In 2014 Carus-Verlag issued Saul, HWV 53, a critical edition of Händel’s oratorio that presents for the first time the version conducted by the composer himself.
Saul is one of the most dramatic of Händel’s oratorios, and to a greater extent than almost any other oratorio it reveals with its gripping power its proximity to opera of its era.
The score demands what was at the time Händel’s most varied orchestra; the normal opera orchestra of the day was augmented by trombones, harp, solo organ, glockenspiel, and large kettledrums. The choir functions for the first time as a central participant in dramatic action, while also undertaking commentating functions as in a Greek tragedy.
This new edition makes use for the first time of musical material revealed by the latest Händel research, based as its most important source on the conducting score from which the composer himself directed his performances. Only this research has shown which arias, choruses, recitatives, and instrumental pieces, after he had made numerous corrections in his autograph, Händel chose for his performances, and in what order they were given.
The result has produced, apart from many changes of details (e.g. autograph instructions concerning the use of the organ), an uncommon ordering of individual pieces, and passages with altered notes.
Below, a dramatic excerpt.
Boydell & Brewer launched The Boydell composer compendium series in 2014 with The Rameau compendium by Graham Sadler.
The series aims to present up-to-date reference works on major composers that can provide instant information and connect users with further reading. As leading authorities on the composers in question, the authors are encouraged both to present available information and, where appropriate, to introduce new facts and arguments and to illuminate the various discourses on the subject.
Each volume includes an exhaustive cross-referenced dictionary of relevant people, places, institutions, compositions, terminology, genres, and events. A comprehensive bibliography is also included, as are numerous musical examples and illustrations.
Below, John Eliot Gardiner conducts a concert of Rameau’s works.
Natale Monferrato was maestro di cappella at the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale Metropolitana Primaziale di San Marco Evangelista in Venice from 1676 to 1685.
An obscure figure of early Baroque history, Monferrato (who trained under Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Rovetta, and Francesco Cavalli, among others) was, in fact, responsible for restoring discipline and musical standards in a chapel that had long succumbed to secular decay.
The type of Mass composition most commonly sung at San Marco was the a cappella form, as distinct from the messa concertata. Musicologists have long relied on a small corpus of music—notably containing two works by Monteverdi—for appraising the a cappella style at the 17th-century chapel.
In 2014 A-R Editions issued Natale Monferrato: Complete Masses, a definitive edition of Monferrato’s Masses. This edition—a total of eight settings from the composer’s opuses 13 and 19—provides a major boost to musical scholarship by presenting the most substantial testimony to the cathedral’s daily ritual during the Baroque era.
Below, Monferrato’s setting of Lauda Jerusalem.
Sacra corona (Venice, 1656) (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2015) is a complete edition of the anthology Sacra corona (Venice: Magni, 1656), comprising solo motets for two and three voices with continuo by some of the foremost Venetian composers of the period and by four composers who worked in the papally controlled states on the Adriatic coast.
A detailed study of contemporary documents reveals possible reasons for this somewhat idiosyncratic choice of composers, finding them in the family history of the publisher, Bartolomeo Magni (descended from a dynasty of Ravennese musicians), and in contemporary political relations between Venice and the Papacy, the former being dependent on the latter for funding in its ongoing military campaign against the Turks.
Above, the cover of the 1656 anthology; below, O bone Jesu by Francesco Cavalli, one of the works preserved in it.
The holdings of the Bachhaus in Eisenach include a polished goblet that was presented to J.S. Bach around 1735; the word VIVAT inscribed on it was meant as an invitation to enjoy a glass of wine.
Sources including letters, pay slips, stipends, and the 1750 catalog of his estate suggest that Bach’s life was sometimes cheerfully informal. The table of this choral street-singer, organist, cantor, court musician, and municipal music director—whose salary as an employee was, throughout his life, paid not only in money but also in kind (grain, fish, beer, wine, wood)—was abundantly set for his large family and for the many welcome guests, and his comfortable standard of living was provided for on a corresponding scale.
This according to Zu Tisch bei Johann Sebastian Bach: Einnahmen und “Consumtionen” einer Musikerfamilie by Walter Salmen (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2009).
Below, Bach’s jovial Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet (“Bauernkantate”), BWV #212, which includes the encouraging words “Wave if you’re thirsty!”
A catalogue of Mass, Office, and Holy Week music printed in Italy, 1516–1770 focuses on the vast repertoire (comprising approximately 2000 sources) of music for the Office, Holy Week, and the Mass published in Italy from 1516 to the cessation of the printing of such repertoire in the latter part of the 18th century. Even by the end of the first quarter of the Settecento, Italian prints of sacred music were quite rare.
Compiled by Jeffrey G. Kurtzman and Anne Schnoebelen for the JSCM Instrumenta series, this free online resource includes a wide range of indices, from academic references to publishers.
Above, Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Secondo libro, an edition covered in detail in the catalogue (click to enlarge); below, his Ave Maris stella, one of the works preserved in this edition.
English keyboard music c.1600–1625, edited by Alan Brown (London: Stainer & Bell, 2014), presents works by anonymous and lesser-known composers of the period, drawn from 22 manuscripts that mostly also transmit music by William Byrd and other noted virginalists.
The edition includes the complete keyboard works of Nicholas Carleton, the surviving 20 “Miserere” canons by Thomas Woodson, and the anonymous Pretty ways for young beginners to look on, along with preludes, plainsong settings, voluntaries, dances, and character pieces.
Below, Carleton’s A verse for two to play.
During his life, Bach was primarily known as a dazzling organist with virtuoso improvising abilities. Not surprisingly, his prowess gave rise to a number of urban legends.
One such legend had him traveling incognito, dressed as a village schoolmaster, going from church to church to try out the organs—prompting one local organist to cry out, “I don’t know who’s playing, but it’s either Bach or the Devil!”
This according to “Tod und Teufel” by Frieder Reininghaus, an essay included in Bach-ABC (Sinzig: Studio-Verlag, 2007, pp. 91–93).
Today is Bach’s 330th birthday! Below, the tocatta and fugue in D minor, BWV 565, which always seems to surface around Halloween.
In 1664 Louis XIV gave his first great fête at Versailles, a small hunting box built by his father and which the Roi Soleil was transforming into the astonishing château that would materially represent the political, economic, and artistic supremacy of France. Officially honoring Queen Marie-Thérèse and Queen Mother Anne d’Autriche, the entertainments were in fact dedicated to Louise de La Vallière, the king’s first maîtresse en titre.
Foremost among those who took part in the spectacle was the young warrior king himself, clad in jewel-encrusted gold and silver armor as the chevalier Roger, who, at the bidding of the sorceress Alcine, arrives with his retinue to entertain the queens over the course of several days in Les Plaisirs de l’Île Enchantée.
In 1668 Le Grand Divertissement Royal de Versailles, the most extravagant of the king’s fêtes, celebrated the glory of Louis XIV after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The éclat of the brilliant and youthful court, entertained with fireworks, tournaments, dance, music, and theater, was heightened by collaborations between two of the greatest names in the dramatic arts: Lully and Molière.
Les plaisirs de l’Île enchantée (La Princesse d’Élide); George Dandin ou Le mari confondu (Le grand divertissemant royal de Versailles) (Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2004) is a new edition of the keyboard score for the comédies-ballets La princesse d’Élide (1664) and George Dandin (1668); it is part of Olms’s Œuvres complètes of Lully.
Above, the official commemorative engraving of Festin du roi et des reines from 1664; below, excerpts from Lully’s score for La princesse d’Élide.
On 8 May 1736 London’s Weekly advertiser reported on an exhibition of a musical clock to the Queen, giving “uncommon satisfaction to all the Royal Family present”. Although two descriptions survive, the machine itself is lost.
However, the discovery among Händel’s MSS of two sets of tunes for musical clock suggest that the composer was, at the very least, intrigued by the instrument’s capabilities—it is also possible that this machine, or one like it, played these very works. Clearly Händel was not averse to mechanical reproduction of his works, and he may indeed have heard it happen!
This according to “Handel’s clock music” by William Barclay Squire (The musical quarterly V/4 [October 1919]) pp. 538–552.
Today is Händel’s 330th birthday! Above, a musical clock by Charles Clay, the inventor of the machine reported on in 1736; below, Händel’s works performed on a toy piano.