The arrival of Nathaniel’s new spinet for Saturday evening’s concert had been eagerly anticipated – and it did not disappoint…
It has yet to get its cabriole legs with their golden hooves, to have an enormous bunch of roses painted on the upper side of its lid, and to have all of its painted surfaces varnished but that did not affect its sound, which was wonderful.
Although French spinets are rarely heard these days – this is the first French spinet that Andrew Garlick, its maker, has constructed – they were the ‘go to’ musical instrument of the 18th century. As far back as the Great Fire of London in 1666 Samuel Pepys had noticed that every third boat carrying household goods away from the fire included a spinet and by the mid 1700s every household had one – Louis XIV apparently had 9, Louis XV had 28 and Louis XVI had no less than 80 – one in every room in Versailles! Nathaniel’s spinet is a copy of a 1753 spinet by the great Jean-Claude Goujon now in the Musée Instrumental in Paris and, like most French instruments, it is highly decorated – unike English spinets which tended to be a good deal plainer. Here is Andrew talking about the making of the spinet and its decoration.
Andrew commented that Nathaniel’s spinet produced a richer sound than he had been expecting – and I noticed, as soon as Nathaniel started to play, how much mellower and more lyrical his instrument sounded than I had expected. Since neither harpsichords nor spinets have pedals to sustain and prolong the sound of the note after it is struck, they can often sound quite tinny, staccato and brittle. But, talking to Andrew and Nathaniel I discovered that that is not at all how they should sound. Achieving a sustained note without the benefit of a pedal is all about technique – a technique which they say has been largely lost. When you hear Nathaniel play it is hard to believe that he is achieving all of those beautiful long sostenutos without the benefit of pedals. To prove the point here he is playing part of Handel’s Fantasie in C Major – but first letting us into some Handelian secrets.
One of the charms of Saturday evening’s concert was Nathaniel’s introductions to the pieces – served up with lots of juicy contemporary gossip. Did you know, for example, that the great French opera composer, Rameau was a mean as sin? Even though he was hugely feted and moved in royal circles he only had one threadbare set of court dress and when he died left one very battered harpsichord – and an extremely large bag of gold.
Far more popular and deeply mourned, was Henry Purcell who died at the early age of 36 in 1695. The clip below is of Nathaniel introducing and then playing an extract from Purcell’s Ground in E minor – and please note the perfectly timed firework explosion at the end! Neither Nathaniel nor I had thought, when we fixed on 4th of November for the concert, that it was the Saturday before Guy Fawkes night and that we might be, as indeed we were, plagued by fireworks displays!
And for the final extract – Mozart’s Adagio in C – adapted from music for the glass harmonica. I will let Nathaniel introduce it – but do note in the video, Boris well established on the sofa. Obviously the spinet was very much to his taste as while he had only made it through about 5 bars of a recent string quartet concert, he established himself on a spare seat on the sofa at the start of the concert – and remained there to the very end!
18th century supper
I had promised that we would follow the concert with a suitably 18th century supper – but I must admit that I got a bit carried away.
I decided to go for a raised pie – but with over 30 to feed, it did need to be a substantial raised pie. In the event, loosely following a recipe in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, I made a wholemeal hot water crust enclosing a very large chicken, half a dozen duck breasts, a dozen hard boiled eggs, forcemeats, onions, oats, beetroot, anchovies and mushrooms. Seriously substantial but very tasty…
To go with it was a froise – spinach, artichoke hearts, anchovies, onions, black beans and eggs –
– and two salads. The ever popular cabbage, turnip and caper salad which, by multiple requests, has become a staple at Salon Music suppers, and a cooked ‘salat’ of potatoes, carrots, onions and pickled gherkins in a horseradish sauce. English cheeses and fruits to follow – if anyone had space!
Meanwhile don’t forget…..
Sunday 26th November – 10a South Grove – Sunday Lunctime concert
Jazz duo – Shirley Smart – cello – and Peter Michaels – guitar
£15 to include the Bucks fizz – book here or pay on the door
The Oud meets Cuneiform – Christmas flavours from Syria and Baghdad – 1st December – 6.00 pm
Iraqi artist Khulood Da’mi will be showing some of her work (for more go to her site here) and will be selling Baghdad inspired small Christmas gifts…
Syrian oud player Rihab Azar will be introducing us to her oud. To hear her play check in to YouTube here.
Book here for the concert – £15 to include wine and nibbles.
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