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Foreign Insult – English Baroque Music by Expatriate Composers
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto HWV 287 in G minor [8.25]
Trio Sonata HWV 383 in F major [10.14]
Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1722)
A Collection of Old Scots Tunes – selection (published 1742) [9.13]
Gottfried FINGER (1660-1730)
Sonata Op.5 No.10 in C major (published 1701) [5.09]
Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Quintet Op.11 No.6 (published 1774) [13.18]
Nicola MATTEIS (c18)
Ground after the Scotch Humour [4.09]
Carl Friedrich ABEL (1723-1787)
Concerto in E minor [14.53]
La Ricordanza
rec. Schloss Gifhorn, October 2004. DDD

The disc’s title derives from some lines of Richard Steele’s in the epilogue to his The Tender Husband, written in 1706 – “From Foreign Insult save this English Stage/No more th’Italian squalling Tribe admit/In Tongues unknown; ‘tis Popery in Wit.” Naturally kicking a foreigner for being Italian brings with it the delicious corollary of being allowed to kick Catholics as well. But Steele’s politico-linguistic protectionism was of little avail and a continental quilt of composers covered the Court and the concert hall and the music room. In much the same way, over two centuries later, British musicians went to the Ministry of Labour and demanded restrictions on foreign imports – as if musicians were like coal, or cars, or footballers – and were similarly rebuffed.
The familiar cry has always been that it takes time to succeed in London but when you do you’re made for life there. True or not, the composers here all made careers, long or short, in London. Barsanti and Matteis were new to me and their contributions are of the ultra-populist “Scotch” variety. Barsanti’s collection, from which a selection has been chosen, is majorly a solo trip for the recorder. For long, stark moments it spills its folksy highland ditty without any support. Matteis is made of stronger musical stuff, despite the protestations of his title, Ground after the Scotch Humour. Once again it’s written for recorder, the fine Annette Berryman taking the honours - as she does elsewhere on the oboe. Vigorous and short though the ground may be this is a winning acquaintance and is full of subtle touches.
Handel’s Concerto HWV 287 is notable for the oboe playing of Brian Berryman in the Sarabande. Their Trio is quite stylishly done. In the main La Ricordanza, an original instrument group, offers Handel playing that is middle of the road in terms of asperity. There’s little of the Brook Street Band’s rather larger than life chamber playing. They’re closer to the suaver kind of sound cultivated by the London Handel Players.
Gottfried Finger’s Sonata is over in a flash – some pretty arabesques but rather a conventional work. Abel’s Concerto cleaves to the Handelian model, though it does so attractively. Of more forward-looking impulse is J.C. Bach’s Quintet – it’s a buoyant piece, a touch Baroque-by-the yard maybe, but splendidly set out for flute, oboe and strings.
This is an entertaining look at expatriates in London in the eighteenth century. The music is not, in truth, overwhelming but the performances are just, if a touch reserved. Slightly too spacious a recorded perspective but that’s a very minor point.

Jonathan Woolf


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