With Proper Graces: Sonatas For Oboe And B.c. By William Babell
Babell / Koln
Ensemble Concert Royal Köln
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 13 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonatas for Oboe and Continuo
Karla Schröter (ob); Concert Royal Köln (period instruments)
MUSICAPHON M 56924 (SACD: 72:30)
William Babell (c.1690–1723), son of a theater musician and a Londoner all his too brief life, rates 10 lines in
, five in
, and none at all in
. He studied with
Berlin-born Johann Christoph Pepusch (of
The Beggar’s Opera
); frequently collaborated with an esteemed French recorder player and composer, Jacques Paisible; wrote sonatas in the Italian style; and gained notoriety by transcribing arias from Handel’s operas and playing them on the harpsichord—an example, perhaps, of England’s musical deference. Or not. Handel, of course, dominated England’s music at the time. But Handel would have dominated the musical scene wherever he chose to live, and a nation with a Byrd in hand and an Elgar in the wings can hardly be branded musically deficient. Just as you must have a Schmelzer before you can have a Handel, you must have a Babell before you can have a Britten. And Babell, remember, died younger than Mozart.
Named to the King’s Band, George I’s private ensemble, as a violinist, Babell went on to become its director. He was an active chamber musician and recitalist (playing the harpsichord), and, for the last five years of his life, organist of All Hallows Church. These 12 sonatas attest to his skill at composition. They were mostly cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast,
sonata da chiesa
mold and, as published, intended for violin or oboe. Karla Schröter, however, as oboists must, determined that all fall into the oboe’s natural range, and has claimed them for her instrument. Configurations of the continuo group vary from work to work, adding welcome variety to the presentation. The sonatas are of special interest to scholars because in many instances Babell wrote out his ornamentations rather than relying on the performers to devise them, according to the custom of the time. The performances, by yet another splendid Cologne-based period-instrument ensemble, are thoroughly winning. The disc is well worth exploring.
Our protagonist, by the way, not only died too soon but also lived too early. If he had been around during the latter part of the past century, emigrated to the New World, and found employment with a certain now defunct but sorely missed national retail record chain, he could have introduced himself as, “Hi! I’m Babell of ….”
FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
Sonata no 2 in C minor by William Babell
Ensemble Concert Royal Köln
Venue: Katholische Kirche St. Martinus, histori
Length: 9 Minutes 24 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Lovely disc! July 6, 2012
By Ruth Lepp (Verona, NJ) See All My Reviews
"I'm an amateur oboe player, and was given the music for an oboe sonata by Babell. This fine recording gave me insight on playing this piece."