The Ghost in the Machine
Works used in mechanical instruments by Arne, Babell, Barsanti, J Baston, F Geminiani, Handel, Hotteterre et al
Emily Baines (recorder), Arngeir Hauksson (theorbo), Steven Devine (harpsichord, organ); Amyas
First Hand Records FHR113 62:41 mins
Eighteenth-century Britain reproduced its well-loved musical hits through barrel-organs and organ clocks. Emily Baines here transmits these period arrangements in versions for her solo recorder and ensemble. She shows us that familiar tunes being reduced to nubs or slots and then brought back to life by an artist can turn into gorgeous confections.
Baines and Amyas, the band she co-founded in 2017 with lutenist Arngeir Hauksson, also perform arrangements from the scores of fashion-conscious composers such as Geminiani and William Babell. The first recording of a concerto by John Baston (1708-39) rounds off this highly original programme.
Baines and Amyas brilliantly evoke the character of each clockwork version. Mechanical reproduction is here caught inverting Georgian pomposity: Handel’s ‘Conquering Hero’ dances, and Thomas Arne’s ‘Rule Britannia’ gambols. Arrangers typically tarted up favourite airs from Handel operas with roulades and other agréments whose delicacy, as performed by Baines, is striking – yet she also essays the climaxes and phrasing of Handel’s original aria. When Baines turns to ‘Scotch’ pastoral airs, her initial edgy articulation and bright colours yield to velvety warmth and long-breathed lines. The band answers her musical ideas in kind. Spirited exchanges between Baines and her colleagues infuse even the stiff airs of Hotteterre, whose galant additions the players make their own.