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Editor-in-Chief: Rob Barnett
Music for Gainsborough
Sonata no 1 in G major - C. F. ABEL
‘Trust me wou’d you taste true pleasure’ - J. C. BACH
[‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen] arr from Die Zauberflöte - ANON.
‘I will never vow truth at the feet fair’ - T. LINLEY sen.
Vivace - C. F. ABEL
‘If thy too creul bow be bent’ - T. LINLEY jun.
Fantasie - R. STRAUBE
Windsor Forest - R. STRAUBE
Allegro - R. STRAUBE
[The lass of Peatie’s Mill] - R. STRAUBE
Hornpipe - R. STRAUBE
Menuets I & II - R. STRAUBE
Andante from Sonata Op13 no2 - F de GIARDINI
Sonata Op17 no5 in A major - J. C. BACH
Adagio from Sonata 1 - R. STRAUBE
‘Ah could you possibly know’ - T. LINLEY sen.
Sonata in G major WKO 147 - C. F. ABEL
Charivari Agréable: Susanne Heinrich, Kah-Ming Ng, and Lynda Sayce with Reiko Ichise
Recording made in St Andrew’s Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, England on 15-17 January 2000
SIGNUM SIGCD026 [72’48"]
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The Georgian era is an unusual period in England’s music history. The early and mid-eighteenth century prospered artistically, with the likes of Handel, Boyce and Arne and a whole host of visiting foreign musicians making London one of the most cosmopolitan musical centres in Europe. As soon as the half-way point of the century was reached, if we are to believe what history books omit, then music stopped, apart from the occasional reference to the fact that Mozart admired J. C. Bach. This disc of domestic chamber music performed by Charivari Agréable presents some of the music that filled that void in the history books, using the circle of musical acquaintances surrounding Thomas Gainsborough as a structure for the programme. This idea works well as Gainsborough was an enthusiastic amateur musician who cultivated numerous friends in musical circles and left various written references to his activities in this field.
One of the highpoints of this recording, both in terms of programming and performance, is the pair of sonatas for viola da gamba and continuo by Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-87) with which the disc opens and closes. The ‘flatmate’ of J C Bach, Abel deserves to be better known, although some of his symphonies have appeared on disc and are well worth hearing. As a virtuoso of the viola da gamba, an instrument already well past its prime of popularity, Abel was always in a no-win situation, in his own day and ours. However, he was an admirable composer who not only knew how to exploit the peculiarites of his own instrument, but had also an assured melodic gift. Susanne Heinrich plays these with appropriate verve in the fast movements and a delicate richness of timbre in the slow movements. The accompaniments employ a small organ or harpsichord and, at various times a mandora (see the cover illustration; the small instrument which Mrs Thicknesse is holding is the ‘English Guitar’ a related and popular instrument) or a 13 course baroque lute. This writer wonders whether the guitar would not have been a more appropriate choice for the period - especially for accompaniment.
The middle of the programme provides various arrangements of popular songs and dances, many for unaccompanied gamba or lute. The lute pieces by Rudolf Straube (1717-1778) show him to be the lute equivalent of poor neglected Abel. Although he apparently studied with J S Bach in Leipzig, Straube’s music is only ‘interesting’ at best. These song arrangements and dances are nice enough pieces on their own, but are rather light-weight, and somewhat similar in tempo and mood for presentation in this quantity. However, the performances are fine, Susanne Heinrich again demonstrating a richly varied command of the dynamics, textures and colours available from her viol da gamba.
Of particular interest, and the other highpoint of this disc, is the inclusion of a keyboard sonata by J C Bach played on an original Kirkman harpsichord of 1776. (All the other instruments are modern copies.) In this day and age, when many museums are moving towards a policy of ‘silent’ collections of instruments it is quite marvellous to hear the actual sounds of a period instrument. Back in the 70’s virtually anyone could borrow an original instrument from a museum to make a recording. A few well publicised disasters and authorities started to think again. At least there are still reasonable numbers of keyboard originals working and the sheer beauty of sound shown in this sonata demonstrates why Kirkman is still so highly regarded. This instrument appears to be in private (and very lucky) ownership.
This is an interesting collection of pieces from a period that has been unjustly neglected and the programming idea and performances are both imaginative. The overall result however, is rather variable, and this writer ends up feeling a little disappointed that the disc was not just a programme of Abel or J C Bach sonatas; meaty works for gamba and that wonderful harpsichord. Now that would be something to look out for if Charivari Agréable were to rise to the challenge.
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