Monday 14 January 2013

Country house stories in music

Powis Castle (National Trust), photo taken by Alexander Forst-Rakoczy
Powis Castle from the South
As part of its Baroque Spring, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting a series of concerts from National Trust houses, with music from the 17th and 18th centuries linked to the stories in the houses. The concerts will be presented by Katie Dereham and during the intervals she will be joined by Lars Tharp from the Antiques Roadshow to 'offer a fascinating insight into the Baroque connections at each house'. Whilst it is a shame that the concerts are not on BBC 4, so that we could get visuals, it is an interesting attempt to extend the reach of the music in different ways. The series might seem to be rather straining the links, if it wasn't for the fact that the live concerts all feature some rather interesting performers and music.

The BBC Singers and St James Baroque under David Hill perform English church anthems from the time of the Restoration in the Stone Gallery at the Vyne in Hampshire (3 March) with music by Purcell, Humfrey and Blow. The house is Tudor but was re-modelled in the 18th century, though the famous portico was added in 1654 by John Webb which provides the link to the period of the music.

From Hatchlands Park, (6 March) home of the Cobbe Collection of historic keyboard instruments, Carole Cerasi plays a programme of French music on a Ruckers-Hemsch harpsichord in the collection.

Le Jardin Secret perform (10 March) in the ballroom at Powis Castle in Powys, with music for soprano and chamber ensemble by Couperin, Charpentier, Carissimi and Innocenzo Fede, exploring the castle's links to the exicled court of King James II at St. Germain en Laye. The 3rd Lord Powis added the magnificent 17th century state bedroom to the castle but was barred from public office by his Catholic faith and ended up serving the exiled James II after 1688. Still at Powis Castle (10 March), English Touring Thetre Company and Liverpool Everyman Playhouse present Roger McGough's version of Moliere's The Misanthrope.

La Risonanza, director Fabio Bonizzoni, perform cantatas and chamber works by Vivaldi and Handel, (17 March) using the Italianate Marble Hall at Clandon House as the venue. The Marble Hall was created in the 1730's by the Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni.

The long gallery at Ham House (an important survival from the 17th century) is the venue on 24 March for sacred cantatas and motets by JS Bach and his older relatives, performed by the Magdalena Consort directed by Peter Harvey. The link is pretty tenuous, but the programme is fascinating including as it does music by Johann Christoph Bach (1642 - 1703, JS Bach's first cousin once removed) and Johann Michael Bach (1648 - 1694, he was Johann Christoph's brother and the father of JS Bach's first wife Maria Barbara Bach!).

Finally on 31 March there is a concert from the Riding Stables at Tredegar House in South Wales, the grand mansion built by the Morgan family and recently taken over by the National Trust from its owners, Newport City Council. Rachel Podger's group Brecon Baroque perform works by Corelli, Purcell, Biber and Schmelzer.

Further information on the National Trust houses from the trust's website, BBC Radio 3 listings on the BBC Radio 3 website.

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