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21.8.12

Briefly Noted: Richard Jones

available at Amazon
R. Jones, Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord, M. Meyerson

(released on August 23, 2010)
Glossa GCD 921805 | 112'21"
[Listen to Excerpts]

available at Amazon
R. Jones, Chamber Airs for a Violin (and Thorough Bass), K.-M. Kentala, L. Pulakka, M. Meyerson

(released on August 3, 2012)
Glossa GCD921806 | 66'12"
[Amazon.uk]
While researching an article for the Washington Post earlier this month, previewing the Westfield Center International Harpsichord Competition, one of the highlights was getting to know harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson. She said something that was quoted in the article, asking about the study of the harpsichord, "Why would anyone want to study this dinosaur art?" The comment caused quite a stir, and not really in the way that Meyerson intended it, which was simply a variation of the conversation responsible music teachers have been having with their students since time immemorial: you must be crazy to want to make a living in music. She also contrasted the 70s and 80s, when she began her career and many discoveries remained to be made, as quite different from the atmosphere now. Happily, Meyerson is demonstrating that indeed there are still discoveries to be made, in her series of recordings for the Glossa label, bringing to our ears the lost sounds of obscure corners of the harpsichord repertory, including Gottlieb Muffat, Claude-Bénigne Balbastre, and Georg Böhm. Her last two discs have featured world recording premieres of pieces by the London violinist Richard Jones (d. 1744), first the complete Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord and now the same composer's set of eight sonatas for violin and basso continuo.

The six keyboard suites were published in the French music edition Le Pupitre, so not exactly unknown, but Meyerson worked from a copy of the original 1732 print ("It was simply too good to leave silent," Meyerson said in an interview for the new CD booklet). The music is extraordinarily pleasing to the ear, which makes one wonder how he could have been so utterly forgotten. We do not know much about him, except that he played with the Drury Lane Theater Orchestra, becoming its leader in 1730, and was held in high enough esteem as a player and teacher to merit a couple brief mentions by John Hawkins in A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, where he is called Dicky Jones. It is somewhat unusual for a violinist to have written such high-quality harpsichord pieces, albeit in a style that often seems to recall violin writing, and the sonatas for his primary instrument confirm his melodic invention, harmonic daring, and originality. Meyerson has partnered with violinist Kreeta-Maria Kentala and cellist Lauri Pulakka, a trio they have taken to calling the Jones Band, and the playing is vivid in tone but with some nice variation in the harpsichord registration. One can only hope that more of his music -- he is known to have composed masques and ballad operas for the stage -- will be recovered by some lucky musicologist toiling away in an obscure archive somewhere.

1 comment:

Jalapablo said...

Someone indeed needs to find more of Richard Jones' musical art. His harpsichord music is unbelievably beautiful, exciting and satisfying to the intellect. Being a classical guitarist, I am considering transposing his harpsichord suites and lessons to my instrument to make his name more well known in our circles. If it could happen to Scarlatti, Jones, in my opinion, is equally deserving.