David J Golby
Volume 72, Summer 2016
Medley Concerto for 2 horns, strings and basso continuo
ed. Michael Talbot
Edition HH, HH376 FSC, Launton, 2015 (pbk, £13.50)
ISMN 979 0 708041 85 6
Richard Mudge (1718-63), was born in Bideford, Devon, and went to Pembroke College, Oxford; it is not known under whom he studied music. As a clergyman he worked in Birmingham and later Bedworth, Warwickshire. His ambitiously idiosyncratic Six Concertos in Seven Parts (1749), composed in the style of Handel and Geminiani, are some of the most accomplished concertos by an eighteenth-century English composer. His Medley Concerto presents us with another unusual example to savour. In it we are presented with popular Scottish country dances, which were all the rage in eighteenth-century London, in three of its four movements.
The term ‘medley’ is appropriately applied to this concerto grosso for strings with two horns (in D) not only on account of its use of existing themes, but also because it formed an item in the programme of London’s Little Haymarket Theatre series entitled the ‘Medley Concerts’. These took place in 1757 and were ‘variety shows containing novelty acts of many different kinds’ (p. v).
While the composer did not put his name to the Medley Concerto, there is strong evidence for it being by Mudge, although the composer’s profession as a clergyman and the work’s close ties to the theatre may have prompted him to opt for anonymity when it was published (notational quirks are, according to Talbot, further evidence of Mudge’s authorship). It is a curious hybrid, which manages to remain faithful to its constituent elements: both dance and baroque structures.
There are refined moments, such as the central fugal movement, and moments of quiet reflection, such as the minor-key Largo third movement and the very sparsely scored concertino episodes within the final Moderato. This is writing which frequently wears its layers of undoubted sophistication lightly, but there is also a lot of unadulterated fun to be had in listening to and performing this music. Horn players in particular will find much to enjoy in the prominence and extent of their role.
As one expects in publications from Edition HH, Michael Talbot has provided an excellent Introduction (in English, with a German translation), together with a fascinating account of the background and contemporary context of the piece. The editorial approach is exemplary in its logic and clarity, and the overall presentation makes it a pleasure to use.
We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.