Magazine article Musical Times

Settling Scores

Magazine article Musical Times

Settling Scores

Article excerpt

Settling scores The scoring of early classical concertos ij5o-ij8o Richard Maunder The Boydell Press (Woodbridge, 2014); iii, 3oopp; £60, $99. isbn 978 1 84383 893 7.

In effect, this book combines two things. It surveys exhaustively a huge number of concertos appearing between the given dates (and a little beyond); and it provides details of their 'scoring': what instruments are required, whether sub-octave bass is implied, what continuo is likely, and especially how many players there were to a part. The last becomes something of an idée fixe in the book, but a useful one since, as with arguments over some decades now about Bach's choir, gaining a sense of fidelity to what composers expected or knew (or put up with?) is a major motive for those wanting to create historically informed performance. The exceptionally large forces sometimes employed in the later 18th century for earlier music - old concerti grossi, Handel oratorios, etc. - were just that: exceptional, at a time when the general understanding was one to a part or at least one desk to a part (St Thomas, Leipzig had very long desks, by the way!). The next 30 or 40 years, a period of music to which Richard Maunder might well turn next, would benefit from a similar treatment, and in fact more so, given the far greater number of masterpieces produced in the decades after 1780. Problems don't disappear at that date, such as whether the pianist plays figured bass throughout the 'Emperor' Concerto.

The seven chapters list and discuss the concerto repertories of northern and central Germany, Italy, Vienna, Salzburg, south German courts, Paris and England, each a witness to Maunder's immense energy in tracking down collections that in predigital days would have meant a lifetime spent in libraries. I can't say if anything significant has left out (surely not), but this might present problems to those readers wishing to 'grasp the salient'. And which readers, I wonder, don't? Up to a point one can grasp it just from the generous supply of over 300 music examples, a few of them substantial and some requiring familiarity with the soprano clef, which alone suggest a painstaking and discriminatory author. Supporting remarks go into the detail about sources, places, publications, historical context, performance, musical form, and indeed the idée fixe itself. …

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