BMC 21

A Grand Concert
in celebration of

Sir Nicholas Jackson,
Adlington Hall organ,& Kirckman harpsichord
Joan Barker, second harpsichord

Honor Sheppard & Sally Le Sage, sopranos / Maurice Bevan, baritone

Northern Chamber Orchestra & Choir, conductor James Matheson

Olwen Rhees, harp / Margaret Muir, oboe
Philip Langridge, tenor

Recorded in the Great Hall at Adlington
Bernard Smith organ, 1670, in the Great Hall Gallery.

1. Organ Voluntary in C Major
2. Fantasy in C for harpsichord
3. Variations "Harmonious Blacksmith"
from Harpsichord Suite Number 5

4. Concerto for Harp & Orchestra from Opus 4/6
    Andante allegro / Larghetto / Allegro moderato
5. Duet 16:
No,di voi non vo' fidarmi - for two sopranos

6. DIXIT DOMINUS, Psalm 109 - opening chorus

7. Suite in c-minor for two harpsichords

8. Oboe Concerto in B-flat Opus 3/2
9. Trio 1: Se tu non lasci amore
for two sopranos & baritone
10. Fugue in c-minor for Organ
11. Cornet Voluntary in g-minor
12. Tenor Aria: Spera si in Otho
the "Pigeon's Air"

Total time 69:20

What a splendid programme! It's so varied, one can listen to all 69 minutes without a break! Here's Handel in all his many moods, with music taken from all periods in his life. But let's begin at the beginning.

Set in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, Adlington Hall is one of Britain's most beautiful country homes. Its history begins in 1040 when the Legh family chose the site for a hunting lodge. The present house consists of two main elements: the Georgian Front (1749-57), and the "black and white" Tudor manor, built 1581 and incorporating the Great Hall (1480-1505), itself notable both for its breathtaking hammer beam vaulted roof and magnificent Bernard Smith (Schmidt) organ dating from 1670 which was played by Handel himself and remains virtually in its original condition.

Elizabeth Legh, daughter of John and Lady Isabella Legh and the elder sister of Charles, visited London frequently from 1718 onwards, her father was from 1714-1722 one of the two Members of Parliament for Bodmin. Elizabeth was a very keen amateur musician, a great admirer of Handel and a most competent player upon the harpsichord. It is highly likely that she studied the harpsichord with Handel himself, albeit on an occasional basis. She was also a subscriber to several of Handel's published editions and visitor to his operas.

That Handel was a guest at Adlington in 1741-1742 is virtually certain, either on his way to, or on his return from Dublin where his Messiah was performed, with further visits to follow. By this time Charles Legh had succeeded his Father and he became a firm friend of Handel. In 1748 Handel is said to have played the organ at nearby Poynton Church (demolished in 1858). In the Gentleman's Magazine for January 1747 there appeared the text of a Hunting Song "By C.L. Esq". This Hunting Song was set to music by Handel himself and the autograph "Presented by him in this his own Hand Writing to Charles Legh Esqr in the year 1751" is still at Adlington.

The entire program has been designed as a Grand Concert in the Great Hall, the sort of event which might well have taken place, say, in the early 1740s, using the talents of family and local musicians, and of course featuring the Bernard Smith organ in the gallery of the Great Hall. Our recording captures the atmosphere, and with the illustration of the Hall on the front of our booklet, coupled with the exterior view and full organ gallery on the back, the listener can relax and be transported for a Gala Evening in an English Country House in celebration of Mr Handel and his long friendship with the Legh family.

For a longer article on Handel at Adlington Hall check Handel at Adlington Hall: A Unique Personal Insight.  

Baroque Music Library