John Eccles: The Judgment of Paris

Floral design

Edited by Eric J. Harbeson
Recent Research in the Music of the Baroque Era, 203
xvii+4+126pp
ISBN 978-1-9872-0016-4
A-R Editions, Inc. $165.00

This is the fourth volume in A-R Editions’ series devoted to the music of little-known English composer, John Eccles. I say “little-known” because, although his name will be familiar to anyone with an interest in English baroque music, few can have had many opportunities to hear any of it in live performance. Along with the two other surviving settings of Congreve’s masque (Gottfried Finger’s setting – which came fourth in the contest for which they were written – has vanished, leaving others by John Weldon (the winner) and Daniel Purcell), it was heard at the BBC Proms in 1989 and I am unaware of any other performance in the UK since then.

Eric J. Harbeson’s meticulous edition should help remedy that. It seems that all possible sources have been checked against one another, despite which the critical commentary fits a mere four pages. The text is scrutinized against the printed libretto. The already quite full figured bass is augmented by additional symbols to help inexperienced players. With a mere five soloists and (apart from the inclusion of no fewer than four trumpets!) a fairly modest band, Eccle’s Judgment of Paris should appeal to smaller opera companies – the whole aim of the contest was to stimulate increased interest in English language musical theatre, after all!

Brian Clark