A Pocket Version of Handel & Telemann's WassermusikThursday, April 16, 2015
|Alexander Weimann - April 15 2015|
I have a vivid memory of listening for the first time a cassette tape of Pablo Casals conducting the Marlboro Festival Orchestra of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The second concerto featuring the trumpet was played so fast I thought my tape player had broken. To this day this super-fast version (was Casals on amphetamines?) is my favourite and all others seem now as if they were recorded in slow motion. Could more surprises be in store? Perhaps.
I can no longer abide any version of Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043. The same goes for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I have heard them too many times. This is why I look forward to the Portland Baroque Orchestra with Monica Huggett tackling the Four Seasons at the Chan Centre on May 1st courtesy of Early Music Vancouver. A woman with fearsome forearms and a passion to match will enliven the work.
You might think that the same (concerto ennui) might apply to the sometimes bombastic-sounding (as lovely as it is) Water Music by Handel. ThePacific Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Alexander Weimann is performing it this Friday and Saturday. So what may be new? Plenty!
Below is the citation from Wikipedia:
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often published as three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames.
The Water Music is scored for a relatively large orchestra, making it suitable for outdoor performance. Some of the music is also preserved in arrangement for a smaller orchestra; this version is not suitable for outdoor performance, as the sound of stringed instruments does not carry well in the open air.
|Georg Frideric Handel (left) and King George I on the Thames River, 17 July 1717. Painting by Edouard Hamman (1819–88).|
When I read the above I became curious as all the versions of Handel’s Water Music I have ever heard featured a large orchestra with lots of pomp and circumstance provided by horns, trumpets and 18th century kitchen sinks. It seems that there is a smaller version.
This is what I found:
It’s easy to imagine the well-documented first performance of Handel’s Water Music, played by at least 50 musicians on a barge floating down the Thames for a royal procession. But what was the score’s first incarnation? After all, Baroque composers would shamelessly beg, borrow and steal from their own music, whatever it took to make a few extra bob.
Enter the Brook Street Band, a young baroque chamber ensemble whose core make-up is two violins, harpsichord and cello. Upon learning of a chamber version of the Water Music in an Oxford University library, apparently penned by Handel himself, the group applied 18th century practices and adapted the music for their own forces, adding an oboe doubling on recorder. The resulting world premier recording recreates how Handel’s popular music may have been enjoyed by 18th century folk in the privacy of their own home.
From the above web site I found out that the Brook Street Band is called that because they took their name from the London street where Handel lived for most of his life in London.
Is there any chance we might ever hear something like the above in an intimate location (Pyatt Hall on Seymour Street for example)?
You might never know by the following information on the concert on the Pacific Baroque Orchestra web site:
A lavish collection of orchestral suites for woodwinds and strings by Handel (Watermusic) and Telemann (A lavish collection of orchestral suites for woodwinds and strings by Handel (Watermusic) and Telemann (Hamburger Ebb' und Fluth, La Bourse) celebrating the water and its powerful tides, both literally and as a metaphor for change. Majestic music at the end of our season for a city that lives from and with water.) celebrating the water and its powerful tides, both literally and as a metaphor for change. Majestic music at the end of our season for a city that lives from and with water.
I am happy to report that something like that Oxford version is in the works for Friday and Saturday.
I know this because yesterday Wednesday I attended a rehearsal of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. The orchestra featured (all period instruments) one harpsichord (Weimann) two violins, Chloe Myers and Linda Melsted, one viola, Paul Luchkow, one bassoonist, Katrina Russell, two oboes, Matthew Jennejohn and Curtis Forster, that doubled on recorders, one violone player Natalie Mackie, and Nathan Whittaker on cello.
It was most interesting to watch and listen to Weimann make some of the musicians go silent or to listen to violinists who were a bit confused as to what part they might play as they (one violinist, the second violinist ) was replacing two. Weimann informed that oboe players that he would bring the horn parts for Thursday. In many instances some of the players did have confusing moments when they were unsure which part of the two parts they had to play. At all times I was under the impression that the 9 musicians were all collaborating, on the spot on a work that will be brand new. Weimman, and the 8 were putting together a Vancouver Version (not the Oxford!) of Handel’s Water Music.
As the only spectator I felt very much like George I in his palace listening to an intimate chamber orchestra play beautiful music. It seemed they were playing just for me.
It was wonderful, refreshing, to hear every individual instrument play and not a full orchestra with the instruments blending in. If anything there were times when Weimann seemed to be going for clashes and he often said these two parts sound the same and so would change the mix. To me I was listening to something being re-born.
As for Telemann’s Hamburger Ebb' und Fluth, La Bourse in honour of the German port of Hamburg I know a lot less and my only reference is my CD by Musica Antiqu Köln. In the last few years Georg Philipp Telemann seems to have been all but ignored by orchestras in our city, a city which lies by the water. I even wonder if any contemporary (this century) or last century composers of Vancouver city have ever composed anything about our water and our frequent rain.
|Alexander Weimann & Chloe Myers|
Thanks to the Pacific Baroque Orchestra I can celebrate water if for a few hours in the dry and intimate surrounding of Pyatt Hall on Saturday. Those living near or in Langley can take their dose of intimacy on Friday..
As I left the rehearsal hall I thought of Weimann the German who smiles (even if a tad efficiently but I must add so naturally) and that his nation has an excellent track record of making powerful and compact statements. They have done it with their formidable (but smallish) pocket battleships of WWII, their Leicas and now Weimann is doing it with a pocket version of Handel’s Water Music. The same will apply to Telemann’s work. In my Musica Antiqua Köln I counted 23 musicians. Imagine 9.