This second volume of the Guide to Musical Instruments explores the history of musical instruments in the period from 1800 to 1950. Its purpose is both to discuss improvements and transformations of instruments dating from before 1800 and to investigate all the novelties thought up by instrument makers during this era. All these developments took place in a context in which the process of instrument making moved from artisans’ workshops to commercial firms which became veritable factories, typical of the ‘age of industrialisation’. The majority of the musical examples are recordings of individual instruments that allow us to hear timbres often lost under the weight of the orchestral mass.This second volume of the Guide follows the same principles as the first.
In this recording of the complete piano sonatas on period instruments, the Viennese master Paul Badura-Skoda delivers the work of a lifetime: Schubert's music with his passion, his suffering, and that inimitable tone which makes his native city the place so essentially and existentially identified with music. This collection of the twenty Sonatas for period piano recorded by Paul Badura-Skoda on the instruments in his own collection has every chance of being considered by posterity as one of the most creative and most significant achievements.
Peter Philips is the one first-rate English composer from the sixteenth and early seventeenth century who remains largely unknown today, even to specialists. His modern reputation has suffered from a form of musical chauvinism that works to the disadvantage of emigres: since he left England at an early age, never to return, he has been largely ignored by English musicologists, and equally he has been treated as a foreigner by their colleagues in his adopted country, the Spanish Netherlands - now Belgium.
The instrumental works of Marc-Antoine Charpentier are familiar to very few people. A large number of them were composed for use in churches, the most famous of these being the Messe pour plusieurs instruments au lieu des orgues that has already been recorded by Jean Tubéry and La Fenice for Ricercar (RIC 245). Charpentier composed the Sonate à huit around 1685, at a time when various private musical societies were exploring the Italian sonata style. Charpentier discovered this style at the same time as François Couperin, who also set about composing sonatas in the Italian style. Charpentier’s Sonate à huit blends the Italian style with the French suite of dances and as such is one of the masterpieces of instrumental music of the French baroque. The symphonies Pour un Reposoir were intended to accompany an outdoor procession, an organ naturally not being available. The greater part of the CD, however, is taken up by the Noëls pour les Instruments which Charpentier set for instrumental ensemble and organ. We have also recorded the original versions of the above-mentioned Christmas carols, complete with their many verses as they appeared in French collections published at the beginning of the 18th century. This recording of Christmas music can be enjoyed throughout the year!
Artaxerxes, premiered in London in 1762, was the first full-length opera seria sung in English. It proved a great success and helped to revive the fortunes of Thomas Arne, whose career had been in the doldrums. The opera featured his new protégée and mistress Charlotte Brent in the role of Mandane and Arne lavished attention on her music. Mandane’s arias and those of the hero Arbaces provide many of the opera’s high points, with their rich orchestrations, virtuoso vocal parts and captivating tunes. Though based on the Handelian model, Artaxerxes shows both Arne’s talent at the later galant style and his penchant for folk-like, pastoral airs. The results are mostly a delight (if a tad lightweight for the libretto’s blood ’n’ thunder deeds), with a variety of attractive arias further enhanced by Arne’s deft use of woodwind. Christopher Robson in the title role and Catherine Bott, thrilling as Mandane, head a fine team of singers: my only complaint is that Patricia Spence’s forceful Arbaces too often slips into shrill and strident mode.