Photo: Al Fenn
For lovers of baroque music on period instruments, it might be difficult to imagine a world before the influence of the early music movement. With historical performance being an integrated part of the music scene today, some of you will have difficulty remembering a time before it was relatively easy to hear a period ensemble live or on any number of recordings. Yet there were few pioneers before the middle of the 20th century who performed music of the baroque other than J.S. Bach. Nadia Boulanger was one such visionary who explored the music of Monteverdi as well as her native French patrimony.
Cover historical recordings from the early to mid-twentieth century, and you’ll keep on running into one name—J.S. Bach. With dozens upon dozens to choose from, you might assume that there was difficulty in finding something unique for you to hear. In fact, we did come across a special performance of the fifth Brandenburg concerto from 1950—a live recording of Wilhelm Furtwängler as director and piano soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic.
Before there was a proliferation of countertenors and the inevitable superstars, there were just two names: Russell Oberlin and Alfred Deller. Oberlin was America’s answer to the well-respected Englishman Deller. While Oberlin was a founding member of one of America’s earliest period ensembles, he of course appears on many recordings accompanied by modern instruments.
In 1973, the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Johannes Somary recorded Handel’s entire Royal Fireworks Music in a way that had not been previously done. They made history by recording the piece with the instrumentation originally called for by the composer: 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, 9 trumpets, 9 french horns, and percussion.
Our new release of the week features Rafael Bonavita in his first solo theorbo recording of music by Allessandro Piccinini, Bellerofonte Castaldi, and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, released on the Enchiriadis label.