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THE COUNTRY HOUSE Domestic Music of the 18th Century Marie Vassiliou - sop; Alasdair Elliott - ten; Harry Nicoll - ten; Lesley holliday - flute; John Trusler - violin; Marylin Sansom - cello; Jane Clark - hrpchd Janiculum JAN D201 [70.25]


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THE GRAND TOUR  Musical delights encountered by the 18th Century traveller in Paris, Rome, Naples & Venice Marie Vassiliou - sop; Alasdair Elliott - ten; Harry Nicoll - ten; Lesley Holliday - flute; John Trusler - violin; Marylin Sansom - cello; Jane Clark - hrpchd Janiculum JAN D202 [64.01]


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Nicola Haym (1678-11729)
Aria: O'gratie accorrete (Pyrrbus & Demetrius)

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Duet: Mio caro ben non sospirar (Astarto)

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Sonata in F Op5 No 10 for violin and continuo

Air Italien: Miei spiriti amorosi (Arlequin Misantrope)
Scottish Folksongs: Bonny Jean,Love is the cause of my mourning, The Birks of Endermay, The lass with a lump of land
Country Dances: In the fields of frost and snow, Boys and girls to play, Athol Brays

Niccolo Pasquali (c1718-1757)
Song: When I was a  maiden of twenty (Apollo & Daphne)

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Sonata in F K6 for harpsichord

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Minuet (from the overture to Arianna)
Arias: Rotorna o caro (Rodelinda) Lusinghe piu care (Alessandro) Love in her eyes (Acis & Galatea) Love sounds th'allarm

John Ernest Galliard (c1687-1749)
Song: The early horn (The Royal Chase)

Pasquale Anfossi (1727-1797)
The Favorite Duett for violin and violoncello (from the Overture to Il Curioso Indescreto)

Gabriele Piozzi (1740-1809)
Canzonet: Di quest' aura

Felice de Giardini (1716-1796)
Air: Ah se de mali miei

Giovanni Battista Noferi (1750-1781)
Three Dances

Michel Blavet (1700-1768)
Tambourin (Le Jaloux Corrigé)

Air Français: Non ce n'est pas la médisance (Pasquin et Marforio)
Country dances: Cold and Raw, Blowsabella, Butter'd pease
Chanson à Boire: Quand la mer rouge apparut'
Duet: The yellow hair'd Laddie
Neopolitan Song : Oje ma' ca' io la voglio
Neopolitan Tarantella for harpsichord
Venetion Gondoliers songs: Per pietà del mio tormento; Si la gondola avere 

Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Air de Musette: Paix tranquille (L'isle de Délos)

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710)
Tastata for Harpsichord

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Sonata in A Op5 No6 for violin and continuo

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Aria: Amor tu che lo si (Tolomeo et Alessandro)
Sonata in C K513 for Harpsichord

Riccardo Broschi (1700-1756)
Aria: Se al làbbro mio non credi (Artaserse)

Robert Valentine (1680-1735)
Sonata No 8 in G for flute and continuo

Domenico Terradeglias (1713-1751)
Aria: Cara tu fosti e sei (Sesostri re d'Egitto)

Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
New Italian Minuet

Pietro Castrucci (1679-1752)
Ciaccona in G for violin and continuo

Niccolo Lommelli (1714-1774)
Duet: Non dan pace ai miei pensieri

These two discs on the Janiculum label have been issued with two praiseworthy aims: to call modern listeners' attention to the delights of music by some of that host of early 18th century composers who, popular in their day, have since been all but forgotten; and to recreate authentically the musical experiences enjoyed by English society at that time, both during their summer retreats from London to their country estates and whilst travelling on the Grand Tour in France and Italy.

Together these discs feature anthologies of selected arias, sonatas and dance suites by fifteen rarely encountered English, French and Italian composers (mostly Italian) as well as pieces by the better known Scarlattis (father and son), Corelli, Pasquali and Handel, together with arrangements of folk songs and country dances. Thus we are given tantalising little tasters of the immense richness and diversity of western European music of the Baroque period.

The provenance of each piece has been researched with much careful scholarship and the results of this are presented in the extensive and informative notes in the accompanying booklet. These deserve commendation and it is a pity that their author is not named. They provide insights into the whole culture of the "upper crust" of English society of the day and the centrally important role that music played in their lifestyle.

After all this careful preparation in the selection of the pieces and research into the cultural context, it is disappointing in the extreme to have to say that the manner of performances renders the pieces with just about zero stimulus of the listener's emotions. The music is emasculated and sanitized to the point of vapid anodyne pleasantry and no more. The playing and singing are technically flawless and meticuluosly controlled. However the interpretive style is a sore betrayal of those high impact, gutsy qualities which (for some of us at least) make the Baroque more wondrous and uplifting than any music before or since. A terse sentence on the back cover of the booklets informs us: "Instruments used are either 18th century originals or modern copies." If this is true, then it can only be said that the violin, cello and flute have a remarkably 20th century full sound, with all the Baroque brightness and resonance washed out of them. Why the transverse flute is used at all, when the music so obviously calls for the recorder, is beyond comprehension. Listening to these discs is an experience akin to going to the cinema expecting to see "Clockwork Orange" with a frisson of anticipatory excitement, only to be served up with a story from the pen of Agatha Christie.

On a few occasions the innate transcendent qualities of the music shine through; the performers actually get passionately carried away and one can detect real heart and soul as well as technical accuracy. Two stunning discoveries are the arias "O'gratie accorrete", from Nicola Haym's opera "Pyrrhus & Demetrius", and "Cara tu fosti e sei" from Domenico Terradegiias' "Sesostri re D'Egitto". Both these operatic gems are worth repeated playing.

In conclusion, the vision behind these discs is a noble one, linking as it does musicology, culture and social history. There is indeed much unjust neglect of music from the 18th century which these recordings seek to rectify. There is much in them that will appeal to those of an intellectual and scholarly musicological inclination. It is such a shame that (with rare exceptions) the interpretations fail to fulfill the music's potential.


Humphrey Smith


Humphrey Smith

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