I can state with absolute certainly that you have never before heard these Chamber Airs for Violin (and Thorough Bass) from 1735 by Richard Jones. I can also say with equal certainty that, if you enjoy exploring the byways of baroque chamber music, you are going to take very great pleasure in this music!
Richard Jones, whose birth date is unknown, acted as concert master of the Drury Lane Orchestra in London beginning in about 1730. On evidence of these very challenging sonatas, he must certainly have been a virtuoso violinist. Of his known compositions, there are four stage works (the music lost for all but one), a cantata, 6 Suites for Keyboard, a Suite of Lessons for Keyboard and 14 pieces for violin and basso continuo, including the eight sonatas on this Glossa CD.
Coming from mid-18th century London where so many styles and musical dialects were at play, Jones’ music brings French and Italian influences together with the manner of string writing established by English composers of the prior generation, Locke and Lawes. His music sounds at times like Purcell, Couperin or Vivaldi, but what is more apparent is how fresh and original it is. Each of these sonatas has its own personality which at times sound quite improvisational. The basso continuo often plays a part very much equal to the violin. The cello will emerge as a duet partner for a brief time, or will play question and answer with the upper voice, before receding again to its job of providing the music’s harmonic anchor.
These sonatas are inventive, intricate, interesting, and very fun to listen to. Violinist Kreeta-Maria Kentala obviously loves to play them. The joy and buoyant high spirits these players bring to Jones’ music is infectious. From the album notes, harpsichord player Mitzi Meyerson states “I can hardly believe this music has been buried for nearly 300 years.” Neither will you.
Emboldened by her experience of playing the 6 Sets of Lessons by Richard Jones, already released on Glossa, and chancing upon another book of music which included violin sonatas by Jones, Mitzi Meyerson resolved to champion further this forgotten musical figure from the first half of the 18th century in England, in a manner comparable to her earlier defence of Muffat and Balbastre.
Joined by violinist Kreeta-Maria Kentala and cellist Lauri Pulakka, Meyerson has now recorded all eight of the sonatas, published in London in 1735 as Chamber Airs for a Violin (and Thorough Bass), and makes evident how this contemporary of Handel developed his own individual and unpredictable style, but with plenty of echoes of music by the likes of Leclair and Corelli, as well as the earlier Baroque England thrown in for good measure. This is technically secure and demanding music for the performers – Jones was a violinist himself, acting as the concertmaster for the Drury Lane Orchestra in London – which will be a delight for lovers of Baroque chamber music and which will serve to demonstrate, once more, how in music “the perfect is the enemy of the good” for composers caught in the long shadow of Georg Friedrich Handel.
The three musicians on this new Glossa recording talk winningly in a joint booklet interview about their pleasure in performing these idiosyncratic early Georgian violin sonatas.
Jones’s (died 20 January 1744) first publication appeared in 1720, a solo cantata While in a Lovely Rurall Seat. He was associated with the Drury Lane Theater Orchestra in London possibly as early as 1723; according to… read more
Mitzi Meyerson, harpsichord
Performer: Mitzi Meyerson, harpsichord
Mitzi Meyerson was born into a musical family in Chicago, where she began her concert career at the age of seven. After completing her university and graduate studies in Chicago and Oberlin, she moved to… read more
Other Performers:Kreeta-Maria Kentala, violin and Lauri Pulakka, violoncello
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Richard Jones: Sonata No. 5 in E major - III. Giga Allegro