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Pietro Domenico PARADIES (1707-1791)
A favourite concerto for the organ or harpsichord in B flat [12:37]
Johann Anton REICHENAUER (1694-1730)
Concerto à 5 for oboe, strings and bc in F [10:20]
Johan Daniel BERLIN (1714-1787)
Sinfonia No. 2 à 5 for cornett, strings and bc [9:11]
Johann Christoph PEPUSCH (1667-1752)
Concerto for four violins, viola and bc in a minor* [8:19]
Johann Wilhelm HERTEL (1727-1789)
Concerto for trumpet, strings and bc No. 3 in D [10:36]
William CROFT (1678-1727)
Sonata for four violins and bc [4:17]
Pietro BALDASSARI (c1683-after
Sonata for cornett, strings and bc [7:00]
Jamie Savan (cornett), Simon Desbruslais (trumpet), Geoffrey Coates
(oboe), Persephone Gibbs (violin) (*), Kah-Ming Ng (harpsichord)
Charivari Agréable/Kah-Ming Ng
rec. 11-13 August 2010, St Andrew's Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire,
SIGNUM SIGCD249 [62:23]
The ensemble Charivari Agréable was founded in 1993.
Since then it has made recordings on a regular basis. A feature
of its discography is that its director, Kah-Ming Ng, avoids
the well-trodden paths. No Brandenburg Concertos, no Handel
concerti grossi or Vivaldi's Four Seasons. He rather turns his
attention to psalm settings by English composers of the 17th
century, songs and dances from the Hispanic Baroque or "Music
for Gainsborough by his contemporaries". All these recordings
contain rare music which is seldom heard and often never recorded
before. That makes the ensemble take a special place in the
early music scene.
It is only fitting that their 20th disc is devoted to "concerti
curiosi". All these pieces are rare indeed and for various reasons.
Some composers are not very familiar, like Johan Daniel Berlin,
Pietro Baldassari and Johann Anton Reichenauer who doesn’t
even have an entry in New Grove. Some compositions are
curious because of the uncommon scoring. That is certainly the
case with the two compositions for four violins, and even more
so with the two in which the cornett plays a solo role.
The cornett was a common instrument in the 16th century, and
often participated in performances of sacred music, either supporting
or replacing singers. In the early 17th century it was used
as a solo instrument in sonatas and canzonas, and was highly
celebrated for being a close imitation of the human voice. From
the mid-17th century it gradually fell into disuse. In the 18th
century hardly any composer wrote music for the cornett. One
of the last composers who made use of it was Johann Sebastian
Bach in some of his cantatas. It still remained a part of the
ensembles of the Stadtpfeifer in Germany and comparable
ensembles in Italy. The most famous of the latter was the Concerto
Palatino of Bologna which was active until 1779. Even so it
is quite remarkable that Pietro Baldassari composed a Sonata
for cornett and strings, one of two for this scoring. The
form of a piece for solo cornett and strings is quite rare.
Over the years I can't remember having ever heard a composition
like it. It should be noted that the terms concerto,
sinfonia and sonata are to a large extent interchangeable.
Therefore Johan Daniel Berlin's Sinfonia No. 2 à 5
for cornett and strings is not different in the treatment
of the cornett. Berlin was of German birth, but spent most of
his life in Norway. He was not only involved in music, but also
acted as an inventor. Most of his music is lost, amongst which
is a concerto for an instrument called cembalo da gamba verticale.
In the writing of his Sinfonia he may have been inspired
by the Stadtpfeifer he met in Copenhagen, where he stayed
for seven years. These pieces by Baldassari and Berlin are musically
quite good and an interesting addition to the repertoire for
cornett players. They are given fine performances by Jamie Savan.
Whereas the cornett became obsolete the trumpet was given an
increasingly important role. Originally it was used for military
and ceremonial purposes. That role was reflected in a way in
the 17th century, when trumpets were used in music of a military
character or in sacred music written to celebrate military victories.
Settings of the Te Deum, but also of the Magnificat, often included
parts for one or more trumpets. With the emergence of the concerto
in the early 18th century the trumpet was given a solo role
by some composers. The fact that the number of concertos is
limited is probably due to a lack of skilled players. This can
be put down in particular to the fact that the trumpet had no
finger holes and was hard to play in tune. Two composers of
the German baroque nevertheless gave the trumpet special attention
by writing several solo concertos: Johann Wilhelm Hertel and
Johann Melchior Molter. Hertel's trumpet concertos belong to
the best-known part of his oeuvre. They were written for the
court of Schwerin, where the trumpet virtuoso Johann Georg Hoese
was working. Their popularity among modern trumpeters can be
easily explained, for instance by the Concerto No. 3 in D.
The music is attractive, but also technically demanding for
the soloist. Simon Desbruslais's performance leaves nothing
to be desired: it is musically compelling and technically very
Compositions for four violins not as rare as concertos for the
cornett. They were mostly written in Italy, and the former German
ensemble Musica antiqua Köln once devoted a complete disc
to such pieces (Archiv). In this respect the four concertos
for four solo violins without accompaniment by Telemann also
deserve to be mentioned. In those pieces the various violins
get solo passages, whereas the others accompany. William Croft's
Sonata for four violins and bc follows the same procedure,
although Croft adds a part for the basso continuo. One probably
wouldn't expect such a piece from Croft, in particular as it
is written in a purely Italian style. The Concerto for four
violins in a minor by Johann Christoph Pepusch is different
in various respects. The four violins are not treated on an
equal footing as they are in Croft's sonata. One of the violins
gets a solo role whereas the others furnish accompaniment. Pepusch
has also added a part for a viola, and that makes this concerto
more like a 'conventional' solo concerto in Vivaldian style.
The influence of Vivaldi is traceable in all concertos on this
disc. It was in particular his opus 3, L'Estro armonico,
which was printed in 1711, which had a lasting influence on
composers all over Europe. This opus also included several concertos
for four violins, and these could well have inspired the likes
of Croft and Pepusch to write for this scoring too. Of all composers
on this disc Johann Anton Reichenauer seems to have had the
most direct access to Vivaldi's music. He was at the service
of the Bohemian count Wenzel von Morzin, who was the dedicatee
of Vivaldi’s op. 8. Reichenauer's Concerto à
5 in F is scored for oboe, strings and bc. The first movement
begins with a passage in which the oboe plays colla parte
with the first violin. Here Geoffrey Coates' oboe blends beautifully
with the strings. In the adagio he can show his lyrical qualities.
Pietro Domenico Paradies was one of the many composers from
the continent who settled in London in the first quarter of
the 18th century. He composed several operas which were performed
in the Haymarket Theatre in London. But he was mainly admired
for his keyboard music. A set of 12 sonatas was printed in London
in 1754 and found wide dissemination. They received praise from
Leopold Mozart who urged his daughter Nannerl to study them.
Two concertos for keyboard and strings are known from his pen.
The Concerto in B flat was printed around 1768; the solo
part can be played on harpsichord or organ. Although the concerto
is in three movements like all pieces on this disc, the first
movement consists of two sections, vivace e staccato and allegretto.
In the first section we only hear the strings, in the second
the keyboard comes in. Kah-Ming Ng gives a lively account of
the solo part.
I have greatly enjoyed this disc and this is very much down
to the original repertoire and the playing of the soloists.
The performances of the tutti by the strings could have been
a bit more colourful and dynamically differentiated. The violins
are at their best in the two concertos for four violins. The
recording is excellent and so are the liner-notes by Kah-Ming
Ng. It is a shame that the track-list is somewhat inaccurate:
neither keys - I have tried to add them as far as possible -
nor the exact scoring are given.
This is a disc for adventurous music-lovers who like to extend
their horizon and are not satisfied with listening to the same
masterpieces over and over again. Charivari Agréable
deserve our congratulations with this 20th volume in their impressive
discography. May many more follow.
Johan van Veen