Further Listening: Four Weddings, a Funeral, and a Coronations

by Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord

Music is an integral part of the celebration of important life moments in most cultures, and this is particularly true of rites of passage. In our concert, Four Weddings, a Funeral, and a Coronation, we offered a selection of music written by baroque composers for the celebrations of royal weddings, a coronation, and for the funeral of a renowned French marshal. Continue your concert experience with this selection of music for your further listening pleasure.

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Our Lully suite ended with a chaconne from Roland  – chaconnes are among our favourite things to play. Many have repeating bass lines over which the composer spins various melodies, and include trios for solo instruments. Last year we performed one of Lully’s wonderful choral chaconnes, from Amadis. The orchestra plays a full 7-1/2-minute chaconne, and then the choir and soloists join with the text “Chantons tous la gloire de l’amour.” The entire movement is 15 minutes of glorious Lully.

(This is an entire suite of excerpts from Amadis: the chaconne begins at 10:30)

Henry Purcell

The centrepiece of our set of excerpts from Purcell’s Ode “From hardy climes” was an exquisite ritornello set over a ground bass (i.e. a bass line that repeats throughout). In the original ode, it is preceded by the song “The sparrow and the gentle dove” – I played the song tune on harpsichord, with Lucas providing lute accompaniment. It’s very much worth listening to the original song as performed by the wonderful British tenor Charles Daniels, whose singing of Purcell is beyond compare. You will find it on a recording by The King’s Consort, directed by Robert King, on the Hyperion label.

It’s in Volume 4 of a set of recordings of the complete Purcell Odes by The King’s Consort, which is full of treasures. If you track down the set, I urge you to listen to another magical ground-bass song (in Volume 7), again sung by Charles: “So when the glitt’ring Queen of Night,” a remarkable depiction of a lunar eclipse, from “The Yorkshire Feast Song.”

John Blow

Performing the Blow Coronation Anthem for James II this week has convinced us we must sing more of his music! The one other Blow work we have performed in the past, most often with students at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, is his remarkable Salvator Mundi. A heartfelt setting of the text, it was probably written by Blow for the Catholic court chapel attended by James and his wife Maria of Modena.

Click here to listen: Salvator Mundi: Les Arts Florissants William Christie

Johann Pachelbel

Pachelbel wrote more than his infamous Canon – but we rarely hear it! He was a keyboard player, and you can find recordings of his organ and harpsichord music. There are also a few recordings of his other string music. I encourage you to track down a recording called Buxtehude & Purcell Chamber Music, made by Musica Antiqua Köln way back in 1980 on the Archiv label and reissued a few times. Have a listen to Partia no. 4 in E Minor from the Musicalische Ergötzung.

 It’s no secret that I’m married to choir director Ivars Taurins – and the piece that was played as I walked down the aisle at our wedding 36 (!) years ago was a piece not dissimilar to the Pachelbel canon. It is likewise scored for 3 violins and continuo, and is written over a ground bass – and has the same combination of freshness, vivacity, and beauty. Here is a video from Tafelmusik’s House of Dreams  CD/DVD.

Purcell Fantasia in 3 parts on a ground: Tafelmusik

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

I love Charpentier’s choral music – and my favourite of all the works of Charpentier that we’ve performed is his setting of Salve regina for three choirs and continuo. We perform it every few years with the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute participants in the glorious acoustics of Grace Church on-the-Hill, with the sounds of the three choirs intertwining magically. I dream of it being sung at my funeral …

I hope you have a chance to hear us perform it at Grace Church, but in the meantime, there are a few recordings available. I would suggest the following: Charpentier Salve regina, H.24: Ex Cathedra, dir. Jeffrey Skidmore (Hyperion)

George Frideric Handel

Handel wrote a great deal of music for the royal family – famously Water Music and the Coronation Anthems. Less well known but no less glorious is an ode Handel wrote for the birthday of Queen Anne in 1713 (the Anne for whose marriage Purcell wrote the ode “From hardy climes”). The opening of this ode, “Eternal source of light divine” for solo trumpet and countertenor, is one of my very favourite pieces of music. I have an old recording of the wonderful James Bowman singing it, and play it whenever I need a moment of calm inspiration:

Handel “Eternal source of light divine” from Queen Anne’s Birthday Ode: James Bowman

The ode continues with arias and choruses, including the very delightful duet chorus “Let rolling streams their gladness show,” which was transcribed by Handel for orchestra alone in the Concerto a due cori, HWV 333, that we performed at the opening of this season –– the vocal and choral parts are given to oboes and horns.

If you want to experience the entire ode, you can hear a youthful performance by the European Union Baroque Orchestra (a training program for period players) with countertenor Alex Potter and young singers from Clare College, Cambridge.

(The ode starts at 12:30, and the chorus “Let rolling streams” starts at 23:55) Handel Queen Anne Birthday Ode: EUBO, dir. Lars Ulrik Mortensen

You can also hear the orchestral version of the chorus: Handel Allegro ma non troppo, from Concerto a due cori in F Major, HWV 333: Tafelmusik, dir. Jeanne Lamon

Happy listening!

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