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Welcome home, Mr Dubourg
Matthew DUBOURG (1703-1767)
Ode for Dublin Castle, 1753: Hibernia’s sons, your voices raise [4:00]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for two violins, strings and bc in A (RV 519) [6:53]
Dubourg’s Maggot [1:55]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in D [8:23]
Eileen Aroon, with variations set by Mr Dubourg [2:14]
Ciste nó stór [1:34]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata for violin and bc in A, op. 5/9 (ornaments by Matthew Dubourg) [10:58]
Odes for Dublin Castle (1739-43)
Now the mingling hosts engage [3:47]
Soft breathes the melting flute [2:54]
Trumpet tune [0:50]
Crowned with a more illustrious light [16:01]
‘Welcome home, Mr Dubourg’ [1:29]
Anna Devin (soprano), Rachel Kelly (mezzo-soprano), Edward Grint (bass)
Sophie Gent, Claire Duff, Huw Daniel (violin)
Simon Munday (trumpet)
Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord)
Irish Baroque Orchestra/Peter Whelan
rec. 2018, North Leith Parish Church, Edinburgh; St Jude-on-the-Hill, London
Texts provided

The Mr Dubourg of the title is Matthew Dubourg, an English violin virtuoso and composer with a rather un-English surname who spent most of his working life in Dublin. The home referred to in the title is not as you might imagine, London or Dublin, but the home key, and is the result of a performance in front of his friend Handel, who cried out at the end of a torturous cadenza, “You are welcome home, Mr Dubourg”.

Dubourg was appointed to the post of Chief Composer and Master of His Majesty’s Musicke in Ireland in 1728, hence the significant Irish connection of much of this music. The odes featured in the recording were for the Royal Birthday celebrations for George II. One – “Crowned with a more illustrious light” from 1739 – is presented in full, while the others are extracts.

The selections from the Odes are very Handelian, though I hope I’m not being too unfair by suggesting that it would be Handel in less inspired than usual form. They are very pleasant, but perhaps, for the most part, not much more than that. As celebrations of the King’s birthday, they certainly would have been fit for purpose. Johan van Veen, in his review, mentioned “quite a lot of vibrato” from the female singers in particular; certainly it is there, but it didn’t bother me, and the three voices combine to create the impression of a larger group. Dubourg’s Violin Concerto is undemanding for the listener, though undoubtedly rather more so for the soloist. It is very standard baroque fare, and could be by a number of the lesser lights of the era.

I’ve left the two non-Dubourg works to last, as the main point of this release is putting the spotlight on Dubourg the composer. The Corelli’s inclusion is obvious because of the ornaments provided by Dubourg. The Vivaldi is included as there is a reference in a novel of the time to “a famous musician, Mr Dubourg”, playing this particular concerto. It is with the Vivaldi that my reservations began to crystallise. Listening to some other versions of this concerto - Biondi/Europa Galante and Huggett/Brecon Baroque – I felt that the IBO was rather lacking in energy and verve. There was little dynamic variation in the phrasing, and it all became a little characterless. This led me to re-listen to the Dubourg works, and in the dance-inspired Dubourgs’ Maggot, the same lack of dynamic variation was evident. There is no doubt that the playing is very stylish but, for me, needs to be a little more unbuttoned, especially in music informed by Irish folk dances.

Despite my reservations, this remains a release to appeal to those wishing to explore off-the-beaten-track Baroque, especially as it is unlikely that we will have an alternative any time soon. I just wish that the performances had a little more oomph.

David Barker

Previous review: Johan van Veen

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