York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2019
National Centre for Early Music
York, 11-13 July 2019
Founded in 1985, the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition (until 2009 under the auspices of the Early Music Network) is firmly ensconced in the National Centre for Early Music in the splendidly restored former medieval church of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York. This year was the 18th incarnation of the biennial event, which for some years has formed part of the annual York Early Music Festival and is supported by the National Centre for Early Music, BBC Radio 3, Arts Council England and Linn Records. The full list of competition rules can be seen here but, briefly, there must be a minimum of two members aged 36 years or under with an average age of 32 or under. The repertory must be from the middle ages to the nineteenth century, using historically informed playing techniques, instruments and stylistic conventions. The ten finalists were chosen from 58 applications to provide a balance sequence of concerts in the final, covering the whole ‘early music’ period. The BBC Radio broadcast of selections of pieces from the final can be heard here.
Tage Alter Musik Regensburg
18-21 May 2018
Seventeen concerts of early music in just four days is the promise of the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik festival. It is held annually over the Pentecost/Whitsun weekend, alongside non-musical Regensburg celebrations, including a beer festival and fairground that brings the local youth out in their distinctive Bavarian outfits. Tage Alter Musik takes place within the architectural and historic delights of this beautiful city on the Danube – the entire city centre is a World Heritage site. Venues for the concerts include austere Gothic, glittering Baroque/Rococo, and the historic Reichssaal in the Altes Rathaus, for centuries the permanent seat of the Parliament of the Holy Roman Empire. The weekend runs from Friday evening, with two concerts, followed by five concerts on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the latter including a concert that started at 00:15 in the morning!
Telemann: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba
Resonus RES10195. 79’15
Telemann is the gift that keeps on giving. His latest offering was the discovery in 2015 of the previously lost set of Gamba Fantasies. In accordance with his very successful business approach, they were published two at a time over six fortnights in 1735. Aimed at the upper performing end of the amateur market, they also present many challenges for the professional musician. As Robert Smith writes in his own programme notes, a performer can approach these pieces with no preconceived ideas of how they might be performed. Unlike, for example, the Bach Cello Suites with many decades of recording and teaching, these Telemann Fantasias have a clean performing slate. Continue reading
Baroque Voices at The Music Room
Rachel Ambrose Evans, Joy Smith
The Music Room, 26 October 2017
One of the most rewarding aspects of this reviewing lark has been spotting talented young musicians in the early stages of their musical careers. There are several well-known singers who I first noticed singing in choirs, and many instrumentalists who I first heard in their student days. One such singer is the soprano Rachel Ambrose Evans, who I first noticed after a tiny step-out-from-the-choir role in a Proms concert and, shortly afterwards, as a chorus fairy in a production of the Fairy Queen, noticing on both occasions what I consider to be an ideal ‘early music’ voice. That early music voice was very apparent in Rachel’s concert with harpist Joy Smith in The Music Room, hidden away above an antique emporium close to London’s Oxford Street, and until now used as an exhibition and events space. It was part of a new series of lunchtime concerts. Continue reading
‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries’
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey
12-20 May 2017
After reforming, renaming, and regrowing itself from the long-running Lufthansa Festival, the London Festival of Baroque Music has become, phoenix-like, one of the most important early music festivals in London. Under the banner of ‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries‘, this year’s LFBM used the music of Monteverdi and Telemann, from either end of the Baroque (and both with anniversaries this year) to explore ‘some of the chronological, geographical and stylistic peripheries of Baroque Music’. With one exception, all the concerts were held in the Baroque splendour of St John’s, Smith Square. Continue reading
European Union Baroque Orchestra
Maria Keohane, Lars Ulrik Martensen
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square. 19 May 2017
One of the key events of the London Festival of Baroque Music was final concert of the current incarnation of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, and orchestra I have been reviewing enthusiastically for many years. After extensive annual training auditions attracting around 100 applicants, aided by leading period performers, around 30 instrumentalists are selected each year to tour a series of concerts around Europe. But this concert was also, very sadly, the very last EUBO concert in its present state as a UK-managed organisation. Founded 32 years ago as a UK initiative (during the 1985 European Music Year), and managed ever since from its base near Oxford, the vote by a small percentage of the UK population to drag the UK out of the European Union means that it is no longer viable to run an EU venture from the UK. In its 32 years, EUBO has encouraged and nurtured around 1000 young musicians, giving some of the finest period instrumentalists around an early grounding in performance practice at the start of their careers. For the future, after a hiatus of a year to allow for the transfer, when there will be no auditions or orchestra , EUBO will restart from a new base, and with new management, based in the music centre AMUZ in Antwerp. Continue reading
European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) & Singers of Barock Vokal
Alfredo Bernardini, director & oboe
St John’s, Smith Sq. 27 January 2017
Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D BWV 1069a (original version);
Cantata: Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen BWV 123;
Cantata: Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt BWV 151;
Cantata: Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut BWV 117.
Part of the 2015 expansion of the European Union Baroque Orchestra’s activities has been the EUBO Mobile Baroque Academy (EMBA), a cooperative project aimed at finding new and creative ways of addressing the unequal provision of baroque music education and performance across the European Union. The touring orchestra (EUBO) still forms the core activity of the EMBA, reforming each year with a new intake of talented young period instrumentalists chosen from educational auditions held each spring. For more than 30 years EUBO has provided specialist training and experience, and has encouraged and supported many of the top period instrument specialists around today. One such is the distinguished oboist and director Alfredo Bernardini, a member of the very first EUBO in 1985 and the director of this EUBO tour.
The current EUBO incarnation represents 14 different EU countries. They have been performing together since last July, and last performed in London in November 2016 (reviewed here) with a programme based on Handel and his London contemporaries. For this concert they focussed on Bach, performing three of the cantatas that he wrote for Leipzig festivals along with one of his most complex Orchestral Suites, here performed in the rarely heard original version, lacking the trumpets and timpani of the later version. Continue reading
Handel and his London Colleagues
European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO)
Lars Ulrik Mortensen, director, Jan Van Hoecke, recorder
Royal Greenwich Early Music Festival
St Margaret’s, Lee Terrace, Blackheath. 22 November 2016
Galliard: Dances from Pan & Syrinx; Handel: Concerto Grosso Op 6/2; Babell: Recorder Concerto Op 3/1; Handel: Ballet music from Alcina; Sammartini: Recorder Concerto in F
Geminiani; Concerto Grosso Op 3/2; Handel: Water Music Suite No 3.
For most of my reviewing career, one of the musical highlights has been the visit of the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) to the UK. This extraordinary orchestra was founded in the UK in 1985, during European Music Year and the anniversaries of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti. Over the intervening 30 years or so, through their concerts and recordings, they have carved out an enviable reputation as an exciting orchestra whose professional and musical standards are always of the very highest. Many people listening to a EUBO concert for the first time are amazed to find out their unusual story. Not only is the orchestra made up of young post-graduate instrumentalists, broadly around the mid-20s age range, but every year the entire orchestra is disbanded, to be reformed the following year after a round of auditions.
Around 100 musicians attend one of two four-day residential training courses. All attendees gain from specialist training in their instrument as well as experience of playing in small groups and as an orchestra. From these courses, Continue reading
Handel: Apollo e Daphne
Linn Records CKD 543. 69′
Il pastor fido (Overture), HWV8a [22:25]; Arias in F major HWV410/411; Apollo e Dafne HWV122 [40:20]
Handel’s early works, particularly those written during his period in Italy have a very special vitality, musical elegance and sense of melodic delight. The secular cantata Apollo e Daphne is one such, started in Venice in 1709. but not completed until he briefly moved to Hanover, in 1710, as Court Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover. It is the music performed during his time in Hanover that is the focus for this recording from the Irish/Scottish Ensemble Marsyas. Apollo e Daphne lacks an overture, so the curiously lengthy example from Il pastor fido has been included here, although at more than half the length of the cantata it makes for an unnecessary imbalance to the following cantata. That imbalance is further exaggerated by adding two curious Arias in F for wind band between the overture and cantata (here with added percussion), with a segue between the second Aria and the opening recitative of Apollo e Daphne. It’s a rather odd musical construction, but that should not detract from the many delights of this recording.
The silly story of Apollo e Daphne provides many opportunities for Handel’s sense of musical drama to be explored, along with with some gorgeous melodic moments from the two singers and, particularly, from the many solo and obligate instrumental contributions. And it is the latter that make this such an impressive recording. Continue reading
Leipzig Bachfest 2016
‘Secrets of Harmony’
June 10-19 2016
Under the title of ‘Secrets of Harmony’, this year’s Leipzig Bachfest featured 114 events and welcomed visitors from 35 countries. Alongside the mainstream concerts were b@ch for us! events for young people and BACHmosphere concerts in venues like the Markt and the grand Hauptbahnhof. For many years now I have been able to review the whole of the Leipzig Bachfest but unfortunately, this year, my time in Leipzig was limited to just a few days. So I missed most of the opening weekend and the final few days.
Sunday 12 June
My first event was the German-French Choir Academy, the Continue reading
Regensburg: Tage Alter Musik
13-16 May 2016
If sixteen concerts of early music in just four days sound like your sort of thing, Regensburg is the place to be over the Pentecost/Whitsun weekend every year. Their Tage Alter Musik festival is not for the faint hearted, but the musical rewards are enormous, as are the architectural and historic delights of this beautiful Bavarian city on the Danube – the entire city centre is a World Heritage site. Venues for the concerts include extreme Baroque/Rococo, austere Gothic and the historic Reichssaal. This year was the 32nd such festival. One of the attractions of Tage Alter Musik for a reviewer from the UK is that most of the performers that they engage do not visit the UK, so it is an excellent chance to hear what our continental neighbours are up to.
Friday 13 May
The weekend traditionally opens on Friday evening with the famous Regensburg cathedral boys’ choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen, Continue reading
Inspired by Italy: European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO)
Lars Ulrik Mortensen, director, Zefira Valova, concertmaster
St John’s, Smith Square, 22 October 2015
Handel: Ouverture to Alessandro HWV21, Sonata in G HWV399, Concerto Grosso in F Op. 3 No. 4; Vivaldi: String Sinfonias in D RV124 & G minor RV157; Albinoni: Concerto for 2 oboes in F Op. 9 No. 3; Corelli: Concerto Grosso in D Op. 6 No. 4.
The European Union Baroque Orchestra was formed in 1985, and has recently successfully negotiated its way through a difficult period of financial uncertainty. It celebrated its renewed, if short term security with the first short series of concerts for the newly formed orchestra of young musicians. They are selected anew each year through combined educational and selection courses and then usually meet five or six times a year to rehearse and then tour a new programme. One of the key features of EUBO is giving the musicians the chance to experience life as a touring orchestral musician, evidenced on this occasion by Continue reading
EUBO is proud to announce that it has been selected to receive Creative Europe funding from the European Commission. The activities of EUBO during the period 2015 to 2018 will take place under the auspices of its new project, the EUBO Mobile Baroque Academy (EMBA), which will be organised by EUBO together with its nine partners. EMBA will nurture the performance of Europe’s distinctive shared heritage of baroque music, and the education of emerging Europe-wide talent, bringing baroque music to new audiences in innovative ways across Europe.
The activities of the new co-operation project, subtitled Pathways & Performance, will focus on music education and performance training. EMBA will provide a significant touring programme with its training orchestra EUBO under the direction of Music Director Lars Ulrik Mortensen and other renowned baroque music specialists. EMBA will also organise orchestral courses, interactive digital masterclasses, audience development events and a comprehensive digital programme ‘Baroque Bytes’ including live streamings and recordings of historically informed performances of baroque repertoire.
Student musicians are invited to take part in the first year’s activities by applying for a place at the Audition Courses which will take place in Luxembourg from 29 July to 1 August and from 1 to 4 August 2015. Further information on the courses is available at http://www.eubo.eu/EUBO/courses.
The EMBA partners are –
European Union Baroque Orchestra (UK) www.eubo.eu
European Association of Conservatoires (BE) www.aec-music.eu
Concerto Copenhagen (DK) www.coco.dk
Estonian Record Productions (EE) www.erpmusic.com
Villa Musica Rheinland-Pfalz (DE) www.villamusica.de
Trifolion/Ville d’Echternach (LU) www.trifolion.lu
The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MT) www.teatrumanoel.com.mt
Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag (NL) www.koncon.nl
Universitatea Nationala De Muzica Din Bucuresti (RO) www.unmb.ro
St John’s Smith Square (UK) www.sjss.org.uk
Handel Peace & Celebration European Union Baroque Orchestra, Choir of Clare College Cambridge, Alex Potter, Lar Ulrick Mortensen.
Obsidian CD711 69’ 34” £13 from http://www.eubo.eu/shop/CD711.
Zadok the Priest, Let thy hand be strengthened, Concerto Grosso Op3/2, My heart is inditing, Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, The King shall rejoice.
This is live recording (with a little judicious patching) of a St John’s, Smith Square concert (under the title ‘Handel: A Royal Celebration’) that I reviewed in last December’s issue of Early Music Review. It is a timely issue in the anniversary year of the accession of the first Hanoverian King, George I. The talented young musicians of EUBO (a training orchestra re-formed each year) come to the fore in the Concerto Grosso Op 3/2, with its distinctive Largo featuring two cellos and oboe (played exquisitely by Guillermo Turina Serrano, Nicola Paoli and Clara Geuchen). The rest of the piece involves outstanding playing by the two violinists Zefira Valova (the concertmaster for this tour, and formally a EUBO member) and Roldán Bernabé-Carrión.
For the rest of the disc they are in an accompaniment role. The outstanding feature of the vocal works is the opening movement of the Birthday Ode, ‘Eternal source of light divine’, beautifully sung by Alex Potter, with the terrifying trumpet solo played with absolute conviction and surety by EUBO trumpeter Sebastian Philpott. You should buy this CD for this track alone – it is spine-tingling! I noted in my concert review that the other soloists were drawn from the Clare College choir, “with varying degrees of success”. The choir as a whole however do sound good, although there is occasionally a bit of a wobble from the alto line. In these shaky financial times, EUBO needs the support of funders more than ever. Buying this CD is a particularly good investment in the future of young musicians.
First published in Early Music Review, April 2014.
The annual St John’s Smith Square Christmas Festival has adopted a number of performers who seem to return each year, one being the European Union Baroque Orchestra. As readers may know, EUBO have had a troubled year as their usual EU funding stream ground to a halt – hopefully temporarily. Despite having had to cancel the 2014 cohort of auditioned players, they have continued to keep up some elements of their touring concert schedule, drawing on players from earlier incarnations of the training orchestra.
Their SJSS programme (11 Dec 2014) was Le Création du Monde, starting, perhaps appropriately given their current situation, with Rebel’s depiction of chaos at the opening of Les Elémens. The second half Suite of pieces from three Rameau operas had a similar start with the Ouverture from Zaïs (a more hesitant depiction of chaos), closing with the tempest from Platée, with the filling between focussed on various wind-inspired pieces from Les Boréades. The other works were Muffat’s Propitia Sydera Concerto Grosso (with its fine Ciacono) and Rebel’s Les Caractères de la Danse. As ever, the young players demonstrated characteristic grace and eloquence along with musical excellence, with notable contributions from flautists Emma Halnan and Flavia Hirte, violinists Yotam Gaton and Jamiang Santi and cellist Guillermo Turna Serrano.
This review first appeared in Early Music Review, Feb 2015.
Vivaldi The Four Seasons & String Concerti European Union Baroque Orchestra, Huw Daniel, Bojan Čičič, Johannes Pramsohler, Zefire Valova violins. Lars Ulrich Mortensen. 52’50.
Obsidian CCL CD713
Not another Four Seasons, you might think. But this is different, in several ways. Firstly it is from the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) who regular readers will know I am a fan of. Secondly the four violinists are all ex-members, and later concertmasters, of EUBO. And thirdly because this not only also includes the charmingly inoffensive little Concerto RV124, but also Vivaldi’s sonnets, read in Italian by another EUBO alumnus, Antonio de Sarlo (the CD booklet includes the texts). And finally, although not obvious from the CD, this whole project was accompanied by a commissioned puppet show for children using Vivaldi’s music – hopefully this will be released on DVD in the future, but a video can be found on the EUBO website.
The Concerto RV124 introduces the first of the spoken Sonnets. The four soloists then take their turns at portraying the various seasons with Huw Daniel as Spring, Bojan Čičič, Summer, Johannes Pramsohler, Autumn, and Zefire Valova as Winter. All four excel throughout, but particularly in the slow movements when their collective ability to play on the edge of their tone with such musical conviction is outstanding.
For some reason, the recording balance of director Lars Ulrich Mortensen’s harpsichord is frequently far too prominent, becoming a distractingly percussive intrusion. Currently shorn of their usually EU funding, EUBO is trying to survive on the occasional concert and on the sale of CDs like this until stable financial support can be found. Anybody who has ever heard the talented young players of EUBO (who reform each year – or did, until their recent financial problems) will know how excellent they are, and how important a training experience it is for its members, many of whom go on to distinguished careers. The CD can be ordered from http://www.eubo.eu/shop/CD713.
First published in Early Music Review, December 2014