We recently received a bulky packet containing volumes from this publisher. I will go through them as they emerged. All are neatly printed and professionally finished in A4 format with nice covers.
Alan Howard has recreated Sampson Estwick’s Trio Sonata in A minor from the sole surviving Violin 1 part (catalogue number PEMS 33 V, costing £7). It is a continuous movement with alternating sections in different styles and will be a welcome addition to any chamber group’s repertoire, with both upper parts fleixble in their instrumentation.
Hotteterre’s Deuxième Suite de Pieces (op. 6, 1717) has long been popular with flautists. Gordon J Callon has now transposed it for treble recorders (PEMS 048, £7). After six pages of performance advice come 17 of music. While the musical notation is clear enough, a lot more effort might have been invested in the layout; simple things like having six systems on pages 2-3 rather than seven on the first and five on the second, of spreading out the music on pages 4-5 rather than having far too cramped seven staves on the first and only two (with LOTS of blank space) on the other would certainly help. Why does the Contrefaiseurs not reach the bottom of pages 16-17? These might be thought of as aesthetic considerations, but actually the easier one can follow the shape of music on the page (with petites reprises, Da Capos, Dal Segnos and whole-movement repeats to take account of) the more enjoyable the players’ experience. Personally, if there have to be blank pages, I prefer them to be on the left – I don’t know if I’m alone in this… somehow it seems odd to me to have a blank right page; it’s like a sign saying “you’ve finished – no need to turn the page”.
Thalia, A Collection of Six Favourite Songs was originally printed in 1767. Simon D. I. Fleming has produced a new edition (PEMS 079, £13.50) of settings of the famous actor David Garrick’s words by Thomas and Michael Arne, Barthélémon, Battishill, Boyce, and the younger John Christopher Smith (an index would have been useful, and could easily have been provided by squashing up the overly spacious “Editorial method”. The paper is different from the two preceding publications, but it nice that the performing set includes a second copy of the score without the thick cover. The typesetting is neat though, given that the scoring (soprano/tenor, 2 violins and continuo) never changes, I wonder why every staff on every page needs to be labelled. Although I understand why having a keyboard part that is more of a reduction than anything else facilitates the performance of these attractive songs without the extra instruments, it makes it more difficult for non-specialists if they are unable to play from a figured bass. I’m not sure why the editor felt the need to add a second violin part to the Boyce song; I would also suggest that the second figure in bar 35 should have been interpreted literally, giving a far neater temporary shift to A minor than Fleming’s explicit F sharp!
“Purists will hate this – but they don’t have to buy it,” writes Moira Usher in her introduction to two volumes entitled Introduction to Unbarred (Book I ATTB, PEMS 075, £10.50, Book II SATTB, PEMS 076, £12.50). In fact, this purist thinks it quite a sensible idea, even though he didn’t immediately twig that the music she has chosen to present this way is not intended for use by singers. Once again, an index would have been useful. The works are by Lassus, Byrd, Morley, Palestrina and Victoria (Book I) and Byrd, Guerrero, Weelkes and Palestrina (Book II). In a world where more people want to play from original sources, I see this as an excellent starting place. Starting with relatively easy repertoire (and with a score to hand to check if someone can’t quite “get it”), groups can, first of all, see the shapes of phrases (with the aid of the natural rhythm of the texts – what a great idea to choose vocal music!) and liberate themselves from the tyranny of the barline. Next step, learn to read C clefs. Far from rubbishing Usher’s editions, I’d encourage her to go further – if a part ends with a lunga, use that notation (there must be a way!), and similarly use multi-bar rests. Or maybe these are developments planned for Books III and IV and the whole endeavour is a great learning experience?
Andrew Robinson’s Rameau Duets – Volume Two (PAR 465, 8.50) includes 16 movements mostly for a pair of trebles (three of the pieces in this volume require a descant, too). The typesetting and layout are nicely done (even the page I would typically object to where the music doesn’t fill the page, the systems are spaced out and carefully aligned so I respect the typesetter’s effort). Having a common index for the three volumes is fine, but if you are also going to use the same “here’s how to play (or avoid) difficult high notes” advice, at least put them in volume and page order. Small gripes for a book that is bound to bring a lot of fun to Rameau-loving recorder players!
Simple divisions in quavers is the title of Robinson’s editions of four madrigal’s by Cipriano de Rore which appeared in Girolamo dalla Casa’s Il vero modo di diminuir of 1584 (PAS 501, £12.50). The set includes a score, a part with the original de Rore lines, another with dalla Casa’s diminutions, the same transposed up an octave, and finally a mini guidebook to dalla Casa’s advice (and exercises) on tonguing. I was left a little confused about the target audience; if there is a tonguing guide, why do lots of the passages spend so much time below the clef where recorder players cannot reach? Should that not have been printed an octave higher, too? If the editor suggests performing the pieces as four-part madrigals, shouldn’t there be parts for the three lower voices, too? Which could double as parts for a recorder (or other) consort? Since the diminutions always start on the melody note from the original voice part, would it not have been better to omit the voice version from the score and added the text to the instrumental part, thus saving space and (in theory) helping the player see where the textual stresses lay? I think it is a noble project, but it could have been thought through a little better.