Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding - Drottningholm Music (Johann Helmich Roman) (Anthony Halstead/ Michael Ponder/ Uppsala Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553733)
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Johan Helmich Roman was only 17 when he was accepted into the musicians of the Swedish royal chapel, but it was to be in England that he received much of his subsequent musical education. He returned to Sweden when he was 27 and was immediately appointed Deputy Master at the royal chapel, and six years became the Chief Master.
During his early years of composition we can date very little, but from the 1720's his works are well documented, several cantatas being written for the royal court, with a particularly fine Feste Musicale coming from 1725.
His first marriage soon came to an end, and that sadness prompted a long overseas tour during the years 1735 to 1737 when he visited England, France, Germany, Austria and Italy. The music he heard obviously inspired him, for he returned to the royal court burdened down with new scores, including some very fine Sinfonias (symphonies). He married again, but after his new wife gave him five children in as many years, he was again widowed in 1740.
It was the onset of his own ill-health and he retired to a small estate, where he spent much of his time translating into Swedish books on the theory of music. Sadly at the age of 51 he went deaf. Strangely no portrait of Roman exists, so we will never know his likeness.
Ironically the work by which Roman is best remembered, the Music for a Royal Wedding, was to be his last major work, and came at a time of great sadness for him. Not only had his wife recently died, but the changes at the royal court was to see his rank severely diminished, helped by those around him looking to gain royal favours. The work - which is know either as the Drottningholm Music or Music for a Royal Wedding - was written in 1744 and by far his most elaborate. Extremely modern for music of the period, it brings together the musical styles of Germany, France and Italy, yet without allegiance to any of them, and indeed can be seen as the culmination of the Baroque era. Though technically correct, there is a freedom of expression not found elsewhere at that time. This elaborate work is made up of 24 contrasting sections, and while it is punctuated by slow sections, it was, as suitable for the occasion, a happy and fast moving score. It is scored for a modest sized orchestra, and remains the major Scandinavian composition of that era.
Anthony Halstead began his career as a French horn player appearing in many of the major London orchestras. He later turned his attention to a concert soloist and as a distinguished teacher of the instrument, during which time he recorded much of the standard horn repertoire. In recent years he has gravitated towards the natural horn and has performed as a soloist with period instrument ensembles. At the same time he moved his attention to a growing career as a conductor, principally working in the field of 18th century music. He has directed many of the leading ensembles in Europe, and has made a number of recordings. Here he conducts one of Sweden's finest small chamber orchestras, who are here making their debut on the Naxos label.
Made in the Bälsta Church Centre, Bälsta, Sweden in April, 1996.