Monday, July 20, 2015

Christopher Wood & Lawrence Leonard – Harpsichord Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach


   In first decades recorded music was not covering whole spectrum of musical culture. The first lineament deciding on selecting music to production was its popularity. No wonder popular music in catalogues of almost every record company was major part. Romantic music, especially opera was present seldom and early music become market career long after there was technical possibilities. In 1959 Forum label which was designed as a Division Of Roulette Records Inc. published series of LP’s with most popular historic repertoire. In this collection prominent position was music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Three albums with Bach’s seven harpsichord concertos recorded by harpsichordist Christopher Wood and Goldsborough Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Leonard were numbered as 3rd, 4th and 5th record in the catalogue: F 70003, F 70004 and F 70005. This was interesting idea to start such label by Roulette Inc. especially this was still growing market with huge potential. American label recorded material in Europe and find European artists.
   Soloist of these recordings was Christopher Wood (1911-1990) prolific composer and comprehensively educated musician active as a performer and as a teacher. His compositions were not published – the only exception was his Piano Sonata No. 3 published in 1943 by Oxford University Press in 1943. As harpsichordist he played a role in the period of early music revival. He started as chorister at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. He studied in Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He was studied piano with Adelina de Lara, a pupil of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms and harpsichord with Rudolphe Dolmetsch and Dorothy Swainson. He also studied conducting in Salzburg Mozarteum with Clemens Krauss, Bruno Walter and Herbert von Karajan. In years 1947 to 1967 he was member of the staff of Trinity College of Music where he taught piano, harpsichord, orchestration, harmony and counterpoint. Later he was involved in various forms of adult education. His recorded performances were Bach’s harpsichord concertos for Forum in 1959 and Handel’s harpsichord suites recorded for Saga label two years later.

Christopher Wood & Lawrence Leonard – Bach – Concertos (1959)

   Lawrence Leonard (1923-2001) was conductor, cellist, composer, teacher and writer, music director of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, author of some original works as well as arrangements of Machaut's Grande Messe de Notre Dame in 1972 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for piano and orchestra in 1977. Work with Goldsborough Orchestra was his first big experience as a conductor. He was also author of Concise History of Music from 30,000 BC to the Millennium. The foundation of Goldsborough Orchestra was significant moment in evolution of postwar English culture. The ensemble was established in 1948 by conductor Lawrence Leonard and Arnold Goldsbrough (1892-1964) who was organist, harpsichordist, conductor and early advocate for history performance practice. The objective of artistic activity of the Goldsborough Orchestra was to perform baroque music in possibly reliable style. In 1960 when orchestra introduced to the repertoire some non baroque music, its name has changed and since then is known as English Chamber Orchestra. Cooperation with Benjamin Britten, playing many premieres of his compositions made this ensemble probably most famous chamber orchestra in the world.
   Three albums with seven Bach’s harpsichord concertos published in 1959 by Forum label are rare document of sound of this orchestra in period of its exclusively baroque activity. It is played with extreme attention, neatly enforced clear phrases without vibratos and with most reasonable articulation. In 1959 it was not usual sound, most popular way to play baroque music with sound means of romantic style. Although in “Billboard” journal it was rated only with two stars, professional critics were more gracious. In “Hi-Fi Stereo Review” from December 1959 Warren DeMotte described it as “an achievement of which to be proud” pointing its straightforwardness, good balance and an antique flavor. More than half century later this recording sounds clearly and surprisingly modern. And three stars look much more adequate rate for its quality.

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