We’re devoting this hour to the life and accomplishments of early music luminary Christopher Hogwood. We’ll look back on his days with David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London, as well as hear from him as a solo keyboardist and sample from the over 200 recordings that he made with the Academy of Ancient Music.
Plus, we’re featuring a release from Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, an organization for which Hogwood was conductor laureate. Join us as we remember Christopher Hogwood.
Let’s begin with Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo, on a recording from the year 2000 performed by Cecilia Bartoli with The Academy of Ancient Music directed by Christopher Hogwood.
On September 24, 2014, the early music world had to say goodbye to one of its brightest luminaries, Christopher Hogwoood, who passed away in his home at the age of 73.
The harpsichordist, conductor, scholar and early music pioneer inspired fellow musicians and audiences alike to new and greater heights.
Through his many performances, conducting appearances, lectures, publications, editions of scores, and recordings, Hogwood was a key figure in promoting historical performance into the mainstream.
Passionate about understanding and implementing a composers’ intentions, Hogwood became most well-known for the orchestra he founded in 1973, The Academy of Ancient Music.
In a short time, the Academy became one of the most prolific period ensembles, making well over 200 LPs and CDs during a time when the classical recording industry was at its height.
One of Hogwood’s early recording projects with the Academy of Ancient Music was a 1973 release of eight overtures by English composer Thomas Arne.
The Early Music Consort of London
Christopher Hogwood was born in Nottingham, England in 1941, the son of two amateur musician parents who met while singing together in a choir.
As for his own interests, Christopher pursued music professionally, initially studying with Mary Potts while at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. And it was with fellow Cambridge alumnus David Munrow that in 1965 Hogwood helped form The Early Music Consort of London.
On the Consort’s recordings, Hogwood can be heard playing harp, various percussion instruments like nakers and the tabor, and an assortment of keyboards including harpsichord, spinet, and organ.
Here he plays a keyboard fantasia by Thomás de Santa María on regal. Following that, we’ll hear two anonymous tunes from the Spanish Renaissance manuscript, Cancionero de Palacio performed by The Early music Consort of London, with Christopher Hogwood on harp and tabor, respectively.
Academy of Ancient Music
During the same time he was collaborating with David Munrow and the Early Music Consort, Christopher Hogwood also served as the keyboard continuo player and resident musicologist for the chamber orchestra Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, led by Sir Neville Mariner.
But Hogwood longed to make his own path, and in 1973 he took the big leap and founded his own Academy of Ancient Music.
Whereas theEarly Music Consort tended toward earlier and more obscure repertoire, with his Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood looked to the well-known works of Mozart and Bach and Handel, already familiar in the orchestral canon.
In 1980, Hogwood took on the most iconic of them all: Handel’s Messiah. With this seminal recording, he set out to show modern audiences a performance closer to what Handel might have originally intended. In later years, Hogwood would go on to write a definitive biography of Handel.
Let’s hear the opening Air and Chorus from the Academy of Ancient Music’s recording of Handel’s Messiah. Paul Elliot was the tenor soloist, and the cathedral choir of men and boys of Christ Church, Oxford performed the chorus. (The recording was ranked one of the top 50 recordings of all time by BBC Music Magazine!)
Recording celebrity and legacy
The early music pioneer Christopher Hogwood enjoyed a certain degree of celebrity during the course of his career, and not only among classical music fans!
At the 1985 British Record Industry Awards in London, the Academy of Ancient Music’s LP of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons hit the top of the British pop charts alongside Prince’s Purple Rain.
The unlikely association between the Purple Prince and the Red Priest Vivaldi was a boost for the Academy of Ancient Music, especially in terms of reaching new audiences.
In People magazine, Hogwood was quoted as saying, “people sort of connected the ethos of the two…they thought that because they went out and bought Prince’s record, they ought to go out and buy the curious man called Vivaldi.”
Let’s hear music from the chart-topping Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Violinist Catherine Mackintosh performed with the Academy of Ancient Music directed by Christopher Hogwood.
Hogwood’s Four Seasons recording was a meteoric success, but his most lasting legacy in terms of recordings might be the complete cycle of Mozart Symphonies performed on period instruments. Here’s music from Mozart’s Symphony no. 35.
As historical performance was gaining a foothold in the late 1970s and early 80s, Hogwood’s Mozart was groundbreaking for the field, allowing audiences and critics a chance to hear the familiar symphony orchestra in a new light.
As devoted as he was to early repertoire, Hogwood extended his performing scholarship well beyond the bounds of the 18th century.
A recording of Beethoven’s complete symphonies followed the Mozart cycle, and Hogwood later devoted much of his attention to Mendelssohn.
Hogwood also worked extensively with modern orchestras. One fruitful collaboration was with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom Hogwood recorded the ballet music and complete violin works of 20th-century Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu.
Here’s the Prelude of Martinu’s Suite concertante for violin and orchestra from a 2008 recording Christopher Hogwood made with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Bohuslav Matousek was the violin soloist.
As a soloist himself, Hogwood made many of his own harpsichord recordings of the music of both J.S. and C.P.E. Bach, Arne, Byrd, Louis Couperin, Frescobaldi, Gibbons and others. But Hogwood also had a special affinity for the clavichord, which he made evident in his so-called “Secret” series: Secret Mozart, Secret Bach and Secret Handel, all recorded on that instrument.
Here’s Hogwood playing Handel’s Aria and Variations in G. (The recording was awarded a Diapason d’Or in January 2007.)
Featured release: the Handel and Haydn Society
In 1986, Christopher Hogwood became the artistic director of America’s oldest continuously performing arts organization—the Boston-based Handel and Haydn Society. It was under Hogwood’s leadership that the Handel and Haydn Society transitioned to a period instrument ensemble.
Given Hogwood’s history with both the Boston orchestra and his own 1980 breakthrough recording of the Messiah, we thought it appropriate to feature the Handel and Haydn Society’s 2014 release of Handel’s Messiah, conducted by Harry Christophers.
The Handel and Haydn Society gave the first ever complete performance of Handel’s Messiah in the U.S. on Christmas Day, 1818, and it has continued as part of the Society’s annual season every year since 1854!
November, 2014 marked the Society’s 400th performance of the work.
Let’s hear Worthy is the Lamb and the final Amen of Handel’s Messiah, recorded live by the Handel and Haydn Society under the direction of Harry Christophers.
Among his many awards, Hogwood was appointed CBE, Commander of the British Empire, in 1989 and in 2010 named professor of music at Gresham College–a post that dates back 400 years to the time of Elizabeth I. In this position, Hogwood delivered numerous public lectures, which may be viewed on youtube or directly through the Gresham college website.
Break and Theme music
:30, Early Music Festival, Early Music Consort of London / David Munrow, Decca 1998, Tr. 16 (Anonymous) Istampita Ghaetta (excerpt of 3:54)
:60, Praetorius: Terpsichore / Motets, Early Music Consort of London / David Munrow, Virgin Classics 1996, Michael Praetorius, Dances from Terpsichore (1612): Tr. 9 Suite de voltes (excerpt of 4:04) Mike, begin about :50 in to the track.
Music bed in segment C, Music from the Motion Picture “Purple Rain” Soundtrack, Prince, Rhino Warner Bros. 498 (1984), Tr. 9 Purple Rain (excerpt)
:30, Monteverdi’s Contemporaries, Early Music Consort of London / David Munrow, Virgin Classics 1996, Tr. 2 (Gioseffo Guami) Canzona a 8 (excerpt of 2:54)
Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal
The writer for this edition of Harmonia is Janelle Davis.
Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at harmonia early music dot org.