London International Festival of Early Music

London International Festival of Early Music
Society of Recorder Players/Moeck Solo Recorder Competition Finals
Blackheath, 7-8 November 2019

London International Festival of Early Music now seems to be firmly ensconced in Blackheath after some years in Greenwich under a variety of earlier names. Hosted by the Early Music Shopan exhibition of instruments and music (in the Blackheath Halls) forms the centre of the three-day festival. The three-day programme of concerts and events around the exhibition includes makers demonstration recitals, performer platforms for younger musicians, workshops and more formal concerts by professionals. Every other year, the festival hosts the finals of Society of Recorder Players/Moeck Solo Recorder Competition, the winner getting a recital during the following year’s festival. Last year they introduced the first of their Early Music Young Ensemble Competition Finals. Last year’s review can be seen here. Continue reading

Favourites: Telemann and his Subscribers

Telemann and his Subscribers
Tabea Debus, recorder
TYXart TXA18107. 66’34

Recorder player Tabea Debus is one of the most impressive young musicians of her generation. She has already featured many times in this review website for her CDs and concert performances (see here). Her latest recording is a clever combination of two genuine Telemann pieces for recorder (the Sonata in C, TWV 41:C2 and Concerto in F, TWV 51:F1) forming a sandwich with a filling of four suites of pieces collated and arranged by Tabea Debus from Telemann and three of the composers who subscribed to Telemann’s music publications. Telemann was one of the pioneers of music publishing funded by inviting pre-publication subscriptions – an early form of crowd-funding. Amongst those subscribers were Bach, Handel and Blavet, the three composers whose pieces are collected into suites on this recording. Continue reading

XII Fantasie per il Flauto senza Basso

XII Fantasie per il Flauto senza Basso
Tabea Debus, recorders
TYXart XA18105.  79’51

XXIV Fantasie per il Flauto - Tabea Debus

Telemann’s 12 Fantasias for solo Flute paired with pieces commissioned by the City Music Foundation from the 12 contemporary composers: Leo Chadburn, Ronald Corp, Moritz Eggert, Arne Gieshoff, Dani Howard, Oliver Leith, Colin Matthews, Fumiko Miyachi, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Alastair Penman, Max de Wardener and Frank Zabel.

There is more than enough classical music around to keep performers happy for hundreds of years to come, but without new composers and compositions, music as a creative art form will die. So this recording from recorder player Tabea Debus is particularly important. In conjunction with the City Music Foundation, she commissioned 12 contemporary composers to write companion pieces to Telemann’s 12 Fantasies, originally written for solo flute, but here performed very effectively on a range of different recorders. I reviewed some of the new pieces during a Baroque at the Edge festival earlier this year (see here), but this CD brings them all together in a fascinating sequence of Telemann and contemporary takes on Telemann. Some of the new pieces follow the relevant Telemann Fantasias, some introduce them – and some are interspersed within the Telemann movements.  Continue reading

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

Baroque at the Edge

Baroque at the Edge Festival
LSO St Lukes & St James Clerkenwell. 6 January 2018

With a headline of “Imagine if Bach was a jazzman, Vivaldi a folk-fiddler, or Handel a minimalist…”, the new Baroque at the Edge festival launched itself onto the London musical scene. Headed up by Lindsay Kemp and Lucy Bending (the pair who for many years ran the London Festival of Baroque Music and its predecessor the Lufthansa Festival), the festival invited musicians from the classical, jazz, and folk world to “take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads”. They promised “No rules, no programme notes, no lectures: all you need to know is how to listen”. The Baroque at the Edge title was also given to the May 2017 LFBM festival, the last to be directed by Lindsay Kemp and managed by Lucy Bending – a nice link to their then unannounced new festival. The Baroque at the Edge festival included six concerts and a family event, spread over a three day weekend. After an opening Friday night piano recital, the Saturday (6 January) featured four events, starting with a lunchtime concert in the impressive late Georgian church of St James, Clerkenwell.

Continue reading

The Grand Tour: Naples

The Grand Tour: Naples
La Serenissima, Tabea Debus, Vladimir Waltham, Adrian Chandler
St John’s, Smith Square. 18 January 2017

Music by: A Scarlatti, Durante, Porpora, Sarro, Leo

The penultimate concert in La Serenissima’s current series of ‘Grand Tour’ concerts at St John’s, Smith Square focussed on the music of Naples. A complex history of multiple occupations from the founding Greeks through to the 16th century Spanish (with brief Austrian and French incursions in the early 18th century) made it one of the most cosmopolitan (and the second largest) of all European cities in the later 17th and early 18th centuries. As such, it attracted artists and musicians of extraordinary ability.

Alessandro Scarlatti (pictured) was one of the founders of the Naples opera scene. He first moved there in 1684, aged around 24, as Maestro di Cappella to the Spanish Viceroy, and spent much of his following life there. All the other composers in La Serenissima’s concert were influenced by him. He left little instrumental music alongside his operas, but one such was the Sinfonia di Concerto Grosso II in D (for recorder, trumpet, strings & continuo) that opened this concert. It can be a surprise to those not used to period instruments to realise that the trumpet and recorder can be combined as fellow solo instruments, as Bach demonstrated so well. Scarlatti was less adventurous in his combining of these instruments in this concerto, with the two instruments generally kept apart, and the two melodic Adagio movements only using the recorder. Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music: Tabea Debus & European Union Baroque Orchestra

London Festival of Baroque Music
Tabea Debus, European Union Baroque Orchestra

WP_20160506_20_16_57_Pro_crop.jpgThe London Festival of Baroque is growing from strength to strength after its rebirth from its previous incarnation as the Lufthansa Festival. Shorn of the former funding stream, it has had to rebuild its financial stability. The increase in the number of this year’s events over last year is one sign of their success. One of the big advantages of the former sponsorship deal was that it enabled many non-UK groups to travel to London for the festival, so it is encouraging that such visits by musicians from abroad continue to be a feature of the festival. Also most encouraging is their focus on young musicians, with three concerts specifically devoted to them under the banner of ‘Future Baroque’. They also included a late-night concert by the young folk-inspired singer-songwriter, Olivia Chaney.

Unfortunately this year’s festival (13-19 May) clashed with my annual invitation to the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik festival, which takes 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

Tabea Debus: Cantata per Flauto

Cantata per Flauto
Tabea Debus & Ensemble
TYXart TXA15060. 73’01

Hasse: Cantata per Flauto; Tsoupaki: Charavgi für Blockflöte; van Eyck: Variations on ‘Come again, sweet love doth now invite’; Sarro: Concerto in d-moll; Jarzebski: Diligam Te Domine, Venite Exultemus; Töpp: a due; Telemann: Concerto in C; Purcell: An Evening Hymn.

Tabea Debus - Cantata Per Flauto, CDFollowing her first CD, Upon a Ground (reviewed here), recorder player Tabea Debus here works with a larger group of instruments and with a wider range of music, including two pieces by present-day composers.  The first track (the opening of Hasse’s Cantata per Flauto – a recent discovery, found in the collection of the Viceroy of Naples) sets the mood perfectly, and makes it absolutely clear why you will love this CD. Tabea Debus’s spirited, virtuosic and musically compelling playing is immediately obvious, as is her evident sense of humour, demonstrated in this case by an extraordinary sense of articulation and phrasing and a lovely little cadenza. In the second movement Adagio, the recorder weaves a complex musical line, elaborated by ornaments (many presumably improvised) in the manner of an operatic aria. This reflects the CD’s title and principal focus: of the recorder as a ‘singing’ or ‘vocal’ instrument, closely linked to the human voice, and the 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

Tabea Debus – There is only one Bach … ?

There is only one Bach … ?
Tabea Debus
St John’s, Smith Square, 9 February 2016

Tabea Debus, recorder, Lea Rahel Bader, baroque cello, Johannes Lang, organ/harpsichord.

JS Bach: Organ Partita ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’ BWV768; Inventio No. 7 in E minor; Cello Suite No. 4 in Eb BWV1010; Recorder Sonata No. 1 in Eb BWV525; French Suite No. 2 in C minor.
CPE Bach: Flute Sonata in E minor H551, Harp Sonata in G Wq.139/H563, Fantasia in C for Harpsichord H284.
Telemann: Sonata in C TWV41:C2

St John’s, Smith Square has always been a concert hall that, despite an eclectic range of programmes, has had a particular affinity with early music, particularly of the Baroque era. A very welcome further step in that direction came with the announcement of their Young Artists Scheme which, for the 2015/16 season includes two specialist early music performers amongst the four awards (see here). These awards are intended to provide a performance platform, marketing and development assistance and career support for exceptional young artists on the brink of their professional careers. They are given three performance dates in St John’s Smith Square.

tdebus_upon_a_ground_cd_coverTabea Debus is a young recorder player, currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music. She first came to my attention when she sent me a review copy of her first CD (reviewed here). I was very impressed with her musicality and technical ability, a view strongly reinforced by her recent Young Artist performance at St John’s, Smith Square alongside fellow musicians Lea Rahel Bader, baroque cello, and Johannes Lang, harpsichord, the three collectively appearing (but not on this occasion) under the group name of TR!Jo. Continue reading

‘Night at the Museum’

‘Night at the Museum’
Spitalfields Festival. Royal Academy of Music students
Geffrye Museum. 9 June 2015

WP_20150609_18_14_13_Pro__highresIn a nice collaboration between the Royal Academy of Music, the Geffrye Museum and Spitalfields Festival, RAM students gave mini-concerts in three different spaces of the museum, reflecting the museum’s history, the various historic rooms and contemporary music making, with all three events including a newly composed work. The student performers were Tabea Debus, recorders, Iosif Purits, accordion, and the Achille Trio. The three concerts were based on the period 1714, 1914 and 2014.

Tabea Debus played her own arrangement of extracts from Bach’s 2nd and 5th French Suites, followed by Alula, a new work by Cydonie Banting, written to contrast the tiny sopranino and the RAM’s rather curious looking new bass recorder. Transferring the Bach from the harpsichord to a single line instrument meant additional work for Tabea Debus in articulating the melodic line and the implied underlying pulse. She managed both very well, as with the sometimes tricky balance between volume and intonation. The new piece was a complex technical exercise for her, with flutter-tonguing, harmonics and having to switch between two diametrically opposed recorders. But her playing, and the piece itself, were both exemplary. Continue reading

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme, 2015/16

Congratulations to recorder player Tabea Debus ( and vocal ensemble The Gesualdo Six ( on representing the early music world as two of the four appointments to the St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme for 2015/16. The other two awards go to violinist Joo Yeon Sir ( and The Ligeti Quartet ( Continue reading

Upon a Ground – Tabea Debus, recorder.

Upon a Ground
Tabea Debus, recorder.
ClassicClips CLCL 124.   77’ 32”

Finger: A Division on a ground by Mr. Finger; Dornel: Première Suite; Taeggio: Vestiva i colli; Bellinzani: Sonata No. 12 Op 3/12; Barre: Chaconne der Sonata L’Inconnue; Blavet: Sonata Secunda; Anonymous: Durham Ground; Pandolfi Mealli: Sonata Quarta “La Castella”; Barsanti: Sonata V in F; Purcell: A New Ground in e. 

The Hülsta Woodwinds competition (in Münster, Westphalia) awards two first prizes, and Tabea Debus won one of them in 2011.  This CD is one of the elements of her prize.  And it certainly shows that the competition judges were on to a good thing.  Tabea Debus’s playing is an absolute delight.  She plays with a beautiful sense of musical line and phrasing, wearing her obvious virtuosity lightly, and producing results that are first and foremost musical.

Another excellent feature of this recording is the imaginative interpretations of the accompanying continuo instrumental players, Lea Rahel Bader (cello), Johannes Lang (harpsichord), Kohei Ota (theorboe & baroque guitar) and Jan Croonenbroeck (organ). Taeggio’s 1620 diminutions on Palestrina’s Vestiva i colli are preceded by the original piece played on a very attractive little chamber organ (by Johannes Rohlf, based on Näser, 1734).  Bellinzani’s Sonata opens with a delightfully Handelian Largo with wide leaps for the solo line.  After an Allegro (also with leaps and with a lovely dialogue between recorder and organ) and a harpsichord solo (to give the soloist a rest), it ends with a lively Folia.

Although the Pandolfi Mealli La Castella Sonata is performed in pure meantone, the other pieces are either in fifth-comma meantone or the so called ‘Bach’ tuning proposed by Robert Hill.  And, as if to prove that recorder players do have a life, when you take the CD out of its case, you are greeted on the inside of the rear cover by a photograph of Miss Debus apparently leaping over a fence.  See

First published in Early Music Review, April 2014.