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Augusta and Georgina McKay Lodge Unearth Colorful Rarities From 18th Century Germany

Violinist Augusta McKay Lodge and her violist sister Georgina are a throwback to a time when classical musicians were also routinely expected to be good improvisers. Their new album J.G. Graun: Chamber Music from the Court of Frederick the Great – streaming at the violist’s music page – unearths rare baroque treasures for a global audience. What’s most exciting about this recording is that it contains a small handful of world premieres. It’s also noteworthy for including two of the earliest known works for viola as a featured instrument. And in keeping with a mid-eighteenth century German esthetic, the ensemble revel in opportunities to add individualistic embellishments, dynamics, and even entire parts. Much as obscure archival works are becoming more and more of a meme, this elegant and often unexpectedly colorful album is a real find. The duo have assembled an all-star cast here which includes Eva Lymenstull on cello and David Schulenberg on harpsichord.

They open with Johann Gottlieb Janitsch’s somberly crescendoing Trio Sonata in G minor For Violin, Viola and Continuo. The pedalpoint of the viola and harpsichord build a hypnotic quality early in the second movement, then waltz through the conclusion. Music for the entitled classes from this era is seldom so dark; needless to say, this is a welcome rediscovery.

Schulenberg reaches for an opulent rubato to open Johann Gottlieb Graun’s Sonata in C minor For Viola and Keyboard, Lodge rising from spare, plaintive phrasing to a long series of biting, lively fugal exchanges with the harpsichord. There are plenty of convention-defying surprises in this piece: kudos to the Lodges for resurrecting it.

Graun’s Sonata in B-flat For Violin and Keyboard is considerably more lighthearted, but this is a vigorous performance, lit up by Lodge’s steely legato, and Schulenberg’s playful ornamentation and pacing. The short phrases of the Sonata in C For Cello and Basso Continuo, by Carl Heinrich Graun, are more predictable, Lymenstull’s shifts in attack and dynamics front and center.

Franz Benda’s Sonata in C minor For Viola and Basso Continuo begins with elegantly wary pacing from Schulenberg behind Lodge’s gorgeously bittersweet resonance and melismas. The brooding counterpoint goes straight back to J.S. Bach and so does the sheer tunefulness: it’s arguably the high point of the album.

The Lodges save their most animated embellishments for the final work here, J. G. Graun’s warmly nocturnal, lilting Trio Sonata in A For Violin, Viola and Basso Continuo, anchored once again by Schulenberg’s uncluttered, nuanced harpsichord parts.

May 1, 2021 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A World Premiere From 1716 and Other Lively Entertainment From Augusta McKay Lodge

One of the most electrifying aspects of Italian baroque music is the degree of improvisation involved. As in much of Middle Eastern music, dynamics and embellishments are typically left to the individual soloist. A listener has to dig deep into the liner notes of violinist Augusta McKay Lodge’s new album Corelli’s Band: Violin Sonatas by Corelli, Carbonelli, Mossi – streaming at Spotify – to discover that those interpretations are hers. And she matches that impetuous energy with depth.

Lodge has a lithe, strikingly nuanced touch, a flair for the dramatic, a colorful vibrato but also a finely attuned sense of the music’s emotional context. And if you think that every worthwhile piece from the 18th century has already been recorded, guess again!

Lodge opens the album with a world premiere, Giovanni Mossi’s Sonata No. 9, op. 6. With its opening prelude centered around a gorgeously melancholy, melismatic riff that recurs with some tasty chromatics in the fourth movement, it’s on the serious side. And it’s a triumph for Lodge, with her rapidfire triplets in the second movement and her almost breathlessly fleeting pauses in the third. Throughout the album, a supporting cast including Elliot Figg on harpsichord, Doug Balliett on violone, Ezra Seltzer on cello and Adam Cockerham on theorbo and guitar play elegantly alongside her.

Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli is arguably even more obscure than his contemporary Mossi, but his music deserves to be far better known. His Sonata No. 10 comes across as Vivaldi Jr., its stately opening giving way to a brisk ballet of counterpoint down a circular staircase. Stark guitar/violin contrast dominates the third movement, then the group wind it up with a jovial bounce.

Arcangelo Corelli, whose highly ornamented violin style inspired both of these lesser-known composers, is represented by his Sonata No. 3, op. 5, a springboard for Lodge’s quicksilver cadenzas and griptite staccato alongside the rest of the ensemble.

She goes back to Mossi’s catalog for Sonatas No. 1 and 3 from his op. 1 book. The group dig in with unexpected vigor for for the former’s brooding yet meticulously agitated introduction, plaintively Vivaldiesque exchanges and flurries. They give the latter a colorful but more expansive approach.

Lodge winds up the album with Carbonelli’s lilting Sonata No. 9, a showcase for her sensitivity of attack, particularly in the somber processional of a first movement, the shivery embellishments of the second and the melancholy waltz that winds it up. Pop a cork on the barolo, but savor the moment: don’t overindulge like the robber barons whose salons were where this music probably debuted, and who probably weren’t paying much paying attention.

October 27, 2020 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment