Music ‘A la mode’: Entertainments for an English Gentleman
The eighteenth century saw a rapid rise in ‘genteel’ music-making in England, fuelled both by an easy availability of sheet music and a new fashion for amateur instrument playing. Popular arias from London’s opera houses and pleasure gardens were eagerly re-created in the domestic setting, whilst the larger country houses could play host to some of the famous musicians of the day. Passacaglia’s programme includes small-scale music by both native and ‘adopted’ English composers (including Arne, Handel and Geminiani), together with a helping of music in the highly fashionable Scottish folk style.
The programme:
G F Handel – Trio Sonata op 2 no 4
JC Pepusch – Cantata ‘Corydon’
CF Abel – Pieces for solo viola da gamba
Scottish Trad. Arr J Corfe – Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament
F Geminiani – Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament
TA Arne – Where the Bee Sucks (from The Tempest)
When Isicles Hang on the Wall (from Love’s Labour’s Lost)
Under the Greenwood Tree (from As You Like It)
Fly Fly to Yon Vale (A Pastoral)
GF Handel – Air and Variations, from Suite for Harpsichord
Gentle Morpheus, Son of Night (from Aleceste)
F Geminiani – The Night Her Silent Sable Wore

For many years the baroque ensemble Passacaglia has been acclaimed for its engaging and charismatic performances of seventeenth and eighteenth century chamber music, featuring the unique sound of recorders, flutes, violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. Featuring some of the UK’s leading period instrument players, the ensemble has appeared at London’s Wigmore Hall and Southbank and has toured in Scotland, Scandinavia, Ireland and America. The ensemble has featured on numerous BBC and worldwide radio broadcasts and has so far recorded six albums, for Linn Records, Naxos and BCR (the ensemble’s own in-house label) including their newest album, Vivaldi Undercover.

For this concert, they are joined by soprano Gillian Keith.

 The best historically informed performances and recordings recreate the spirit as well as the sound of the music, and the now well-established group Passacaglia do just that, combining the two to make a performance of irrepressible joy.  Gramophone

Annabel Knight (recorders, flutes)

Annabel has established a successful performing and teaching career as a recorder player and historical flautist, which has taken her across the UK, Europe, America and the Middle East. As well as working with Passacaglia, she is a member of the recorder quintet Fontanella, and has also collaborated with other ensembles including the Maggini String Quartet, with whom she recorded an album of Gordon Jacob’s recorder music, for the Naxos label. Annabel can also be heard playing on film soundtracks including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Fantastic Mr Fox and Philomena. More recently she has also enjoyed performing with the band Art of Moog on an EWI (an electronic wind synthesizer).

Oliver Webber (violin)

Oliver has established a reputation for an eclectic and adventurous approach to historical performance. As director of the Monteverdi String Band, he has researched improvised ornamentation, the early history of the violin family and the relationship between poetry and music. He has appeared as a soloist at major London venues, and as guest leader with Gabrieli Consort, English Baroque Soloists, the Hanover Band and the London Handel Orchestra. Oliver makes his own gut strings, and has acted as “string consultant” for many individuals and orchestras.

Reiko Ichise (viola da gamba)

Tokyo born Reiko moved to the UK in 1991 and has now established herself as one of the leading gamba players in the UK. As a soloist, she has performed with many leading orchestras including Academy of Ancient Music, Gabrieli Consort, English Baroque Soloists, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, appearing in many international festivals. Reiko is in great demand as a chamber musician and member of prestigious ensembles such as Passacaglia, Florilegium and the Bach Players. From 2008 for 9 years she was a member of award-winning ensemble, Fretwork, with whom she had the privilege of performing consort music, both old and new.

Robin Bigwood (harpsichord)

Robin won the Broadwood Harpsichord Competition in 1995 and nowadays enjoys a career combining solo recitals, chamber music and orchestral continuo. Robin is a member of Feinstein Ensemble and has also worked with London Baroque, The Sixteen, King’s Consort, Florilegium and Northern Sinfonia. He also directs the ensemble Art of Moog, formed in 2018, which performs Bach live on multiple synthesizers.

Gillian Keith (soprano)

Originally from Toronto, Canada, now living in London UK, Gillian has emerged as one of the leading lyric sopranos of the 21st century. Her superb voice and musicianship are at home both on the opera stage and on the concert platform‚ making her one of the most stylish and versatile artists of her generation. A past winner of both the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award and the ROSL Singing Prize, Gillian has performed leading operatic roles in international opera houses and festivals including Royal Opera, English National Opera, Scottish Opera and Boston Early Music Festival.

Her concert repertoire is wide and varied, and has taken her to some of the most prestigious stages around the world, including the BBC Proms, Sydney Opera House, Edinburgh Festival and London’s Wigmore Hall, in works ranging from Bach Cantatas, to Mozart’s C Minor Mass, to Oliver Knussen’s Symphony No. 2.

 They have played together for many years now ... and there is an effortlessness about the sound – no matter which combination of instruments is involved, there is never a sense of one striving to take the lead: rather the voices balance one another ... finely crafted performances from a star line-up.  Early Music Review

Passacaglia has a Website

[Picture Credits: Clare Park (of Gillian); Picture Partership (others)]