MAURICE GREENE (1696-1755): Six Overtures in Seven Parts; Pieces from Lessons for the Harpsichord; Overture to Phoebe; Overture to St. Cecilia – Baroque Band/ Garry Clarke – Cedille CDR 90000 152, 62:27 ****:
The enterprising, Chicago-based original-instrument Baroque Band, under the enthusiastically authentic leadership of Gary Clarke, bring back to life the alternatively gentle and happy, always unalloyed delights of Maurice Greene, Handel’s illustrious, heavy-duty contemporary. Greene was organist at St Paul’s before he was 30, Professor at Cambridge in 1730, and Master of the King’s Musick in 1735; at his death, he was working on the great Cathedral Music collection which William Boyce was to complete. In fact, many items from that collection are still used in Anglican services today.
And yet Cedille’s collection of eight exceedingly pleasant, three-movement Overtures plus as a bonus selections from Greene’s “Lessons for the Harpsichord,” David Schrader, are frequently about billing and cooing, as the third movement Allegro of Number Two in G major, or the second movement Allegro of Number Four in the rarely-encountered key of E major, strikingly demonstrate.
Recorded in Evanston, Wheaton and Chicago, the sound is unfailingly, infectiously bright and warm, detailed and involving. Clarke’s scholarly, engrossing liner notes recapture the high level of musical sophistication of the times, occasionally lapsing into poetry, when he describes Greene’s music as “conjuring up the charm of the English countryside and the frivolity of the English 18th century.”