Musician of the Month: Caoimhe de Paor
Recorder player Caoimhe de Paor performs a sell out concert on Thursday 9 April 2015 of early 17th and 18th century Italian music.
Your concert on the 9 April will explore the Stylus Phantasticus movement. Could you explain what this is?
The Stylus Phantasticus movement is a particular style of early Baroque music. The root of this music is organ tocattas and fantasias, particularly derived from those of Claudio Merulo (1533–1604), organist at St Mark’s basilica in Venice. The author, scientist and inventor, a true baroque polymath, Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) describes the Stylus Phantasticus in these words: “The fantastic style is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues.” The style is related to improvisation but is characterised by the use of short contrasting episodes and a free form, just like a classical fantasia. In my mind, this programme will explore repertoire of an improvisational and variation nature, showcasing how the style travelled from Italy to other countries in Europe.
What are the origins of the recorder and why do you think it became such a popular instrument in the 17th and 18th centuries?
The recorder originated from, and is the most highly developed member of, the ancient family of internal duct-flutes or fipple flutes, flutes with a fixed windway formed by a wooden plug or block. It became a very popular instrument in the 17th and 18th centuries because, having been developed through the Medieval and Renaissance times where it was played most often as an ensemble and consort/choir instrument, it was completely redesigned in the Baroque era. It was now being made in three pieces instead of two, had a narrower bore, was given a more pronounced taper, and as a result had a fully chromatic range of two octaves, if not more. These new innovations allowed the Baroque recorder to possess a tone which was regarded as sweeter and more expressive than that of the earlier instruments, at the expense of a reduction in volume, making it more suitable as a solo instrument. Because of this new precision in design it meant that performers could play around with alternative fingers to achieve varying dynamics too, always an exciting and challenging aspect of recorder playing! Composers such as Handel, Bach and Vivaldi began to write for them specifically, distinguishing them from the transverse flute.
Recorders come in all shapes and sizes, do you have a favourite?
Recorders do come in all shapes and sizes. There is so much more than first meets the eye. There are recorders from 6 inches to 6 feet tall. At the moment, my favourite recorder is my Renaissance G alto. It is possibly because I’m enjoying the repertoire that I’m playing on it. It’s a very juicy, loud, round tone that can be pushed to great limits of volume! With regards to the Baroque recorders, I enjoy playing tenor recorder. It’s low, but warm and sweet. Since I was a child I’ve had a soft spot for it. I also have a 415 alto made by Tim Cranmore that I forget how much I like until I play it. There’s too many to choose from. I think it depends on how it is made/what wood it is made from. I also think it depends on the repertoire I’m playing, how much I enjoy that particular music, and how I can manipulate my recorder and choose what recorder best suits and brings the particular musical style to life. Long answer to a simple question!
What are you up to at the moment? Are you still studying?
Right now, I am enjoying creating a lifestyle around my music-making. It’s my first year out in the real world, and out of the intense bubble that is music conservatoire life, of which I was in for seven years. I’m beginning to forge my trajectory as a freelance musician, performing and teaching. I do some private teaching, as well as Whole Class recorder and small groups of woodwind with Waltham Forest and Redbridge Music Services (I also play the clarinet). At the moment, my performance work consists of programming and rehearsing for solo concerts at home in Ireland for some music festivals there, and I recently played for an opera production at Wilton’s Music Hall. I’m also performing with my recorder quartet, Palisander, for corporate events, workshops and concerts/competitions, and am enjoying playing with recorder consort WoodWork (students and alumni of GSMD) every so often….and as part of my new, balanced lifestyle…it’s great to have the time to get back to my love for running!
What have been the highlights of Handel House Talent so far?
I’ve really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the lovely Ellie Robertson, a fellow Handel House Talent participant and recorder player. It was great to perform together for a recent Handel House event where we met some of the generous people supporting Handel House Talent. It’s always nice when you find someone who you click with on a playing level. I’m looking forward to the lectures coming up in April and am excited about sharing this fantastic repertoire on April 9th, and showing the capabilities of this, often mistaken, instrument.