Over the course of thirty years our repertoire has inevitably evolved, not least in our quest to find music that appeals to our varied audiences. A two-fold focus has emerged over the past few years:

Haydn and his English associates; German domestic music c1800.

Partly influenced by the repertoire, a major change has taken place in that, other than for recording projects, we minimise expense to music societies by performing without a keyboard instrument. Many of our recordings, and our earlier concert performances involved the use of one of our square pianos of the late 18th century. However the costs of maintenance, tuning (with expert technician in situ as these lovely instruments are prone to mechanical problems), transport, insurance etc priced us out of the range of many otherwise interested organisations.

We came up with a very authentic solution to the problem: the period guitar c1800, beloved at that time especially of the German-speaking world – including Schubert.

Research awards by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy led the Proprietor in 2000 to investigate “What the Germans were singing in 1800”. The findings were fascinating. The Germans looked to their major poets – including Goethe and Schiller – as sources for song texts. Many of these settings involved the guitar as the accompanying instrument, the introduction of the new six-stringed 'Italian' or 'Spanish' guitar in 1785 having made the instrument for the next thirty years an absolute pre-requisite in every household, of whatever social class. The result was an outpouring of music for the guitar by composers of all statures.

The outcome of this finding brought about our recording “Goethe & the Guitar”  [see DISCOGRAPHY ]. Many of these songs feature in our concerts, performed in German or in the Proprietor's verse translations. One of these was awarded the English Goethe Society's prize to mark the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth for the best translation of a Goethe poem ! [see also CURRENT PROJECT].

That research project has also had a profound influence on our instrumental repertoire, as various composers now unheard of but influential in their time, wrote for the exquisite combination of flute, violin and guitar, often in the form of Variations on popular songs. Composers such as Johann Heinrich Carl Bornhardt and Johann Heinrich Gottlieb Streitwolf may long since have ceased to feature in concert programmes elsewhere, but their music seems to have presaged the emergence of Café Mozart, and has delighted our audiences!

Much of our repertoire has been transcribed and/or edited from original source material by Ian Gammie and the Proprietor and is available from CORDA MUSIC PUBLICATIONS, iangammie@cordamusic.org.uk