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Mr Simpson’s Little Consort
Notes on the performers
Mr Simpson’s Little Consort are an award winning early music group based in Buckingham. They take their name from the 17th century viol player and teacher, Christopher Simpson who published “The Division Viol” in 1665; an important treatise on how to play that instrument. He also published the “Little Consort” – hence the name.
Strike the Viol
In vain the am’rous flute
Two in one upon a ground
Baroque vocal music for Easter
Henry Purcell needs little introduction as one of England’s finest composers. Like Charpentier, he was influenced by the musical fashions of the day, and the desire of their Royal patrons to imitate the musical styles of Italy and France. Charpentier studied in Italy with Carissimi, before returning to the household of Mademoiselle de Guise in Paris where he composed music for the family and private performance in the Guise household. Lully, held a tight monopoly over Parisian musical performance (until his untimely death in 1704 from gangrene after stabbing his own foot with his conducting stick!). Following Lully’s death Charpentier was able to compose and produce opera (Médée), composed music for Molière’s plays, and spent his final years as Maitre de Musique at the Saint-Chapelle. Pelham Humfrey was sent by Charles II to study with Lully in Paris, and Italy where he immersed himself in the expressive vocal music of Carissimi. Humfrey returned to England as Court Composer and became ‘Master of the children of the Chapel Royal’ in 1672 with the young Henry Purcell amongst his students. Samuel Pepys described Pelham Humfrey as, “an absolute monsieur as full of form and confidence and vanity, and disparages everybody’s skill but his own.” Humfrey died at the age of 27 in 1674.
Kings and coronations
Readings on the coronation of Charles II
Sing, sing ye Druids
King Charles II & Pelham Humfrey
I pass all my hours
The coronation of the King Charles II in 1660 is described in detail by the diarist, Samuel Pepys. It was an occasion of great celebration for the whole country, bringing to an end the years of austerity and cultural darkness of the Commonwealth. This curious song, also titled “The Phoenix”, was written by Charles II and set to music by Pelham Humphrey. It laments Charles’ unrequited desire for Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, who appears to have evaded the King’s advances until her runaway marriage to the Duke of Richmond. Historians believe she would have become Queen had Catherine of Braganza succumbed to the illness that almost claimed her life in 1663.
Music for Easter
Leçon de ténèbres du Vendredi saint, H.95
O vos omnes,
second repons du Vendredi saint, H134
Trio super, Herr Jesu Christ dich zu uns wend
Charpentier’s beautiful settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah were performed over the three days of Holy Week: Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but for practical reasons were performed on the preceding evening of the relevant Holy day; the Lamentations for Good Friday were therefore performed on Maundy Thursday. The text, originally deploring the Siege of Jerusalem, applied allegorically to the three days of mourning for Christ between his crucifixion and resurrection. A feature of the lamentations is the melismatic setting of Hebrew letters at the beginning of each Latin verse. These are highly virtuosic vocal settings which were sung by professional singers from the Paris Opera. This was a ritual spectacle involving set pieces of liturgy interspersed with musical “Repons” and the gradual extinguishing of fourteen candles. The fifteenth candle was finally hidden from sight, a loud ‘bang’ was heard symbolising the earthquake following Christ’s death and plunging the entire church into darkness. The candle was finally restored to view symbolising the resurrection.
Bach arrived in Leipzig 300 years ago, in spring 1723, to take up the post of
Thomaskantor. His first offering to the town was the Magnificat, performed on December 25th under Bach’s direction. In this early version of the Magnificat in Eb Major, Esurientes is scored for two recorders and Alto.