Hanoverian Ensemble

  Music for Lord Abingdon


Willoughby Bertie (1740-1799), the 4th Earl of Abingdon, was an English aristocrat who was an enthusiastic amateur flutist and composer. In his colorful life (which included politics), he met and befriended many important composers of the day. He commissioned (or was the dedicatee of) the pieces on this recording: Joseph Haydn: Four "London" Trios for two flutes and cello; J.C. Bach: Quartet in G major for two flutes, viola and cello, and Trio in C major for two flutes and cello; Grétry: Two Duets for two flutes; Abel: Trio in G major (Op. 16, no. 4) for two flutes and cello. The program is performed on period instruments by John Solum and Richard Wyton, flutes; Monica Gerard viola and Arthur Fiacco, cello.


"This is an outstanding release. All of the pieces on this recital are of the highest calibre, and quite enjoyable to hear...The Hanoverian Ensemble plays this music... with elegance, grace, and precision. Flutists John Solum and Richard Wyton deserve high praise for their beautiful phrasing and polished style. I cannot stop listening to this. Anyone who appreciates elegant music played with great dignity and remarkable attention to detail should buy this."
American Record Guide, September/October 2005

"The Hanoverian Ensemble provide benchmark interpretations...each work glows with tonal beauty as well as an innate feeling for the music...a historically informed set of readings that will please the most selective of listeners, even those who are not firmly in the period-instruments camp.
Fanfare, June/July 2004
"In every work, the Hanoverian players are cohesive partners whose vibrant period-instrument skills animate the music's vivacious and lyrical aspects. John Solum and Richard Wyton meet the challenges of the flute parts with woodsy grace, and they collaborate nimbly with cellist Arthur Fiacco and violist Monica Gerard". Gramophone, March 2004
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Program Notes
This recording consists of a selection of classical chamber music associated with Lord Abingdon and his circle. Willoughby Bertie (1740-1799), the 4th Earl of Abingdon, was an English aristocrat who was an enthusiastic amateur flutist and composer. In his colorful life (which included politics), he met and befriended many important composers of the day. He commissioned musical works from (or was the dedicatee of works by) such composers as Joseph Haydn, Johann Christian Bach, Carl Friedrich Abel, and the Belgian-born opera composer, André Grétry.
Willoughby was born into a family which could trace its ancestry back to the 16th Earl of Oxford whose son, Edward de Vere, married into the prominent Cecil family of the reign of Elizabeth I. Willoughby Bertie’s great-great-great grandfather, Robert Bertie, was Lord High Admiral of England under Charles I. Five years after Willoughby’s birth, a fire seriously damaged his paternal family seat, Rycote Palace, near Oxford. The fire claimed the life of his older brother, and as a result, upon the death of his father in 1760, Willoughby assumed the title of Earl of Abingdon and soon took a seat in the House of Lords.
He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, receiving a master’s degree in 1761. In the mid-1760s he lived on the European continent as an expatriate and traveled with his flute teacher, Karl Gaspard Weiss. (Weiss eventually became principal flute in the private band of King George III.) While in Italy the earl commissioned André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry to write a flute concerto. In 1766 Lord Abingdon and Weiss were in Geneva, as were Grétry and the flamboyant exiled British politician, John Wilkes; all made visits to Voltaire at nearby Ferney. By 1767 the earl had returned to England, and in 1768 he married Charlotte, daughter of Admiral Sir Peter Warren.
The earl was an enthusiastic racehorse owner and, judging from the family portrait on the cover of this booklet, he also excelled at hunting. He became actively involved in the musical life of London, being a sponsor of the Bach-Abel concerts in the 1780s. He also was a composer of some accomplishment. His extensive musical output includes choral works, songs, catches, glees, and instrumental works such as country dances and minuets. Haydn visited England in 1791-2 and again in 1794-5. He and the earl were sometimes in each other’s company, both musically and socially. In 1795 the earl gave a speech in parliament in which he attacked a lawyer by name. The speech’s publication annulled his parliamentary immunity, and he was convicted of libel. Astonishingly, the earl went to prison. Lord Abingdon died in 1799 and was buried in Rycote Chapel, located on the family estate just a stone’s throw from the remnants of the palace.


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Four Trios (Hob. IV:1-4) for two flutes and violoncello. Popularly called the "London" trios, these are among the most frequently-performed of all flute chamber works from the classical era. Composed in 1794 during Haydn’s second visit to England, these musical gems were written at the height of Haydn’s creative powers. Haydn was unrivaled as the greatest living composer inasmuch as Mozart had been dead for three years and Beethoven’s genius had not yet flowered. Hoboken’s numbering of the four trios is arbitrary and has nothing to do with Haydn. For this recording they have been reordered for musical purposes. Of special interest is the Trio in G major (Hob. IV:2), a set of variations upon an original song, The Lady’s Looking-Glass. Derek McCulloch, an authority on Lord Abingdon and his music, has identified the earl himself as the composer of the song upon which Haydn wrote the variations (and to whom he dedicated them). The Trio in C major (Hob. IV:1) is dedicated to Abingdon’s friend, Sir Willoughby Aston, Baronet, whom the earl and Haydn visited together on November 14, 1794.


Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782): Quartet in G major (Op. 19, no. 3) for two flutes, viola and violoncello. Trio in C major for two flutes and violoncello. Johann Christian Bach was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. His music teachers included his father in Leipzig, his half-brother Carl Philipp Emanuel in Berlin, and Padre Martini in Bologna. For twenty years (1762-82) he enjoyed notable artistic (if not financial) success in England. He was music master to Queen Charlotte and composed operas for the King’s Theatre. For a few years (1764-71) he shared lodgings with Carl Friedrich Abel; the two men organized concerts ("the Bach-Abel concerts") which greatly influenced the musical life of England. In London in 1764-65 the young Mozart met and befriended J.C. Bach, whose galant style left its indelible mark on his own music. The two J. C. Bach chamber works on this recording are dedicated to Lord Abingdon. The opus 19 quartet is one of a set of four, published posthumously by John Preston in London with the statement "Composed for The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Abingdon, by whose permission they are now published". The C major trio (with its magnificently solemn slow movement in C minor) was published by Monzani c.1800 along with a trio by F. C. Neubauer; its title page also acknowledges that the trios had been composed for Lord Abingdon. The quartet and trio on this recording are ample testimony to the formidable compositional talents of Johann Christian Bach.


André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813): Duets in C major and D major for two flutes. Belgian-born Grétry was destined to become the leading composer of opéra comique in Paris in the last third of the18th century. As a youth he went to Italy in 1760 for five years of musical study, including tutelage under the eminent Padre Martini in Bologna. In 1765 in Rome Grétry met Lord Abingdon, at whose request he wrote an excellent three-movement flute concerto. The earl’s flute teacher and traveling companion, Weiss, encouraged Grétry to go to Geneva, and the three met again there in 1766. On March 29, 1766, Grétry wrote to Padre Martini from Geneva that the English gentlemen whom he met in Rome had given him a good reputation, and he had been commissioned to write six harpsichord concertos for the ladies and six flute duets for the gentlemen. Until recently all of these works have been lost to the world. However, a manuscript collection of 18th-century flute duets came to light a few years ago, among which are two duets now identified by this writer as being by Grétry, based upon the high quality of the music and numerous thematic similarities not only with his flute concerto but also with three of Grétry’s operas composed in 1768-69: Le Huron, Les Mariages samnites, and Le Tableau parlant. Very likely these two flute duets are from the set of six which had been commissioned in Geneva.


Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787): Trio in G major (Op. 16, no. 4) for two flutes and violoncello. Abel’s father had been a string player at the court of Prince Leopold I of Anhalt-Cöthen in the years when Johann Sebastian Bach was Kapellmeister there (1717-23). So it is not surprising that the young Abel became closely associated with Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian, when fate brought them both to London for their musical careers. In addition to being a celebrated master of the viola da gamba, Abel was an accomplished composer and a musical entrepreneur. From 1765 to 1781 Abel joined with J. C. Bach in presenting the Bach-Abel subscription series of 10 to 15 annual concerts. The two men collaborated with G. A. Gallini, a retired dancer and brother-in-law of Lord Abingdon, in building the Hanover Square rooms in which they held their concerts from 1775 to 1782. These are the same rooms where Salomon presented concerts with Joseph Haydn between 1791 and 1795. The four trios of opus 16, dedicated to the Earl of Abingdon, were published in London c.1785. In choosing the fourth trio of the set for this recording, the closing minuet with its wistful mood seems especially appropriate for a concluding work.