The Oriental Miscellany: Airs of Hindustan arranged and adapted by William Hamilton Bird

Reviewed on Thu 14 Jul, 2016

The Miscellany consisted originally of some 30 arrangements of Indian airs, plus an original Sonata for Harpsichord and Violin or Flute. For this latter, Jane Chapman is joined by baroque flautist Yu-Wei Hu, and the pair make the best of Bird’s modest rococo confection.

“Being a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the Harpsichord”, The Oriental Miscellany was published in Calcutta in 1789 by William Hamilton Bird (c1750-c1804), an otherwise wholly obscure participant in the British Raj advertised in the Bengal Calendar as “Conductor of public amusements”. The Miscellany consisted originally of some 30 arrangements of Indian airs, plus an original Sonata for Harpsichord and Violin or Flute. For this latter, Jane Chapman is joined by baroque flautist Yu-Wei Hu, and the pair make the best of Bird’s modest rococo confection. The solo harpsichord pieces, by contrast, preserve a real flavour of their Indian sources, albeit adapted to suit European tastes, with Chapman employing all the percussive effects of her 1772 Kirkman harpsichord to conjure echoes of tabla and sitar. In these days of World music and East-West fusion it is easy to forget that once upon a time such sounds were astonishingly exotic.
–Mark Walker