Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Early Music Revival in America

Early music - particularly music of the Baroque - has become such a part of out musical fabric in recent years that it's hard to recall a time, less than a century ago, that there had to be special advocacy for it. One of the most prominent of its advocates in the USA was the Dutch-born Ben Stad (1885-1946), who, with other members of his family, founded the Philadelphia-based American Society of the Ancient Instruments in 1929. The group consisted of Stad, playing viola d'amore; his wife, Flora, at the harpsichord; their son, Maurice, playing bass viol; Flora's brother, Josef Smit, playing viola da gamba, and a family friend, Jo Brodo, playing "quinton" (what we would now call pardessus de viole). The ensemble was modelled after the famous Société des Instruments Ancienes in France, founded in 1901 by the Casadesus family. The French ensemble made a fair number of recordings - most of them devoted to pastiche pieces written by Henri or Marius Casadesus and attributed to older composers. On the other hand, the Stad ensemble, although they surely had some of these Casadesus pastiches in their repertoire, recorded mostly genuine works:

Music of Early Composers (Set I)
1. Byrd: Pavane (The Earle of Salisbury) and Galliard
2. Purcell: Chacony in G minor, Z. 730
3. Stad [arr.]: "Suite d'Aires [sic] de la Vieille France"
4. Alessandro Marcello: Concerto in D minor - Adagio
5. Benedetto Marcello: Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 4
6. Sacchini: Chimène - Allegro spiritoso
7. Mouret [attrib.]: Divertissement - Passepied
The American Society of the Ancient Instruments
Recorded October 23 and November 1, 1933, May 3, 1934, and June 5, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-215, two 12" and two 10" 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.93 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.54 MB)

I've included with this download an article about the American Society of the Ancient Instruments, from the 1988 Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

I've had occasion to talk about another American early-music pioneer, harpsichordist Lewis Richards, at this post, and now, thanks to Nick at Grumpy's Classics Cave, I have another of his three Brunswick releases.  Richards was a member of the Casadesus Société before the First World War, and he is known to have acquired music from the Casadesus family, including one or both of the following, probably spurious, pieces:

Ayrton [attrib.]: The Brook
Rameau [attrib.]: Rondeau
Lewis Richards, harpsichord
Recorded April 8 and 16, 1926
Brunswick 3205, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 14.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 8.72 MB)

Thanks again to Nick not only for providing me with the record, but also for helping with discographic details.


  1. Alternate links:

    Stad FLACs:

    Stad MP3s:

    Richards FLACs:,

    Richards MP3s:,

  2. Yippee! I've been wanting to hear all these records for such a long time. Thank you so much for taking all your usual trouble to transfer, restore, document and upload them for our delight and enlightenment. I look forward very much to listening! All the best, Nick (Grumpy)