(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips.)
Gordon Jacob: Sonatina (1963) (oboe & harpsichord)
Adagio - Allegro giocoso - Lento alla Sarabanda - Allegro vivace
J S Bach: Sonata in D, BWV 1028 (oboe d'amore & harpsichord)
without indication - without indication - Andante - Allegro
Stephen Dodgson: Suite in D (1972) (oboe & harpsichord)
Prelude - Ground - Canzonet - Dance
J S Bach: Sonata in G, BWV 1027 (cor anglais & harpsichord)
Adagio - Allegro ma non tanto - Andante - Allegro moderato
Elizabeth Maconchy: Three Bagatelles (1972) (oboe & harpsichord) Allegro - Poco lento, tempo libero - Vivo
J S Bach: Sonata in G minor, BWV 1020 (oboe & harpsichord)
(Allegro) - Adagio - Allegro
Michael Head: Siciliana (1972) (oboe & harpsichord)
The oboe played an important role in eighteenth-century musical society, with composers such as Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann making wide use of it as a solo, chamber and orchestral instrument. A favourite with J.S. Bach, the oboe and its family featured significantly in the composer's life in Leipzig where many of his large scale choral works were produced.
During the nineteenth century, the instrument was almost entirely relegated to the orchestra; only a handful of composers regarded it as a suitable solo instrument. However it was revived in the twentieth century by pioneers such as Léon Goossens and Janet Craxton studying, performing and teaching in London. Other players helping to reaffirm the musical capabilities of the oboe as a solo instrument included Evelyn Rothwell (Lady Barbirolli), who with her duo partner Valda Aveling (harpsichord) realized the potential of combining these two instruments. They encouraged some of England's most respected composers to use the harpsichord in duo sonata form for the first time since the eighteenth century, and this CD presents four pieces which were written for them in 1963 and 1972. Copyright Althea Ifeka and Katharine May 2005
Althea Ifeka and Katharine May began their association in 1994 as scholars on the Countess of Munster Musical Trust Recital Scheme, and have given numerous recitals at music clubs, festivals and universities throughout the United Kingdom. In 1996 they broadcast for both Classic FM and RTE Ireland, and also undertook a concert tour of Eire, co-sponsored by the British Council. This is their first CD.
Born in Nigeria of Nigerian and English parentage, Althea Ifeka began studying the oboe at the age of eleven with Sharman Pretty at the Canberra School of Music, Australia. Four years later she was awarded the Australian Music Examinations Board Licentiate Performance Diploma. She later read Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, where she was also a University Choral and Instrumental Scholar, before completing her education at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. Whilst at the RAM she won prizes for the interpretation of eighteenth-century chamber music and for orchestral playing. In 1992 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for doctoral study at the Eastman School of Music in the United States.
Permanently based in London since 1994, Althea has played numerous concertos at venues including the Purcell Room, St John's Smith Square and the Proms at Marble Hill Park, and in July 1996 she gave the British première of The Songs of the Magi by the African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork. In addition to her solo playing, Althea has a busy orchestral career working as both Guest Principal Oboe and Cor Anglais with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Concert Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and Matthew Bourne's New Adventures Orchestra at Sadlers' Wells Theatre.
As a teacher, Althea runs a large private teaching practice, teaches at summer music festivals, and has given masterclasses at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.
In March 2007 she won third prize at the Paris/Ville d'Avray International Oboe Interpretation Competition, becoming the first British prizewinner in the competition's 10-year history.
Katharine May studied the harpsichord at the Royal College of Music in London with Ruth Dyson and Robert Woolley. Whilst there she won many prizes for her solo and continuo playing, and upon graduation was awarded the Raymond Fennell Prize for the best degree of the year. She has since studied with Jill Severs in London, and at the Accademia Muisicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, where for four years she was given a scholarship to study with Kenneth Gilbert. During her final year, Katharine received the Accademia's highest award, the Diploma of Honour.
Katharine has given numerous concerts for music clubs, universities, the National Trust and music festivals including the Belfast and Sligo Early Music Festivals, and the London Handel Festival. She has made recordings for Central Television and TVS playing authentic keyboard instruments, and has recorded three CDs with The Windsor Box & Fir Company for Isis Records. In 1997, Katharine made her debut at the Wigmore Hall, where she was described by a critic from The Times as 'the evening's feisty and urbane harpsichordist'. She has been a tutor at Morley College, London, and also writes for Early Music Today and Music Teacher.
"The documentation for this CD is seriously impressive. So many recording companies supply minimalist background for their products. However, Oboe Classics provides what in my opinion are near perfect programme notes. This is a 24-page booklet that includes an impressive 3500 word essay - given in English and in German. These notes are written by the performers and are erudite, entertaining and useful. The quality of the sound is perfect for this kind of music. I could just shut my eyes and imagine that this was being presented ‘live’ in my music room. John France, MusicWeb International. For the full review, click here.
"Not having heard Althea play since the outset of her career, it is most inspiring to hear her now, several years on, performing with such fluency and authority... What I enjoyed most was their playing of the Bach Gamba Sonatas... the tempi are well chosen and both players show an innate sensitivity and understanding of Baroque articulation. The slow movements have spacious singing quality and the faster ones are buoyant and dance-like...
These sonatas certainly pose challenges for the oboist in terms of stamina and breath control, but Althea's playing is effortless and I could just sit back and enjoy the Duo's music-making without a trace of anxiety - what a treat!"Tess Miller (one of Althea's former teachers), Double Reed News (UK)
"No enthusiast of the oboe can afford to be without this collection. This is music-making of the highest order." Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International. (There are two reviews on this site.) For the full review, click here.
"I've just been listening to the sound clips - and love them! The interleaving of baroque and 20th century pieces with harpsichord is an inspired idea." TE, Muscat, Oman
"I have listened to it endlessly ... that longest note in one of the pieces makes me think Althea Ifeka must have an extra lung! The new (to me) composers mixed with the familiar make this a wonderful CD." VP, Harpenden
"Superb CD - lovely, lovely recording ... absolutely great!" PB, London