The sumptuous acoustic environment of St. Giles Cripplegate in London, a baroque church where John Milton, the author of PARADISE LOST, was once the organist, was the recording studio for this wide-ranging tour of baroque music by French, English, Italian, and German composers, including Henry Purcell, Giuseppe Torelli, and J.S. Bach. The sessions were so exhilarating, conductor Anthony Newman reports, that the soloists and orchestra “stayed up well into the night discussing the day’s work.” One listen, and you’ll understand why they were too excited to fall asleep.
|Rondeau from “Suites de Symphonies, Première suite, Fanfares”||2:03||Play|
|The Prince of Denmark’s March||2:55||Play|
|G. Torelli – Sonata in D Major, G.5|
|II. Allegro e staccato||1:30||Play|
|The King’s March||1:12||Play|
|G. Torelli - Sinfonia in D Major, G.4|
|II. Adagio e spiccato||0:58||Play|
|H. Purcell – Sonata No. 2 in D Major|
|I. (Overture) (Grave) – Allegro||2:19||Play|
|Rondeau from Abdelazar||1:16||Play|
|G. Torelli – Sonata a5 No. 1 in D Major, T.V. 1|
|G. Torelli – Sonata in D Major, G.6|
|I. Adagio – Vivace||1:33||Play|
|II. Adagio - Largo||1:27||Play|
|Prelude from Te Deum, H. 146||1:44||Play|
|G. Torelli – Sinfonia con tromba in D Major, T.V. 8|
|III. Allegro moderato||0:59||Play|
|J.S. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047|
|I. [ ]||5:23||Play|
|III. Allegro Assai||3:01||Play|
Musicologists specializing in The Baroque often draw parallels between the issues of Baroque performance practice and jazz. Look, they say, at the resemblance between the figured-bass score and the jazz chart. Created as a kind of musical shorthand (albeit four centuries apart), they both subsequently revolutionized their respective styles and genres by demanding that the player use his or her creativity to “fill in the blanks.” These same musicologists then point to the Baroque practice of adding notes to the melodic line as ornaments and embellishments –don’t jazz soloists so the very same thing?
I confess to having had some misgivings about such apparently simplistic analogies before working with Wynton on this recording. After all, regardless of the similarities between jazz and the Baroque, these styles are still centuries apart in terms of time and worlds apart in terms of place – Bach’s Leipzig could never be Marsalis’ New Orleans. But Wynton, besides being a peerless trumpet player, engaged the dizzying world of Baroque ornamentation as if he had known it all his life, often adding to and changing for the better the ornaments that had already been included in or appended to the score. This was as true in his renditions of the English, the French, and the Italian, as it was of the Bach. The resultant sessions were so exhilarating that most of the performers – both soloists and members of the orchestra – stayed up well into the night discussing the day’s work.
And it is appropriate that the venue for this recording, in which we survey the Baroque throughout the continent and the British Isles, should be St. Giles Cripplegate, itself a place where other worlds meet. St. Giles, located in the Barbican, is dedicated to cultural events of the highest level, where the church hosts many orchestral, choral and organ events. John Milton, the poet who so wonderfully articulated the beauty of the Puritan vision in Paradise Lost, was an organist at St. Giles and is buried here. When he wrote The Lady’s song, “Sweet Echo,” in his 1634 mask, Comus, Milton might very well have been thinking of the sumptuous acoustic of this church.
This selection of work spans the world of the Baroque from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While several of the works were intended for trumpet with accompaniment – most notably the Purcell and the Torelli – others, through the long-standing and honorable practice of arrangement and transcription, have come to form an important part of the trumpet literature. We have similarly taken keyboard (both organ and harpsichord) accompaniments and expanded them for full ensembles, adding a wide variety of grace notes – mordents, trills, appoggiaturas, and other embellishments – not only to the solo parts, but to the ensemble as well. It is a tribute to the English Chamber Orchestra’s skill and virtuosity that they mastered the arrangements and ornamentations of these works frequently at first sight and proved to be wonderfully adept at improvising small cadenzas as well.
Our “grand tour” of Europe embraces representative composers from England, France, Italy, and Germany, while the works reflect the particular national traits of their music in the Baroque. The insularity of British geography, for example, gave rise to a distinct sense of rhythm and cadence among the English virginalists who were the immediate predecessors of Purcell and Clarke. The French, for their part, had their own version of the modern jazzer’s “swing eighths” in the development of notes inégales, a practice that divided equal subdivisions of the beat into “long” and “short” notes. The practice was so pervasive that the composer was obliged to stipulate “croches égales” when he or she wanted the subdivision of the beat to be played evenly.
As for the Italians, they established an intrinsic link between the vocal and the instrumental, creating musical lines that might as easily have been sung as played. The Germans, exemplified here by Bach, were perhaps the most cosmopolitan of the continental countries in their utilization of French, Italian, and even, occasionally, English techniques and ideas, but much of that, it must be owned, was not a matter of choice. As the stomping ground of countless princes and armies from all over Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Germany could not help but be exposed to the tastes and styles of the entire continent.
Jeremiah Clarke (c 1674-1707) and Henry Purcell (1659-1695) fell unreservedly beneath the shadow of Handel during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Clarke was at various times organist at St. Paul’s and the Chapel Royal. The collection of harpsichord works from which the “Prince of Denmark’s March” was taken features many trumpet-like tunes and seems to have been inspired – if only in part – by that distinctly English musical form known as the voluntary. “Prince of Denmark’s March” is perhaps Clarke’s best known work, and is often played at weddings and other joyous occasions.
Henry Purcell, chorister at the Chapel Royal and organist at Westminster Abbey (where he succeeded John Blow), was unusually prolific in his short life, writing no less than six operas, numerous theatrical scores, as well as many other vocal and instrumental works. The rondeau comes from music set for Aphra Behn’s Abdelazer, or the Moor’s Revenge (1695). Celebrated by Benjamin Britten in his “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” this piece was not actually written for trumpet, though it suits the instrument quite wonderfully. The natural (that is, valveless or keyless) trumpet of Purcell’s time is an instrument of “limited transposition,” meaning that it is restricted in terms of the number of keys in which it can be played. The addition of valves in the mid-nineteenth century may have made the trumpet more versatile in terms of its tonal range, but the demands of Purcell’s music remain no less virtuosic on the modern player in this rondeau.
Purcell’s Sonata No. 2 in D is a church sonata, alternating between slow and fast tempi. Despite the rather simple textures that characterized trumpet writing from the period, the work itself is quite complex. For this recording, we have embellished the slow movements by including a separate upper line – something of which I think Purcell would have approved, given his treatise, The Art of Descant. The last movement, in triple meter, is a joyous one, featuring hocket-like textures throughout.
We have chosen three composers to represent the French Baroque tradition: Marc-Antoine Charpentier (?1645-50-1704), Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738), and Jean-François Dandrieu (also c 1682-1738). In keeping with the centralization of French culture that occurred under Louis XIV, the activities of all three composers centered on the Ile-de-France. Charpentier was composer for the Comedie-Française and the maître de musique at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris; Mouret was conductor at the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opéra) and director of the Concert Spirituel. Dandrieu, for his part, was organist at the church of Saint-Merry and the Chapelle Royale at Versailles.
The French during the Baroque were particularly fond of musical miniatures – the catalogue of François Couperin, for example, is rife with such delightful little pieces as Le rossignol-en-amour (The Nightingale in Love) and Les barricades mystérieuses (Mysterious Barricades). Their dances, overtures, and programmatic works are for the most part characterized by brief themes and repetitions; hence the French fondness for the rondeau form, in which statements of a main theme alternate with a variety of musical digressions. All three French works presented here are rondeaux: the prelude from Charpentier’s Te Deum is a magnificently scaled A-B-A-C-A rondeau, in which the main theme (“A”) provides the frame for two contrasting couplets; Mouret’s Rondeau, from a collection of Fanfares, is best known to American audiences as the theme for the Masterpiece Theatre series on PBS.
The third French work features three couplets in addition to the main theme, which is every bit as grand and infectious as the hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music. The couplets offer respite from the rollicking enthusiasm of the main theme. Because I know of no existing score by Dandrieu of this work – it first appears in a late-nineteenth-century collection of trumpet melodies – I tend to think this piece might better be attributed than ascribed to him.
Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709) is counted among the innovators of both the solo concerto and concerto grosso form. First a violinist at St. Petronio in Bologna, he later traveled north to serve as Kapellmeister to the Margrave of Brandenburg before ending up in Vienna as composer and performer. The works on this recording come from a series of some 25 concerti by Torelli that feature the trumpet.
At the heart of the concerto grosso – and a concept that emerged from the Italian Baroque approach to singing – is the juxtaposition of a group of soloists with an accompanying ensemble (the word concerto connotes, amongst other things, a sense of struggle between soloist and ensemble). The form presents a balancing act of sorts in which statements of the ripieno (tutti or full ensemble) alternate with the frequently contrasting themes and melodic ideas of the concertino (soloists).
The sonata à 5 starts with a noble introduction that is followed by a jolly fugue. As in so much of the Baroque, the slow movements, like the ensuing grave, provide both the soloist and the ensemble the opportunity to embellish freely with ornamental passagework and cadenzas. The finale is a charming, non-contrapuntal movement with dazzling solo work for the trumpet.
Of special note regarding the sinfonia con tromba are Wynton’s wonderful elaborations of the slow second movement, climaxing with a breathtakingly high tessitura at the cadence.
The two sonatas, like Purcell’s in church sonata form, alternate slow and fast movements, but Torelli’s opening movements are more fanfare-like – a celebration as much of the trumpet’s sound as if the liturgy they sometimes supplanted. In our performances here, we have embellished extensively both the ensemble and the solo parts and included two keyboards (harpsichord and organ) in the continuo. Lest one swoon at the temerity of adding such bulk to the continuo section, records indicate that the practice at St. Petronio was to include as many as 25 different players in the continuo on feast days. In light of this, we feel almost restrained in our use of just two!
The story surrounding the Brandenburg Concertos is well-enough known – how Bach collected some of his earlier works and perhaps composed new ones to honor the request of the Margrave of Brandenburg, a friend and ally of Bach’s employer, Leopold, Prince of Cöthen. For our purposes, these works represent the Italian influence upon German music in the eighteenth century, and to many signify the sine qua non of the concerto grosso form. In the Brandenburg No. 2, Bach sets a group of four soloists (trumpet, violin, flute, and oboe) against the ensemble. The trumpet part is of legendary difficulty. Because natural instruments rely solely on their capacity to produce overtones and because the gaps in the overtone series only start to shrink in the upper registers, the chromatic notes Bach wanted could be produced only in the highest range of the large trumpet of his time and only by the clarino players who specialized in those achievements at high altitude. To reach those same peaks even on today’s smaller instruments the player risks hemorrhage!
The opening movement gives the orchestra a simple, straightforward melody, the tune forming the backbone of the movement as a whole. In contrast to this, the soloists (together and apart) exchange a range of different thematic materials between the orchestra and amongst themselves. While the trumpet rests – deservedly! – in the second movement, the others play a wonderfully expressive and beautiful piece of serene charm. The finale features the trumpet stating the main theme in an awesomely high and daring way, which he then passes to the other soloists and eventually to the orchestra itself. While unusual in the concerto grosso form, the technique works so well in this movement that one doesn’t notice how unusual it actually is.
As in the Torelli, we have doubled the continuo (adding organ) in the outer movements.
– Anthony Newman
Anthony Newman (conductor), English Chamber Orchestra (orchestra)