Olwen Foulkes: Directed by Handel

Directed by Handel
Music from Handel’s London Theatre Orchestra
Olwen Foulkes, recorder
Barn Cottage Recordings, bcr019. 64’04

The decline of the recorder as a serious classical music instrument has long been predicted, for reasons that are quite beyond me. As an example, some years ago I was shocked to hear somebody involved with a well-known young artists competition in the north of the UK comment that a recorder player or consort would never win first prize. But evidence shows that recorder music and players are going from strength to strength, not least with through an impressive cohort of young performers making their way onto the professional circuit. One such is Olwen Foulkes a recent prize-winning graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music where she obtained a Distinction and DipRAM award for her MMus degree. I first heard and reviewed her at the 2016 Royal Academy of Music’s early music prize competition, where she was part of the prizewinning group, of two recorder players plus cello and harpsichord continuo. This is her debut recording.  Continue reading

Royal Academy of Music: Early Music Prize

Royal Academy of Music
Nancy Nuttall Early Music Prize
RAM Duke’s Hall. 29th April 2016

The Royal Academy of Music’s annual early music prize has in recent years been known as the Nancy Nuttall Early Music Prize, rather than its earlier incarnation with the name of a sherry manufacturer who donated a crate of sherry to the winners. The competition is for groups of from 3 to 10 players playing music from before 1800 on historically appropriate instruments. The winning group receives £1,000. It is a few years since I have been able to get to this event, and the increase in the standard of performance, and in the number of performers, was noticeable. Around 24 young musicians appeared, with very little duplication within the six groups.

It started with one of those awkward reviewer moments when I realised that instead of arriving embarrassingly early for a 6pm start I was actually embarrassingly late for the 5pm start. So I missed the first two groups, although I Continue reading

Bratwurst, Beer & Bach

Hampstead Baroque Festival: Bratwurst, Beer & Bach
L’Istante, Pawel Siwczak
Heath Street Baptist Church, Hampstead, 3 April 2016.

Bach: Orchestral Suite 1, Brandenburg Concerto 4, Concerto for violin and oboe, Cantata 42 ‘Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths’.

A number of churches are accepting the inevitable reduction in congregations and opening their buildings to wider community use. Heath Street Baptist Church, prominently positioned in the middle of Hampstead, is one such, reducing their services to Sunday mornings, but enabling a wide variety of activities during the rest of the week, including frequent lunchtime and evening concerts and, on this occasion, a complete weekend devoted to the ‘Hampstead Baroque Festival’. After four earlier events of English, Italian and French music, all accompanied by food, the weekend concluded with a Sunday evening concert devoted to ‘Bratwurst, Beer & Bach’, given by the newly-formed group L’Istante (not, incidentally, the only early music group to adopt that name *and now renamed as Isante) directed by harpsichordist/conductor Pawel Siwzak.

Their ambitious programme of Bach opened with a stirring account of Bach’s first Orchestral Suite, strong on rhythmic pulse and Continue reading