Musica della sera

Christopher Gibbons Sampler

Program Notes for Musica della sera broadcast of Thursday evening, December 27, 2012 (see playlist)

Christopher Gibbons (1615–1676), son of Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625)


This week’s program explores the music of Orlando Gibbons’s lesser known son, Christopher, with motets and anthems for chorus, an organ voluntary, and a string fantasy suites, from a new recording featuring The Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Richard Egarr, who has championed the music of Christopher Gibbons since the late nineties.

Richard Egarr on Discovering Christopher Gibbons

It was about 15 years ago. As I was gently reading through the magnificent diary of Samuel Pepys, I noted again and again references to a great keyboard master ‘Mr.Gibbons’. I was fully aware of the music sung by Orlando Gibbons, whose music I had sung and known since the age of eight as a chorister at York Minster. The Gibbons of Pepys could not be Orlando, who died decades before the diary was written. Curiousity duly peaked, I quickly discovered that this famous mid-seventeenth-century Gibbons was Christopher, Orlando’s son. Why, if he was indeed so feted in Pepys’ lifetime, had I not come across his music?

During the course of the next years I began digging for information and looking for scores. To my huge surprise there was practically nothing: one dissertation from 1963 and less than a handful of Fantasias for viols. Further rummaging after receipt of the dissertation fuelled ardour and increased my amazement: there was a large repertoire of music by this composer – anthems, fantasies, fantasy-suites and keyboard music. Was this music so uninteresting that it wasn’t worthy of attention? Was that the reason it lay undisturbed in Oxford and London libraries? I ordered microfilms of all the music and discovered a master-composer of great personality and genius. I first put on a concert of his music in 1999 in Amsterdam, and have been airing it ever since that time. It is extraordinary music of great emotional power, and there are real masterpieces.

I am therefore extremely proud to present with the AAM a selection of music by this forgotten Master – music that has not been heard, except on the few occasions I have performed it over the past 13 years, for over three centuries.”

It is a scandal that Christopher Gibbons’s music seems to have been forgotten.

─Richard Egarr, form liner notes for Christopher Gibbons: Motets, anthems, fantasias & voluntaries on Harmonia Mundi.

Richard Egarr, conductor of The Academy of Ancient Music

Other highlights of the show, a new recording of choral works by Samual Barber by Conspirare, a few selections for the holiday season from the Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, and the great Jacqueline du Pré performing Chopin’s cello sonata in G Minor. The program closes with a selection of Chopin’s mazurkas and his barcarolle played by Stephen Hough.  (I learned from a British listener that Magdalen is pronounced sort of like the word “maudlin”, and I learned from the Internet that Hough’s name is pronounced “Huff”).

─Nicholas Mitchell

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