Johann Sebastian Bach is generally considered the first composer
in history to have written keyboard concertos. But Peter Holman,
in his programme notes, suggests Handel had written at least a
single movement for keyboard and instruments before Bach wrote
his concertos. This disc opens with a Chaconne in G, which has
survived as a piece for keyboard solo and probably dates from
Handel's years in Hamburg. Recently I reviewed a recording of some of Handel's keyboard
music by Siegbert Rampe. He also suggested this piece could originally
have been conceived for harpsichord and orchestra, since "in
the only source, a continental copy, the tutti and solo are differentiated,
which admittedly could also mean that a large harpsichord was
used as a substitute for an orchestra". He played the Chaconne
as it is preserved; here the string parts are reconstructed by
Paul Nicholson. Having heard the result I am not quite convinced
this is really the form which Handel had in mind. The strings
only play the ritornello, and the soli for the keyboard in between
them are so long that I wonder what is the point of adding strings.
Maybe the alternative suggested by Siegbert Rampe is more plausible.
is not the only concerto on this disc which has been reconstructed.
Thomas Roseingrave's Concerto for organ and orchestra in D
has survived as a piece for solo keyboard, and that is how
Paul Nicholson has recorded it before. But he and Peter Holman
had the impression it was a reduction of a keyboard concerto,
which seemed to be confirmed when in a newspaper a reference
was found to Roseingrave playing an organ concerto with trumpets
and kettledrums. This was the reason Peter Holman reconstructed
the 'missing' parts.
Chilcott published two sets of keyboard concertos. The opus
2, of which the concerto on this disc is taken, has been preserved
without string parts. For this recording a reconstruction
of these parts by Robin Langley has been used.
reconstructions are the only way to perform a piece, and sometimes
so much material has been left that it is quite possible to
make a reconstruction which is stylistically convincing. But
when no material has been left at all, like in the concertos
by Roseingrave and Chilcott, I am a bit sceptical about the
whole process of reconstruction. Any reconstruction is mostly
guesswork - "informed guesswork", probably, but
still guesswork. That is even more the case with the last
concerto on this disc, the Concerto in D by James Hook. It
is from his opus 1 which was printed with parts for two violins
and bass. Peter Holman writes: "However, there are a
number of places in the outer movements of the Hook D major
Concerto that seem to call for more varied colours, so I have
provided parts for flutes and horns, using as a model the
wind parts that survive in manuscript for some of J.C. Bach's
Op. 7, or the ad libitum parts for flutes and horns
in some of the Philip Hayes concertos". Of course, this
is a rather subjective judgement. The same concerto was recorded by David Owen Norris with the ensemble Sonnerie,
and never once in that recording did I have the feeling that
something was missing.
misunderstand me. I don't want to give the impression that
this is a bad recording. Far from it. It is just that I am
sceptical about the habit of editing music. There is always
the danger that personal taste gets in the way of what the
composer has conceived.
said, this is a most interesting disc which sheds light on
a forgotten chapter in English music history. The performances
are generally good. Only in the first piece, the Chaconne
by Handel, did I find the playing of the ensemble a bit too
heavy. The booklet doesn't give a list of players, so I don't
know the size of the orchestra, but to me it seemed too large
in this particular piece. The second item, a movement for
organ and orchestra, is an early version of the first movement
from Handel's Organ Concerto Op 7 No 4. Here I would have
liked more ornamentation in the solo part.
use of the the fortepiano in the last two concertos is especially
interesting. The earliest English pianos were small squares,
the kind of instrument David Owen Norris deployed in his recording.
Here another kind of piano is played: a copy of an instrument
by Americus Backers from 1770. It is quite different from
the continental instruments. Having heard this beautiful example
I am inclined to think that it is probably much better suited
to the keyboard music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the
early Mozart than the kind of fortepianos mostly used, in
particular those by Johann Walter.
my critical remarks there are enough reasons to purchase this