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CD: AmazonUK
Download: Classicsonline


Airs and Graces
Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1772)
Lord Aboynes Welcome, or Cumbernault House (1742) [2:12]2
Waly Waly (1742) [1:26]2
Clout the Cauldron (1742) [1:52]2
John STANLEY (1712-1786)
Solo IV in B Minor, from Op.4, for flute and basso continuo (1745) [7:16]1
Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1772)
Lochaber (1742) [3:13]2
Robert BREMNER (c.1720-1789)
Fy Gar Rub Her O’er With Straw (1765) [3:57]
Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1772)
Busk Ye Busk Busk Ye Bonny Bride (1742) [4:57]2
George Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata in B Minor for flute and basso continuo, HWV 376 (1730) [6:35]1
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Sonata in C major  for cello and basso continuo, Op.5 No 3 (1746) [12:15]1,2
Robert BREMNER (c.1720-1789)
The Flowers of the Forrest (1765) [1:59]
Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1772)
Dumbarton’s Drums (1742) [1:13]1
Logan Water (1742) [2:05]2
Johan Helmich ROMAN (1694-1758)
Sonata X in E Minor for flute and basso continuo, BeRl 210 (1727) [11:35]1
George Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Minuetto, from Sonata in E Minor, HWV 375 (1730) [3:22]1
Parnassus Avenue: Dan Laurin (recorder), David Tayler (archlute, theorbo, baroque guitar), Hanneke van Proosdij (harpsichord, recorder), Tanya Tomkins (cello)1, William Skeen (cello)2
rec. June 2005, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere, California
BIS BISSACD1595 [65:47]


Experience Classicsonline

Graced by a cover image taken from Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician, this is a lively and pleasant collection of music by both native British composers and foreign visitors and reisidents, music written in the middle years of the Eighteenth Century. Hogarth’s etching, it may be remembered, shows a violinist frustrated in his attempts to rehearse by the noise created beneath his window by, amongst others, a ballad singer (carrying a crying child) singing ‘The Ladies Fall’, an impoverished looking man playing a hautboy and a small boy playing the drum. Hogarth’s ‘classical’ musician wants – and fails – to exclude the popular music of the street. For the most part, this programme played by American chamber group Parnassus Avenue is made up of music which, on the contrary, embraces the popular.

Running as a continuous thread through the disc are pieces from A Collection of Old Scots Tunes, the work of Francesco Barsanti, published in 1742. Born in Lucca in 1790, Barsanti came to London in 1714, and was largely based there, though making several returns to Lucca, until the mid 1730s, making his living as a flautist and oboist. By 1735 he was in Edinburgh, where he married and grew familiar with traditional Scottish songs and tunes. His interest in this music and his preparation of his own versions of some of it, can be seen as part of that same renewed interest in the Celtic world which was one of the early signs of romanticism and which gave us such fashionable works as Macpherson’s fraudulent Poems of Ossian or Gray’s marvellous poem ‘The Bard’ and, musically, was later to include, inter alia, Haydn’s and Beethoven’s settings of Scottish and Welsh songs. Barsanti’s chamber arrangements of tunes such as ‘Waly, waly’, ‘Clout the Cauldron’ and ‘Dumbarton’s Drums’ have charm, and played sympathetically by Parnassus Avenue, notably by the featured recorder of Dan Laurin, these are attractive pieces of ‘domesticated’ folk music. Barsanti would doubtless have made himself familiar with Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany of 1724 (important for both the music and the poetic texts it assembles) –and Barsanti’s music has more than a little of the tea-table about it too. A native Scotsman who also made arrangements of traditional tunes was the interesting figure of Robert Bremner, very important in his day but largely forgotten now. Since the booklet notes offer no information on him it may be worth providing a little here, to put his work in context. Bremner opened a music business in Edinburgh in 1754 and was soon supplying music to the important Edinburgh Musical Society. In 1756 he published his Rudiments of Music and played a significant role in the reforming of the music used in the Scottish Presbyterian Church. He worked as an agent for the Edinburgh Musical Society, recommending performers, from London and elsewhere, to the Society. He published a wide range of music and, at one point, purchased what we now know as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Amongst collections of his own music to be published was his Harpsichord or Spinnet Miscellany of 1765, from which both ‘Fy Gar Rub Her O’er With Straw’ and ‘The Flowers of the Forrest’ are taken. They get engaging, lively, idiomatic performances from Hanneke van Proosdij. It would be good to hear more of Bremner’s music.

There are more familiar names and music here too. Handel (at least as a name) is represented by the lovely Sonata in B minor (HWV 376) and by a minuetto from another sonata (HWV 375). Both were published by John Walsh in a collection of 1730, a collection in which Handel’s name looms large though Walsh is ambiguous as to the exact authorship of the music. Whether or not these pieces are by Handel is a matter of debate; what is more certain is that they are rather fine pieces. So, too, is the work by which John Stanley is represented, eloquently and elegantly played by Parnassus Avenue. Another Lucca born composer – Francesco Geminiani – is represented too. An interesting connection here is that in 1777 Robert Bremner republished Geminiani’s 1751 treatise The Art of Playing the Violin. Geminiani’s Sonata for cello heard here is from his Opus 5 set, published in 1746, a collection of some real importance in the baroque cello repertoire. Tanya Tomkins is the pleasing soloist here (with William Skeen’s cello playing its role in the continuo accompaniment). The Swedish composer John Helmich Roman was in London between 1715 and 1721, mixing with both Geminiani and Handel. The sonata recorded here – first published in Stockholm in 1727, the year in which Roman was appointed Director of the Drottningholm court orchestra – has some distinctly Handelian touches about it.

All in all, this disc attracts and satisfies both by the generally high standard of performance (and recorded sound) and by the enterprising choice of repertoire.

Glyn Pursglove


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