This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
More stuff that has caught my ears in recent times.
GUSTAV HOLST is mainly known these days, probably only known, for The Planets.
I’ve never been a fan of that suite, but he wrote other stuff that’s more to my liking. One of those is rather amusingly called A Fugal Concerto, for flute, oboe & string orchestra, Op. 40-2, H. 152. Here is the first movement.
ARCANGELO CORELLI was a major figure in Baroque music, much admired by Handel and Bach.
He did more than anyone to develop the sonata and concerto forms of music we know today. As was the custom then, others were not above pinching tunes from their contemporaries, and if you listen closely to his Fugue for Four Voices (although no one’s actually singing) you’ll see where Handel got his Hallelujah Chorus.
Bach appropriated this tune as well. Check the original called Fuga a Quattro voci, played by the New Dutch Academy.
Coming right up to date, indeed to the present day, we have someone who’s younger than most of us who are reading this: LUDOVICO EINAUDI.
Ludo is an Italian composer, noted mostly for film and TV scores, but he composes “serious” works as well. He’s often lumped into the “minimalist” movement just because people like to label things, but he’s much more than that.
Here he plays his composition Bella Notte (beautiful night).
J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most famous, and loved, pieces of music of all time. However, old Johann wasn’t the only one who used this topic. Indeed, he wasn’t even the first.
Before him (and I can’t say if he was the first, I imagine that he wasn’t) was RICHARD DAVY. Old Rich didn’t stand still long enough to have his photo taken. He was an English composer in the 15th century and his works were compiled in the Eton Choirbook (along with others from the time).
The book is a collection of motets and magnificats devoted to the cult of Mary, a tradition that was pretty much obliterated by the Reformation. Fortunately, his music survived.
This is the eleventh and final movement, “Ah Gentle Jesu”, of his St Matthew Passion.
ANTON WRANITZKY (or Antonin Vranicky) was a Czech composer and violinist.
He followed his big brother Paul to Vienna, where he became a pupil of both Mozart and Haydn - talk about learning from the best. He later became friends with Beethoven – now there’s an accomplishment.
He was well regarded in his day for his compositions, particularly his violin concertos, one of which we have today. The third movement of his Violin Concerto in C Major. Op. 11.
DOMINENICO ZIPOLI was an Italian Baroque composer.
Somehow or other he got to Spain where he joined the Jesuits as he wanted to go to South America to teach the indigenous peoples about music (and God and stuff, I suppose).
He did just that ending up in what’s now Argentina, where he served as musical director at one of the churches. Alas, some sort of disease struck him down; details of his life are a bit sketchy.
He wrote a bunch of really nice Suites and Partitas, presumably for the harpsichord, but today played on a piano: Suite No. 1 in B Minor, the fourth movement.
I always like to include a string quartet in these columns, but this one is a little different. Instead of the usual line up of instruments, two violins, a viola and a cello, everyone took a step to the right and took up two violas, a cello and a double bass.
I really like the way this sounds. The person responsible for this was GEORG WAGENSEIL.
Although virtually unknown these days, Georg was quite famous in his day – both Haydn and Mozart took note of what he was doing. What he was doing this day was writing what he called the Sonata VI in G, the second movement. Really, it’s a string quartet before the term had been invented.
I used not to like GIOACHINO ROSSINI very much but my radio station kept playing him over the years and I gradually became a fan.
He wrote one of the most famous arias in opera, Largo al factotum della citta, from “The Barber of Seville”. I’m sure most of you will recognize it when you hear it. Simon Keenlyside sings it.
FELIX MENDELSSOHN wrote his “Songs Without Words” for a solo piano, and, of course, no singer was in evidence.
Naturally, through the years people have tinkered with these. In the case today we have a cello (played by Steven Isserlis) join the piano (played by Melvyn Tan). This is the one D Major, Op. 109.
LOUIS SPOHR wrote music for the clarinet that was nearly as good as Mozart’s. Nearly, but that means it was very good indeed.
His first concert tour (playing violin) was when he was only 15, and during that he wrote his first violin concerto. Later on he used to play with Beethoven, and complained that Beethoven’s piano was out of tune. Perhaps Ludwig didn’t know (that’s a joke, not a very good one).
Anyway, he wrote a whole bunch of stuff, the usual compositions, including the Clarinet Concerto No.4 in E minor WoO 20. This is the third movement.