Olwen Foulkes: Indoor Fireworks

Indoor Fireworks
Olwen Foulkes, recorder
Ensemble Augelletti
Barn Cottage Records, bcr021. 73’00

The recording is based on music that was performed in London theatres during the late 17th and early 18th-centuries. As well as the advertised play, an evening at the theatre would also have included musical and other entertainments before, during and after the play. Olwen Foulkes has researched this repertoire, using contemporary adverts in the Daily Courant for the Theatre Royal between 1702 and 1720 which listed many of these other entertainments. This impressive recording, her second with Barn Cottage Records, features examples of such entertainments, with examples from the composers Vivaldi, Locke, Corelli, Baston, Paisible, Grano, Tollet, Finger and Sammartini, either written for, or arranged by Olwen, for recorder and the small instrumental ensemble Ensemble Augelletti.

Olwen Foulkes arrangements are well-judged, with a range of accompaniments ranging from the simplest theorbo or harpsichord to the full ensemble of Ellen Bundy & Magdalena Loth-Hill, violins, Jordan Bowron, viola, Carina Drury, cello, Harry Buckoke, viola da gamba, Toby Carr, theorbo. and Benedict Williams, harpsichord. The earliest composer is Matthew Locke (1621-77), from an earlier generation of Restoration composers who music survived in theatres into the early 18th century. A Suite from his Consort for Several Friends may not have been performed in the theatre, but is evocative of the time and the social importance of music.

Vivaldi and Corelli might seem surprising inclusions, but represent the many composers from the continent who came to London at the time, making it the musical capital of Europe. Violinist Giovanni Carbonelli, leader of the Theatre Royal orchestra was one such. The opening Vivaldi Concerto in G major (RV 366) is inscribed Il Carbonelli and was probably written for him while he lived in Venice.

The bulk of the programme is music by musicians directly associated with the Theatre Royal, including James Paisible & Gottfried Finger, and their successors John Baston, John Grano and Giuseppe Sammartini. The music is delightful and is beautifully performed by Olwen Foulkes and her colleagues, her sense of timing and the propulsion of a melodic line both particularly impressive. Her programme notes make for fascinating reading about musical and theatre life in London in the early 18th century.

You can hear a sample of the Locke Suite here.