Exploring the performance decisions of recorder players working in London theatres between 1670-1730

Olwen Foulkes

This project explores the performance decisions of recorder players working in London theatres between 1670-1730. With particular focus on their use of different sizes of recorders and ornamentation styles, the project investigates their specific performance practices whilst deepening our understanding of early eighteenth-century attitudes to transposition, fingering systems, and the practise of arrangement or transcription.

In the seventy years that followed the restoration of the monarchy, London was home to several accomplished recorder players who were professional multi-instrumentalists of French, Italian, Dutch, and English heritage. These recorder players performed chamber music in London’s public concert scene, thriving theatre entertainments, and events for the aristocracy as well as having regular employment on other instruments in the opera theatre orchestras. The players of interest include James Paisible (Fr), Jean-Christian Kytch (NL), John Baston and John Baptist Grano (UK) amongst others. The repertoire in question constitutes music written by or for the recorder players and music that there is primary source evidence to suggest they performed or extemporised.

Image Credit: © Ethnie Foulkes (2019)

My research combines a study of musical manuscripts, diaries, and other extant written documentation with an exploration of non-notated practises implicit in instrumental performance. My methodology also includes working with instrument makers on specific instrument copies built from surviving original models and a practical investigation into the way that they play. By investigating the different educational backgrounds of each individual historical player and expanding the current knowledge of their social groups and the styles of their immediate colleagues, I am building contextualized lenses through which to play their music. Much of this experimentation is done in collaboration with my colleagues in Ensemble Augelletti which I formed as part of this project in 2019.

The early stages of this research have created programmes for Ensemble Augelletti to perform in several concert series (including at York, London, and Brighton early music festivals) and a short documentary series ‘Theatre Stories’ for The Foundling Museum. My initial research into the repertoire performed during the interval entertainments involving recorder players at the Drury Lane theatre was released as a CD entitled ‘Indoor Fireworks’ on BCR in 2019.

Header Image Credit: © Owain Park (2020)


If you would like to find out more about this project, please don't hesitate to get in touch:

Olwen Foulkes

Sarah Callis (Supervisor)

Elizabeth Kenny (Supervisor)