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Arresting Playing

A recital by Althea Ifeka and Katherine May,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Althea Ifeka and Katherine May's recital of mainly baroque music -- and much of it little-known, at that -- was not an obvious box-office draw, but there was a good-sized audience for this highly attractive programme. Based on the idea of the 18th-century European grand tour, it underlined just how mobile musicians of the time were in pursuit of career opportunities, and how readily music circulated among the main European centres.

The evening took a little while to get fully into its stride, but there was some arresting playing throughout. The opening of Vivaldi's C minor Sonata RV53 was notable for May's strong, big-boned opening statement and the pliant lyricism of Ifeka's reply, typical of the lively sense of interaction between the two players. In Bach's Sonata BWV 1030, best known as a flute sonata, they brought great textural clarity to the finale's fugal first half, while there was an infectious rhythmic bounce to the gigue-like conclusion.

Adding some 20th-century spice to the evening, Ifeka and May were lucid guides to the changing moods of Gordon Jacob's Sonatina, bringing off the witty ending with a delightfully light touch.

Althea Ifeka and Katherine May. Photo © John Clark
Althea Ifeka and Katherine May. Photo © John Clark

May gave a wonderfully sonorous performance of Louis Couperin's C major Passacaille and a commendably brisk and lively one of the familiar Air and Variations from Handel's Fifth Harpsichord Suite. Ifeka made a convincing case for the oboe d'amore in one of Telemann's solo flute fantasies, and for the cor anglais in Henry Eccles' G minor Sonata, in which she was joined by May in a reading alternately plaintive and nimble.

The pieces were linked by a well-researched and informative commentary, though a more informal, conversational style of delivery would have conveyed the information more effectively.

Copyright © 22 March 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


Oboist Althea Ifeka and harpsichordist Katherine May gave their Derby Chamber Music recital on 17 March 2006 at Murray Park School, Mickleover, Derby, UK.

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