Two key wonders

Three wonderful clarinet players visited today and we had heaps of fun exploring the tonal and musical possibilities of baroque clarinets. Eirik, Roar and Tor Egill came from the Norwegian Wind Ensemble  with their new baroque instruments in D and in C after Denner (made by Guy Cowley). We played duets, looked at some of the stylistic writing for the instruments and at the composers who knew and used these instrument in the early eighteenth century (Rameau, Vivaldi, Handel). The very simplest of instruments tell a story of their own and will open up some new repertoire ideas for their ensemble for sure!


@theoae and Mozart, Myslivicek and Don Giovanni.

Our first performance of this startling wind programme was given in Bradford on Avon yesterday. With the ‘Gran Partitia’ making up the first half and some lighter works entertaining players and audience alike in the second half, this programme was a little unusual.
I’m playing three different instruments in this concert made by three talented makers. B flat clarinet after H. Grenser made by Daniel Bangham. It works really well, projects and sings all at the same time. Grenser style C clarinet is by Peter van der Poel, the sound flows from it with ease and the intonation is superb. My basset horn is by Guy Cowley and is a rather ‘pure’ copy of a Lotz instrument with fewer keys that I am used to having for the first basset part of the Gran Partita! What I’m learning is that the best instruments don’t need extra gadgets to make them attractive, the beauty is built in. This instruments is a dream to play, it feeds back with its own ideas on sound and colour and inspires me a fresh each time I play. Guy Cowley is a perfectionist in everything he does, as a player and as a maker he never disappoints.
The OAE is in fine form and I can’t wait for the upcoming week when we explore the Gran Partita in concerts at the South Bank Centre (London), and The Anvil (Basingstoke).

An epic week….

This week has been a whirlwind of thinking, talking and doing. So much new and insightful information has come my way for which I’m truly grateful – feeling very nourished. And on top of it all a terrific concert last night with the very beautiful Mass in C (Beethoven) brilliantly conducted by Rufus Frowde. If that wasn’t enough, I had a ball playing Mozart’s Concerto for basset clarinet. I’d like to offer serious thanks to Joseph Sanders, John Kelsey, Diane Terry and especially to John Irving – each one of you made a significant contribution to that performance.

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Viva Vanhal!

vanhalcdcover1MUSICWEB’s review of Ensemble DeNOTE’s Vanhal Clarinet Sonatas arrived today!

If these sonatas are still unknown to you then take note – the Sonata No.3 in E flat is a ‘wonderful third work’. On the disc we preceded it with the Sonatina in E flat – ‘this works so well I was actually startled’.

‘For lovers of historical instruments and performance practices, this is a real treat….nobody will wish for a modern instrument in their stead.’ Two nice reviews in one day, wonderful!

Gramophone Review for Ensemblef2

photoVery pleased to receive a review from Gramophone Magazine today, ‘This is a wonderful match of interesting repertoire and classy musicianship.’ Our approach seems to have hit the spot from the start of Danzi’s lovely Quintet (Op.41), ‘The brooding yet beguiling sonority of the Larghetto opening features softly sustained chords that are immaculately balanced by James Eastaway (oboe), Jane Booth (clarinet), Ursula Leveaux (bassoon) and Anneke Scott (horn); all are on scintillating form in this masterfully crafted and elegantly dramatic music’.The Fritz fortepiano from Finchcocks receives a special mention as does the wonderful Steven – ‘Devine’s alert sensitivity and Booth’s cantabile expressiveness form a fine partnership in the Sonata in B flat for fortepiano and clarinet (Op 54)’.

A busy month

La-Clemenza-portrait-icon-web-use128 March 2014

Following on from February, which included my first return to my alma mater, The University of Sheffield since 1991 (for a concert with Ensemble DeNOTE), March highlights included a concert performance of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at Cadogan Hall with Classical Opera Company (13 March) and a CD recording with DeNOTE (24-8 March) of Beethoven’s self-arrangements of two of his most popular works, the Septet, Op.20 (arranged for clarinet, cello and piano) and the Piano and Winds Quintet, Op.16 (arranged as a Piano Quartet).

Clemenza includes two significant obbligato arias, ‘Parto, Parto‘ (scored for obbligato basset clarinet) and ‘Non piu di fiori’ (scored for obbligato basset horn) – making 4 instruments in all for the principal playing the whole opera! I was thrilled to be playing alongside such wonderful singers as Helen Sherman and Gillian Ramm.

Working at St Martin’s East Woodhay is a rewarding experience – the acoustic is ideal for chamber music, and supported by a great team including Adrian Hunter as Sound Engineer and Co-Producer and Ed Pickering as instrument technician, we were able to make the very best of this special place. We look forward to the CD being ready in time for Christmas!