The latest volume in this excellent series from A-R Editions includes not only Benda’s version of his last melodrama, but also the revised version of some movements (made by the glass harmonica player, Johann Ludwig Röllig, who commissioned it) for performances in Prague (the original Viennese production having been cancelled). Unlike Benda’s other melodramas, Philon und Theone (which tells of lovers separated by a sea storm, her protection by spirits, and their ultimate reconciliation) is not restricted to instrumental music interspersed with narrative; Theone is a sung role and the spirits sing two- and four-voice choruses. This, as the thorough and impressive introduction explains, brings the work closer to Singspiel and opera, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Schikaneder and/or Mozart (the latter certainly knew of Benda’s music) were acquainted with the work. The original version (for a string orchestra with pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, and trumpets with timpani) runs to p. 103, and the remainder is given over to Röllig’s Almansor und Nadine (the revision). The translation is given of all the words, and the music looks lively and effective, as Benda’s output tends to be – it still surprises me how few performances and recordings there are on the market! Congratulations to Glatthorn and A-R Editions on a very fine publication.
Edited by Lawrence Mays, libretto translated with assitance from Grazia Miccichè Part 1: Introductory Materials and Act 1 lxii, 6 plates + 243pp. Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 112 A-R Editions, Inc. ISBN 978-1-9872-0215-1 $415 Part 2: Act 2, Act 3, and Critical Report vi + pp. -555. Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 113 A-R EDitions, Inc. ISBN 978-1-9872-0300-4 $415
This three-act opera is unusual in that it is set on the moon! Unlike other moon-themed operas of the Baroque and Classical periods, the libretto tells of the visit of some Earth-living humans to a society where women are very much in control, peace reigns and the desire to be successful in business is viewed rather disapprovingly. Thus the men in the party get into difficulties trying to boast their way into the lunar princess’s good books, and the Earth-women decide the moon is such fun they’d rather stay than go home!
Piccinni’s original setting of 1770 for Milan is lost, so Mays’s edition is based on materials for the Dresden revivals later in the decade, where it is scored for pairs of oboes, horns and trumpets with drums, strings. The seven characters are two sopranos, a mezzo, two tenors, a baritone and a bass. Arias were cut from the Milan libretto for the Dresden performances and it is noticeable that while there are six arias in Act 1, there are only four in Act, and only one in Act 3; conversely, the number of ensemble pieces rises as the opera progresses and the secco recitative gradually gives way to accompagnati. The music is hardly sophisticated (like many contemporary operas, there is a little too much repetition built into the phrases for that) – nor indeed is much of the libretto! – but it is tuneful and full of the necessary energy to carry the action.
A welcome addition to the catalogue of available operas – will someone take on a production?
Manuel de Sumaya (c. 1678-1755) was chapel master at the cathedral in Mexico City from 1715-39 and the 32 complete works in this impressive volume (plus transcriptions of two further fragments) date from this period.
The villancico form has a verse and refrain basis. Sumaya’s Mexico city pieces include 14 for one “choir” (of between two and four voices, two with added violins), 14 more for two “choirs” (four to eight voices, again two with strings), and four for three “choirs” (11-12 voices). It is difficult to look at music for choirs where the bottom line of each is called bass and the rhythm mostly matches the voices above (and thus diverges from the basso seguente at the bottom of the texture) and not assume that these lines must have been sung too; but that is superimposing European expectations – played by the instruments Davies suggests in his detailed introduction, the lack of a texted bass part might be irrelevant.
Some of his translations of the texts are a little less literal than they could be, but a great help for performers is the fact that all of the verses are underlaid so there is no need for the mental gymnastics required with other editions on how to elide the various words ending and beginning with vowels so that the text is properly stressed! One of the strangest pieces is no. 20, for the feast of the Assumption, Hoy sube arrebatada. As well as a tenor voice, it features two violins with bass, as well as untexted treble and bass parts that make up “choir one”. As elsewhere, the string writing is more elaborate than that for voices; Davies’s suggestion that the untexted treble be played on a wind instrument (and the bass, too, presumably) might make sense of something that just looks quite odd!
In all honesty, I cannot see choirs queueing up to pay so much for what is a very worthwhile volume of interesting music, so I sincerely hope that A-R Editions can be persuaded to authorise off-prints for inclusion in concerts.
For those whose historical knowledge of the late 17th century is a little sketchy, the Treaty of Ryswick was signed at the conclusion of the Nine Years War, fought between France under Louis XIV and a Grand (and somewhat unusual) Alliance between Protestant England and Holland on the one hand and Catholic Spain and the Holy Roman Empire on the other.
Kathryn Lowerre (one of the General Editors of this “complete works of Eccles” sub series from A-R Editions) has written extensively about the piece and both its background and contents. Michael Burden’s fine edition supplements that with illustrations, a fully annotated (and, when necessary, translated) libretto (with those sections of Motteux that were omitted from performance in one of three appendices) and a thorough but remarkably short Critical Report.
As usual, my only reservation about the edition is the sometimes impractical layout; numbers 8 and 9, for example, cover two pages but they both have page turns – in the case of number 9, that means turning to play five bars and then turning back. Someone should think about the possibility that these volumes may not be destined to languish on scholars’ shelves and that musicians might be inspired by Anthony Rooley’s foreword to the edition and actually stage a performance; then all the hard work would finally be shown to have been worthwhile.
In her extensive introduction to this 106-bar devotional song for three male voices, Rebecca Herissone makes a convincing case for re-assessing Philip Hayes’ role as a collector and copyist of Purcell’s music in general and for re-instating this to the catalogue of the composer’s canon in particular.
Given the amount of detail she gives, it is surprising that she decided to omit the figured bass symbols on the grounds that it was impossible to distinguish between Hayes’s 18th-century additions (as witnessed in his other transcriptions of Purcell sources that still exist) and what might have been in the original; I should have thought making that statement would have been enough explanation had she left them in rather than (rather shadily) using them “to inform choices in the editorial continuo part”.
She casts the piece as a “homosocial” duet for high and normal tenor voices with a bass joining in for a refrain (in which it really does very little that add text and rhythm to the continuo line). The angular melodies and piquant harmonies are typical of the composer’s style. It is a pity that the three-part section (which neatly fits on to two pages) could not have been laid out on a spread rather than have a page turn in the middle of it both times.
If there is one thing you can rely on with G. Henle Verlag it is quality, both in terms of the fine presentation and of the contents. These three additions to the catalogue (the first two as off-prints from the full-sized complete edition) contain the introductions in three languages (German, English and French) and the commentary in the first two. Despite (obviously) being much smaller than their library shelves cousins, they retain the clarity of print that makes both a pleasure to use.
I confess myself to have been ignorant of these two Haydn symphonies. My eye was caught by the editor’s note that while “solo” meant “you have the tune” in the second movement Largo, in the trio section of the following movement it meant “only one player”. Clearly I wasn’t alone in being slightly confused by this apparent lack of logic (since all the parts were copied by the same person, and – since the original score is lost – the fact that Haydn had made corrections to them, they are given the authority of Primary Source); in a recording I listened to online, in fact, the cello part in the Largo *was* played as a solo. I do like the fact that Haydn only introduces the trumpets and timps in that same second movement – he liked keeping listeners on their toes!
Following the score as I listened to Malcolm Bilson play the Mozart concerto reminded me of my days as a student, when we were encouraged to do so as part of classes in orchestration – no matter how good one’s ears are, there are always details than one misses without having access to the notes. It also rather reminded me that my regular listening has become a little too narrow – my ears need to get out more! So that’s another reason to thank Henle for producing such attractive and conventiently sized scores. I have only praise for them.
Schickhardt: Principes de la Flûte avec Quarante deux Airs à deux Flutes Edited by Nicola Sansone vi + 43pp. FL29 ISMN 979-0-2153-2555-5 £18.95 (UK retail; from website €16.95 + P&P)
After what must be the briefest introduction to notation ever (Schickhardt’s four tables with explanations in French and Flemish), and a fingering chart including trills, it is straight into the music. The first piece is all of six bars and played in unison; the second is shorter but has more notes and tonguing indications, then the third is already conceived in two voices, introduces binary form and only has tonguing marks for certain parts, then the remaining 39 pieces work their way through a variety of keys and dance styles as well as occasional through-composed movements. While the upper voice might “take the lead” more, it certainly does not hog the limelight; the composer is very careful to involve both players in a thoroughly musical dialogue. None of the pieces is longer than two pages, and the majority are far shorter, so these are study rather than recital pieces. That said, I can definitely see a market for this nicely printed volume.
Buchner: 2 Sonate a Tre from Plectrum musicum Op. 4 (Frankfurt 1662) Edited by Nicola Sansone iv + 16pp. FL30 – ISMN 979-0-2153-2556-2 £21.95 (UK retail; from website €19.95 + P&P)
Ostensibly published as a set of sonatas for strings, the “Viola da braccio” part-book for these two sonatas (nos. 10 & 11 in the set) give the scoring as “Flautto vel Viola da braccio”, so the editor is correct to publish them as recorder music but sadly a little hopeful in describing the piece on the cover as “Treble Recorder in G” – unless, of course, that is a misunderstanding of the English usage of Treble in this context to refer to Alto. Printed originally in the soprano clef (middle C on the bottom line), the opening phrase of Sonata X extends to E which is below the instrument’s standard range. But worse is to come – just in case someone was screaming at the screen about fudging that note – as bar 67 has a D, and then bar 78 has a C. Sonata XI has the same range, so there is little doubt that the music is actually far better suited to a Tenor Recorder. Were I to have edited this piece for publication, I would have ignored that fact that there is a separate bass part, since it is identical to the continuo line; rather than fifteen staves per page with the (also identical) figured bass squeezed into the available space, the layout would be much more comfortable. The music is well worth playing, and groups programming – for example – sonatas and concertos by Telemann for the same line-up should not hesitate to deploy these as variety.
Chaconnes and Grounds from English Baroque Masters Edited by Nicola Sansone v + 30pp. HS253 – ISMN 979-0-2153-2542-5 £23.50 (UK retail; from website €20.95 + P&P)
The eight pieces in this very useful volume are by Thomas Williams and Gottfried Keller (one ground each) and Gottfried Finger (three grounds and three chaconnes), all of them taken from four volumes printed in Amsterdam at the beginning of the 18th century. The range of the solo part suites the treble (=alto) recorder perfectly and the music here is far more demanding than in the Schickhardt collection above. Violinists should not be put off, though, as there is much elegant music here which will help younger players in particular to find ways to differentiate between each iteration of the theme above which they must weave their filigree. Ut orpheus has already published the source books (FL2, FL6, FL11 and FL17), should you fancy playing more of the repertoire than variations on a bass!
Manuel Rodrigues Coelho: Flores de Musica (1620) Vol. I: Tentos (1st-4th tone) ECHO Collection of Historical Organ Music [volume 3] Edited by João Vaz xxvi + 128pp. ECHOM3 – ISMN 979-0-2153-2606-4 £56.50 (UK retail; from website €50.95 + P&P)
I am by no stretch of the imagination a keyboard player. That said, in order to develop something akin to a reasonable technique, I remember shutting myself away in a practice room at university and devoting hours to playing Andrea Gabrieli’s organ music; it had the perfect blend (from my perspective, at least!) of sustained chords and moving parts, limited harmonic movement and few – if any – demanding leaps (especially in the left hand). That is also how I would described the contents of this excellent volume which contains 12 Tentos (three in each of the four modes). The original (as shown in the facsimiles dotted throughout the book) was printed on four staves; in compressing them on to two, the editor has (to my mind) sometimes been a little too pedantic (why print a superfluous bar’s rest when there are two other parts vying for the space on the staff at the time?) and not pedantic enough at others (where a note is inflected in one voice but not in the other, if the second accidental is not in the original, should it not be bracketed as an editorial insertion?) One small quirk of the printing is the notation of triplets; instead of the standard chunky 3 over the middle of the figure, this volume prints small 3s over the first note of each group which, in keyboard music, made me think they were fingering instructions. These are, however, minor faults in such an excellent volume. If I had access to an organ (or even a piano!), I think I might be tempted to sit down and play these pieces!
Musica Britannica CIV Transcribed and edited by Andrew Ashbee Stainer and Bell, 2019 ISBN 978 0 85249 956 6 (ISSN 0590-2954; ISMN 979 0 2202 2545 1) xxxvii (including three plates), 186pp. £105
This third volume of Ashbee’s edition of Jenkins’ fantasia-suites for treble, bass and organ includes the 17 entries in the Viola da Gamba Society’s Group I (comprising a fantasia, almain and ayre) and bothof their Group IV entries (where the sequence is fantasia, air, corant). There are four sources for the first group and five for the second and, with typical care and precision, the editor lists even the smallest variance between them.
I cannot recall ever hearing these pieces in performance. As Ashbee says in his introduction, the last two suites are entirely different in character from the first 17. For one thing, both of the string parts are far more technically demanding – the fantasy of no. 18, for example, has wide leaps and demisemiquaver (32nd note) scales as well as chords for the bass viol. The original organ part survives for only the first movement of these two suites, and even the figured bass that exists for the next three movements is lost for the final air and corant; Ashbee has done an excellent job in reconstructing them.
As usual with Musica Britannica, the book is itself thing of great beauty, printed on luxurious paper and handsomely bound. This is the sixth volume in the series devoted to Jenkins, and I am sure it will not be the last.
Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 208
Edited by Christine R. Howlett
x, four plates, 80pp.
A-R Editions, Inc. ISBN 978-1-9872-0281-6 $150
I have known about this work for many, many years so it is a real pleasure to welcome a fine edition of it. Unusual not only for its scoring (SSSAA & Basso contiuo) but also the fact that it is a full mass (with Credo AND Agnus Dei), it is – as Christine Howlett says in her fine introduction to the work – a showstopper for the female singers of the Pietà in Venice, where Gasparini was maestro di coro from 1710. There are solos and duets but much of the work actually does use a five-part texture, though the composer is careful to deploy the voices in a variety of combinations to maximise aural variety, including having two or more voices sing passages in unison. All in all, this is an excellent edition of a very exciting work and I sincerely hope that it can be made available at bulk discount price to female choirs who will simply love it!
Edited by Janet K. Page Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 207
xxxviii, six plates, 92pp
ISBN 978-1-9872-0255-7 $180
One of seven similar works known by the composer,Le sacre stimmate di San Francesco d’Assisi was performed to Emperor Leopold I on St James day at the convent of that name in Vienna. The eight characters (SSSATTTB voices for St Francis, Christ, the narrator and five seraphim) are allocated arias, duets, trios and choruses, interspersed with secco recitative (and some arioso). The writing is melodic if rather brief (though not dissimilar to music by Bertali and Schmelzer for the Imperial court chapel, so perhaps that says more about the emperor’s preferences?) The voices are accompanied by a string group; the editor has chosen to interpret “viole” has violas da gamba and curiously (to my mind, at least) decided to number them 1-3, although the two numbers for which they are specified in only use two, albeit in different clefs. I would question the idea of someone sitting around with their soprano-clef viola, waiting just to play in one movement. Such a level of prescription when there is none in the source strikes me as counterintuitive. Likewise, I see no mention in the (detailed and highly interesting) introduction of that fact that the top violin and the top viola parts pretty much double one another an octave apart for most of the time – which, in turn, largely double the alto part. As the only musical source is a score copied by an imperial scribe (apparently Leopold liked to follow the music as he listened), its authority is dubious and this quirk ought as least to have been mentioned. I absolutely take my hat off to Janet K. Page for meticulously tracking down almost all of the Biblical references given in the printed libretto; while I’m not sure that Latin was absolutely essential, and I’m not 100% convinced that modern performers require such background when the editor has also provided a beautiful translation of the sung Italian text, it shows an exemplary thoroughness. As far as the edition goes, it is laid out in traditional A-R format and follows (broadly) their usual editorial approach. The only thing that I don’t particularly like about that is the tacit suppression of original accidentals; retaining them would have made challenging the dubious D flats in bar 41 on page 41 more difficult (as it is, if there were no flat on the penultimate note of the previous bar, I would have probably added an editorial natural at that point!), and on page 50, surely the brackets in the continuo part are superfluous, since the pitch of the note continues over the barline. But these are very, very small points in a thoroughly excellent edition. I hope performers will be encouraged to investigate this largely unknown part of Hapsburg music history.