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Red Priest Master Class, concert and Moeck Recorder Competition

Greenwich, 11 November 2011

Piers Adams, assisted by his violinist wife Julia Bishop, gave valuable technical advice to nine advanced recorder students from London and Welsh colleges on ways to improve their playing techniques and, crucially, how to communicate with audiences more effectively with gesture and posture.

It was amazing how much he was able to achieve in precisely timed 30 minutes slots for each solo player, duo or group, based, doubtless, upon wide teaching experience and all that lay behind his having becoma a world leading virtuoso. Piers never wasted a minute and finished each pupil's session by lamenting "never enough time..."

The only thing missed in the tight schedule was incorporation of the 11 o'clock Two Minutes Silence to remember 11/11/11 !

Having anticipated my sampling the class for an hour or so - so many things happening simulatneously at the Early Music Festival - I remained for the full three hours, enthralled throughout.

Julia Bishop talked of the importance of a confident, smiling demeanour to help overcome nerves; an open posture, planned brief eye contact with audience members, and the advantages (not withstanding its perils) of working by stages towards playing by memory. Two of the students demonstrated how risking doing so improved performances of their chosen pieces at a stroke.

Piers Adams shared his experiences with the student players and, importantly, with the capacity audience right to the back row (many don't!) and with consummate skills he demonstrated (on students' instruments as well as several of his own) many advanced technicalities - e.g. that there are some ten alternative fingering possibilities to explore for each note!

Not one recorder player on stage or in the audience left without tangible help to raise their game, the class having demonstrated how professional recorder playing has advanced out of all recognition since the long-ago time when I had recorder evening classes with the still revered Walter Bergmann.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Baroque Carnival

Friday 11th November, Red Priest concert at Old Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich

Renowned early music revolutionists, Red Priest (Vivaldi of course) treated the audience in a (rarely) packed Chapel to a specifically created programme: 'Baroque Carnival', a concoction of Baroque allsorts which Bertie Bassett himself would have envied.

Featured in this dazzling new programme were as yet unrecorded treats that the group had arranged themselves, as is their entire repertoire. Included amongst these is Angela East's ingenious 'Zadok the Red Priest', into which the group's cellist had very cleverly incorporated another of Handel's most recognisable works 'The Queen of Sheeba', which flowed seamlessly between selected extracts of 'Zadok,' maintaining our interest even in the notable absence of the choir one expects to hear after Zadok the Priest's immediately familiar opening chords. Another surprise was the inclusion of two Ortiz Ricercadas, demonstrating above all the groups unrivalled energetic performance style, one of many moments in which younger audience members could be spotted dancing from their seats - a most unusual sight indeed at an early music chamber recital!

Another exciting feature of the evening was the London premiere of the new 'Eagle Recorder' developed by Adriana Breukink, Geri Bollinger and Kung Recorders. Described by the makers as 'A New Dimension in Recorders,' Piers Adams (with his new dimension of recorder performance) seems a fitting candidate to have chosen to introduce it to us. The Eagle's unique qualities include a wider bore: enhancing the instruments 'grand orchestra sound,' and balancing the dynamic strength of the instrument throughout all registers.

Its capacity to achieve an 'ff' dynamic across its range is perfect for Adams, who has never seemed content restricting his audible range to the higher register recorder players often settle for. However, tuning was an obvious issue even with Piers' versatile use of alternative fingerings: only later did I discover it's pitched at A=443, 3Hz higher than modern British players are accusomed to - perhaps considered a small sacrifice to compensate for in exchange for greater dynamic capabilities. Overall the booming sound of this instrument was perfect for the flamboyant virtuosity of Adams, he never one to be bound by the recorder's quieter subtleties!

The group has a new Harpsichordist who joined them this year - whilst initially lamenting the loss of his twinkle-fingered predecessor Howard Beach, it was soon obvious that David Wright [don't fail to click on this link ! Ed.] was a force to be reckoned with!

The playful, adventurous nature of his playing won the audience over before the end of the opening piece, and his astonishing virtuosic performance in 'Prelude and Fugue in C Minor' his deserving of a place in a group of this kind. Indeed, the playful element of his personality shone as he teased the audience leaving the encore dangling from a V7 thread, echoing around the chapel and soothed only by his post-final-bow resolution to the tonic chord we so craved!

Cellist Angela East fulfilled the role of walking cello in two senses: literally adorning the cello and striding across the stave as if it were a guitar, as well as incorporating pizzicato walking bass lines, which along with the extended techniques heard especially in 'Spring' gave these historic masterpieces a refreshing injection of the 21st century.

As always, Julia Bishop (violin) and Piers Adams demonstrated outlandish and exaggerated mannerisms and movements, which whilst often frowned upon by authenticity obsessed early music squares, captivated these audience members as young as four and others in their eighties for the full two hour programme, with not a whinge or a fidget in sight!

For me, the highlight was the closing suite compiled from the group's most recent album 'Johann I'm Only Dancing.' Here, J.S. Bach's infamous 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor', which he mightn't have composed, served as the perfect virtuosic close to the enthralling 'Baroque Carnival' evening.

Miriam Nerval

Vivaldi Concertos (1988)
& Handel Sonatas

A welcome re-issues of earlier recordings by the recorder's most successful UK ambassador.

The 6 concertos are given with Music da Camera/Robert King and the 7 sonatas with Howard Beach & David Watkin.

Adams, the original winner of the Moeck Competition (see below) plays recorders of various sizes by five modern makers. Recorder players will want it and everyone will enjoy it all, though better not played straight through.


The English Nightingale - virtuoso recorder music

Piers Adams with Howard Beach & David Watkin

Red Priest RPR RP009

This 1989 recording was made "to show the altogether surprising capabilities of this classroom toy", no longer necessary!

Virtuosity can become wearisome - Adams' is familiar by now and duly recognised. This re-issue is fatally marred by its presentation, with the old notes in small, grey-on-white print, no track listing of the 10 recorders and several keyboard instruments used to ring the changes.

Most interesting are two 19 C reminders of the Viennese cazcan, with two pieces by E Kraemer transcribed for modern recorders, accompanied on fortpiano.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Eva Fegers - Recorders
with Margit Kovacs - Harpsichord Jonas Nordberg - Theorbo

1. Godfrey Finger (1660-1730) a ground in d (from: 40 airs anglois pour la flute) 2. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) Fantasia no. 8 (Largo – Spirituoso – Allegro) 3. Moritz Eggert (*1965) – Ausser Atem (1994) Breathless 4. Jacques-Martin Hotteterre „le Romain“ (1674-1763) – Prélude en G. Ré, Sol, 3ce Mineure. From "L´art de préluder" 5. Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) Sonata C major, op.5 no. 3 (Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Allegro) 6. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1623-1680) Sonata quarta from: Sonatae unarum fidium seu a violino solo 1664

13th November 2011 - Peacock Room, King Charles Court Old Royal Naval College Greenwich
Adjudicators: Matthias Maute, Ibi Aziz and Emma Murphy

Eva Fegers (24, German, studying in Austria) was the clear, indisputable winner this year; there were no UK finalists and the runners-up both lacked intensity sufficient to hold attention through their three-quarter hour recitals. Both of them might have benefited from attending Piers Adams' master class, especially in respect of communication with the audience.

Each of the three included a Telemann Fantasie but only Fegers made of hers a fully realised interpretation; the others were too tentative in finding what lay behind the notes.

Another telling comparison was between two accounts of Eggert's modernist showpiece Ausser Atem for multiple recorders in one mouth.

Yi-Chang was best in a work by Emanuele Casale for electronically enhanced bass recorder. He demonstrated his skills entirelyon his own throughout, tending to emphasising the high screeching tones of the modern recorder. which are not to everyone's liking nor mine.

Eva made of it music, quite other! Her whole programme was very much a team effort, brilliantly conceived. An indication of their thorough preparation for the recital was that her accompanists, when not playing, took turns to warm Eva's instruments, thereby obviating pitch problems...

She evinced musicality throughout, exuding confidence with a relaxed manner on stage and evidently warm relationships with her partners - including an unembarrassed smile at the moment when her heavily laden music stand fell apart; small disasters can be turned into audience pluses !

Jonas Nordberg is a notable theorboist who 'drove from the bass' (as stressed importantly by Julia Bishop discussing continuo in the master class). His chosen strings (not gut) enhanced the power of an instrument which often looks better than it can be heard).

We enjoyed his complete visibility (including a hunched posture reminiscent of the young Franz Bruggen playing the recorder !) with his music stored on an iPad placed on a small stand, turning the pages unobtusively with a foot pedal - Eva, by contrary, was partly blocked to the audience's view by spreading her music on a regular stand, and the harpsichordist became invisible behind it (my illustration had to be taken with the camera nearly down on the floor to include a glimpse of Margit Kovacs !).

This programme, with its well placed variety, ought to transfer straight into a celebratory CD, which Musical Pointers looks forward to reviewing!

Peter Grahame Woolf

3rd Prize: Kerstin Fahr with Ricardo Magnus - Harpsichord
1. Anonymus (14th c) - Estampie: Principio di virtu 2. Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739) - Sonata op 2 Nr 4 in E minor (Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro) 3. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Fantasie Nr 8 G minor (Largo – Spirituoso – Allegro) 4. Jacques Paisible (1656-1721) – Sonata in G minor (Grave – Largo – Adagio – Presto) 5. Moritz Eggert (*1965) - Ausser Atem/Breathless 6. Giovanni Adolfo Hasse (1699-1783) - Cantata per Flauto B major (Allegro – Adagio – Allegro )

2nd Prize: Yi-Chang 1. Maki Ishii - East Green 2. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Fantasie Nr 8 G minor (Largo – Spirituoso – Allegro) 3. Emanuele Casale - Studio 2a 4. Toshio Hosokawa - Vertical Song 5. Jacob van Eyck - Comagain 5. Jan Rokus van Roosendael - Rotations 6. Jacob van Eyck - Stil, stil een rays 7. [Igor Stravinsky - Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo (Piece No III)