Last night I went to another concert in the Viols and Friends series. This one was of eighteenth century music, which we're on the whole more familiar with than we are the seventeenth century music that I heard last October. Although the performance included composers as familiar as Telemann and Handel, it was in general the same kind of exploration of little-known and delightful byways that characterizes this series. Lutenist Olav Chris Hendriksen and Gambist Carol Lewis were joined by mezzo-soprano Pam Dellal.
The first half included a humorous song by Telemann about Fortune, written to be performed in the parlors of Hamburg. I was reminded that the last concert I heard with Telemann parlour songs had made me want to look them up, but I hadn't yet gotten around to it. There was also a lute-viol duet reconstructed by Chris Hendriksen from the lute part. Again I marveled at how well Chris and Carol Lewis (his wife) play together.
The second half ended with pieces from the end of writing for viol and lute. Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) was the last well-known composer to write for (and play) viol. One of the pieces was written for Thomas Gainsborough, better known as a portrait painter, but apparently also an impressive amateur musician. When I was in school, they skipped from Bach to Haydn when they taught music history, leaving you to wonder what there must have been in between. The music on this half of the program is part of the answer.
The program ended on a note of hillarity, with Die Schlauen Mägdchen by Johann Christian Beyer, who is known only because he published one of the last treatises on the lute before modern times in 1760. This piece is a humorous song about two girls who are tired of being woken by their elderly aunt when the rooster crows, so they kill the rooster. Their wicked plot fails to benefit them, because the aunt, not being able to count on the rooster waking her, wakes up at all hours of the night and awakens her nieces. The piece was published entirely in lute tablature, so probably originally performed with the lutenist singing it.
You still have one more chance to appreciate this series, when they perform French Renaissance music from the court of Louis XIII with guest soprano Anne Azéma on April 17th and 18th.