marble bust of George Frideric Handel, on loan
from the Royal Collection. Attributed to French sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac (1702-1762),
the bust has been in possession of the Royal Family since its creation.
SHE WAS DESPISED: HANDEL AND SUSANNAH CIBBER
Wednesday 26 February – Sunday 28 September 2014
To celebrate the tercentenary of her birth, Handel House Museum presents an exhibition on
the life and work of Susannah Cibber. The exhibition will tell Susannah’s fascinating, dramatic
and moving life story, through exhibits, contemporary texts, music and a programme of
From a promising start as a singer in a small opera company, Cibber’s career and social
standing were fatally blighted by the scandalous trial in which her husband Theophilus accused
her of adultery. Unable to appear on the London stage, she fled to Dublin. It was here that she
was chosen by Handel to sing in the first performance of Messiah in 1742, giving a moving
performance of the aria ‘He was despiséd’. From her performance in the London premiere of
Messiah a year later her career blossomed once again. She became one of the most significant
actresses of the 18th century, and for many years was David Garrick’s leading lady.
Saturday Talks at 3pm
Exhibition Talks are delivered by volunteers and are suitable for all levels of knowledge. Talks
will last between 15-20 minutes and special exhibition Talks will take place the last Saturday of
each month: 31 May, 28 June, 26 July, 30 August and 27 September.