Music for European Courts and Concerts: The Mourning Bride – Incidental Music; Fantasia etc
The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen/Robert Rawson
Ramée RAM 1802 66:47 mins
The itinerant career of Gottfried Finger (c1660-1730) took him from his native Moravia to Austria, England, Germany and Italy. The miscellany of works on this disc, then, offers a musical travelogue, from the colourful instrumental traditions of central Europe, to virtuosic Italian music (which Finger regarded ‘the best in the world’), balletic French and popular English and Scottish styles. We hear hypnotic Chaconnes redolent of Lully and Purcell, a brilliant and quirky Fantasia, incidental music – by turns airy and dramatic – to William Congreve’s play The Mourning Bride, multihued sonatas and concertos for woodwind, brass and strings – some polychoral, others with flashing solos. Concerto No. 6 is a Brandenburg-like confection; Sonata No. 9 is an instrumental arrangement of an air from Purcell’s King Arthur. The collection is bookended by vocal works, ending with a dreamy sleep-scene quartet (seductively accompanied by pastoral recorders) from the semi-opera Alexander the Great. Throughout, Finger’s polychrome scorings, suave melodies and dancing rhythms make for very felicitous listening.
The unforgettably-named Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen specialises in the byways of Baroque music, and a combination of scholarship and historically-informed performance practice produces laudable results. Here, they offer discreet singing and generally neat yet spirited playing (particularly on the fiendishly tricky natural horns and trumpets). The recorded sound is open but detailed. With Robert Rawson’s liner notes offering a thorough background to ‘the ingenious Mr. Finger’, the disc makes an important contribution to our understanding of European music around the turn of the 18th century.