Friday 16 March 2018

Ceremonial Oxford: Music for the Georgian University by William Hayes

Ceremonial Oxford
William Hayes anthems, oratorios and organ concerto; Choir of Keble College, Instruments of Time and Truth, Matthew Martin; CRD
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 12 Mar 2018 Star rating: 3.5
Highlights of the output of one of Handel's contemporaries, the Oxford-based William Hayes

Handel's connection with Oxford can be dated to 1733 when he performed Athalia at The Publick Act (Encoenia, the university's annual commemoration of benefactors). This was one the few occasions when Handel took his company out of London. The Handel connection would continue through the 18th century as the Professor of Music at Oxford from 1741 to 1777 was William Hayes, who was an enthusiastic Handelian.

Listening to this new disc from Matthew Martin, the choir of Keble College, Oxford and the Instruments of Time and Truth, on the CRD label, the influence of Handel's music is clear but in the disc, in fact, show cases Hayes own music. As Professor of Music he played a strong role in the musical life of Oxford and the disc presents a selection of his sacred anthems, organ concerto and excerpts from two of his oratorios, The Passions and The Fall of Jericho, plus an organ voluntary by William Walond (one of Hayes closest friends and organist at New College, Oxford).

In 1748 Hayes oversaw the building of the Holywell Music Room, the earliest purpose-built concert hall in Europe, and in 1749 the opening of the Radcliffe Camera was celebrated with a Handel festival which included the first performance of Messiah in Oxford.

Hayes would receive scores directly from Handel and conduct his oratorios in Oxford. But listening to the music on this disc, you can also hear Hayes interest in the music of his great predecessors, Tallis, Byrd and Purcell.
Whilst the instrumental writing in works like the organ concerto has something of a Handelian cast, the choruses take on a very English feel, and in fact, we have one of his transcriptions of Byrd adapting Emendemus in melius for new English words. His own anthems were written with an eye to improving the general state of English sacred music in the 18th century, using his predecessors as exemplars, and the anthems presented here are certainly worth exploring more, combining as they do interest with a certain 18th-century polite grace.

Hayes oratorio The Passions was written for the 1750 Publick Act (Encoenia) at the Sheldonian. The work celebrates music's power to arouse each of the human emotions (passions). And his oratorio The Fall of Jericho may have been written for the same ceremony some years earlier. We hear the overture and a chorus from each oratorio, sufficient to be intrigued and wonder what the full works would be like [you can hear The Passions complete on Anthony Rooley's 2010 recording].

Matthew Martin, the choir of Keble College and the Instruments of Time and Truth give attractively engaged accounts of the music. Martin draws crisp and stylish playing from his orchestra and finely focused, and beautifully blended singing from the choir. Martin is the lively soloist in the organ concerto with Edward Higginbottom and Rory Moules sharing the honours in the anthems.

The disc concludes with a charming piece which encapsulates Hayes' art, an arrangement of the Hundredth Psalm given a lively an charming accompaniment full of rhythmic felicity.

Figures like George Frideric Handel cast so strong a shadow that we do not always notice figures like Hayes. But his music certainly does not lack interest. Martin and his team are to be congratulated on their imagination in giving us this disc of Hayes' music and I hope that we might hear more.

William Hayes (1708-1777) - The Passions: An ode to music (excerpts)
William Hayes - O Worship the Lord
William Hayes - Psalm 23: Lo! My Shepherd's hand divine
William Hayes - Lord, how long wilt thou be angry
William Hayes - Organ Concerto in G
William Hayes - Save Lord and hear us
William Walond (1719-1768) - Voluntary in G
William Hayes - Lord, thou hast been our refuge
William Hayes - Psalm 120: To God, I cry'd with anguish strong
William Hayes - O be joyful in God, all ye lands
William Hayes - The Fall of Jericho (excerpts)
William Hayes - The Hundredth Psalm
The Choir of Keble College, Oxford
Instruments of Time and Truth
Edward Higginbottom (organ)
Rory Moules (organ)
Matthew Martin (director and organ)
Recorded in Keble College Chapel 25-27 June 2018
CRD 3534 1CD [79.12]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • Consume thoughtfully: Niccolò Porpora's cantatas for the Prince of Wales (★★★½)  - CD review
  • .... Into the deepest sea: from Brahms to Bridge in this recital from Sarah soprano Wegener (★★★½) - CD review
  • A terrific achievement: Handel's Giulio Cesare from Bury Court Opera (★★★★) - opera review
  • Laurence Cummings on the London Handel Festival, Stravinsky, opera, time-travel and more - interview
  • Musicological melange, creative entertainment: Carmen at the Royal Opera House (★★★) - opera review
  • Hard-hitting yet transcendent: Janacek's From the House of the Dead (★★★★) - CD review
  • My last Duchess: the songs of Grace Williams from Jeremy Huw Williams (★★★½) - CD review
  • Remarkable dialogues - Poulenc's opera at the Guildhall - Opera review
  • Goldilocks translated: The Opera Story's latest production (★★★★) - opera review
  • Contrasting double: Puccini's Il tabarro & Gianni Schicchi from ETO (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Beyond an auspicious debut: I chat to French Horn player Ben Goldscheider - interview
  • A return to the world of sleep and dreams: Robert Carsen's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream  (★★★½) - opera review
  • The complete piano works of John McCabe - volume 1 (★★★½) - CD review
  • Home

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