Monday 11 September 2000
Tonight I’ve been listening to Orlando Gibbons’s consort music for a CD review I’ve just finished writing, and it’s struck me how similar he and another 17th century figure Georg Muffat seem to be in musical temperament. In a couple of weeks we’re playing two sonatas from Muffat’s Armonico tributo of 1682 at our concert in Crieff, as part of my long-term campaign which may or may not be a joke, to have Muffat recognised as Scotland’s national composer. He never set foot in Scotland of course, but his parents probably moved from the Borders to Savoy in France in the early 17th century. He’s not the only baroque composer in France to be of Scots extraction either – Forqueray must surely be a Francophone version of Farquhar.
Anyway, what had always struck me about Muffat is that his music is structurally simple, but emotionally complex: he says a lot with relatively simple means. And then what hit me listening to Gibbons was that they both have a very personal form of communication. You feel that they’re speaking to you directly as an individual, and not just as part of a wider public. And they’re composers that people develop an attachment to. Katherine McGillivray said to me a while back that Muffat was one of the musicians from history she’d most like to meet, and then when we played on the Ferry in Glasgow last year, I mentioned my Muffat campaign to the audience for a laugh, and someone (only one person, mind you) cheered! I thought ‘great, here I am on a boat in the middle of Glasgow mentioning some little-known court composer from 17th century Europe and he gets a cheer of support‘.