What the Critics say...
Reviews of Albertus Bryne-Keyboard Works for Harpsichord and Organ (including CD-ROM and Deux-Elles audio CD) Norsk Musikforlag A/S Score N.M.O. 12448
There are times when an enterprising editor raises the bar for all those who succeed him. In his new edition of the keyboard works of Albertus Bryne, Terence Charlston has done just this, along with considerable technical assistance from his colleague, Heather Windram. A novel approach to editing early music, Charlston’s work boldly brings the world of 17th-century music into the 21st century. By blending the traditional book format with an interactive CD-ROM, he has produced a scholarly performing edition that leaves practically no stone unturned.
Charlston concisely lays out information concerning Bryne’s biography in two media, traditional paper or digital file. Using the CD-ROM version of the Preface, links to primary material afford the reader the opportunity to examine the evidence almost first hand. The composer whose music comprises the present work, Albertus Bryne, has been the subject of various studies by Barry Cooper and others over the past three decades. Not as famous as some of his near contemporaries, such as Matthew Locke, Bryne’s name surfaces enigmatically in several significant keyboard manuscripts from the second half of the 17th century. Born c.1621, Bryne spent most of his life in London, employed at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. He trained as a chorister at St Paul’s under John Tomkins and succeeded him as organist in 1638. During the Commonwealth years, he remained in London as a private music tutor, as indicated by the list of ‘ excellent and able Masters ’ in John Playford’s Musical Banquet (1651). Among Bryne’s students was Susanna Perwich, whose biographer John Batchiler described Bryne as ‘ that famously velvet fingered Organist ’ ( The Virgin’s Pattern , 1661). After the Restoration, Bryne served as Vicar Choral at St Paul’s and later replaced Christopher Gibbons as organist at Westminster Abbey. He died in 1668 and was succeeded as organist at the Abbey by John Blow.
The two most intriguing and important manuscripts that contain Bryne’s music are perhaps Oxford, Bodleian Library, d .219 and New York Public Library, Ms.5611. In each, Bryne’s music appears as somewhat of an anomaly. Charlston proposes that the Oxford source ( ‘ the single most important source of Bryne’s keyboard music ’ , p.48) may be an autograph. The source and scribe details matter particularly because Bryne’s contributions to English keyboard music include some of the earliest almain – corant – saraband groupings. His six suites may have served as a model for others, such as Locke’s groupings in Melothesia (1673). (Indeed, Locke cites Bryne as a composer to emulate in his 1672 Observations upon a late book .) The suites also contain stylistic elements that are not prevalent before 1650, but become a staple part of Restoration keyboard style. The most notable of these is what is sometimes described as style brisé , a manner of breaking up chordal texture. Bryne’s extensive use of this texture distinguishes him from other English composers of this period, and the concordant versions that Charlston includes in the edition demonstrate the degree to which it is characteristic of Bryne’s keyboard writing.
These concordances also illustrate the remarkable precision with which Bryne’s keyboard music passed from source to source — something rather unusual for the period. In the years immediately preceding the Restoration, there are few examples of care being taken in the transmission of keyboard music. The newer styles of the Restoration, however, required a more precise rendition of idiomatic keyboard textures. Bryne’s music constitutes some of the earliest to receive such consideration. Charlston presents all versions of concordances in this edition, enabling the scholar to consider such points more easily and effectively. Charlston incorporates the latest research on Bryne, using Andrew Woolley’s recent identification of pieces in a manuscript at Lambeth Palace (Ms.1040). This source adds more than simply another concordance because two of the hands resemble those in Bodleian Library, d .219 and New York Public Library 5611. These promising connections certainly deserve further consideration in the literature, and this Bryne edition makes it possible to examine the materials together.
Charlston’s use of the sources of Bryne’s music is one of the more original facets of his work. Perhaps the most immediately impressive aspect of this edition is that it contains facsimiles of all the works included, an exact transcription of the facsimile (including appropriately placed ends-of-lines), an edited version with notes that take one immediately to the critical commentary (if desired), and a CD of performances. The reader can choose to see the facsimile alone or alongside the transcription. Another option is to see the unedited version beside the edited one. Each step in the process is printable as well, so the performer can select which level of editing is preferred for use in performance. The versions found in the book provide the most edited versions of each work, and each of these is also available on the CD-ROM.
The advantages of having so many versions are numerous. The fully edited version is not cluttered with notes about changes, yet Charlston provides meticulous details of alterations he has made. If the performer questions the changes, the original is available for consultation. As several scholars have differing opinions concerning the hands in some of the sources, the primary source material is available in facsimile for individual consideration. The digitization of early music has been coming for some time now. Websites such as the Web Library of 17th Century Music ( http://aaswebsv.aas.duke.edu/wlscm/ ) provide scholars with access to the latest editions via the internet. But Charlston’s work goes further. We now have the primary sources, variously edited versions, a printed book and a performance of the music — all in a single volume.
As a technical achievement, Charlston has shown what is possible and opened the door for similar editions. His performances provide variety and character through an inventive use of different instruments and a willingness to experiment with registrations.
Even with all of these accolades, the traditional version of the edition also deserves praise. Charlston has scrupulously provided a full account of the source material, biography and critical commentary. He includes an extensive discussion of ornamentation (again with detailed examples from contemporary instruction manuals), describes the types of instruments that would be appropriate and explains his editorial method in detail. The edition is truly aimed at various levels of expertise.
Charlston’s work should become a model for future editors of early music in its thorough presentation of the source material, edition, performance commentary and use of the latest technology. The works in Charlston’s Bryne edition provide evidence that such collections contain high quality pieces, particularly when performed with the liberated expression Charlston uses
Albertus Bryne (c. 1621-68), who was for much of his career organist of St Paul’s Cathedral and later Westminster Abbey (1666-8), is one of the most significant English keyboard composers of the mid seventeenth century. Twenty-nine harpsichord pieces and one organ voluntary by him are known. They show him to have been an able composer for the keyboard with a distinctive style, adept at style brisé, notably in almands, and in the voluntary, inventive in the treatment of themes. Only about half of the music has so far been made available in a modern edition.Terence Charlston’s fine collected edition and recording are therefore most welcome.
Editors of collected editions of seventeenth century keyboard composer’s music are frequently faced with difficulties. Often, for instance, there are questions over authorship. These occur when contemporary sources give contradictory attributions or when there are several musicians of the same or similar name known to have existed over a similar period, but are indistinguishable in sources. This is less of a problem with Bryne. Another Albertus Bryne, almost certainly a son, was active from around 1670 and became organist of God’s Gift College, Dulwich, in January 1671/2. However, it seems likely that all the music attributed to Bryne is by the elder man. Most of it appears in sources that are probably too early for the younger Bryne, dating from the 1650s or 1660s, the most important being Nyp Drexel MS 5611 and Ob MS Mus. Sch. d. 219, containing five of the seven suites altogether.
The other common difficulty for collected editions concerns the authenticity of texts, as editors are often confronted with more than one version of a piece in their sources. This is more of an apparent problem with Bryne as most of his music survives in manuscripts. The manuscript culture of the seventeenth century encouraged variance as authors were able to continually revise and, in a sense, ‘recreate’ their works each time they made a copy of them. Several Bryne pieces exist in more than one version in contemporary sources, notably the almand, corant and saraband of the A minor suite (nos 18-20), which appear in both Drexel MS 5611 and d. 219 in slightly different versions. Charlston, and his colleague Heather Windram, have dealt with the variance in the sources in quite a radical way, opting to produce two versions of the edition. One is a traditional performing edition, which is in book form, edited by Charlston, the other is an accompanying ‘Interactive Edition’ on CD created by Charlston and Windram jointly.
The book contains a shortened version of the preface (a full-length, detailed preface comes with the interactive CD), the thirty pieces, in addition to the variant versions of pieces in concordant sources, which are included in an appendix (nos. C1-C12). The pieces in the main part of the book have been organised according to style rather than key, an arrangement which works well. It begins with the simpler pieces in Och MS Mus. 1236, Musick’s Handmaid (1678), and Och MS Mus. 1177, followed by the five suites in d. 219 and Drexel MS 5611. The style and makeup of the five suites is remarkably uniform for the work of an English composer. Each consists of an almand, corant and saraband, and the three that appear in d. 219 also have a concluding ‘jigalmand’, a form of jig notated in common-time encountered in sources from the 1650s to the 1680s.
The editor has chosen to correct obvious errors, but to minimise changes to the original notation. Features such as the original time signatures, beamings, irrational bar lengths, and even stem directions are retained. The music is spaciously laid out on the page and the keeping of these features has not, on the whole, made the music difficult to read when performing at sight. Source d. 219, which may be an autograph, is largely error free, and has editing from other sources is excellent in the main part of the book. It is not clear, however, why the same standards have not been applied to the alternative versions of pieces in the appendix. For example, in the Drexel MS 5611 copy of the D major almand (C2/ no. 14), three wrong notes have been retained in bars 5, 9 and 13. The first two errors are also retained in the recording of the Drexel MS 5611 copy of the piece as an ‘improvised’ jig-almand, which serves as a conclusion to the Drexel MS 5611 D major almand, corant, saraband suite (nos. 23-5). Unlike the other jig-almands, Charlston performs the piece in the manner of a normal compound-time jig. As a result, the first two errors do not sound as jarring as they do when the piece is performed in the manner of an ordinary common-time almand as they are passed over more quickly!
The Interactive Edition on CD, in addition to the contents of the book, includes unedited literal transcriptions from the sources, facsimiles of the sources for each piece, and audio clips of the unedited transcriptions. The aim of the CD version has been to enable the user ‘to examine every stage of the editorial process and make their own decisions about how the sources should be interpreted.’ Particularly helpful are the screens for comparing the facsimiles of the sources, which together with the critical commentary, make clear what changes have been made in an easily accessible form. In addition, it is possible to play an audio clip of a literal transcription of one of the sources whilst comparing it with the others. Another attractive feature is that the source comparison screens can be synchronised, so that whilst moving the point of view of one source, the point of view of the others moves with it.
The edition also includes an extended preface. It begins with an account of Bryne’s life that is well researched with copious references to original documents, some fully transcribed. A discussion of the music and its sources, the editorial method, and a section on ‘Notation’ follows. The discussion of ornaments and the table of ornament signs accompanying it in the ‘Notation’ section is particularly useful given the variety of signs used in English keyboard sources over the period c. 1660-80, which have not been adequately covered in the literature previously. A detailed section on ‘Performance Practice’ follows this, which covers topics such as fingering, ornamentation, improvisation, and interpreting the notation of the jig-almands. However, as questions of performance practice and notation are related, there is a sense that some of the ‘Performance Practice’ material is unnecessarily repeated from the ‘Notation’ section, particularly that on ornamentation.
Charlston puts this discussion into practice in his recording of every piece in the main part of the edition. The recording also includes three voluntaries by Christopher Gibbons, and five pieces from the early part of J-Tn MS N-3/35. The little MS N-3/35 pieces are a delight, and the quarter-comma meantone temperament used for the harpsichord music throughout the recording is particularly effective with them— hear, for example, the conjunct triads in the second strain of the anonymous ‘An Alman’, track 36. Four instruments are used altogether (two harpsichords, spinet and organ), and we are also treated to a plethora of different stop combinations, including much use of 4´ tone, buff stop, and even an arpichordum stop. Wisely, these are mostly reserved for the lighter pieces, although the effect is never one of gimmickry; one wishes other harpsichordists would be similarly adventurous in more standard repertory. The organ pieces are performed on the recently restored Harris organ at St Botolph’s Aldgate, and the use of stops is again imaginative, notably with the Gibbons pieces. In the case of the ‘Verse for ye single organ’ (track 41), Charlston has clearly been inspired by Roger North’s description of Gibbons’ style as ‘not without a little of the barbaresque’! As well as the varied registration, Bryne’s pieces are brought to life by the liberal approach to ornamentation and the varying of reprises.
The recording also shows that much of Bryne’s music, from the fine little F major suite in Och Mus. 1177, to the weightier suites in d. 219, can be seen among the best of the Commonwealth and early Restoration period. Both the edition and recording are to be highly commended, and will hopefully bring it to a wider audience. The presentation of the edition in both electronic and book form also provides much for thought about approaches to the collecting and editing of seventeenth century keyboard composers’ music, and the potential of the electronic medium for confronting the philological problems that the sources present.
This is a brilliant way to produce an edition. First of all, there's a conventional printed version with an excellent, lengthy introduction and a good edition of the music. Then there's a performance of it on CD by Terence Charlston, which right from the first piece refreshingly shows that (however conscientious an editor might be) performance of music of this sort demands that it be treated as a beginning, not the end. It is available separately (Deux-Elles DXL 1124). Richard Maunder reviewed it in EMR 120, August 2007: 'highly recommended, for the music, the playing and the instruments.' The CD-ROM provides a facsimile of the source of each piece, a transcription placed below it giving as literal as possible an interpretation in modem notation, other sources, and the final version with commentary, all with the option of simultaneous sound. In the light of the excellent and convincing performance, one might think that editorial detail doesn't matter very much in that the creative variation is greater than the fiddly details listed in the critical commentary. There is no reason why improvisation shouldn't turn the music into something else, but Bryne emerges as a fine composer whose music warrants respect. The pieces are mostly short: how the method would work on, say, Israel in Egypt, my current project, with a 350-page score and a couple of dozen sources (mostly short with nothing to offer, until one finds a problem insoluble from the main ones) is difficult to imagine. I recommend this strongly for the music, the performance, the edition, and the demonstration of a way towards future editions. If students are still taught how to edit, this is an ideal course-book, and everyone interested in mid-17th-century English keyboard music should certainly have a copy.
This is a splendid idea: a scholarly edition which provides a welcome combination of a well- and thoroughly annotated manuscript; a fascinating historical perspective; an audio CD of Bryne's complete keyboard music, performed on harpsichord, spinet and organ; plus an interactive CD-ROM. Editor Terence Charlston hopes it 'provides invaluable insight to performers and scholars of 17th-century keyboard music, and to all interested in the editing, performance practice and interactive publishing of early music.'
The book is described as 'an innovative solution to the problems inherent in the printed presentation of musical editions [which] applies the principles of electronic publishing to the critical editing of early keyboard music' with transcripts 'and other delights' devised by Heather Windram, a Cambridge researcher with an interest in the application of computer technology to the development of multisource electronic musical editions.
Albertus Bryne would no doubt be delighted by all this attention, especially as he does at yet, at least, rank among the best known composers or players of his time. He was born around 1621, probably in London, and died in Westminster in 1668. A chorister at St Paul's, where he later became organist, his style exerted its influence on the next generation of better-known composers, among them Blow, Locke and Purcell.
Bryne was the first composer to group his keyboard dance music into suites of the same key. The style and texture, Charlston tells us, illuminates the development of their constituent dances during a period of gradual evolution and growing continental influence'.
Charlston is well known as a performer, editor and teacher, and here he brings together all Bryne's keyboard music, which comprises six suites and seven pieces for harpsichord, plus one organ piece.
The novel, interactive CD-ROM includes complete source materials in facsimile, literal transcriptions of each source in modern notation, an edited version identical to the printed edition and a recording of each transcription linked to the appropriate image.
There seem several markets for this; the interested amateur will enjoy playing through the clearly annotated manuscript and mayor lay not refer to the thorough and copious references on ornamentation practice, the musicologist will praise the Lord for having everything handed out on a plate, and the serious performer will not only have well-thought-out suggestions before him but be able to trace the reasoning behind Charlston's editorial decisions. It is also fascinating to see so much source material. Similarly, the historical context of both Bryne and the pieces is coherent with diverting anecdotal evidence from his life and mes, as well as well-documented and lucid sections on the music and the sources, editorial method, notation, performance practice, improvisation and instrumentation.
Could much be improved? One performing colleague found the copious, and sometimes less well-known ornamentation hard to digest and would have preferred written-out versions on a small stave above the manuscript rather than needing to refer back. Another deemed this would have cluttered what are almost without exception very clean pages.
The audience for this type of publication is wide indeed (this is the second publication in the series; forthcoming editions include Carlo Ignazio Monza's Pièces modernes pour le Clavecin) and it comes highly recommended for performers and musicologists alike.