Notes and Editorial Reviews
AIRS AND GRACES
Dan Laurin (rcr); Parnassus Avenue
BIS 1595 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 65:47)
Solo IV in b,
Flute Sonata in b,
Sonata in e,
Cello Sonata in C,
Flute Sonata X in e,
Lord Aboynes welcome or Cumbernault house. Waly Waly. Clout the Cauldron. Lochaber. Busk ye busk ye Bonny Bride. Dumbarton’s drums. Logan Water.
Fy gar rub her o’er with straw. The Flowers of the Forrest
The barrier separating classical music from popular music is a porous one; sometimes it is hard to tell where one genre ends and the other begins. Today it seems like almost every other “classical” release (at least those associated with some of the former major labels) is a crossover project, and many of them are dire, if not worse. Here’s a crossover project that dates from the first half of the 1700s, and instead of dire, it’s delightful.
This SACD’s subtitle is “Scottish Tunes and London Sonatas.” London in the early 1700s was full of amateur musicians who wanted music with which to entertain themselves and their friends. Composers such as John Stanley, George Frideric Handel, Francesco Geminiani, and Johan Helmich Roman—all either residents of or visitors to London during this period—composed good, socially presentable music suitable for such amateurs. However, after the 1707 Treaty of Union between England and Scotland, Londoners also developed a taste for more popular Scottish songs and dance tunes. The same people playing sonatas by the aforementioned composers evidently wanted to be able to play these tunes as well. They had to be made socially acceptable, however, so they were collected and dressed up by Francesco Barsanti, an Italian recorder-player who lived and worked in England and Scotland. Seven arrangements based on Barsanti’s collection are presented here. Two more, arranged for harpsichord, are from Robert Bremner’s 1765 collection
Harpsichord or Spinnet [sic] Miscellany.
This, then, is an imaginative program, and it is wonderfully executed by Parnassus Avenue, an ensemble made up of Dan Laurin (recorder), David Tyler (archlute, theorbo, and Baroque guitar), Hanneke van Proosdij (harpsichord and, on one track, recorder), and Tanya Tomkins (cello). (Cellist William Skeen plays the basso continuo in the Scottish tunes and the Geminiani.) The booklet note tells us that, early on, “the four musicians discovered that they all enjoyed a common point of departure: a highly improvisatory rehearsal method in which each interpretation paves the way for a new one.” I am not sure what that means, exactly, but the results are (perhaps paradoxically) both spontaneous and polished. There are details with which I am in disagreement—for example, the affected articulation and lurching rhythms in the first movement of Handel’s HWV 376. Overall, though, almost everything about this recital feels right. That rightness includes a seamless alternation between the “classical” sonatas and the “popular” Scottish tunes. In other words, Parnassus Avenue takes both the high road and the low road. But do they get to Scotland afore Geminiani? You’ll just have to buy this disc and find out!
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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