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Program: #19-11, Air Date: 03/04/19

The wonderful harpsichord soloist and conductor shares with us recordings of Purcell, Biber, and his latest recording dedicated to William Byrd.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from recordings by our guest, Richard Egarr.

I. One Byrde in Hande (Richard Egarr, harpsichord). Linn CD CKD 518.

ONE BYRDE IN HANDE


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In his debut solo recording for Linn, Richard Egarr charts the extraordinary breadth of invention at play in works by William Byrd.

Richard Egarr’s impressive career, both as a solo keyboardist and conductor (notably with the Academy of Ancient Music), has cemented his reputation as one of the UK’s most compelling musicians.

In his debut solo recording for Linn, Egarr charts the extraordinary breadth of invention at play in works by William Byrd. One of English music’s most influential figures, Byrd’s innovative style is evident throughout this well-chosen program of preludes, grounds and fantasies. The Fantasia in A minor, MB13, demonstrates the unlimited scope of Byrd’s imagination; intricate rhythms, surprising modulations and changing textures precede a finale requiring a previously unequalled level of dexterous virtuosity.

Egarr similarly relishes the technical demands of Byrd’s descriptive masterpiece, The bells. This incredible composition begins with a single toll before developing into an elaborate and thrillingly complex showpiece of pealing bells. Egarr’s elegant phrasing, infectious enthusiasm and rich embellishments result in insightful performances.

From Gramophone: A joyous upwards flourish opens Richard Egarr’s Byrd recital, added by him to the beginning of a 50-second Prelude for which the composer has already written a flurry of fast notes as an ending. But if that’s the kind of thing that’s typical of Egarr’s natural keyboard exuberance, it’s surely also a sign of the particular excitement he feels when Byrd’s music is under his fingers. And if his love and respect for the composer he first got to know as a chorister is revealed clearly enough in a readable booklet note, it is no less warmly expressed in his playing throughout the course of this disc.
At first glance, the selection looks challengingly serious, consisting mainly of fantasias and grounds, with none of the variations on popular songs that make up Byrd’s more immediately appealing side. Yet Egarr has no problem keeping our attention. The sheer sound of his playing is one thing, produced on a crisp, punchy but resonant Ruckers copy, beautifully recorded by Philip Hobbs. Operating at A=393, it has a fruity bass; but Egarr also manages to make it sing sweetly in the middle and high registers thanks to a caressing legato and sure sense of when to leave certain notes held down. It may be relevant that he knew Byrd’s choral music before his keyboard music, because in lengthy fantasias that might seem rather earnest compositional exercises – how excited can you get by a title such as Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la? – he is able not only to articulate Byrd’s astonishingly resourceful counterpoint but also, in music that could sound dogged, to strike a thoroughly convincing balance between the music’s formal structures, changing moods and metres, and moments of charming spontaneity or coursing brilliance. He ends with Byrd’s most extraordinary piece, The Bells, an improbable set of variations on a two-note ground which, with even more ‘pedal wash’ effects than usual, is here turned into an affectionate tone-picture. An outstanding celebration of Byrd as one of the first keyboard greats.

The Bells, ground for keyboard, MB 38
Fantasia, for keyboard in C major, No. 2, MB 25 "A Fancie"
Prelude for keyboard in C major, MB 24
Pavan & Galliard ("Lachrymae"), for keyboard (pavan by Dowland, Galliard by Harding; arr. by Byrd), MB 54-55: Lachrymae Pavan, MB54
Fantasia, for keyboard in G major, MB 62
Ut mi re, for keyboard, MB 65
Ut re mi fa sol la, for keyboard in G major, MB 64
Pavan & Gaillard, for keyboard in A minor No. 3, MB 16
Ground (Short), for keyboard in C major, MB 43
Ground (Short), for keyboard in G major, MB 9
Prelude for keyboard in G minor, MB 1
Fantasia, for keyboard in A minor, MB 13
Prelude for keyboard in A minor, MB 12

II.  Biber: The Rosary Sonatas (Andrew Manze, violin, Richard Egarr, organ & harpsichord). Harmonia Mundi CD HMG 507321.22.

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas


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The Rosary Sonatas is one of the most unusual collections of violin music ever assembled and it is this work on which Biber's present-day fame rests. Calling for a different violin tuning (scordatura) in each of its 15 Sonatas - all played here on the same Amati instrument - the full set is a triumph of Baroque invention and 17th-century virtuoso style. The Gramophone Award winning partnership of Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr meets this challenge with dazzling results.

From AllMusic.comHeinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's Rosary Sonatas were written in Salzburg in the 1670s or 1680s, and they're really unlike anything else in the violin literature. Scordatura, or unconventional tuning of an instrument's strings, was common enough during the Baroque era, but Biber's cycle of 15 pieces for violin and continuo explores the technique exhaustively: each of the 15 sonatas uses a different tuning. The result is music of fearsome difficulty for the player, and, as with Bach's best music, technical complexity generates spiritual intensity. Each sonata represents one of the Mysteries of the Catholic Rosary, which are divided into five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, for example), five Sorrowful Mysteries (concluding with Christ's crucifixion), and five Glorious Mysteries (centered on the Resurrection and on Mary's Assumption). Some of the sonatas have three movements, often with two slow, quasi-improvisatory movements surrounding a central "Aria" or piece in dance rhythm. Others are series of dances, and a few are long single movements approaching the elaborate architecture of the Chaconne from Bach's Partita No. 2 for solo violin. Some of the tunings are downright outlandish; as the music reaches its spiritual climax in the "Resurrection" sonata, Biber specifies that the violin be played with its two central strings crossed, perhaps to symbolize the meeting of heaven and earth. A helpful short commentary by Andrew Manze included at the end of disc two explains the scordatura technique for those who would rather listen than read.

Manze, a British Baroque violinist who has led the English Concert and the Academy of Ancient Music, brings these pieces alive. Performing on a 1700 violin with sheep gut strings, he retunes the instrument for each sonata rather than playing on a set of pre-tuned instruments. This allows the listener to hear the radical changes in tone the violin undergoes as the levels of pressure on its strings are altered. Manze puts it this way in his notes: "As it is pulled into different tunings, the violin undergoes experiences, some pleasant (as in the Visitation and Coronation), some traumatic (the Agony and Crowning with Thorns, for example)." The sequence of tunings matches the events of Christ's life, with the Sorrowful Mysteries rendered in harsh, tense tones. This hasn't always been clear in earlier performances of the work, and observers have tried with dubious success to find more overt pictorialism. Biber shifts mood rather than painting pictures, and the scordatura technique plays a primary role.    

From Classics Today:Dare I say that this must be Andrew Manze’s best disc so far? In a catalog that includes his unsurpassed, standard-setting performances of sonatas by Tartini, Rebel, Uccellini, Telemann, Bach, and Corelli–not to mention other sonatas by Biber, this one is impressive not only for the by-now expected technical virtuosity, stylistic facility, and the perfectly in-sync partnership of Manze and Richard Egarr, but also–and perhaps most remarkably–for the sound of Manze’s violin. Biber wrote these 15 sonatas employing scordatura (or alternate tuning), thus assigning unique sonic characteristics to each of the 15 sacred “mysteries”. Sometimes the differences are subtle, in other cases they are more dramatic, and they are realized here like never before.

This is achieved by Manze’s decision to use a single violin for all the sonatas, retuning it as required with “one set of equal-tension strings, made of sheep gut, without any metal covering.” As a result, we can hear to striking effect the differences in the violin’s voice and character as it changes according to the composer’s concept of each sonata. By adding more or less tension to the strings, by reconfiguring the usual intervallic relationships between one string and its neighbor and thus creating a whole series of different resonating effects, a violin can be sweetly alluring one minute and coldly hard-edged the next. In between these sounds is an array of timbres and voices uncommonly heard (as we do here) coming from four strings and a wooden box–albeit, in this case, an Amati wooden box.

Violinists who tackle the considerable difficulties of Biber’s formidable lines and sometimes extreme alternate tunings often use a set of pre-tuned instruments–but Manze’s approach makes for a far more dramatic listening experience as we realize this one violin’s transformation from the Five Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Nativity, etc.) to the Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Crucifixion and Death), and ending with the Five Glorious Mysteries (Resurrection, Ascension, Assumption of Mary, etc.). But as Manze points out in his relatively brief but very helpful notes, we should not become distracted in these works with attempts to identify strict programmatic effects that Biber may or may not have intended. Rather, to fully appreciate these complex yet eminently listenable and highly appealing sonatas, we should take a more contextual approach, for example “seeing” the picture of Christ on the cross rather than trying to hear the sound of the hammering of nails.

Of course, you can’t help but be totally engrossed in Manze’s playing, which is so free of artifice and effort that it leaves us free to revel in and wonder at the sheer range of expression he achieves in this monumental tour de force–arguably the most challenging two hours of music in the violin repertoire. And the engineering is so true to the music’s purpose and to the instrument’s tonal characteristics that we don’t even have to try to hear–and feel–the effects of Biber’s ingenious “mistunings”. It helps that the performers chose to use only one accompanying instrument (Egarr switches between organ and harpsichord) so, as Manze suggests, to be faithful to the music’s original purpose, evoking “an intimate, private atmosphere suitable for prayer and meditation.”

The opening bars of the Praeludium to the first sonata (The Annunciation) are breathtaking–the violin seems to be emerging from another world, and Manze holds us spellbound, suspended for the next two minutes in awed anticipation, quickly satisfied by the gorgeous, spinning flourishes and richly sonorous double-stops of the following Aria, and ending in a series of strange, short, improvisatory utterances. The next two hours are full of enough technical feats and interpretive artistry–both grand and almost imperceptibly subtle–to keep violin aficionados enthralled for a very long time. How Manze does it is another mystery we can add to the 15 he performs here.

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Annuncation

 

1-1

1. Praeludium

2:17

1-2

2. Aria, Variatio

2:24

1-3

3. [Finale]

1:20

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Visitation

1-4

1. Sonata

2:07

1-5

2. Allamanda

3:42

1-6

3. [Finale]

1:00

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Nativity

1-7

1. Sonata

1:41

1-8

2. Courente, Double

3:25

1-9

3. [Finale]

2:17

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - Presentation Of Jesus In The Temple

1-10

1. Ciacona

9:01

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - Finding Of Jesus In The Temple

1-11

1. Praeludium

1:09

1-12

2. Allamanda

1:22

1-13

3. Gigue

1:15

1-14

4. Sarabanda, Double

3:37

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Agony In The Garden

1-15

1. Lamento

9:21

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Scourging At The Pillar

1-16

1. Allamanda, Variatio

5:14

1-17

2. Sarabanda, Variatio

5:36

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Crowning With Thorns

1-18

1. Sonata

2:28

1-19

2. Guigue, Doubles

3:44

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Carrying Of The Cross

1-20

1. Sonata

2:32

1-21

2. Courente, Double

4:51

1-22

3. Finale

2:00

The 5 Sorrowful Mysteries - The Crucifixion And Death Of Jesus

2-1

1. Praeludium

1:22

2-2

2. Aria

3:56

2-3

3. Variatio, Cont.

4:23

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Resurrection

2-4

1. Sonata

2:26

2-5

2. Surexit Christus Hodie

3:50

2-6

3. Adagio

1:12

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Ascension

2-7

1. Intrada

0:51

2-8

2. Aria Tubicinum

1:24

2-9

3. Allamanda

3:17

2-10

4. Courente, Double

3:06

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Descent Of The Holy Spirit

2-11

1. Sonata

3:19

2-12

2. Gavotta

1:33

2-13

3. Guigue

1:49

2-14

4. Sarabanda

1:33

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Assumption Of Mary Into Heaven

2-15

1. [Sonata]

2:27

2-16

2. Aria

7:09

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Coronation Of Mary

2-17

1. Sonata

1:54

2-18

2. Aria, [Variatio]

5:53

2-19

3. Canzona

1:55

2-20

4. Sarabanda, [Double]

2:25

-

2-21

Passagalia For Unaccompanied Violin

9:20

2-22

Scordatura Briefly Explained

3:44

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Annuncation

 

1-1

1. Praeludium

2:17

1-2

2. Aria, Variatio

2:24

1-3

3. [Finale]

1:20

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Visitation

1-4

1. Sonata

2:07

1-5

2. Allamanda

3:42

1-6

3. [Finale]

1:00

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - The Nativity

1-7

1. Sonata

1:41

1-8

2. Courente, Double

3:25

1-9

3. [Finale]

2:17

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - Presentation Of Jesus In The Temple

1-10

1. Ciacona

9:01

The 5 Joyful Mysteries - Finding Of Jesus In The Temple

1-11

1. Praeludium

1:09

1-12

2. Allamanda

1:22

1-13

3. Gigue

1:15

1-14

4. Sarabanda, Double

3:37

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Agony In The Garden

1-15

1. Lamento

9:21

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Scourging At The Pillar

1-16

1. Allamanda, Variatio

5:14

1-17

2. Sarabanda, Variatio

5:36

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Crowning With Thorns

1-18

1. Sonata

2:28

1-19

2. Guigue, Doubles

3:44

The 5 Sorrowfull Mysteries - The Carrying Of The Cross

1-20

1. Sonata

2:32

1-21

2. Courente, Double

4:51

1-22

3. Finale

2:00

The 5 Sorrowful Mysteries - The Crucifixion And Death Of Jesus

2-1

1. Praeludium

1:22

2-2

2. Aria

3:56

2-3

3. Variatio, Cont.

4:23

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Resurrection

2-4

1. Sonata

2:26

2-5

2. Surexit Christus Hodie

3:50

2-6

3. Adagio

1:12

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Ascension

2-7

1. Intrada

0:51

2-8

2. Aria Tubicinum

1:24

2-9

3. Allamanda

3:17

2-10

4. Courente, Double

3:06

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Descent Of The Holy Spirit

2-11

1. Sonata

3:19

2-12

2. Gavotta

1:33

2-13

3. Guigue

1:49

2-14

4. Sarabanda

1:33

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Assumption Of Mary Into Heaven

2-15

1. [Sonata]

2:27

2-16

2. Aria

7:09

The 5 Glorious Mysteries - The Coronation Of Mary

2-17

1. Sonata

1:54

2-18

2. Aria, [Variatio]

5:53

2-19

3. Canzona

1:55

2-20

4. Sarabanda, [Double]

2:25

-

2-21

Passagalia For Unaccompanied Violin

9:20

2-22

Scordatura Briefly Explained

3:44

III. Purcell: Keyboard Suites & Grounds  (Richard Egarr, harpsichord).  Harmonia Mundi CD HMU 907428.

Purcell: Keyboard Suites & Grounds


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In his latest solo recital for harmonia mundi, Richard Egarr turns to the rarely heard harpsichord Suites by Henry Purcell. In his beautifully shaped reading, these eight muscular and quirky works, published the year after Purcell's death, are interspersed with seven shorter pieces built on a recurring pattern - a chaconne, a rondeau, and five 'grounds'. Richard Egarr has worked with all types of keyboards and is in great demand both as soloist and as accompanist. His collaboration with long-time duo partner Andrew Manze has been setting new performance standards since 1984. He is music director of the Academy of Ancient Music, and they recently recorded Handel's Organ Concertos Op.4 together, nominated for a Gramophone Award 2008. Handel Concerti Grossi Op. 3 won the Baroque Award in 2007.

From ArkivMusic: I admit that after numerous hearings, I still can’t find what Richard Egarr in his relatively short but pleasantly personal liner notes for this release refers to as “earthy fish-slapping humor” in some of these works. Nor do I hear the “twists, oddities, and eccentricities that are deeply and uniquely rooted in a land that seems to specialize in the zany (my italics)—The Goons, Monty Python, and Ricky Gervais.” Granted, I can picture Henry Crun as a Baroque instrument maker (“I’m sorry, Mr. Purcell, you can’t get the wood, you know”), but Purcell’s musical humor seems to me occasional and quietly fanciful, rather than frequent and quirky. Nothing in this collection reaches the level of Rameau’s drolleries or Scarlatti’s sly wit, much less the deadpan absurdity of Couperin’s Les fastes de la grande et ancienne Mxnxstrxndxsx.

What I do find in this collection is the same impeccable sense of phrasing Egarr displayed in his discs of harpsichord music by Louis Couperin (Globe 5148) and a keyboard collection drawn from the Restoration period (Globe 5145). He displays both an awareness of appropriate ornamentation and the ability to apply it in a fashion that sounds wholly natural. Some of this is undoubtedly due to his broad and sensible range of basic tempos, and his flexible rhythms. The former allows room where needed for the music to breath—something that’s missing, for example, from Robert Woolley’s Purcell—while the latter keeps it from a stodginess that creeps repeatedly into Pieter-Jan Belder’s traversal of the keyboard works. Egarr clearly loves these pieces, just as he writes, and is alive to the individual character of each work.

Listeners familiar with this music will want to take note of two interesting inclusions. The first is a pair of two movements recently discovered in a Purcell autograph manuscript that add a Jig in A Minor and a Prelude in C Major, while the second is Egarr’s own improvised prelude provided to the Suite No. 7 in D Minor. As Purcell followed the format of Prelude-Almand-Corant on a relatively frequent basis, this makes sense; and the Prelude is only half-a-minute, in any case, a bare but useful introduction to the extensive Almand. (At nearly five minutes, the latter is the most lengthy and fully worked selection on the disc.)

The sound is close and well defined, with a modern instrument (in imitation of a 1638 Ruckers) that has a bright yet refined tone. Egarr employs ordinary temperament, an effective choice in this repertoire.

For music, performance, engineering, and disc length, definitely recommended.

Suite No. 1 In G Major, Z.660  (4:10)

 

1

Prelude

0:35

2

Almand

1:14

3

Corant

1:06

4

[Minuet]

1:13

5

Chacone In G Minor, Z.T680 (From Timon Of Athens)

2:56

Suite No.2 In G Minor, Z.661  (8:48)

6

Prelude

1:40

7

[Almand]

3:47

8

Corant

1:37

9

Sarabande

1:43

10

Ground, Z.T681 (From Ye Tuneful Muses)

3:57

Suite No.3 In G Major, Z.662 (7:06)

11

Prelude

1:25

12

Almand

3:35

13

Courante

2:06

14

A New Ground, Z.T682 (From Welcome To All The Pleasures)

2:26

Suite No.4 In A Minor, Z.663  (8:41)

15

Prelude

1:04

16

Almand

3:02

17

Corante

1:42

18

Saraband

1:18

19

Jig (From GB-Lbl Mus.1)

1:36

20

Ground In Gamut, Z.645

1:59

Suite No.5 In C Major, Z.666  (7:40)

21

Prelude In C (From GB-Lbl Mus.1)

0:47

22

Prelude

1:15

23

Almand

3:11

24

Corant

1:09

25

Saraband

1:18

26

Ground, Z.D221

2:58

Suite No.6 In D Major, Z.667 (5:13)

27

Prelude

0:49

28

Almand

3:10

29

[Hornpipe]

1:14

30

Round O, Z.T684 (From Abdelazer)

1:50

Suite No.7 In D Minor, Z.668 (7:50)

31

[Improvised Prelude]

0:30

32

Almand, Very Slow. 'Bell-barr'

4:46

33

Corant

1:41

34

Hornpipe

0:52

35

Ground, Z.D222 (From Celebrate The Festival)

2:20

Suite No.8 In F Major, Z.669  (7:33)

36

Prelude

0:55

37

Almand

3:16

38

Courante

2:10

39

Minuet

1:12

 

Composer Info

William Byrd, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Henry Purcell

CD Info

Linn CD CKD 518, CD HMG 507321.22, CD HMU 907428