Charlotte Barbour-Condini, London Octave
St Martin in the Fields
Friday 04 January 2013
To ‘record’ derives from the Latin recordari, ‘to remember’, and that’s what medieval English minstrels did with the instrument to which they gave this name.
In Europe, recorders were known as ‘flutes’, and when Baroque music came to England, so did that nomenclature for the instrument, which only reverted to ‘recorder’ in the 19th century. The warm and breathy sound of this simple instrument has great charm when played in a consort, as Samuel Pepys noted excitedly after a concert: the sweet wind-music ‘did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife’.
In medieval Italian art, angels played recorders in threes to symbolise the Trinity, but the instrument also had erotic connotations: two bound together signified sexual union, while one alone could signify male self-gratification, as in the English phrase ‘playing his flute’.
This ‘easy’ instrument has always endeared itself to educators and amateurs – Henry VIII ‘exercised himself dailie’ on it – and when the Dolmetsch recorder went into industrial production it became enshrined in the primary school curriculum.
In the 1960s its serious potential was rediscovered by the early-music brigade led by the tragically short-lived David ‘Pied Piper’ Munrow, since when a number of dedicated virtuosi have shown what spells can be cast with it. And the latest of these virtuosi is 16-year-old Charlotte Barbour-Condini: playing Baroque concerti with London Octave, she lifted what would otherwise have been a pretty run-of-the-mill concert onto an altogether higher plane.
Using an alto recorder for Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto in C minor’, she led the unison strings with assurance, before taking off on solo flights with passage-work of impressive precision. Her phrasing in the Largo was so subtly-shaded that she might have been playing the flute proper, which was no mean achievement; her cadenza was both adventurous and refined, and in Sammartini’s ‘Concerto in F’ she employed a descant instrument with remarkable lightness and agility.
All this raises an intriguing prospect if she decides to focus exclusively on the recorder, rather than dividing her energies, as she does now, between that and the violin she plays as leader of the Hackney Youth Orchestra. Brilliant young violinists are ten-a-penny, but recorder virtuosi are rarities – and nobody else has this talented girl’s sunny charisma. One to watch.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Twin Peaks series 3: Man behind the 'dark, cloying and obsessive' original soundtrack returns to work with David Lynch
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show's most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people