English Music of the 18th Century
This is an unusual programme of miscellaneous pieces by composers living and working in London during the first 60 years or so of the eighteenth century. The Newcastle composer, Charles Avison, is represented by Sonata, Op. 5 No. 2, for concertante harpsichord, two violins and cello. It's an attractive work consisting of two strongly contrasting movements whose designation, con giubilo and con tenerezza, respectively, would have undoubtedly brought a howl of protest from Tristram Shandy: ''Grant me patience!—What has 'con furia',—'con strepito',—or any other hurlyburly word whatever to do with harmony?''
More forward-looking in style, though dating from the same year as the Avison (1756), are the eight sonatas for solo harpsichord by Arne. John Toll plays the second of them, in E minor, with an easy unhurried grace which suits the temperament of the music. The second Arne piece in this anthology of English chamber music is one of his trio sonatas for two violins and continuo. This, too, is an appealing work though musically less interesting, than those of his great English contemporary Boyce who, surprisingly, is not represented here. The finest trio sonata in the recital is undoubtedly one by Handel from his Op. 2 set. I enjoyed the animated approach, the balanced ensemble, the instrumental sonorities, and the virtuosity which London Baroque bring to the music. The remaining trio is by the German composer and viola da gamba player, Carl Friedrich Abel. He came to London during the 1750s and stayed there for the remainder of his life, becoming a prominent musical figure through a series of concerts which he established in partnership with J. C. Bach. Abel's trio, scored for violin, cello and continuo, is pleasant without being in any way remarkable. Lastly, there is a keyboard concerto by the blind English organist and composer, John Stanley. His six Concertos, Op. 10 were published in 1778 and are scored for harpsichord, organ or fortepiano with two violins and bass. Here the chosen solo instrument is a warm-toned harpsichord of the period by Kirckman which, by the way, is used throughout the programme. I especially enjoyed the tender lyricism of the slow movement.
Here are stylish and spirited performances which give an alluring bird's eye-view of music in eighteenth-century London. Listeners unfamiliar with English repertoire of the period will, I think, be delighted by the contents of this anthology. Clear recorded sound both on LP and CD. Recommended.'