Mike Cochrane writes…
With Handel’s Water Music as an opening, our concert could have been titled From Warming To Winter. On July 17th, 1717 the Water Music premiered aboard a barge on the River Thames. The musicians’ barge trailed the King’s barge, riding a vigorous flood tide from Whitehall Palace to Chelsea. There the King disembarked upon an “errand” and the musicians and Handel, no doubt, relocated to a local to await the completion of the errand. The King’s return journey, now upon the ebb, commenced around 11.00 pm, accompanied by an encore Water Music performance. Handel might well have composed an additional movement for the Water Music return cruise, “At The Pub Awaiting “, possibly another hornpipe…! The need for large numbers of players for a performance to be heard over water accentuates the marvelous vigour and robustness of everything Handel. Our selection of movements from the Water Music Suite #1 shows off the robust playing of our horn players, the fine playing of our woodwinds and the vigorous playing of the strings.
Bach’s Air from the Orchestral Suite #3 in D continues our warming to winter theme. The familiar tranquil melody floats above a gentle ground base. Leaping and diving octaves below the serene melody seem full of repose. You could drown in this lovely Air, but it’s a sunny afternoon in late summer with a mild breeze… punting… punting on the mirror that is the River Cam.
George Phillipe Telemann, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, was equally prolific in producing both sacred and secular music, and was in fact the wealthiest and most famous composer of the day. Although he lived entirely in Germany there’s something Italianate in his music. Being self-taught and studying Corelli may explain the texture, structure and style of much of his string music.
Here’s what Rae Gallimore , our viola soloist, has to say about the Viola Concerto in G.
The Telemann Concerto was actually the first piece I learned on the Viola. I was disappointed with the technical aspect because at that time I was also learning the Khatchaturian Violin Concerto and I seemed to judge pieces by their virtuosity. However with the Telemann I learned the importance of colour and commenced my journey on how to create a great bowed articulation. I love this concerto not only from the wonderful character Telemann shares but because of the musical journey I have travelled. Two years ago I took my first bow strokes on the viola and now I am blessed with this wonderful music..!
Our vocal performers take centre stage for the remainder of our Warming with the mellow Cantilena Pro Adventu by Haydn first up. To Haydn a Cantilena is much like a Da Capo Aria, or repeated verses just like a Hymn. This Cantilena is a song of praise of the Virgin during Advent. Structured in Haydn’s simple “folk” style, perhaps intended for a countryside church, the work is pastoral, celebratory and yet a delicate accompaniment to the soprano soloist. We are blessed with Nancy Washeim’s soprano: her peerless intonation sparkles with the purity of white cut diamond. Vocal brilliance finely accompanied by strings, horns, bassoons and organ… a mood of gentle exaltation ensues.
Three Carols for SATB, Strings and Winds, by John Rutter, creates a lullaby sandwich with a clippety-clop filling…! The Nativity Carol sets your imagination soaring to the heavens of a Gothic Cathedral, the choir, as if choirboys, effortlessly reaching flawless high ‘A’s “. Candles in the choir… a gloriously pure traditional carol. And then the Donkey Carol … clippety-clop. A cheerfully lopsided gait over the bumpy road, carrying Mary to Bethlehem. This of course had to be in 5/8 time… the “Gina Lollabridgida” time signature. Take out the “Gina” and Lollabridgida becomes 12, 123… or BridgidaLolla becomes 123,12. (Thanks to Norman Nelson for this insight!) Oh! and give a carrot when the journey’s done.
What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King
A-Wake a voice. A-Wake a string.
Words by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), music by John Rutter (1945- ) in G flat Major — that soft rich purple key. Resplendent music enhancing a beautiful poem.
And give the honour to this day
That sees December turned to May
Why does the chilling winter morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn
Or smell like a meadow newly shorn.
Wade Noble’s hale and hearty baritone, perfectly suited to the choral works of Handel, is no less fitting for the Fantasia of Carols. First performed in Hereford Cathedral in 1912, it presents four English carols. Vaughan Williams scores this for full orchestra, solo baritone and chorus. After a fine cello solo the baritone intones and gradually more instruments and voices fill out The Truth Sent from Above .The work overflows with a lustrous smooth cantabile, familiar Vaughan Williams to our ear. A joyful tempo announces, “Come All You Worthy Gentleman” with a somewhat non-Handelian robustness as we drive through to the conclusion. A lovely a capella, “Both Now and Evermore… Amen” and an impressive conclusion to our winter celebration.
Oh and keep an eye out for donkeys on the way home… !