Saturday, August 20, 2016

Voices of Music Expands the Scope of its YouTube Channel

Voices of Music created its YouTube channel on January 26, 2007. Its mission was to provide high-definition video documents of concert performances of Early Music as played on historical instruments. It established itself as the first major classical music channel on the Internet, initially based on material recorded during the the concerts presented by Voices of Music under the direction of its co-founders, lutenist David Tayler and harpsichord and recorder player Hanneke van Proosdij. Since its launch, it has followed improvements in video technology and became the first to present large-scale 4K UHD (ultra-high-definition television) content for streaming and Internet television.

Tayler has been the major force behind this effort, assembling a crew to assist in both video capture with multiple cameras and all the necessary post-processing to create a video that can be as informative and engaging as an actual performance. This summer two new videos were uploaded to the Voices of Music channel based on Voices of Music concerts that took place during the first quarter of this year. The earlier of these was the January concert entitled La Bella più Bella. This was followed in March by a concert entitled The Art of the Countertenor featuring guest soloist Christopher Lowrey.

The selection from January is a sonata in E minor for violin and continuo by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. This is the fifth in a collection of eight sonatas that Biber himself engraved, which was published in Salzburg in 1681 by the publisher Thomas Georg Höger. In Eric Thomas Chafe’s catalog this particular sonata is listed as C. 142. The violin soloist is Elizabeth Blumenstock, performing with a continuo consisting of William Skeen on gamba, Tayler on archlute, and Proosdij on harpsichord. A performing edition was prepared from the original 1681 engraving. The sonata has several movements (the number to be decided on the basis of which tempo changes should be taken as new movements); but, while honoring fermata signs when they appeared, Blumenstock played the entire piece without interruption. It stands as an impressive model of the extent of virtuosity at the end of the seventeenth century, and Blumenstock’s account of that virtuosity is engagingly solid.

The countertenor selection is the aria “Sento brillar nel sen” (I feel a glimmer in my breast) from George Frideric Handel’s HWV 8 opera Il pastor fido (the faithful shepherd). Instrumental accompaniment is provided by first violinists Carla Moore and Gabrielle Wunsch, second violinists Kati Kyme and Maxine Nemerovski, violist Lisa Grodin, and a continuo consisting of Elisabeth Reed on cello, Farley Pearce on violone, Tayler on archlute, and Proosdij on harpsichord. The accompanying notes provided both Giacomo Rossi’s Italian text and an English translation by Cynthia Craig Simon. Soloist Lowrey offers up an indefatigable series of virtuoso turns that provide ample justification for why the general public was drawn to an opera like this in the first place.

There are also two new additions to the channel involving Voices of Music performers in other settings. The earlier of these is a video document of Blumenstock performing the solo violin part in the first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1050 (“Brandenburg”) concerto in D major (the fifth). This performance took place this past May during the Gala Concert of the Göttingen International Handel Festival. The other soloists were flutist Kate Clark and harpsichordist Laurence Cummings, who was the festival’s Director. Accompaniment was provided by the FestspielOrchester Göttingen in highly reduced resources. The result is a delightful account of a Bach favorite.

The second video was recorded this past July at the annual Recorder Workshop run by the San Francisco Early Music Society and directed by Proosdij and Rotem Gilbert. Faculty member Matthias Maute gives a solo performance of variations he composed on two familiar Handel themes, the aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the HWV 7 opera Rinaldo and the “Harmonious Blacksmith” theme from the HWV 430 keyboard suite in E major. It is easy to imagine that both sets of variations could have grown out of improvisations, making this video one of the more stimulating demonstrations of true spontaneity in making music.

Taken as a whole these four videos represent well the motives behind the Voices of Music YouTube channel and offer some highly engaging listening experiences at the same time.

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