Musical and Amicable Society 15th July 2020

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MUSICAL & AMICABLE SOCIETY At Home with the Concerto Grosso

Thursday 15 July 2021

Birmingham City University


Programme Note

Musical & Amicable Society Kate Fawcett violin Catherine Martin violin Miki Takahashi violin Miranda Walton violin Stefanie Heichelheim viola Henrik Persson cello Kate Brooke bass

Published by John Walsh, 1755 Our programme presents works which could

Directed from the harpsichord by Martin Perkins ‘At Home with the Concerto Grosso’

George Frederic Handel (1685–1759) Overture to Esther, 1718 Published by John Walsh in Handel’s Overtures from all his Operas & Oratorios for Violins in four Parts, 1760

Capel Bond (1730–90) Concerto No.5 in G minor (Six Concertos in Seven Parts, 1766)

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) Concerto No.11 in D minor (L’Estro Armonico, Op.3, 1715) Published by John Walsh in 1733/4 as Vivaldi’s most Celebrated Concertos in all their parts for Violin and other Instruments with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord.

John Alcock (1715–1800) Concerto No.5 in B flat (Six Concertos in Seven Parts, 1750)

Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692–1766) Concerto No.1 in G (VI Concerti armonici, 1740)

easily be described as ‘orchestral’ and ‘public’: music which would not be out of place in a modern concert hall. Yet, in eighteenth-century Britain, these pieces were just as likely to have been performed with minimal numbers behind the closed doors as by a large group of musicians in a public space. The Concerto Grosso, or ‘Concerto in Seven Parts’ as it was usually described by native composers, was received by the British public with more fervour than on the continent, owing to the relatively advanced public concert scene and an enthusiasm for music-making as a worthy pursuit by the nobility and gentry. Indeed, it was the patronage from this section of society and amateur music-making in general that ensured its place in the repertory long after continental tastes had moved to smaller-scale chamber music for the domestic market and to larger, symphonic works for the numerous court orchestras. The roots of the Concerto Grosso are to be found in the French and Italian instrumental practices of the mid-seventeenth century. The convention of adding ‘tutti’ string players was famously undertaken by Corelli, who oversaw public entertainments in Rome during the 1680s and ’90s which demanded large-scale performing forces. The works performed were what would be published posthumously as Concerti grossi con duoi violini e violoncello di concertino obligato e duoi altri violini, viola e basso di concerto grosso ad arbitrio, che si potranno radoppiare. The concept of performing parts ‘that can be doubled’ was important in the development of the ‘orchestra’; a group with more than one person playing each string part. This practice had been firmly established by the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy of the court of Louis XIV. Through the writings of Georg Muffat, we learn that the concepts of a reinforced body of strings was in use by the 1680s, and his own Armonico Tributo (1682) confirms that the option of adding tutti instruments was not uncommon. Whereas Muffat indicated passages in which it was suitable for passages to be reinforced (using T(utti) and S(oli) markings), Corelli’s Concerti grossi were published with separate parts:

rather than two players sharing the same music and responding to the ‘tutti’ and ‘solo’ markings, using separate parts enabled further flexibility, allowing at least two tutti players before the need to copy the parts for additional players. Whether by design or happy coincidence, the flexibility of a genre which could be effectively performed as a trio-sonata, as a quartet (by adding the tutti viola part), or an ‘orchestra’ (by adding any number of tutti players), was commercial genius: it gave the amateur musicians three for the price of one, to suit all manner of informal music making among family and friends. It was perhaps this aspect above all others that ensured the genre flourished in Britain for the next fifty years. The first few decades of the eighteenth century saw considerable interest in larger scale instrumental music in Britain, both the concerto grosso and the Venetian concerto; appetites were satisfied by the numerous collections of concertos by Vivaldi, Albicastro and Valentini imported from the Dutch publisher Etienne Roger. London publisher, John Walsh responded by releasing his own editions of these continental concertos along with a growing number of sets by composers who were resident in Britain. Among the latter was Handel, whose Twelve Concertos in Seven Parts, appeared in 1739 setting a new standard in style and form. Rather than picking a selection of concertos solely by British composers, or choosing ‘classics’ that were still being performed in this country at the end of the eighteenth century, we have entered the country house to uncover pieces typically performed in private. The works we have selected were all part of the music collection of the Earls of Bradford, the Bridgeman family. The family seat during the first half of the eighteenth century was Castle Bromwich Hall, a large estate situated just six miles east of Birmingham in what was then the rolling Warwickshire countryside. The Bridgman music collection dates back to 1685 and contains works that belonged to five successive generations of the family. Orlando Bridgeman, 4th Baronet (1695–1764), and his son, Henry, 5th Baronet, later 1st Baron Bradford (1722–1800) were keen amateurs (the latter joining the Noblemen and

Gentlemen’s Catch Club soon after its formation) and purchased many sets of instrumental music featuring their instruments of choice, the violin and flute. Trio sonatas, concertos and solo sonatas by the likes of Arne, Sammartini, Avison, Geminiani and Albinoni (including the concerti grossi of Corelli and Handel) are contained in the collection; the continental music usually in reprints by London publishers. So, although the music we perform dates from as early as 1715, the works were printed and collected by the family between 1734 and 1766. Handel’s Overture to Esther was reprinted many times during the eighteenth century. John Walsh and his successors, who had a monopoly on Handel, would frequently reuse the copper plates from earlier editions for reissues. Walsh junior published Handel’s Overtures from all his Operas & Oratorios for Violins in four Parts in 1760, he used a variety of old plates. Far from being a new edition of specially arranged versions, he used the original scoring (usually oboes, violins and continuo) and inserted pages from oboe parts where they originally had solo passages, for the violins to play for that page, without even trying to erase or change the part name from ‘oboe’ to violin. Capel Bond was born in Gloucester and at the age of twelve was apprenticed to the cathedral organist. He was just eighteen when he secured his first main organist position at St Michael and All Angels, Coventry (which would later become Coventry Cathedral) followed quickly by Holy Trinity; he held the two posts for forty years until his death. He organised subscription concerts in the town and directed performances of oratorios in many of the Musical Meetings (festivals) held in Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham, including the first of what would become known as the Birmingham Triennial Festivals. His Six Concertos in Seven Parts don’t have quite the same polish as those of Alcock but they were evidently very well received. Bond gained support from local musical societies – local organisations in Birmingham, Stourbridge, Wolverhampton and Coventry as well as others in Ely, Lichfield, Leicester, Nottingham, Banbury and Worcester – and many prominent provincial musicians including Avison, Thomas Chilcott, and William and Philip Hayes. As Corelli’s Concerti Grossi influenced a generation of British work, so Vivaldi’s l’Estro

Armonico impacted on the German baroque. Although Corelli’s impact was long-lasting (with editions of his works being published throughout the eighteenth century, and performed by the Concerts of Ancient Music in the 1780s), Vivaldi’s was short-lived but substantial. What sets this apart from the other music that was published in Britain during his lifetime was its suitability for the amateur market, where there was less reliance on a virtuoso player in the group. Four of the twelve concertos in l’Estro are solo concertos, four are doubles, and four are scored for four solo violins; some works, such as the Concerto No.11, also contain substantial solo writing for the cello. The first native concerto grosso in our programme comes from the pen of career organist and composer, John Alcock. A direct contemporary of William Boyce (with whom he was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral), Alcock established a reputation for himself through a succession of posts at parish churches in Plymouth and Reading and by publishing a range of sacred, secular and instrumental works. Some of these were published by subscription; the list of subscribers to his Six Concertos in Seven Parts of 1750 shows that support came from a wide area of the country, not least from Lichfield, where he was to take up the position of Vicar Choral that same year. In this remarkable collection, Alcock combined the traditional Corellian model with the newer Venetian concertos, as can be heard in Concerto No.5 with its typical opening adagio but virtuosic solo passages in the other movements. He was also meticulous in indicating performance directions, marking articulation and ornamentation unambiguously by notating the full range of expressive devices that Geminiani had presented the previous year in his A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick. The puzzle over the authorship of the six Concerti armonici has long since been solved, but it serves as a good example of the blurred lines between accomplished amateurs and professional musicians in the early eighteenth century. Whilst it was certainly the fashion for gentlemen to play the violin, cello or flute, or to sing, to perform in the same context as a professional, or to compose music was ill-regarded by most. The set of concertos was originally published in The Hague without author’s name, but with a dedication by the Italian violinist Carlo Ricciotti to his pupil Count

Willem Bentinck. The set was then published by Walsh in 1755, who misinterpreted the title-page dedication and attributing the works to Ricciotti

himself. Only very recently were the concertos firmly established as being the work of the Dutch nobleman Count Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer.

Musical & Amicable Society The original Musical and Amicable Society was founded in 1762 by James Kempson, who directed the choir at St Bartholomew’s Chapel, Birmingham. Together with fellow musicians from St Philip’s Church (now Birmingham Cathedral), Kempson and his singers gathered on a regular basis at Cooke’s Tavern in the Cherry Orchard “for practice and recreation”! In 2003, Kate Fawcett and Martin Perkins decided to revive this historic society as a collective of professional periodinstrument specialists, performing in combinations ranging from small ensembles to full orchestra. Our presiding ethos is one of chamber music – however large or small the formation – where each and every performer has a significant role to play. Individually, our members maintain

successful freelance careers throughout Europe. Collectively, we delight in exploring Baroque and Classical repertoire, both familiar and forgotten, and in a variety of contexts, from bespoke recitals to work concerts with choirs across the country. We are thrilled to be returning to live concerts this summer; our next engagements see us give the first modern performance of cantatas by GB Vitali with Scottish mezzo-soprano, Nicola Wemyss; and two concerts at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester exploring seventeenth-century works in our Fiddlers Three programme, and performing Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri and Bach’s Magnificat with the Three Cathedral Choirs.

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