Musician of the Month: The Denner Ensemble
The Denner Ensemble formed in 2001 when Karen, Nat and Mark decided it would be fun to explore repertoire based around the oboe and bassoon.
Why do you think Handel loved woodwind instruments, even though they were in “danger of being side-lined by the increasing popularity of the violin”?
Handel liked woodwind instruments because they were strong and colourful – rather like his personality. He had learnt many of them in his youth too. Orchestras were very often in his music woodwind heavy i.e. 6 oboes to 8 violins and equal bassoons to cellos. This is rarely done these days even in period groups. A real shame. We love the fact that our ensemble is not violin centric and that woodwind is at the fore.
Explain your approach to chamber music for winds by Handel. What makes the Denner Ensemble’s interpretation unique?
Regarding Handel’s chamber music we like to approach it with vigour and zest! – the string players would have to join with us – our style and attack rather than us with them, and in this programme for oboe recorder and bassoon, we like to draw out the elements of virtuosity and tenderness. Our uniqueness is being approachable. People continually say how immediate the playing is and that the introductory talks are relaxed and humorous making for an accessible concert for all. We like to enjoy making music and this comes across to the audience. We have a strong attention to detail and colour but above all want to affect the audience by pushing on the emotional elements of the music.
What is the ensemble’s favourite piece to perform and why?
We actually rather like French music if all be said and done! – I would say one of our favourite pieces is Rebel’s Les characteres de la dance. In it we move through the dances, various moods and colours with agility and the lightness and vivaciousness of French style.
What do you enjoy most about performing Handel’s pieces?
Handel’s music can be some of the finest – it can also be some of the most mundane! – It’s great music for making something of in that it lends itself to ornamentation as you will hear in the oboe sonata and a chance to make a piece your own which is always great for any musician. We love the fact that Handel wrote with ease and energy and you can hear that he enjoyed making music with friends as well as thinking about the business.