“La Naissance de la Musette”: Aberdeen Early Music Collective

Apparently, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s favourite instrument was the Musette, a gentle-sounding baroque bagpipe. As far as we can tell, however, our concert on Thursday, 28 September was the Musette’s first appearance in Aberdeen, in the hands (and under the arm) of Amanda Babington. The programme featured Michel Corrette’s cantata, “La Naissance de la Musette”, as well as Sonatas for musette (Senaillé), violin (Rebel), and cello (Boismortier), and finishing with a favourite cantata, “Pan et Sirinx” (Montéclair). Last time, we did this cantata with a (small) host of winds and strings and big bass; this time, just violin and continuo, but still an awesome cantata, despite the slightly disturbing message of the final aria!

“Frenemies”: Aberdeen Early Music Collective

On Thursday, 29 September, 7:30 pm, King’s College Chapel, the Aberdeen Early Music Collective kick off our 2016/17 activities with a new programme, based around composers who tangled with Händel in some fashion, whether with words, in business dealings, in musical battles, or with actual swords! There’s chamber music for varied combinations of recorders, violins, cello, and continuo, and some solo keyboard music, selected from Telemann, Marpurg, Mattheson, Porpora, and Scarlatti (Domenico, natch). And of course, just a bit of (attributed to) Händel to finish: the Gloria for soprano, 2 violins, and continuo.

“Der kleine Tod” first performance…

…received a very nice review from Alan Cooper:

“Today’s song duo gave us a marvellous account of all the songs. Frauke’s performance was wonderfully clean and clear with perfect German and a dynamic vocal range that went from the gentlest whispers to wonderfully passionate crescendos with pure clear firmly held top notes. […] The wide vocal leaps in the Strauss songs, one of this composer’s stylistic signatures, were beautifully smoothly and naturally sung […]. Ralph’s playing here was emblematic of his performances in all of the songs. In Wagner’s Im Treibhaus […]  the original piano score came through more expressively than in any of the orchestral versions I have heard.”

Der kleine Tod: Friday, 16 September, 4pm, King’s College Chapel, Aberdeen

With Ralph Stelzenmüller on piano, I’ll be performing an unusual juxtaposition of three cycles of Lieder: Alban Berg’s Op. 2, Richard Strauss’s Op. 27, and Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder. In that order! The texts and tonal language melt from one group of songs to the next, intertwining metaphors of sleep, death, love, and sexuality.

A stiff malt may be warranted afterwards.

Busy week recording Ruggieri

Seagulls! Despite the intrusive exclamations of the Aberdonian Mega-Gulls resident atop the towers of King’s College (I think they were teaching the fledglings to fly, and it was all terribly exciting), the Aberdeen Early Music Collective, and dearly beloved guests, managed to finish only a few hours behind schedule…Watch this space! On the menu was a representative collection of soprano and alto cantatas and trio sonatas from this contemporary of Vivaldi. Aberdeen musicologist Jasmin Cameron’s research has unearthed many interesting details of his somewhat dodgy life (he died in prison), and has made his works available for performance in modern editions.

Second instalment of Chez Schedel

We performed our second programme in the Chez Schedel project on Thursday 3 December (in King’s College Chapel, Aberdeen) and Saturday, 5 December (in Woodend Barn, Banchory), welcoming Marc Lewon (voice and lute) and Uri Smilansky (viola d’arco), along with Caroline Ritchie (viola d’arco) and Ralph Stelzenmüller (organ/harpsichord). The programme had a bit of a Christmas theme, and some audience participation: some digging in online hymn databases revealed a 19th-century English translation of Der Tag der ist so freudenreich, so we performed alternatim verses in German monophony, Latin polyphony, and instrumental settings, while the audience sang “Royal day that chasest gloom”. Marc’s beautifully-rendered Tenorlieder, especially athmospheric in the candle-lit warmth of Woodend Barn, helped expand the programme’s German content, while we continued to explore the renditions of French, English, and Italian repertoire in German manuscripts. One of my favourites is a Latin contrafact of Mille bonjours from the St-Emmeram Codex.

“Chez Schedel” project première!

Saturday, 30 May and Sunday, 31 May (University of Aberdeen May Festival) saw the first performances of the Aberdeen Early Music Collective’s new project Chez Schedel, in which we reconstruct a musical entertainment as it might have been performed in Nuremberg in the 1460s. Many modern performers and audiences are still insidiously influenced by the desire to determine a composer’s intention or authority, even for musics where such a notion may be problematic. We depart from this by collecting pieces from a wide geographical and temporal origin, and trying to crystallise what these pieces might have sounded like, in one place and time. For our first performances, regulars Frauke, Ralph Stelzenmüller (organ) and Caroline Ritchie (viola d’arco) welcomed esteemed guest Uri Smilansky (viola d’arco). The programme included a mix of German songs (performed with texted superius), Latin contrafacta of songs of diverse origin (including some of Frye and Du Fay’s biggest hits), keyboard intabulations, and a few chansons with their original French texts. On Sunday, we added a basse danse, and Uri and Caroline improvised while I taught the basic steps to an enthusiastic little girl from our audience! Stay tuned for the next installment in December, when Marc Lewon will join the lineup, and we will explore some more homegrown, German genres! Wine is no use until you’ve had at least three drinks (claims the Buxheim Organ Book), so find out what happens after drinks four through ten!

Website live at last…

The Aberdeen Early Music Collective’s second concert of the “Ruggieri” Project took place on Thursday, 5 February 2015, with guests Karim Nasr (baroque bassoon) and Alex McCartney (baroque guitar and theorbo). Other performers were Amanda Babington, Aden Mazur, Caroline Ritchie, Claire Babington, and Ralph Stelzenmüller. We’ve now performed all of the soprano cantatas, and two of the sonatas! The cantata Taci, non mi parlar (“Shut up! Don’t speak to me!”) proved especially entertaining.

Next in line is the second installment of “Chez Schedel”, our late-medieval project centred around Nuremberg. This follows from a lecture-recital initially given at the Conference for Interdisciplinary Musicology, Glasgow, 2011. Two performances in Aberdeen will be on 30 and 31 May 2015, with more to come in the autumn.