The ongoing London Handel Festival celebrated the brief tenure of Handel at James Brydges’s (the soon-to-be Duke of Chandos) palatial mansion of Cannons with a daytime educational event at the North London Collegiate School (who occupy a later building on the site of Cannons, nowadays spelt Canons) and an evening concert at the nearby glorious Baroque gem of St Lawrence Whitchurch (rebuilt by Brydges) where a number of Handel’s works were first performed, including the Chandos Anthems. These are often referred to nowadays as the Cannons Anthems on the grounds that James Brydges did not become the Duke of Chandos until after Handel’s time at Cannons – he was merely Earl of Carnarvon at the time. Three of them were performed during the St Lawrence concert. A review of the full concert will appear in the June issue of Early Music Review, but I wanted to briefly mention the contribution of the group of young instrumentalists from the North London Collegiate School. During the afternoon they were coached in an open masterclass by the violinist Adrian Butterfield (who had earlier given a talk on the Duke of Chandos at Cannons) and they then performed Handel’s Op 3 No 4 Concerto Grosso during the evening concert. This was apparently their first experience of playing music of this period, and I was amazed at how quickly the ten 13-17 year-old girls managed to pick up the many bits of advice that Adrian Butterfield gave them during the afternoon, including aspects of articulation, dynamics and rhythmic conventions amongst other conventions of period style. I didn’t spot any aspects of their masterclass that they didn’t faithfully reproduce during the evening concert. This would be quite an achievement for many professional musicians, but was the more so given the age and experience of these young ladies. What was particularly impressive was that they were left entirely to their own devices during the concert, being led by their own first violinist, Joanna Wu. Two other musicians had particular opportunities to shine during the concert, with Haruna Yamada being an impressively eloquent oboe soloist in the Andante and bassoonist Rebecca Kassam making an agile contribution during the concluding Minuet.
5th April 2011