All posts by Silas Wollston


With Sir John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists

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Live recordings from the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage (2000):

Vol. 1, CD 1 & 2 (St Giles, Cripplegate, London) [SDG 101]

Vol. 2, CD 1 (Paris) [SDG 165]

Vol. 3, CD 1 (Tewkesbury) [SDG 141]

Vol. 5, CD 1 (Rendsburg) [SDG 147]

Vol. 6, CD 1 (Köthen) [SDG 134]

Vol. 7, CD 1 (Ambronay) [SDG 124]

Vol. 8, CD 2 (Santiago) [includes harpsichord obbligato] [SDG 104]

Vol. 9, CD 2 (Leipzig) [SDG 159]

Vol. 10, CD 1 (Potsdam), CD 2 (Wittenberg) [SDG 110]

Vol. 11, CD 2 (Greenwich) [includes organ obbligato] [SDG 168]

Vol. 12, CD 2 (Winchester) [SDG 171]

Vol. 13, CD 2 (Lüneburg) [SDG 162]

Vol. 14 (New York) [SDG 113]

Vol. 15 (New York) [SDG 127]

Vol. 16 (New York) [SDG 137]

Vol. 17 CD 1 & 2 (Berlin) [SDG 150]

Vol. 18, CD 1 (Weimar), CD 2 (Hamburg) [SDG 174]

Vol. 19, CD 1 (Greenwich), CD 2 (Romsey Abbey) [SDG 115]

Vol. 20, CD 2 (Southwell) [SDG 153]

Vol. 21, CD 1 (Cambridge), CD 2 (Walpole St Peter) [SDG 118]

Vol. 23, CD 1 (Arnstadt) [SDG 131]

Vol. 24, CD 1 (Altenburg) [includes organ obbligato], CD 2 (Warwick) [SDG 107]

Vol. 26, CD 1 & 2 (Long Melford) [SDG 121]

Vol. 27, CD 1 (Blythburgh) [SDG 138]

SDG 114 Alles mit Gott [world premiere recording of newly discovered aria by Bach]

SDG 712 Bach: St John Passion [Live recording of performance in 2003]

With The Bach Players

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Bach: Musical Offering (2016) [includes solo ricercares and my arrangement of the canons]

Bach and Buxtehude (recorded 2015, for future release)

From Venice to Hamburg (2015)

An Italian in Paris (2014)

Bach’s Library (2013) [includes solo harpsichord music by Marais]

Pachelbel and Bach: Christ lag in Todesbanden (2012) [includes arrangement of Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ canons]

Italy versus France (2011) [Lully, Corelli, Rebel, Muffat, F. Couperin] [includes solo harpsichord pieces by d’Anglebert and Pasquini]

Nun komm! (2010) [Bach cantatas 61 and 97, Erlebach, Isaac]

Every one a chaconne (2009) [Bach cantatas 78 and 150, Erlebach, Purcell]

With The Taverner Consort

Monteverdi: L’Orfeo (2013)

With The Magdalena Consort

Bach: Cantatas ‘Recreation for the Soul’ (2014)

With The English Concert

The Three Baroque Tenors (2010) [Ian Bostridge]

With Magnificat, directed by Philip Cave

Philippe Rogier: Polychoral Works (2010)

With Rodolfo Richter, violin

The Devil’s Trill: Sonatas by Giuseppe Tartini (2008)

Erlebach: VI Sonate (2005)

With Ex Cathedra, directed by Jeffrey Skidmore

Fire burning in snow: Latin American Baroque – 3 (2008)

Moon, sun & all things: Baroque music from Latin America – 2 (2005)

Rameau: Règne Amour, Love songs from the operas (2004) [with Carolyn Sampson]

Charpentier: Messe à quatre choeurs (2003)

With The King’s Consort, directed by Robert King

Vivaldi: Sacred Music, vol. 10 (2004)

With the Orchestra of the Renaissance, directed by Richard Cheetham

The Marriage of England and Spain (1999) [Taverner: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas]

With the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, directed by Richard Marlow

Michael Haydn: Masses and Vespers (1993)

Great is the Lord: Music by Elgar and Stanford (1993)

A child is born: Carols from Trinity (1993)

When David heard: Anthems by Weelkes and Tomkins (1993)

Allegri – Miserere [choral pops] (1993)

Monteverdi: Dixit Dominus and other motets (1992)

Sweelinck: Pseaumes de David (1992) [singing tenor]

Come, Holy Ghost: Choral Evensong for Whitsuntide (1992)

As composer

‘Hide not thy face’, The Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge: For the Wings of a Dove (2015)

‘I saw a sweet and seemly sight’, The Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge: And comes the Day (2012)

Arrangement of Pavanne Tombeau, David Gordon Trio: Angel feet (2005)

Arrangement of Purcell’s Evening Hymn, Michael Chance, Fretwork: John Taverner: The Hidden Face (2001)



Duo with Rachel Elliott, soprano
The many faces of Handel
Harpsichord solo, continuo and programme design

  • 25 November: Eye, Suffolk

London Handel Orchestra
Bach: Christmas Oratorio
Organ continuo

  • 18 November: Tilford

The Gibbons Project
Orlando Gibbons Verse Anthems
Organ solo and continuo, organ provision and tuning

  • 12 November, Charterhouse Chapel, London

Monteverdi: L’Orfeo
Harpsichord and organ continuo

  • 23 October: St Petersburg

The Bach Players
‘The Food of Love’: music for Restoration Shakesspeare
Harpsichord continua and programme creation

  • 14 October: St Cecilia Hall, Edinburgh

The Taverner Consort

The Bach Players
Sound the Trumpet: Bach cantatas
Harpsichord continuo

  • 5 October: Norwich
  • 7 October: Hampstead

Blue Heron, Boston, Massachusetts
Choral Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks
Organ continuo

  • 6 October: Peterhouse College, Cambridge

English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
Echoes of Venice
Organ solo and continuo

  • 30 September: Tetbury

Duo with Richard Boothby, viola da gamba
Bach and Abel
Harpsichord and piano solo and continuo

  • 14 September: Hatchlands Park Instrument Collection

Charity Event
Grade-One-A-Thon Choir
Choral director and musical arranger

  • 10 September: Cambridge

Royal School of Church Music
Residentiary Choir course
Musical Director

  • 31 July – 6 August: Carlisle Cathedral, Hexham Abbey

International Scholars
Performing Restoration Shakespeare
Scholarly participation in AHRC-funded project

  • 10–13 July: Wanamaker Playhouse, London

The Bach Players
In the company of Gods: the music of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre
Harpsichord solo and continuo

  • 5 July: Burgh House, Hampstead
  • 7 July: The Octagon Chapel, Norwich
  • 18–20 July: recording, St Michael’s, Hampstead

English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
Echoes of Venice
Organ solo and continuo

  • 17 June: Stour Festival

Halle Handel Festival
‘A continuum of creative refinement’
Paper given at international conference

  • 7 June: Handel House, Halle

St John’s College Choir, Cambridge
Bach Cantata Evensong
Harpsichord continuo

  • 20 May: Cambridge

London Handel Players
Bach, Handel, Telemann
Harpsichord obbligato and continuo

  • 6 May: St Peter and St Paul, Tonbridge

Laurence Zazzo and friends
Weeping Philosophers
Harpsichord and organ solo and continuo

  • 1 May: Wigmore Hall, London, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

Music in the Village
Baroque music for a Spring Day
Harpsichord conitnuo

  • 20 April: Walthamstow

European Union Baroque Orchestra
‘Betrayal and Betrothal’
Pre-concert talk: ‘Bach and Handel: the Spider and the Bee?”

  • 19 March: Newnham College, Cambridge

Sawston Musicians
Meeting Mozart
Harpsichord solo

  • 12 March: Sawston

In Echo
Music in a Cold Climate
Harpsichord and organ solo and continuo

  • 29 January–3 February: Romsey Abbey


The Bach Players
Christmas Programme
Organ solo and harpsichord continuo

  • 17 December: Baarn, The Netherlands

In Echo
Music in a Cold Climate
Harpsichord solo and organ continuo

  • 15 December: York Early Music Festival

The Bach Players
Handel: Messiah
Harpsichord continuo

  • 3 December: Hampstead

English Festival Orchestra
Handel: Messiah
Harpsichord continuo

  • 27 November: Royal Albert Hall, London

The Gibbons Project: Magdalena Consort, His Majesty’s Sackbuts and Cornetts
Orlando Gibbons: Verse anthems
Organ continuo, organ provision and tuning

  • 17-18 November: Recording in St George’s, Chesterton

North Herts Guild of Singers, Musica Donum Dei
Handel: Israel in Egypt
Organ continuo

  • 12 November: Letchworth

The Gibbons Project: Magdalena Consort, His Majesty’s Sackbuts and Cornetts
Orlando Gibbons: Verse anthems
Organ solos and continuo

  • 10 November: St Margaret’s, Lee

English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
Echoes of Venice
Organ solo and continuo

  • 13 October: St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow

The Bach Players
Bach Peasant and Coffee Cantatas, Brandenburg Concerto no.5 and Goldberg Canons
Harpsichord continuo and Tenor soloist (!)

  • 6 October: Norwich, Octagon Chapel
  • 8 October: London, St John’s Downshire Hill, Hampstead
  • 9 October: Kenardington

English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
Echoes of Venice
Organ solo and continuo

  • 2 October: BBC Radio 3 Early Music Show, live from the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall

Duo with Gawain Glenton
‘That which we call a Rose’: Shakespeare programme for virginals and cornett
Programme concept, solos and continuo on virginals

  • 28 September: Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Bach: St Matthew Passion
Assistant conductor and organ continuo

  • 18 September: Wroclaw
  • 22 September: Pisa

The Bach Players
Bach’s Library
Harpsichord solo and continuo

  • 21 August: Binham Priory

Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Bach: St Matthew Passion
Assistant conductor and organ continuo

  • 5 August: San Sebastian
  • 6 August: Santander
  • 13 August: Edinburgh

In Echo
Music in a Cold Climate
Harpsichord solo and organ continuo

  • 3 August: Dartington

Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Bach: St Matthew Passion
Assistant conductor and organ continuo

  • 15 June: Braunschweig
  • 16 June: Leipzig
  • 18 June: Aldeburgh

The Bach Players
The food of love: music for Shakespeare plays in Pepys’ London
Programme concept and harpsichord continuo

  • 2 June: Norwich, Octagon Chapel
  • 4 June: London, St John’s Downshire Hill, Hampstead

Monteverdi String Band
Monteverdi: Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (staged)
Keyboard continuo

  • 14 May: London Festival of Baroque music

La Nuova Musica
Pergolesi Stabat Mater, Bach Cantata BWV170
Organ continuo and obbligato (in BWV170)

  • Recording sessions 8 to 11 April

Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Bach: St Matthew Passion
Assistant conductor and organ continuo

  • 11 March: Valencia
  • 13 March: Pamplona
  • 15 March: Barcelona
  • 17 March: Lucerne
  • 22 March: Amsterdam
  • 23 March: Brussels
  • 25 March: Paris
  • 26 March: London, Barbican

The Bach Players
Laments for Passiontide
Keyboard continuo

  • 3 March: Norwich, Octagon Chapel
  • 5 March: London, St John’s Downshire Hill, Hampstead


Oh, for the wings of a dove

Bartholomew Mendelssohn imageRiding the wave of Mendelssohn’s popularity as an organist during his visits to Britain, the Six Grand Sonatas for the Organ (1845) were commissioned by the English publishers Coventry and Hollier. The composer’s recitals included improvisations – famed for their variety and novelty – and performances of the works of J.S. Bach, and both elements are reflected in his organ sonatas. But Mendelssohn never performed his organ sonatas in England. At the time of Mendelssohn’s first visit to England in 1829, English organs reflected an insular tradition that differed greatly from organ building on the continent: they had a very heavy keyboard action and no full pedal board. However, the increased awareness and interest in the organ music of Bach generated by Mendelssohn through his organ recitals contributed to a rapid change in organ design and construction during the 1840s, as English organ builders took inspiration from the instruments of the German Baroque.

The genesis of Mendelssohn’s great anthem ‘Hear my prayer’ – which ends with ‘Oh, for the wings of a dove’ – is closely bound up with this crucial moment in the history of English organ building. On 30 September 1840 in the City of London church of St Peter’s, Cornhill, Mendelssohn came to test a new German-style organ with full pedal board designed by his friend, the organist Henry Gauntlett, and built by William Hill. A unique record of this private event survives in the organ loft of the church to this day: it is a copy of the theme from Bach’s Passacaglia bwv 582 in Mendelssohn’s hand, signed by Mendelssohn. The autograph hunter on this occasion was the church’s organist, 20-year-old Elizabeth Mounsey, a former child prodigy and one of the first organists in England (along with Gauntlett) to learn to play with pedals.

The significance of this occasion to the creation of ‘Hear my prayer’ is that in addition to Gauntlett, Hill and Mounsey, a fourth auditor was present that day: the chemist, painter and librettist William Bartholomew. This was the occasion on which Bartholomew met Mendelssohn for the first time, since in a letter of 24 October 1841 he wrote: “Do you remember the day of your performance on St Peter’s Organ, Cornhill, writing a Canon in pencil for a lady, which was bathed with wine in the vestry to fix its traces? – this was done by me.”

Thus began a friendship and working relationship between Mendelssohn and Bartholomew that culminated in the triumph of the first performance of Elijah in 1846, for which Bartholomew created an English libretto at incredible speed. Initially, Bartholomew had aspirations to be Mendelssohn’s opera librettist, but all the texts he sent were declined by the composer. However, Bartholomew’s extraordinary skill as a translator, evidenced by his English version of Spohr’s opera Jessonda, did attract Mendelssohn’s attention; a relationship of mutual respect developed between the two men and Bartholomew created English versions of many works by Mendelssohn. In agreeing to compose ‘Hear my prayer’ Mendelssohn fulfilled Bartholomew’s greatest wish – to have his own poetry set to the music of his dear friend. The text of this ‘sacred solo’ is Bartholomew’s own paraphrase of verses from Psalm 55.

The first performance took place on 8 January 1845 in the medieval Great Hall of Crosby Hall. Built in 1466 by the wool merchant Sir John Crosby, this grand medieval palace in Bishopsgate had by the 19th century become a historic anomaly in the commercial heart of the City of London. Just three rooms of the original building remained in 1841 when restoration work was undertaken in preparation for a series of concerts organised by Ann Mounsey, a former pupil of Wesley and Attwood and the teacher and older sister of Elizabeth Mounsey. At the first performance of ‘Hear my prayer’, Ann Mounsey played the organ accompaniment on the new organ by Henry Cephas Lincoln, and the soprano solo was sung by Elizabeth Rainforth, a well-known stage singer; according to a review of the performance published in Musical World, neither the soloist nor the chorus were ‘thoroughly at home’ and the new organ also met with little enthusiasm. (The modern-day popularity of the work stems from the recording made in 1927 by boy treble Ernest Lough which became EMI’s first million-selling classical recording.) The room in which the first performance took place still survives: in 1910 it was relocated to Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, where it now forms part of the London house of Christopher Moran.
Silas Wollston
Adapted from the liner note to ‘For the Wings of a Dove’

Further reading

Angela R. Mace: ‘Mendelssohn, Bartholomew, and the ‘Elijah’ correspondence’, Ars lyrica, 19 (2010), 93–111

Betty Matthews: ‘Mendelssohn and the Crosby Hall Organ’, Musical Times, 114 (1973), 641–643