An Box of Baroque Delights at the King’s Hall Ilkley
In my review of Crispin Steele-Perkins’ last concert at Ilkley I wrote ‘This concert was not wholly satisfying as a programme and maybe that’s why there were more empty seats than usual…all the movements were very short and not all the music was top drawer stuff’. There were no empty seats for this event, the programme contained extended pieces, all good, and the trumpeter was partnered by the highly regarded Robert King and his Consort. That Crispian’s playing was even better this time is surely due to the wonderful support of the King’s Consort to which he responded with such evident enjoyment; baroque performance can be so po-faced, ‘correct’ but uninvolving, but not on this occasion.
The items featuring the baroque trumpet were by Purcell and Handel. As Crispian pointed out in his very amusing and informative talk, in those times the trumpet was prized for its soft tone, and throughout the concert his ability to balance his sound with just five strings and a harpsichord was remarkable. The instrument is valveless, all pitches obtained just by varying lip pressure; the range of notes required in the gentle ‘Symphony’ from Purcell’s King Arthur is perilously wide but was traversed with total security, an extraordinary achievement.
But the concert entitled ‘The Royal Trumpet’ was not just a show-case for that instrument. We were treated to string concerti by Italian masters all played with lightness of touch and a crisp rhythm under the direction of Robert King at the harpsichord. For me the highlight was the Concerto Grosso in E minor by Geminiani; Robert King told us how some contemporaries were perplexed by this music that didn’t conform to expectations, an intriguing listen. Vivaldi’s instrumental music can sometimes seem too formulaic but his Concerto in C again was full of surprises. Purcell’s Chacony was played last season by a string quartet on modern instruments; hearing it played on period instruments with gut strings gave a satisfying sense of the music coming home.
It has proved impossible to give sensible recommendations for all tonight’s works, so I am including two examples of Mr. Steele-Perkins recordings of Baroque Trumpet Music.
The first is entitled “The Fam’d Italian Masters” – music for two trumpets, strings and continuo from the Italian Baroque. A young Alison Balsom is included with the Parley of Instruments on Hyperion CDA67359 (full price). The other CD is also of Italian Baroque music and is again accompanied by the Parley of Instruments on Hyperion Helios CDH55192 (budget price). The recording quality and performances are superb on both discs.
Another CD “Sound the Trumpet”has Mark Bennett and Michael Laird (trumpets) plus the Parley of Instruments presenting music by “Purcell and his Followers”, and includes pieces from Purcell’s “Indian Queen” and “King Arthur”.
This is another Hyperion Helios – CDH55258 (budget price). “Sound the Trumpet” is also the title of a new release on EMI 4403292 (full price) and features Alison Balsom (trumpet) with the English Concert conducted by Trevor Pinnock. Purcell’s suite from “King Arthur” and Handel’s Water Piece are included.
Finally, mention must be made of the Kings Consort’s superb extensive series of Purcell and Handel CDs for Hyperion.