IBO & Peter Whelan - Welcome home, Mr Dubourg - Early Music Review

The music of Matthew Dubourg is a genuine discovery, and one still in the making. This timely CD provides a useful taster of what scholarship may be able to salvage in the future. A contemporary and associate of Handel, nowadays chiefly known for his association with the latter’s visits to Dublin, Dubourg was in his day an admired violin virtuoso and composer in his own right. Opening with the spectacular ‘Hibernia’s Sons your voices raise’ from the Ode for Dublin Castle 1753, the CD goes on to supply Dubourg’s only surviving violin concerto and movements from other Dublin Castle Odes as well as a concerto for two violins by Vivaldi and Corelli’s violin sonata op 5 no 9, provided with quirky ornamentation by Dubourg. Interspersed among these larger works are charming small traditional Irish pieces which Dubourg either wrote down or arranged. Along with an excellent line-up of soloists, The Irish Baroque Orchestra provide energetic and evocative performances of this unfamiliar repertoire – Dubourg was clearly influenced by the music of Handel, but inflections also find their way from the traditional music he clearly loved and appreciated into his more formal compositions. It seems extraordinary that this substantial body of music by a talented local composer has escaped the attention of Irish musicologists until now, and they have their work cut out for them now reconstructing the Odes and other music from fragmentary sources. Only then will we be able truly to evaluate Dubourg’s oeuvre. The title of the CD comes from an incident when Dubourg was playing for Handel and after a particularly wayward cadenza, Handel is supposed to have shouted, ‘Welcome home, Mr Dubourg!’ I have heard the same anecdote applied to Handel’s favourite soprano Mrs Cibber – it is a mark of Dubourg’s undeserved obscurity, that it has perhaps been felt expedient to transfer this anecdote from the forgotten violin virtuoso to the more familiar soprano whose reputation has fared better in our own times! The event is touchingly evoked at the end of the CD when violinist Sophie Ghent ‘goes off on one’ and is welcomed back home by Mr Handel!

Early Music Review
09 June 2020