When I received this disc the name of Richard Mudge rang no bells
with me. He isn't a completely unknown quantity, though. In 1957
Maurice André made a recording of the first concerto of the set
of six presented here. When I searched in my database I found
out that the same concerto was recorded by Reinhold Friedrich
and the Berliner Barock-Compagney. This is the only concerto which
has a trumpet part, but strictly speaking it is not a trumpet
concerto. It was edited by the English composer Gerald Finzi who
stated that several of Mudge’s Concertos for strings are "of
outstanding beauty and dignity".
Richard Mudge was born in 1718 in Bideford in Devon as the son of Rev.
Zachariah Mudge, master of Bideford Grammar School. He entered
Pembroke College in Oxford, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts
in 1738 and a Master of Arts in 1741. After finishing his theological
studies Mudge was ordained curate in Great Packington. He obviously
had a keen interest in music which probably was the reason he
applied for the post at the newly erected St Bartholomew Church
in the parish of St Martin's. This had a strong impact on his
further career: among the benefactors of this church were members
of the Jennens family, like Charles Jennens, the librettist
of Handel's oratorio Messiah. In 1750 Mudge was installed
as priest of St Martin's in Birmingham, where he became a popular
The contact to Charles Jennens resulted in Mudge becoming acquainted
with Handel, and it seems he considered Mudge one of the best
interpreters of his music. In his Concertos in Seven Parts the
influence of Handel's style is obvious, but Mudge's concertos
also bear resemblance to the concerti grossi of Corelli. Mudge
splits the ensemble into a concertino, consisting of two violins
and bc (here played by cello only), and a ripieno of strings
and bc. As already stated the first concerto contains a part
for trumpet, but it is no independent concertante part. The
Concerto VI is different, though: this is a real organ concerto
whose four main movements are preceded by an allegro which is
a kind of prelude. The most extended solo parts are in the third
and fifth movements, allegro and allegro ma non presto respectively.
Especially the third movement is remarkable because of the many
twists and turns of the organ part.
There are other interesting things in these concertos, like the descending
chromatic subject of the first allegro of the Concerto II in
B flat. This concerto begins with a largo which contains strong
dynamic contrasts through the consistent juxtaposition of the
concertino and the ripieno. The piece ends with a sparkling
allegro. The next piece is the Concerto III which seems to consist
of six movements instead of the standard four. That is the result
of the two very short adagios being given independent tracks.
But these are mere transitions between the preceding and the
following movements. This concerto starts with a poco largo
dominated by strong staccato chords of the tutti. It is followed
by a bright allegro.
There is plenty of counterpoint in these concertos, as in the second
movement, allegro ma non troppo, of the Concerto IV and the
second movement of the Concerto I. There is also much expression,
in particular in slow movements, like the largo of the Concerto
IV. The swaying rhythm of the first movement of the Concerto
V is also very nice.
The last item of this disc is rather odd: the canon 'Non nobis, Domine'.
Dominik Sackmann believes the inclusion in this collection "should
probably be seen as a political statement". The canon is
based on the opening verse of Psalm 115 - not 113 as the booklet
says - : "Not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name give the
glory". The music consists of two phrases from the motet
'Aspice Domine' by the Flemish composer Philip van Wilder (c.1500-1553),
which were put together during the time of Elizabeth I. William
Byrd used the canon in his motet 'Ne irascaris Domine'. The
canon was "widespread among Jacobite recusants, particularly
the Anglican 'non-jurors'. It expressed their solidarity - despite
any confessional differences - with the Stuart dynasty, ended
by the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, and their rejection of
the legitimacy of the reigning monarch." Charles Jennens
was also one of the 'non-jurors' who refused allegiance to the
house of Hanover which reigned since 1713. The fact that Mudge
included this canon into this collection doesn't necessarily
imply, as Sackmann underlines, that Mudge shared his conviction
- which is in contradiction to his earlier suggestion that it
could be seen as a political statement.
This is a most interesting collection of concertos, and there is every
reason to welcome their appearance on disc. Apparently the baroque
orchestra Capriccio Basel has a special interest in English
orchestral music as their previous
recording of music by William Hayes shows. The performances
are technically brilliant and the orchestra produces a beautiful
and warm sound, with a wide dynamic spectrum. The violin parts
in the concertino are shared by nine of the orchestra’s 11 violinists.
Henry Moderlak gives a good performance of the trumpet part
in Concertino I, and Marc Meisel shines as the organ soloist
in Concerto VI. These are very persuasive interpretations which
fully reveal the "beauty and dignity" of these concertos.
Johan van Veen