“One of the most interesting musical projects of the moment – exploring one of the fundamental facets of music – the symphony.” CD Compact, Spain
Unearthing the foundations of the western cultural phenomenon of the symphony, Murphy's Mannheim Project explores the birth of both the symphony and symphony orchestra at the Mannheim court in the middle of the 18th century. The award-winning project has resulted in the rediscovery of major symphonic repertoire from the seminal, visionary “Mannheimer Schule” (“Mannheim School”), with first modern performances, first SA-CD recordings (released on PentaTone Classics)
and modern performing editions (available through Albersen Music).
Commencing work on the project in the late 1990s, Murphy scoured European libraries and archives, locating and collecting the early symphonies, including music by founding Mannheimers F.X. Richter
and “the father of the symphony” Johann Stamitz
. Following substantial scholarly examination and practical exploration, Murphy developed an enhanced understanding of the compositional language, performance tradition and aesthetic of the symphonic tradition at the legendary mid 18th century Mannheim court, as well as practical experience of the works in action - how they utilise the orchestra and its instruments.
The discs in the series have been awarded major industry prizes including the Edison Music Award (Dutch “Grammy”). The international press has been highly enthusiastic about the project, with the UK magazine Gramophone describing the series as “sumptuous, vibrant, energetic and wonderfully secure playing”, and the Dutch Haagsche Courant saying “daring and full of character ... Murphy brings the melodic figures and rhetorical effects in the Mannheim symphonies to life with a fantastic flair.” Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool wrote,“Finally the Mannheimers sound like they should – the of joy the new, the excitement of the sense of discovery, the euphoric rush of a Mannheim skyrocket!”
“The hottest property on the European baroque scene Simon Murphy puts flesh on the cobwebbed skeletons of Haydn's predecessors and drags musicology into the hypercritical glare of the contemporary concert platform replete with swashbuckling dynamic contrasts, piquant continuo parts and soaring Mannheim rockets.” The Australian
Recently selected by Dutch Classical Radio as one of the top five highlights in 30 year history of the Holland Festival of Early Music Utrecht, Simon Murphy's ground breaking Corelli Project has brought new life to Corelli's orchestral music, looking at his compositions and performing traditions completely afresh after extensive research and exploration into his instrumentation, aesthetic, soundscape and performance practices.
Murphy's “legendary” performances, broadcast and recording production of Corelli's great orchestral masterpieces, the Concerti Grossi - including the iconic Christmas Concerto - during the 2003 festival, succeeded in presenting Corelli's musical aesthetic in a completely new light. The resulting SA-CD recording of Corelli's Concerti Grossi with the NDA for Dutch premium label PentaTone Classics became the first ever recording to use Corelli's own large scale orchestra, rich Italiante improvisation and extemporisation and a full and varied continuo section (including baroque guitars, baroque lutes, archlutes, theorbos, harpsichords and organs). The production was enthusiastically received by the world's music press. The BBC Music magazine wrote:
“When it came to his orchestral music, size mattered for Corelli ...These accounts by the New Dutch Academy, a big band playing on period instruments, reflect the best of both worlds. Its sound is sumptuous, but textures are sufficiently transparent to allow details to cut through, and the historically informed approach includes stylish ornamentation and a battery of continuo instruments which would surely have delighted the composer. … director Simon Murphy infuses these accounts with subtle jazz-like touches: swinging rhythms, inventive extemporisations and vigorous guitar strumming effects.”
As a result of the project, Murphy was invited to perform Corelli's Concerti Grossi for the Italian president at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome in a special performance with guests including the Dutch Queen broadcast live on Italian radio and television. Other performances and broadcasts flowing from the project have included concerts of the orchestral music of Corelli and Handel at the Handel Festspiele Halle for German radio (MDR) and at the Zaterdagmatinee at Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam for Dutch radio (NPS).
See guest conducting programmes including Roman Holiday, which combine Corelli's works with music influenced and inspired by Corelli, including the Concerti Grossi of De Fesch and Geminiani, and The Water Music of Handel.
18th century Dutch Symphonic Heritage
Welcomed by the press as “revelatory” and a “total eyeopener”, Simon Murphy's Dutch Symphonic Heritage project has rediscovered the previously unknown Netherlands' 18th century symphonic tradition and presented it to the world on a series of first recordings. Murphy's discovery has revolutionised Dutch music history and enriched modern orchestral repertoire with an entirely new symphonic school.
Murphy scoured the world's libraries and historical archives locating works by 18th century composers working in the Netherlands' trading centre of Amsterdam and court city of The Hague. Including music by court cellist Zappa
, hofkapellmeister Graaf
and “The Dutch Haydn" Joseph Schmitt
, the Dutch symphonies attracted Murphy's eye (and ear) with their distinctively fresh, attractive and cosmopolitan musical style. Alongside 18th century music prints and manuscripts, Murphy also discovered previously unknown biographical information relating these composers, including birth and death dates and residential locations.
Murphy's project has successfully presented the Netherlands' rediscovered symphonic heritage on a new series of world première SA-CD recordings
for Dutch label PentaTone Classics, as well as creating first modern performing editions of the works, available for hire through Albersen Music. Murphy discoveries have also been presented in new, multimedia applications.
Murphy has attracted further international attention for the rediscovered repertoire through numerous international concert presentations often with live radio and television broadcasts. Recent festival performances have included the Dutch international radiophonic festival Amsterdam - City of Music in 2006 which featured Dutch symphonies in live concerts broadcast direct to more than 30 countries (NPS and EBU), at the Festivals van Vlaanderen at the BOZAR in Brussels (Klara), and in The Hague on the Hofvijver overlooking the original court buildings for Festival Classique and Dutch radio and TV (AVRO) in 2009. The works were also featured during the ABC's 2006 Dutch Music Month in Sydney and during the Getty Center's exposé on Dutch 18th century culture in Los Angeles in 2007.
Contemporaries of Beethoven Project
Exploring the dynamic and richly cosmopolitan Viennese music world of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this project explores esteemed Austrian, German and Czech composers and performers at work in Vienna surrounding those figures who are, nowadays, more well known. These composer/performers include Haydn's and Beethoven's preferred conductor Wranitzky, Beethoven's cellist Romberg, violinist and symphonist Spohr, and the piano virtuoso Czerny. The project has brought to light forgotten masterpieces by several of these “colleague” composers. With this information, Murphy has developed new concert programmes featuring this music in the context of works by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The project has also resulted in the creation of live recordings and new editions of works by composers including Wranitzky and Romberg.
The Gothic Project - Legends, Ghost Stories, New Romantics and Black Magic
From the period of Goethe's Faust, Apel's Gespensterbuch, Shelley's Frankenstein, Macpherson's Ossian and Marschner's Der Vampyr, this new project explores the late 18th century and early 19th century's obsessive fascination with destiny, magic, ghosts, spirits and the supernatural through the music of Mozart, von Weber (including his Der Freischütz), Spohr, Mendelssohn and their contemporaries. With the results of his research and musical exploration, Murphy has developed new concert programmes and productions, recording and broadcasting projects, as well as new editions of works by, amongst others, Reichardt (Macbeth), Rust (Colma's Klage), Gade and Lortzing.
JC Bach Abel London Circle / Mrs Cornelys “The Empress of Pleasure”
Centring around the actrice, concert and opera impresario, society lady and (single) mother of Casanova's daughter, this project explores the 1760s/1770s London circle of Teresa Cornelys, also known as “Mrs Cornelys” or the “Empress of Pleasure”.
Including the composer/performers J.C. Bach, Abel, the painter Gainsborough, the actor Garrick, the designer Chippendale, and Casanova, Mrs Cornelys surrounded herself with some of the most talented, creative figures of her age. Her enterprises included the famous “Bach Abel Concerts”, a series which succeeded in introducing London audiences to the most highly refined and virtuosic continental performers of the day. Most infamous of all of her undertakings, however, were her “Masques” or masked balls, held at her premises, Carlisle House, Soho Square - a kind of a 18th century Moulin Rouge. Known also as “Mrs Cornelys' Entertainments”, these were heady, semi-public 18th century rave parties. Heavily fuelled with drink and drugs, and featuring music, dancing, gambling and “anonymous” Eyes Wide Shut style sexual intrigues, these events would still shock today.
Murphy has produced a new choreographed
show (see videos here
), and several chamber and symphonic concert programmes. New editions of works by Bach and Abel are in preparation.
Mini Operas, Maximum Impact
Starting in 2017, Simon Murphy will realise a series of brand new, fully staged productions of late 18th and early 19th century mini-operas as well as newly devised staged 18th century "shows". The new productions are designed to be musically and visually extremely satisfying and engaging yet compact, economically efficient and easily transportable. Devised and directed by Murphy together with a hand selected team of specialist colleagues, these dynamic productions each feature a cast of around six singers/dancers and a chamber orchestra of between 20 to 30 musicians.
The series includes Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino in a co-production between The Hague's Baroque Orchestra NDA and other partners. Further planned productions in the series include Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segretto, Dittersdorf's Doktor und Apotheker and Paisiello's La Molinara.
The productions are for sale and would be an ideal addition to the programming of a summer music festival or for the regular programming of opera houses and theatres of the more intimate variety (350 to 850 seats).
Fêtes Galantes / Love in a Village
Commencing in 2004, Simon Murphy's Fêtes Galantes project explored the 18th century European fascination for the pastorale as exemplified in the works of Watteau, Lancret and Pater. Combining fresh views on the disciplines of art, music and dance, Murphy's project resulted in exhibitions, concert programmes, recordings and broadcasts, and a staged Fêtes Galantes “show” with costumed song and Baroque dance together with French or French inspired pastorale orchestral music by Lully, Campra, Boismortier, Rameau, Fasch, Bach and Graupner.
Current, new developments flowing out of the project include Murphy's creation of a new pastorale influenced pasticcio Love in a Village, based on music by Abel, Cimarosa, Paisiello and others.
New World Order
Simon Murphy has commenced research on a new project exploring US (public) musical life, theatre and concert programming in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The project looks specifically at developing American taste in the programming and performance of orchestral music - both in terms of works ordered from European publishers (including Dutch publishers the Hummel brothers and Joseph Schmitt) as well of early American classical works, for example, by the 18th century Dutch born, Pennsylvania-based composer Friedrich Peter.
Alongside public concerts, the project also looks at the programming of musical theatre in the US in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (especially in and around New York and New England) and, in particular, looks at the cultural bloodlines between Europe and the US in the period. This includes, for example, the contact between the Abel family (in turn with its contacts with the Bach, Stamitz and Mozart families) and the “father” of American school and church music Lowell Mason in Savannah, Georgia.