Musician of the Month: Elspeth Robertson
Recorder player Elspeth Robertson performs a sell out concert on Thursday 23 April 2015 of the diverse range of repertoire for the recorder.
As part of the Handel House Talent concert series in March-April 2015, we spotlight each musician talking about their programme, instrument and progress with the scheme. Recorder player Elspeth Robertson performs a sell out concert on Thursday 23 April 2015 of the diverse range of repertoire for the recorder.
What attracted you to the recorder?
Initially, I started learning the recorder, as most young children do, in the early years of school. As I progressed through school, I played a variety of other instruments (such as the cello, clarinet, piano), but I kept coming back to the recorder as my main focus. I suspect that having had a large amount of exposure to historical music from an early age at home made me feel more comfortable with early repertoire. I played in recorder consorts from around the age of eight and was very much drawn to the sound created by all the different sizes of recorder. I was definitely attracted to music of the Baroque period above all others; it became my favourite to play and the recorder the instrument I felt most natural with. I am still passionate at trying new instruments out and am determined to pass my grade 1 violin next term.
Your concert on the 23 April will explore the range of repertoire in Europe from the 17th and 18th centuries. Was there one country in particular that pioneered the recorder’s popularity?
The Recorder has always had strong links with Germany and the Netherlands – indeed, a large amount of orginal mediaeval instruments were discovered by archaeologists in these regions. However the first known treatise for recorder players was published in Venice in 1535– Ganassi’s ‘Fontegara’, a time when the arts were really flourishing and the instrument was in popular demand. In England Henry VII was very fond of the recorder, owning over 70 different sized ones himself; he also employed members of the Ganassi family from Italy to provide fine consort music within his court.
You will be showcasing a range of recorders including the 18th century Voice flute. Could you explain what it is?
The Voiceflute is slightly smaller in size than the tenor recorder and is in D (it’s lowest note being just a tone higher than the tenor). The instrument was particularly popular in England during the 18th Century, and was largely used to play repertoire of the Baroque Flute; having the same range and pitch. The repertoire output therefore is mainly French; however the instrument is used by Bach as an obbligato solo in his Cantatas BWV 161 and BWV 152. Also known as ‘flauto di voce’ in Italian or ‘flute de voix’ in French, the origin of the Voice flute’s name is unknown but has been compared to having the range of a Soprano voice. It has a beautiful depth to the sound and I love playing French music on this instrument.
What are you up to at the moment? Are you still studying?
I am no longer studying, having completed my Masters Degree in Historical Performance from The Royal College of Music with distinction in September 2014. Currently I am dividing my time between various chamber ensembles – my recorder trio ‘Tre Nova’ who specialise in music of the renaissance; my baroque ensemble ‘Medici’, with whom I play both recorder and baroque oboe; orchestral freelancing; and teaching. I have just returned from an exciting John Passion tour in Salzburg with Vittorio Ghielmi conducting, and am looking forward to performing St. Matthew Passion at The Royal Festival Hall with Florilegium in several weeks time. Alongside music I am a very keen horse rider and have just passed my PTR level 1.
What have been the highlights of Handel House Talent so far?
The highlight so far has been performing a duo recital with Caoimhe de Paor for a Handel House Event in the intimate setting of the house belonging to J M Barrie, author of Peter Pan. It was an absolutely gorgeous setting – a very exquisite grand house overlooking Hyde park. We explored and shared a range of repertoire from Henry VII, Telemann and Loeillet amongst others. It is not often the opportunity arises for duo recitals so was a real treat to perform alongside Caoimhe.