John Jones is a name that sounds familiar enough. Jones is one of the most common surnames in England, as is John for a given name. But for all the John Joneses of the world, how many know the 18th century contemporary of Handel, John Jones?
John Jones was successful and well-regarded. As a cathedral musician he held not one, but three very important posts in England serving simultaneously and for over 40 years at Temple Church, the Charterhouse, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. As a composer though, John Jones has all but faded in history’s rear-view. There are a few known solo songs and a notable collection of Anglican chant-which by the way, so impressed Haydn in 1791 that he wrote of the deeply moving experience in his diary. Song and chant aside, the only other collections of Jones’ music that we know of are his three sets of keyboard lessons, published in 1754 and 1761.
A new recording project on the Glossa label from harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson introduces us to John Jones by way of his 1754 publication, Eight Setts of Lessons for the Harpsichord.
Eight Setts of Lessons for the Harpsichord
The immediate comparison for Jones’ setts for harpsichord are Handel’s well-known and often performed solo harpsichord suites. Truly, Handel’s influence is clear, but there are also Italianate echoes of Scarlatti, stylistic borrowings from French composers, and movements that seem to copy and paste from the distinct musical language of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. Standard stylized dance movements of a baroque suite nestle alongside a Classical leaning alberti bass line, and in some of these pieces Jones may have had a grand orchestral concerto in his ear.
Harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson has made it her passion to seek out music locked away in obscurity and bring it to the light. This is the premier recording of John Jones’s harpsichord music, and we can hope that in the future that Meyerson will record the other two sets of John Jones’s harpsichord works. One wonders if she is good-heartedly leading us on by closing this present recording of the 1754 Setts with a movement extracted from one of Jones’s later volumes from 1761. In any case, it’s a delightful little piece, and leaves us wanting more.