New from Musica Britannica

Arne: Judith
Edited by Simon McVeigh and Peter Lynan
Musica Britannica C, 2016. xlviii+254.
ISMN 979 0 2202 2488 1; ISBN 978 0 85249 947 4

Thomas Arne’s fine oratorio is deserving of so opulent an edition. The editors’ splendidly detailed introduction sets the scene and gives a wonderful account of the work’s genesis and performance history. Most peculiarly, we learn that the various original soloists took on various roles (some both male and female!). A very useful table in the closing notes (with accounts of variations in the musical sources and the libretti) suggests how modern performers might re-allocate the various airs and duets. Arne’s music looks splendid. After a commanding overture, the opening chorus is introduced by a pair of bassoons; a pair of cellos accompany a duet towards the work’s conclusion; in between, there are secco recitatives and accompagnati, coloratura arias, dramatic choruses and much besides. English sacred dramas by Handel are rarely performed; hopefully this excellent edition will inspire choirs to consider adding Arne’s work to their repertoire.

Philips and Dering: Consort Music
Edited by David J. Smith
Musica Britannica CI, 2016. xlv+216.
ISMN 979 0 2202 2489 8; ISBN 978 0 85249 948 1

A volume devoted to these two composers is particularly sensible since, not only were both Catholic converts who lived for a time in Belgium (Philips until his death, Dering returned to England when Charles I married Henrietta Maria), but they may well have known one another. The music is organised firstly by composer (the older Philips first) then broadly in the sequence dances followed by fantasias in ascending size, and finished off by two anonymous In nomine  settings in six parts, attributed to Dering. Smith (or the MB board?) sensibly includes the Viola da Gamba Society numbers as part of each heading. In several Dering pieces, Smith has had to provide one or more of the parts; I had a closer look (randomly!) at no. 26 and found octaves between bass and part II in Bar 12 – the rest looks perfectly likely! With 38 pages of detailed critical notes, this volume is worthy of its predecessors in the MB series.

Richard Turbet reviews a new recording here.

Keyboard Music from the Fitzwilliam Manuscripts
Edited by Christopher Hogwood and Alan Brown
Musica Britannica CII, 2017. xliv+202.
ISMN 979 0 2202 2512 3; ISBN 978 0 85249 952 8

Containing 85 works (six consisting of a pair of movements, one of two movements each with a variation), this volume had been in Christopher Hogwood’s mind for decades, and was first offered by Musica Britannica  in 1992. By the time of his death in 2014, proofs of the musical portion of the volume had been prepared but some editorial choices remained to be made, and brief notes had been left for a preface and introduction; enter Alan Brown who, as far as I can tell, has done a fabulous job in finishing off such a monumental task. 28 pages of critical notes follow the music, including a most useful table that lists the entire contents of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book  (which makes up the bulk of this MB volume), detailing where in Musica Britannica  each piece can be found. I fear the editors’ concern that a larger book might have been a serious damage to an early keyboard is more than justified; even this tome is far heavier than the Dover edition of My Ladye Nevell’s Booke  which I had at university! Additional material from “Tisdale’s Virginal Book” is also included (though only if there is a valid reason, since a complete edition was issued in 1966). Where possible, pieces are laid out on a single page or opening, so performers as well as scholars will welcome this volume.

Brian Clark