Rich feast of Handel and Vivaldi at church concert

Master of the Music for Leeds Parish Church, Simon Lindley, sits with the �150,000 newly restored organ.
Master of the Music for Leeds Parish Church, Simon Lindley, sits with the �150,000 newly restored organ.

SHEFFIELD Bach Society are in Baroque mode when they launch their new season this Saturday and Music in the Round resumes a briefly-started autumn series of concerts in earnest next Tuesday.

Vivaldi’s Gloria, his best-known setting of it (he has at least two to his name), and Handel’s setting of Psalm 109, better known as the widely-performed Dixit Dominus, are the main works in the Bach Choir’s concert at St Mark’s Church, Broomhill.

It also takes in two lesser-known Handel works, I Will Magnify Thee and Anthem on the Peace, and pieces by a couple of other Italian composers, the Magnificat attributed to Pergolesi and the D minor oboe concerto by Albinoni.

A “programme comprising music bidding fair to the title Beautiful Baroque,” says the Bach Choir’s conductor Simon Lindley, and so the concert is headed.

The Vivaldi hardly needs introducing, although it’s worth noting that it is something of a modern-day phenomenon, being hardly known until about 50 years ago; while Handel penned Dixit Dominus during his relatively short sojourn in Italy as part of his Carmelite Vespers in 1707.

The work obviously appeals to Simon Lindley who describes it as “arguably, one of the most brilliant choral works of all time.”

He goes on: “Picture the composer arriving in the Italian capital when just out of his teens and introduced into the heady company of the finest singers in the world – is it perhaps any wonder that he rose so magnificently to the challenge of composing such simply glorious music?”

I Will Magnify Thee (1724) is one of three anthems Handel rejigged from his 11 Chandos Anthems (1717-18) for performance at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. A very famous one, As Pants the Hart, went the other way, its first incarnation being heard at the Chapel Royal in 1713.

Also first heard at the Chapel Royal was the composer’s much later Anthem on the Peace, dating from 1749 following the cessation of hostilities in the War of the Austrian Succession at Aachen.

The work may be unfamiliar but the opening movement is extremely well known: How Beautiful Are the Feet, ‘borrowed’ from Messiah seven years earlier! Up to 100 years ago Pergolesi’s Magnificat was known for the best part of two centuries as the work of his teacher, another composer, Francesco Durante – and so it is!

Someone discovered the short-lived Pergolesi’s signature on a manuscript copy of it and concluded that it must be his work – he did, after all, pen a celebrated setting of that other great Marian text, Stabat Mater.

Despite irrefutable evidence discovered not too long after that showing it was indeed Durante’s work, the misattribution has doggedly stuck to the sublime work.

Albinoni, also the victim of misattribution for a spurious, famous Adagio which he never wrote, has come down to us celebrated composer of instrumental music, chiefly concertos, but he was best known in his day for the countless operas he wrote, most of which are now lost.

Although he probably wrote more violin concertos than oboe concertos, the latter are the most popular works to his name, none of them more so than the one in D minor, Op 9 No 2, performed at this concert, which is sponsored by Alan Brown to mark his retirement after many years as the Sheffield Bach Choir’s accompanist.

lYolande Wrigley’s last-minute unavailability has meant programme changes to tomorrow (Friday) night’s 4strings88keys concert at High Storrs School, to which members of the public are welcome.

One half of the Lindsay Quartet, Bernard Gregor-Smith and Robin Ireland, are joined by violinist Friedemann Breuninger to variously play solo Bach, duos by Mozart, Robin Ireland and Martinu, plus Beethoven’s Serenade for string trio Op 9.

The concert begins at 7pm and launches a chamber music weekend of tutorials directed by the concert’s performers.