PACIFIC BAROQUE FESTIVAL
A Morning at London’s Bach-Abel Concerts
Thursday, March 5, 2020, 11AM
The Victoria Conservatory of Music's Alix Goolden Performance Hall
The Bach-Abel concerts were England’s first subscription concerts, organized between 1765 and 1782 by J.C. Bach and C.F. Abel. Featuring almost exclusively instrumental music, a great number of symphonies, overtures, concertos, airs from the opera as well as chamber music by Bach, Abel, Haydn and their contemporaries received their English premieres at the Wednesday performances. From 1765-1768 the concerts were organized by Mrs. Theresa Cornelys, a retired Venetian operatic soprano, impresario, and courtesan who owned a highly fashionable concert hall at Carlisle House in Soho Square “the most magnificent place of entertainment in Europe.” In 1768 the concerts were transferred to larger premises at Almack’s Assembly Rooms at St. James’. In 1774 they returned to Soho Square for one season, then moved to the newly-constructed lavish concert hall in Hanover Square.'
From the diary of Edward Piggot:
“April the 16th 1776, Lord Fauconbery sent me a ticket for Bach and Abel’s Concert at the assembly room in Hanover Square. The performers were the two above mentioned, the second played a solo exceeding well; In all about 22 musicians; this concert is reckoned the best in the world, everything executed with the greatest taste and exactness; a very fine room; very elegantly painted; it was almost full, everybody dressed; between the acts they go in another room underneath where you have tea; it is by subscription; it begins at about 8 and ends at 10. Everything is very elegant.”
Doors open at 10:30am.
Ticket holders are invited to complimentary coffee hour (10am) in Wood Hall.
Antonín Kammell (1730-1784)
Notturno in D major, Op. 6, no. 1
Karl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787)
Trio in A major, Op. 3, no. 5
Allegro di molto
John Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Sonata in D major for keyboard and violin, Op. 16, no. 5
Allegro con spirito
Karl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787)
Pieces for solo Viola da Gamba
Arpeggio in D major
Vivace in D minor
Adagio in D major
Tempo di Menuet
James Lates (1740-1777)
Sonata in G major, Op. 5, no. 5
Antonín Kammell (1730-1784)
Notturno in G minor, Op. 6, no. 4
Antonín Kammell (1730-c. 1785) was born in Běleč, a village outside Prague, he arrived in London in 1765 and was part of JC Bach and Abel’s social circle. On 6th May 1768, not long after his arrival, his music was featured in one of the Bach-Abel concerts at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. He seems to have been close to Bach (the two apparently performed frequently together), and possibly even studied with him. Thereafter, his name featured heavily in the Bach-Abel programmes and his quartets were published along with those of Bach and Abel. Kammell must have been well acquainted with the range and technique of the viol for, in a letter to his patron, Count Weldstein on 20th October 1766, he mentions six solos (now lost) ‘for the Viola da gamba, which start in a very decorative way’. Since Abel himself often played viola parts, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that he may have done so as well with Kammell’s trios as many of Kammell’s early works, including his Notturnos and Trios for two violins and continuo, feature a very low 2nd violin part. Low enough, in fact, to allow them to be performed on the viol. The Trio featured here, Op. 1 No. 1, is typical of Kammell’s writing. It is quintessentially galant and demonstrates the composer’s talent for melody. While the 2nd violin part lies occasionally high, its range suits the gamba well and the few chordal passages are easily accomplished.
John Christian Bach (1735-1782) eclipsed by the achievements of Mozart, Haydn and other late Classical composers, and all but forgotten in the 19th-century, Bach was one of the most respected musicians of his time. The 18th child of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the youngest of his eleven sons, he studied with Johann Sebastian until the elder Bach’s death in 1750. He subsequently moved in and worked with his half brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach who was twenty-one years his senior. After living in Italy where he studied with Martini and was Organist of Milan Cathedral, Bach moved to London in 1762 to première three operas at the King’s Theatre on 19 February 1763. Quickly establishing his reputation in the City as the composer par excellence, he became one of the most fashionable and in-demand composers, becoming music master to Queen Charlotte. Now known as John Bach or "the London Bach", he performed symphonies and concertos at London’s premier concert venue in the heart of fashionable Mayfair: the Hanover Square Rooms. He began an extraordinary life-long friendship with the young Mozart when Mozart and his father visited London. Mozart, who by many accounts could be prickly and disparaging towards other musicians always spoke of Bach in the very highest terms. By the late 1770s, both Bach’s popularity and finances were in decline. By the time of Bach's death on New Year's Day 1782, he had become so indebted (due to his steward embezzling his money), that Queen Charlotte covered the expenses of the estate and provided a life pension for Bach's widow. He was buried in the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church, London.
Not much is known about James Lates (c.1740-1777). He was a son of David Francisco Lates, a Hebrew scholar who taught modern languages at Oxford University. James studied in Italy and on his return to England was described as ‘the first Oxford Jewish composer’. The local newspaper reported his marriage on 29 October 1768 to Miss Joanna Day, ‘a Lady of exceeding good Accomplishments, with a very handsome Fortune’. He played in the Holywell Music Room orchestra, probably as principal second violin, and in other concerts in the vicinity of Oxford. He entered the service as musician to George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (interestingly enough, a close relative of George, 2nd Earl Spencer and his viola da gamba playing wife Lavinia Bingham, see below.) As Lates most likely knew of Lavinia’s and her mother-in-law, Georgiana Poyntz’s virtuosity on the gamba, and that they would have had connections with Abel in London, it is not inconceivable that these extremely charming trios would have been played on the gamba.
Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) was born in Köthen, where his father, Christian Ferdinand Abel, had worked for years as the principal viola da gamba and cello player in the court orchestra. In 1723 Abel senior became director of the orchestra, when the previous director, Johann Sebastian Bach, moved to Leipzig. The young Abel later boarded at St. Thomas School, Leipzig, where he was taught by Bach. On Bach's recommendation in 1743 he was able to join Johann Adolph Hasse's court orchestra at Dresden where he remained for fifteen years. In 1759 Abel went to England and became chamber-musician to Queen Charlotte, in 1764. In 1762, Johann Christian Bach joined him in London, and the friendship between him and Abel led, in 1765, to the establishment of the famous Bach-Abel concerts. Abel composed symphonies, overtures, insertion arias for other composers’ operas, and chamber music, and remained in great demand as a player on various instruments. He traveled to Germany and France between 1782 and 1785, and upon his return to London, became a leading member of the Professional Concerts at the Hanover Square Rooms. He died in London on 20 June 1787. He was buried, as was Bach five years earlier, in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church.
-- Notes by Michael Jarvis & Sam Stadlen
Single Tickets and Festival Passes for the Pacific Baroque Festival can be purchased:
By phone: 250.386.5311 from the Box Office (Victoria Conservatory of Music)
In person (tickets available from November 23):
At the Box Office: 900 Johnson Street, Victoria BC (Victoria Conservatory of Music)
At the Cathedral Office: 930 Burdett Avenue)
And at the following outlets:
Ivy’s Bookshop: 2188 Oak Bay Ave.
Tanner’s Books: 2436 Beacon ave, Sidney
Munro’s Books: 1108 Government St.
GETTING TO THE VICTORY CONSERVATORY'S ALIX GOOLDEN PERFORMANCE HALL
The Victoria Conservatory of Music's Alix Goolden Hall is located at the corner of Quadra St. and Pandora Ave.
The VCM parking lot is reserved for staff and faculty at all times. Street parking and public lots are available within short walking distance.