PLAYLIST #1 ~ TRACK 3
Christopher Hogwood, portative organ
Not Christopher Hogwood
One of the great musical spirits of the twentieth century, and as it happens a big musical hero of mine, was the too-short-lived David Munrow (1942–76). This track doesn’t actually feature his fabulous, and fabulously versatile, wind playing (you name it, he blew it), or indeed him at all, but simply comes from one of the entertainingly didactic projects he oversaw as the charismatic driving force of his Early Music Consort of London. Instruments of the middle ages and renaissance, originally two vinyl LPs complementing and illustrating a lavish softback book of Munrow’s magnificent scholarly survey of early instruments, for years held the distinction of being the greatest album not on CD, perhaps in someone’s mistaken belief that the music wasn’t strong enough to stand alone. It always was, and we nowadays have it in all its considerable glory. The music, that is, not in these more austere days the book, although used copies of the original vinyl release can usually be picked up quite reasonably on Amazon.
Munrow – but let Mr Munrow wait for his own dedicated playlist in this series, something that’s surely bound to happen. The ancient instrument in the spotlight here, the organetto or portative organ, is as the name suggests a relatively small, mobile affair, bellows-operated by the player, to whom it is strapped. It’s handled with evident mastery by Christopher Hogwood, co-founder in 1967 of the EMCL, pretty much at the start of his illustrious career. The piece is a wonderfully decorative transcription of a sinuous madrigal by one Vincenzo da Rimini (a relative of Francesca‘s?), one of only six pieces of his to survive. Vincenzo, we are told, flourished c.1350–75, though in my esteem, if only for this, he flourishes still.