‘Full of the Highland Humours’ (EMR CD074), the debut recording from award-winning period group Ensemble Hesperi, celebrates the immense success Scottish music enjoyed in eighteenth-century London.


In 1700 the first known collection of Scots Tunes was printed in London by the celebrated music publisher Henry Playford. Ever the savvy advertiser, Playford claimed in the title that the music contained therein was “Full of the Highland Humours”, revealing the stereotypical lens through which many eighteenth-century Londoners saw Scotland. Just as, today, Highland dress has become an emblem of Scotland as a whole, in the 1700s its national music was often symbolically associated with the Highlands, a distant and ‘exotic’ landscape where wild, pathetic melodies could be found. Yet in reality, after the Act of Union in 1707, ambitious Scots arrived in London in droves, bringing the music of their homeland with them, and contributing to an increasingly diverse musical culture in the capital.


Highlights of the disc include rarely recorded works by James Oswald, a highly successful Scottish composer who made London his ‘home from home’ in the 1740s, presented alongside sparkling trio sonatas by Giuseppe Sammartini, a close colleague of Oswald, and by their undeservedly ignored contemporary, Francesco Geminiani, who admired Scottish music so much that his ‘Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick’ featured entirely his own arrangements of popular Scots tunes. listener on a journey to 'North Briton'. Also featured is the music of two other Scottish composers: Thomas Erskine, Sixth Earl of Kellie, a talented aristocrat whose enthusiasm for local music-making in Fife earned him the nickname “Fiddler Tam”, and Robert Bremner, an enterprising Scottish publisher and composer whose influence in London and Edinburgh helped to cement the long-held musical relationship between the capital and Scotland itself.


‘From the Hills of Dream’ (EMR CD073) presents a unique collection of songs by Sir Arnold Bax and featuring 18 songs in four languages, all heard in first recordings; five have never been performed before. Mostly composed during his twenties and thirties, these settings reflect the myriad interests of this enigmatic musical individualist. Bax’s devotion to the spiritual culture, literary tradition and landscapes of the Celtic world is on full display, punctuated by forays into Norse and German mythology as well as French gastronomical farce and folksong.


Almost all of the songs were transcribed from Bax’s manuscripts by Graham Parlett, whose insightful and detailed notes contribute much to the understanding of the composer’s restless musical explorations. Dr Parlett’s good-natured willingness to answer countless emailed queries during the preparation for this recording was invaluable. His unexpected death before the disc could be released has come as a shock to all who knew and admired him, and it is to his memory that this recording is dedicated.


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Beautifully shaped by Benjamin Frith... Beguiling sounds, graced by the tawny richness and unexaggerated line of Richard Jenkinson’s cello playing... The sense of purpose and sureness of line of Ian Venables’ music is pure oxygen.
Exquisitely rewarding... Ravishing accounts.
This is music of great beauty and integrity and the performances fully do it justice. It would be criminal to let it pass you by.


The Bridge Quartet approach these pieces with a sympathetic and insightful warmth, and confirm their ambassadorial credentials for British chamber music. A lovely, radiant disc.
EMR CD025 | Gramophone
Duncan Honeybourne’s playing is astonishingly affectionate, yet never saccharine... Honeybourne plays with suave confidence.
Rupert Marshall-Luck is an ideal interpreter: generously but not effusively lyrical; agile and athletic... The warm, folk-song like slow movement is at times almost painfully beautiful, with a shimmering pastoral central section... Marshall-Luck is, again, indefatigable and keenly picks up on the work’s melancholic strain.  Finely recorded and with comprehensive booklet notes, this is a must for fans of 20th-century English repertoire.