Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Concerto for 24 Bassoons?!

Last May I performed my final recital at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. The program centered around the music of English theater composers from the first half of the 18th century. My goal for the evening was to posit that works by composers contemporary to G.F. Handel which are today overlooked were worthy of our attention. One particular personality who I focused on was that of John Ernest Galliard, the German immigrant. Galliard was a central figure at the Lincoln's Inn Field's theater for nearly three decades where he wrote the music to numerous productions.

On 11 December 1744 a concert was given for his benefit (likely marking his retirement) at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Following a performance of Love and Folly, as well as four choruses written for the tragedy Julius Caesar, a “Concerto grosso, 24 Bassoons, accompanied by Caporale on the violoncello” was performed. The concerto is the only work of this instrumentation on record and was more likely produced with the intention of creating a novel entertainment than for artistic reasons. Sadly, this work, as well as any other information about its performance, has been lost.

In response to our predicament, I took it upon myself to compose a new concerto for 24 bassoons. Basing it upon a variety of music by both contemporary composers active in London, as well as those whose music Galliard was familiar with at the time of his benefit, this new concerto is stylistically plausible for the scenario of a performance in mid-century Britain. To be clear: my intention with this work is to present an entirely new creation, not to try and reconstruct the original using Galliard’s surviving works as a basis.

Below you can find a selection of movements from the premier performance at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on 27 May 2016. All bassoons present are modern copies (pitched at A=415Hz) of originals made in the 18th century. 

I should note that this was not a professional concert and that I hesitated to put any of this online. With an ensemble only a fraction of the intended size, and given the little rehearsal time we had, I feel that there is a better performance yet to come. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that Galliard's concerto was composed in a festive spirit, and I believe all bassoonists should be aware of that historic moment in 1744. Therefore, in the spirit of good humor, I present to you selections from:

The Grand Concerto
A Concerto Grosso for 24 Bassoons newly fashion’d by Mr. Burn in response to that by Mr. Galliard which was perf’d for his Benefit at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1744

No comments:

Post a Comment

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).