A first on record: two sets of sonatas by an English contemporary of Handel and Johann Christian Bach, painting a lively portrait of chamber music in London during the middle of the 18th century.
John Stanley (1712-1786) was a Londoner, active there as a musician and composer his whole life. He composed during the period in transition from the high Baroque to the bold new Galant style exemplified in London in the works of Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of JS Bach. Though almost blind from childhood, he graduated from Oxford at the age of 17, and five years later became organist at the Inner Temple Church, a post he kept until his death.
His first published collection of original works was issued in 1740, as eight Sonatas Op.1 for flute or violin and harpsichord. All the sonatas in this collection, apart from the last one, begin with a slow movement and end with a dance movement. In following this Baroque form, Stanley achieves an attractive synthesis between the austere style of the church sonata with that of the more sensual style of chamber sonata. Handel acted as both friend and mentor to Stanley, and this relationship bears fruit in the lively dialogue between melody and accompanying voices. On this recording the continuo is expanded in 18th century style by adding a string bass to the harpsichord, infusing the soundworld with variety and richness of timbre.
The later Op.4 collection of six sonatas was published five years later, in 1745. Accordingly it incorporates more up-to-date elements of the galant style in which contrapuntal imitation and dialogue is replaced by a more marked distinction between an increasingly virtuosic approach to the melodic voice and a supportive accompaniment, so that the flautist is set to work with every melodic artifice: scales, arpeggios, jumps, ornamentation. Stanley’s invention is the mark of a spontaneous, individual yet immaculately crafted voice which encompasses both a simple, sober style and a more sensual style where counterpoint and dance live together naturally.
The harpsichordist Nicola Bisotti supplies a detailed introduction to these charming works in the booklet essay. For the recording he is joined by the Albanian flautist Daorsa Dervishi, a founder-member of the Albanian Baroque Ensemble which has done groundbreaking work in advancing the culture of historically informed performance in her country.
- John Stanley (1712-1786) was a renowned English composer and organist in the period of transition from Baroque to the Classical Era. Although primarily recognized for his keyboard works, Stanley's collection of complete flute sonatas stands as a testament to his skill in writing for the flute.
- Stanley's flute sonatas embody the elegance and ornamentation characteristic of the era. The collection comprises 14 Sonatas of the Opus 1 and Opus 4, each displaying a distinct musical character and showcasing the composer's ingenuity. From the lively and spirited Allegros to the expressive and lyrical Adagios, Stanley masterfully explores various tempos and emotions throughout the sonatas.
- One of the notable features of Stanley's flute sonatas is his ability to create a balanced and harmonious dialogue between the flute and the accompanying keyboard, demonstrating an intricate interplay between the two instruments.
- Stanley's sonatas also exhibit a remarkable sense of structure and form. The composer skillfully employs established compositional techniques, such as the use of thematic development and contrasting sections, to create cohesive and engaging musical journeys.
- Played by Daorsa Dervishi (Baroque flute), Alessia Travaglini (viola da gamba and cello) and Nicola Bisotti (harpsichord), each of them specialized in the Historically Informed Performance Practice.