About the Music
Full of the Highland Humours, 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. Many of Oswald’s compositions exhibit musical features associated with Scottish traditional music, and reveal his flair for charming melodies in the newly fashionable ‘galant’ style. His Airs for the Seasons, four of which appear on the disc, are delightful miniatures, each named after a flower or a plant that blooms in the appropriate season. Also featured are sparkling trio sonatas by Giuseppe Sammartini, a close colleague of Oswald’s, 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. Oswald also made his native music work to his advantage, weaving five well-known melodies into a Sonata on Scots Tunes, which cannot fail to transport the listener on a journey to ‘North Briton’. Music by two remaining Scottish composers feature on the disc: 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.
Released: November 2021; EM Records
Recording Engineer and Producer: Oscar Torres
Full of the Highland Humours
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