Over the next few years Manchester Baroque will recreate the first ever public concert series known to have been given in Manchester, prefiguring the remarkable musical tradition that was to accompany Manchester’s development into one of the leading industrial cities of Europe.
Apart from their musical interest, these subscription concerts of the 1740s happened in an intriguing historical context. Some of the subscribers were local supporters of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, intending to restore the exiled Stuart dynasty. The Manchester Regiment fought bravely, but the rebellion was finally put down at Culloden in April 1746.
Remarkable, and until now much overlooked, the 1744/45 series comprises sixteen concertprogrammes. Manchester Baroque will perform all these, with their Musickand historical concept of programme planning. For the reconstructionwe draw onhitherto under-used archive treasures from Manchester libraries, bringing to light a significant amount of neglected music. To give perspectivewe combine the unjustly neglected with a wealth of favourite Baroque chamber music, just as popular now as it was then. In all this we aim to redress the astonishing shortage of period performance in Manchester’s cultural and musical life today.
The original concert programmes survive in a nineteenth-century literary transcript.As we have them, they are sketchy. Many works can be identified, particularly when they are by well-known early eighteenth-century composers such as Handeland the Italians Corelli, Geminiani and Vivaldi, but others are only vaguely described. To fill the gaps we utilise Manchester’s rich archives, notably the extraordinary music collection of Cardinal Ottoboni that was bought in Rome by Edward Holdsworth for Handel’s friend and librettist for Messiah, Charles Jennens. It came to Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library in 1965, acquired from the estate of the publisher and Handel biographer Sir Newman Flower. This collection was subsequently extended to include works of the ‘illustrious Germans’ Handel and Hasse, and joined the scores of native English composers such as Samuel Howard, John Humphries and the Mancunian, William Felton. Many items are unique, unpublished and rarely, if ever, performed.
The reconstructionof the 1744/45 concert series‘Musick’in Manchester represents part of a current research project, and performances begin with our inaugural concert, the 275th anniversary of the first concert: November 2nd, 2019.