Vivace 2:25 from Trio Sonata in D Major, HWV 385 by George Frideric Handel
Andrew Parker - Oboe
Nancy Ambrose King - Oboe
Kristin Wolfe Jensen - Bassoon
Jonathan Rhodes Lee - Harpsichord
Andrew Parker - Oboe
Dr. Andrew Parker is currently the oboe professor at the University of Texas at Austin and faculty at the Round Top Festival Institute. In addition to his teaching, Andrew maintains a rich performing career as a soloist and chamber musician. He has performed concerti with numerous orchestras including the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, the Great Falls Symphony, the Puerto Rico Philharmonic, the University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra, and the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra. His solo album, The Singing Oboe, was featured as CD of the week for two consecutive weeks on the Boston classical station 99.5 WCRB. Andrew has been principal oboe of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra for nine seasons. In addition to his position with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Andrew has performed with numerous orchestras including the National Arts Center Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería, the New Mexico Symphony, and many others. He has also performed in a wide variety of chamber music settings at various international festivals including FEMUSC in Brazil, Round Top Festival, and Kinhaven Music School. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music and Master’s degree at Yale University, he finished his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan.
Nancy Ambrose King is an internationally recognized oboist, awarded first-prize of the Third New York International Competition for Solo Oboists, and with ten solo recordings released on a variety of labels. She has appeared as soloist globally, including performances with the St. Petersburg, Russia, Philharmonic, Janáček Philharmonic, Tokyo Chamber Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Puerto Rico Symphony, Amarillo Symphony, and the New York String Orchestra. She has performed as recitalist in Weill Recital Hall and as soloist at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and was a member of the jury for the 2009 Barbirolli and 2016 Muri Oboe Competitions. She is author of Making Oboe Reeds from Start to Finish with Nancy Ambrose King, available on iTunes. Her playing has earned high praise from a variety of critics, including the American Record Guide: “Marvelously evocative, full of character, sultry and seductive, with a soft-spoken, utterly supple tone, and as musically descriptive as any I have heard…a fine exhibition of thoroughly musical oboe playing.” Currently Professor of Oboe at the University of Michigan and on the faculty of the Sarasota Music Festival, she is former President of IDRS (International Double Reed Society). A graduate of the University of Michigan, Ms. King was the recipient of the school’s prestigious Stanley Medal and was honored with its 2010 Hall of Fame Award. She received her DMA, MM, and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music.
“...She has simply turned in the finest-played bassoon recital I have ever heard...” - the American Record Guide said of Bassoonist Kristin Wolfe Jensen’s solo CD Shadings. She has been on the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music since 1995 and is also on the faculty of the International Festival Institute at Round Top and Principal Bassoonist with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston. Additionally, Ms. Jensen has released several acclaimed solo and chamber music CDs. Ms. Jensen is Co-director of the biennial Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition (www.mqvc.org) for young women bassoonists from the Americas, hosting an educational bassoon symposium along with the competition. An esteemed pedagogue, she has given guest recitals and master classes at many major American music schools, and her former UT students hold major orchestral positions and university teaching positions around the country. Her extensive online bassoon method, Music and the Bassoon (www.musicandthebassoon.org), provides an innovative, multimedia approach to learning the bassoon. Formerly, Ms. Jensen served on the faculties of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of North Texas, and served as Visiting Professor at Indiana University in 2012. Ms. Jensen has toured Europe with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, served as Acting Principal Bassoonist of the Houston Grand Opera, and has been a member of The Dallas Opera Orchestra, the Richardson Symphony, the Las Vegas Symphony, Jupiter Symphony of New York and Continuum. She has performed solo recitals at several International Double Reed Society conferences and was co-host of the 2005 conference in Austin. As a student, she won the concerto competitions at the Juilliard School of Music where she received her Master of Music, and the Oberlin Conservatory as an undergraduate, which led to performances of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, k. 191.
Jonathon Rhodes Lee performs as a harpsichord soloist, chamber musician, and in orchestras in this country and abroad. Recent engagements have included appearances with Mercury Baroque (Houston), Harmonia Felice (Berkeley), and the San Antonio Symphony, and with the chamber ensemble Les grâces, which he co-founded in 2005. With Les grâces, Jonathan has recorded French baroque chamber music for MSR Records. Also a musicologist, Jonathan obtained a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where his research was supported by the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund. Jonathan also holds degrees from Colgate University, and the San Francisco Conservatory, and in 2002 he was a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, where he studied with Jacques Ogg. His other major teachers were Davitt Moroney and Laurette Goldberg. Jonathan is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the UNLV School of Music, where he is on the musicology faculty, with specialties in eighteenth-century music and film scoring.
The six trio sonatas on this recording are either among Handel’s earliest compositions, written during his schoolboy studies in Halle, or they are not by Handel at all. Their attribution to the famous composer comes from two sources. First is a remark by the music historian Charles Burney in his 1785 “Sketch of the Life of Handel”; Burney reports that Handel began organ studies with Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, organist of the Marktkirche in Halle, at the age of seven, and that he progressed quickly:
By the time he was nine years old, our young Musician was not only able to officiate on the organ for his master, but began to study composition . . . . The late Mr. Weideman was in possession of a set of Sonatas, in three parts, which Handel composed when he was only ten years old.
The “Mr. Weideman” in question was Carl Friedrich Weidemann (d. 1782), a flutist in the orchestra of the Haymarket Theatre, and hence a colleague of Handel. His copy of these sonatas provides the second source of attributing the sonatas to Handel; it has been preserved in the British Library, and a note in Weidemann’s own handwriting, written on the top of the first treble part, confirms Burney’s anecdote:
The first Compositions Mr Handel made in 3 Parts, when a School Boy, about Ten Year of Age, before he had any Instructions and then playd on the Hautboye, besides the Harpsichord.
This manuscript note is the chief evidence that we have, both for attributing the sonatas to Handel, and for their identification as trio sonatas for oboes. Burney also echoes this manuscript note, with a humorous anecdote about a time that Weidemann showed the sonatas to Handel: Weidemann reported that Handel “seemed to look at them with much pleasure, and laughing, said, ‘I used to write like the Devil in those days, but chiefly for the hautbois, which was my favourite instrument.’”
All of these anecdotes are, of course, no substitute for actual documentation from the composer - and such documentation is distinctly lacking. There is no autograph manuscript of these works, and no statements from Handel himself that he composed trio sonatas at such a young age. Current scholarly consensus is that these works, if not by Handel, are by an early eighteenth-century Italian composer. It is generally agreed that these cannot be oboe sonatas either, at least not the second part, which contains notes outside the range of the baroque oboe, and which also features double-stops in one movement, indicating that the second part is most likely for violin.
None of this historical evidence, however, provides very good reasons not to play these pieces with two oboes and continuo. After all, this is a very old tradition. Weidemann’s manuscript gives the indications “Hautbois 1ma,” “Hautbois 2da,” and “Basso Cimbalo” for its parts, which indicates that at least a few eighteenth-century musicians must have played these pieces in this arrangement. From the nineteenth century onwards, when Friedrich Chrysander published the works as VI Sonatas or Trios for Two Hoboys with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsicord, these works became the property of oboe players. And in any case, the idea of instrumental idiomaticity in a trio sonata would have been anathema to a pragmatic composer in the eighteenth century, who fully intended his music to be played by whatever combination of instruments most pleased players and listeners. So, despite the technical challenges that these pieces pose for the reed players, and despite the historical questions surrounding the works’ provenance, these sonatas are filled with the inventive spirit of the early composers of sonatas da chiesa, and they make a delightful noise for a wind ensemble, provided that the performers play (to borrow Handel’s phrase) “like the Devil.”
- Jonathon Rhodes Lee
Label: Equilibrium Item Number: EQ145 Format: CD Year Recorded: 2017
The cheery melodic lines percolate around one another. The music is delicious. These six sonatas have the catalog numbers 380 to 385 in Handel’s collected works. They might or might not be by Handel. One attribution to him asserts that he was only 10 years old when he wrote these. They remind me of Zelenka’s works with the agile bassoon lines. Whoever created them, they are terrific.
The ensemble has no name. It is an ad hoc group of faculty members from three Ameri- can universities. There are two oboists, one bassoonist, and one harpsichordist. The instruments are modern. The outside of the packaging doesn’t say who any of the perform- ers are, and there are no timings. The musi- cianship is outstanding, a lively interaction among friends. After a performance this good I wanted more.