For a birthday treat, my lovely friend Kate Hardy sent me a cd of John Garth -- Six Concertos for the Violoncello, soloist Richard Tunnicliffe, played by the Avison Ensemble. She enjoys surprising people. As luck would have it, the day it arrived, the Lit and Phil notes arrived also. A new biography of Avison is about to be published and the Avison Ensemble are playing at the Lit and Phil. So I was like-- who is this Avison? And more importantly is the music any good?
Anyway, John Garth is an 18th century composer who worked primarily in Durham. Durham with its Prince bishop was the centre for political power in the north east until 1839. Empowered by the monarch, the Prince Bishop was able to enforce legislation, mint his own coins and control the courts. Around Durham, there are several fine country houses dating from the period. It was also a centre for music. Well, religion does lend itself to that. Garth at one point served as the organist for the Bishop of Durham. These works were first published around 1760 and make for fantastic listening. Garth was forgotten entirely until someone was working on his Phd at Durham University and rediscovered him. The Lit and Phil holds several important scores.
I was so impressed that I ordered two cds of Charles Avison who worked in Newcastle around the same period. Avison was incredibly successful during his lifetime and has been called the finest English concerto composer.
Again, played on period pieces with a warm earthy tone, the music is easy to listen and inspiring if one happens to be writing a Regency.
All kudos to both the Avison Ensemble who are playing the music of these forgotten English composers and to the composers. Hopefully others will discover them and discover what centres of culture both Durham and Newcastle were in the late 18th/early 19th century. I am also looking forward to reading the biography of Charles Avison.
Sometimes a small gift can open windows into worlds that you never dreamt of.