Monday 28 March 2022

The Library of a Prussian Princess: Ensemble Augelletti evoke late 18th century musical soirees that explored music of Bach, Handel and more

The Library of a Prussian Princess - Bach, Handel, Corelli, Geminiani, Anna Amalia, CPE Bach; Ensemble Augelletti; Barn Cottage Records

The Library of a Prussian Princess
- Bach, Handel, Corelli, Geminiani, Anna Amalia, CPE Bach; Ensemble Augelletti; Barn Cottage Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 28 March 2022 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
The young ensemble goes exploring in the remarkable library of a Prussian princess, an engaging programme that also sheds light on the appreciation of ancient music in the later 18th century

This delightful new disc, The Library of a Prussian Princess, from Ensemble Augelletti (Olwen Foulkes, recorders, Ellen Bundy, violin, Carina Drury, cello, Toby Carr, lutes, Benedict Williams, keyboards) on Barn Cottage Records celebrates the musical activities of Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia, Abbess of Quedlinburg (1723-1787) with Anna Amalia's own music alongside works by Bach, Handel, Corelli, Geminiani and CPE Bach from her manuscript collection.

Anna Amalia was a remarkable person; the daughter of King Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia, she was talented musically but forbidden to study it by her father. She was only able to begin studying openly in 1740 when her brother became King Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great). Anna Amalia never married, she became abbess of the secularised convent of Quedlinburg, a non-religious court position that gave her an income and a place to live in Berlin. She employed one of Bach's pupils, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, as her teacher and accumulated a remarkable collection of manuscript copies of scores. Her collection numbers some 600 pieces with a huge number of Bach manuscripts, including he presentation score for Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, one of the earliest copies of the Mass in B minor and much else besides. By 1767 she had CPE Bach curating the manuscripts of his father's music. 

Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia by Antoine Pesne
Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia by Antoine Pesne
This music in the old style was performed at her musical soirees, and these events almost certainly had an influence on the musical salons hosted by Sara Levy (1761-1854), Mendelssohn's great aunt and a significant influence herself on Mendelssohn and the early 19th century Bach revival.

For this disc, Ensemble Augelletti explore a wide range of trio sonatas from the collection, performed from manuscripts copied in the period 1770-1780.  They give us a sequence of trio sonatas by Bach, Handel, Corelli, Geminiani, Bach and CPE Bach, interleaved with four of Anna Amalia's own fugues; a programme that seems entirely logical to us today but must have felt positively revolutionary in the 1770s as all but two of the composers concerned were dead and their music, with its contrapuntal complexity, was a long way from the galant style prevalent at the time.

The disc ends with one of CPE Bach's trio sonatas, a fascinating transitional work. CPE Bach's output faces two ways, he wrote accompanied sonatas in the modern style, but here he is writing a trio sonata in the style of his father, except of course modern Bach peeps through. And the disc also includes four of Anna Amalia's fugues, short works that combine pleasing melodic sense with an exploration of 'learned' counterpoint. 

It is easy to listen to this disc as a fine selection of Baroque trio sonatas performed by a group of talented young musicians. This is the group's debut disc and all shine. Of course, we first notice the two melody instruments, Olwen Foulkes' recorder and Ellen Bundy's violin, the two creating a fine partnership throughout the disc with some lovely, lively interaction, but the three continuo instruments (Carina Drury's cello, Toby Carr's lute and and Benedict Williams' organ) provide active and engaging support. This is very much a collective activity and there is an engaging, lively quality to their performance, a sense of constantly discovering the music and sharing it with us.

But the programme also asks us to think about the transmission of knowledge of this music, evoking those musical soirees in Anna Amalia's palace on Under den Linden, where music ancient and modern was performed side by side.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Trio Sonata in G major BWV 1039
Anna Amalia (1723-1787) - Fugue in D major
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) - Trio Sonata in F major Op.2, No.4
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) - Trio Sonata in B flat major Op.1, No.5
Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) - Trio Sonata in D minor Op.2, No.5
Anna Amalia - Fugue in A minor
Anna Amalia - Fugue in C major
Johann Sebastian Bach - Trio sonata in G major BWV 1038
Anna Amalia - Fugue in C major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) - Trio sonata in C major H.571
Ensemble Augeletti (Olwen Foulkes, recorders, Ellen Bundy, violin, Carina Drury, cello, Toby Carr, lutes, Benedict Williams, keyboards)
Barn Cottage Records BCR024 1CD [60.25]

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • From Melissa to Musetta: I chat to Irish soprano Anna Devin about the joy of singing with Irish National Opera, returning to Puccini, having a Donizetti moment and her love of Baroque opera - interview
  • Earth's Wide Bounds: William Vann & the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in RVW's Communion Service in G minor - record review
  • Writing against the grain: late-romantic horn concertos by Malcolm Arnold, Christoph Schönberger & Ruth Gipps from Ben Goldscheider - record review
  • Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro in a striking programme of three major early 20th century violin sonatas, from Portugal, France and Brazil  - record review
  • Fidelio Trio explores Moeran's early chamber music, revealing a mix of Romantic harmonies, Continental influences and a sense of engagement with Irish musical culture  - record review
  • Le Destin du nouveau siècle: a hitherto unknown opera-ballet by André Campra provides a glimpse into the largest Jesuit teaching institution in Paris, and some engaging music - record review
  • He enjoys the way his composition now touches lots of different worlds: I chat to Pascal Schumacher about his latest album - interview
  • Two strongly contrasting yet major figures from 20th century Hungary, György Ligeti and Zoltán Kodály - record review
  • Surprising style, elegance and imagination: Auber Overtures volume five - record review
  • Guilty pleasures: Sondra Radvanovsky in the closing scenes of Donizetti's three major Tudor operas - record review
  • Having recently recorded Lasse Thoresen's virtuosic cello concerto, I chat to Norwegian cellist Amalie Stalheim about new music, and the continuing importance of the Romantic repertoire - interview
  • A room of mirrors: Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Zachary Wilder and Ensemble I Gemelli - record review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month