More Schütz, Lulier, and admin
It might seem that not much has been happening at Oxford Baroque over the last few weeks. However, that’s most certainly not been the case: we’ve had the first run of our Music to Celebrate the Spring programme (incorporating the entire book of Schütz’s Italian Madrigals); the enormous undertaking that was the modern premiere of Giovanni Lulier’s oratorio Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazze in the last week; a lot of administrative work to do; and finally finished the task of setting up the website (with the sterling help of Ross Hendry at RH Design) so that it’s in a state to be regularly updated and easily added to as we grow as an ensemble.
The Lulier was a fun project in many respects, whilst being incredibly frightening in others. The opportunity to approach a work that has been completely untouched by any musician known to us is very exciting – particularly in baroque music, where so many of the gestures and rhetorical style of the music are not communicated through the notation of the score, but through the essential style of the music itself. With no precedents to compare ourselves to, we are only really able to give a totally honest reading of the music, depending on our experience and integrity as ‘early music’ performers, based on our familiarity with a particular style.
The role of editor was fulfilled ably by Andrew Cichy and whilst he committed a great deal of time and attention to producing a workable score and parts for the project, something of this scale is always going to present teething troubles and with minor errors cropping up, slowing down the rehearsal process, it inevitably becomes hard work as we end up proofing on the job. It’s all part of it, though, and we worked diligently on it until we finally managed to bring it together. At least for next time, we now have everything in place and will be ready to focus entirely on the music. That’s not to say it was a bad performance in any way (you can read a review here); it’s just a pragmatic advantage in going into a new project. It’s always going to be easier the second time!
Significant mention needs to go to one of sopranos, Elizabeth Drury, who stepped into the breach at short notice, when we realised the the part of Santa Maria herself was somewhat stratospheric and a bit above those we’d earmarked for it before we’d seen a final copy of the edition. With d”’s (top Ds!) and c”’s aplenty, she really got on top of the music and wowed the other performers, never mind the audience.
We’re now planning our next programmes, which involve some slightly more mainstream repertoire (you’ll be surprised to hear!) and a celebration of the English Chapel Royal, the institution that was of central importance in the development of an English baroque style. Also, we’re working on a series of accompanying podcasts presented by Jeremy, whose quality of presentation is frequently aired on BBC Radio 3 and abroad, to complement our more esoteric programmes. If you’ve got any input for these, please do get in contact and let us know – we’re always delighted to hear your thoughts and feedback on what we do. Please also continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we aim to spread the word and build up an audience.