PEPUSCH The Beggar’s Opera: Overture. Venus and Adonis: Overture.1,2 Oboe Concerto g.1 Violin Concerto in A. Concerto Grosso in D for Trumpet.4 Violin Concerto in a. Concerto Grosso in B? for Violin. Cello and Bassoon Concerto in F3 • Robert Rawson, cond; 1Read more class="ARIAL12">Mark Baigent, 2Belinda Paul (ob); 3Sally Holman (bn); 4Crispian Steele-Perkins (tpt); Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen • RAMÉE 1109 (59:16)
Sometimes a single, well-known reference can prejudice the opinions formed of a composer by many succeeding generations. For example, that indefatigable musical diarist Charles Burney derided Pepusch’s knowledge and study of the Hellenistic Greek modes. Pepusch supplied a treatise on these upon being elected a Fellow to the Royal Society in 1745, and Burney had his fun, envisioning a scene in which both Pepusch and the society were equally bewildered by the study’s comments upon “Greek genera, scales, diagrams, geometrical, arithmetical, and harmonical proportions; quantities, apotomes, lemmas, and everything concerning ancient harmonies that was dark, unintelligible, and foreign to common and useful practice.” In vain we might protest today this was precisely the kind of content expected by any new member, and that it wasn’t meant to be useful but a demonstration of learning. Burney’s witty remarks formed the basis of a judgment of Pepusch’s compositional gifts that, the Beggar’s Opera to one side, remained in place long into the 20th century.
I don’t think one album will make any significant strides to addressing Pepusch’s current fortunes, but if anything could, this just might. The music, composed for the most part in the first two decades of the 18th century, is unfailingly attractive throughout, always well crafted and tuneful. I would single out as most worthy of attention the Concerto Grosso for Trumpet, and the Oboe Concerto, both probably composed for the Cannons, the extravagant estate built for the first Duke of Chandos. The former concerto is blessed with a big, jaunty march, and a slow movement of great sweetness, while the two adagios in the latter work emphasize that peculiarly noble lyricism associated with some English music of the period.
The Violin Concertos in A Major and A Minor are the only pieces on the album that employ a three-movement Italian format, if one discounts the tripartite, proto-symphonic overture to Venus and Adonis. The treatment of the solo instrument and the jagged themes in the opening movements owe much to Vivaldi, who was very popular at the time. (So much for Pepusch’s antiquarianism destroying his music.) The slow movements have a charm that is entirely personal, however, especially the Adagio for three unaccompanied violins in the A-Minor Concerto. The five-movement Concerto Grosso in B?, a violin concerto in all but name, is more Corellian, with a central Allegro that makes good use of imitative textures, and an insanely memorable jig in last place. The Concerto à 6 by contrast is really a concerto grosso, with an especially fine Adagio that weaves six-part counterpoint. The Presto that follows displays fine tongue-in-cheek humor, while the concluding Allegro uses antiphonal echo effects.
Finally, the two overtures show Pepusch at his most immediately appealing: melodious, with theatrically vivid harmonic progressions, and a basso continuo that never gives the impression of being the musical equivalent of a vermiform appendix.
The name of the performing group heard on this album is related to the earliest work heard here, the pre-1707 Concerto Grosso in B?-Major. It was originally played in the enormously popular concert series given in a small chamber in successful London charcoal merchant Thomas Britton’s house. Writer (and publican) Ned Ward described the very estimable musicians that took part—with continuo sometimes provided in part by Handel—as a “harmonious society of tickle-fiddle gentlemen.” Their modern counterpart was founded in 2006, with a core membership of four violins, one viola, cello, and double bass, and continuo supplied by harpsichord or organ, and lute or theorbo. The performances are always well phrased and enthusiastic if occasionally a little scruffy. The four soloists are excellent, with especial praise for Mark Baigent’s focused, beautiful tone. I suspect some of their slower than usual tempos in the Trumpet Concerto have to do with that notoriously fractious instrument, but Crispian Steele-Perkins manages expertly with only a few slips.
With good, reasonably balanced and forward sound, this album is definitely recommended. No apotomes or lemmas here; just fine music, delightfully performed.
Concerto á 6 in F majorby Johann Christoph Pepusch Orchestra/Ensemble:
Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen
Venus and Adonis: Overtureby Johann Christoph Pepusch Orchestra/Ensemble:
Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Tickle FiddleSeptember 3, 2012By DR J W. (WOORI YALLOCK, VIC)See All My Reviews"Best known for his "Beggar's Opera",Pepusch is represented here by the Gentlemen playing his London Overtures. They are a sheer delight. The sound is extraordinary clear, especially the woodwinds. The pace is jolly and the overall feeling is one of happiness. A great recording!"Report Abuse
Now I know why Pepusch was so popularJune 14, 2012By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM)See All My Reviews"Now I know why Pepusch was so popular in England in his particular metier. I wish I had encountered his music earlier in my life.It is cheerfulness and joy that I deprived myself of! This is ravishing, rousing, and rollicking composing. Not supposed to be Handel, Haydn, Viotti, Clementi, or the battalions of Continental geniuses in all of the arts who migrated to England to augment their successes on the mainland. Supposed to be Pepusch and Pepusch achieves his particular perfection. Buy this CD, listen to this music twice or thrice, and you will hear why what I say is true. It is its own genre."Report Abuse