Harmonia Early Music

New Music, Period Instruments, and Recent Recordings

This week we explore new works for old instruments, plus a new release by the Basel Baroque Orchestra.

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Photo: Nigel Luckhurst

Composer Thomas Adès finds inspiration in the works of François Couperin.

For at least the past three decades, composers have been drawn to period instruments as a way of expanding the palette of colors at their disposal.  New compositions have employed everything from a solo harpsichord to the full complement of instruments that make up a baroque orchestra.

Two American lutenists living on opposite sides of the Atlantic have been busy composing as a way of expressing a very personal side.  American lutenist Ronn McFarlane performs his own works on the 2007 release on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label, Indigo Road.  On the other side of the Atlantic, lutenist Lee Santana and gambist Hille Perl perform Santana’s Greenpeace Music on the 2002 Carpe Diem release, The Star and The Sea.

The recorder trio Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin is known for its creative programming, one that includes compositions by members of the ensemble.  For their 2006 release, Blue Train, they included a few of these, such as the title track that was inspired by the sounds of a train in motion.

Another creative ensemble is the London Oboe band, who, on their 1996 release, Playhouse Aires: 18th Century Theater Music, performs The Queen’s Farewell Stomp, a work based on Purcell’s original, minus the stomp part.

The English composer Thomas Adès has a particular fondness for François Couperin.  He has said, “My ideal day would be staying at home and playing the works of Couperin: new inspiration on every page.”  It is with this mindset that he composed his Sonata da Caccia for baroque oboe, horn, and harpsichord.  Thomas Adès performs the work at the harpsichord, accompanied by baroque oboist Michael Niesemann and horn player Andrew Clark on the 1998 release from EMI Classics, Living Toys, Compositions of Thomas Adès.

Sometimes the music and instruments of the past are only part of the inspiration for new compositions.  For Jordi Savall, the paintings of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio were the starting point in a recent release.  Entitled Lachrimae Caravaggio, the recording is a collaborative effort with the writer Dominique Fernandez who chose seven paintings from Caravaggio’s last works.  Savall then composed stanzas comprised of improvisations and compositions for each painting.  Le Concert des Nations and Hesperion XXI performs these works on the 2007 recording, Lachrimae Caravaggio.

Our new release this week features opera arias and dances by Handel. Contralto Marijana Mijanovic is the soloist with The Basel Chamber Orchestra (led by harpsichordist Sergio Ciomei).

Music Heard On This Episode

G.F. Handel: From: Rodelinda (1725)
Kammerorchester Basel (Sergio Ciomei, dir.) — Affetti Barocchi (Sony , 2007)
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G.F. Handel: From: Rodelinda (1725)
Kammerorchester Basel (Sergio Ciomei, dir.) — Affetti Barocchi (Sony , 2007)
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Ronn McFarlane: see notes
Ronn McFarlane — Indigo Road: Original Lute Music by Ronn McFarlane (Dorian/Sono Luminus , 2007)
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Lee Santana: See
Lee Santana, theorbo, and Hille Perl, viola da gamba — The Star and The Sea (Carpe Diem , 2002)
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Sylvia C. Rosin: Blue Train
Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin (Irmhild Beutler, Martin Ripper, and Sylvia C. Rosin, recorders) — Blue Train (PH , 2006)
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Irmhild Beutler: Tea for Three
Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin (Irmhild Beutler, Martin Ripper, and Sylvia C. Rosin, recorders) — Blue Train (PH, 2006)
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David Gordon: The Queen's Farewell Stomp
The London Oboe Band — Playhouse Aires (HMU , 1996)
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Thomas Adès: Sonata da Caccia, Op. 11 (1993)
Michael Niesemann, baroque oboe, Andrew Clark, horn, and Thomas Adès, harpsichord — Living Toys: Compositions of Thomas Adès (EMI Classics , 1998)
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Jordi Savall and Dominique Fernandez: STATIO V
Le Concert des Nations and Hesperion XXI — Lachrimae Caravaggio (Alia Vox , 2007)
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G. F. Handel: From: Rodelinda
Kammerorchester Basel (Sergio Ciomei, dir.) — Affetti Barocchi (Sony, 2007)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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