|Jill Kemp (Photo Kate Mount)|
|Jill Kemp (Photo Matt Jamie)|
There is a lot of good contemporary recorder music for recorder solo and recorder ensemble, but not so much for recorder and piano. Part of this, Jill thinks, is because the two instruments are so very different, which means there are difficulties (in fact many of the pieces commissioned by Carl Dolmetsch were for recorder and harpsichord). But when playing contemporary repertoire, Jill plays a modern recorded which is louder than the older instruments and has an extended range. She and Aleksander Szram have formed a duo since 2007, and she describes Aleksander as a very sensitive player which helps in this repertoire.
'An amazing gift'
The pieces written for Jill came about in a variety of ways. She was playing David Bedford's Recorder Concerto and he commented that he had to write something for Jill. She didn't commission him, but suddenly he wrote her a piece which she describes as 'an amazing gift'. She premiered it just two weeks after he died and it was one of the last piece that he wrote. Aleksander had worked with both Gregory Rose and Darryl Runswick, in fact they knew each other through Trinity Laban. Whilst David Bedford had obviously written for recorder before, the pieces written by Gregory Rose and by Darryl Runswick were the first works for solo recorder each composer had written.
|Jill Kemp rehearsing at Dartington with harpsichordist Claire Williams|
Gregory Rose had little experience of writing for the recorder, but Jill feels his piece worked well and it helped being able to work with him on it. Rose's piece was partly commissioned by the festival Music in Leasowes Bank, and after the composer heard Jill perform the work he changed it, having heard what she could do in the more virtuosic pieces she included in the same recital.
George King was the youngest composer on the disc. He and Jill both won a competition in Italy, and part of the prize was a group of concerts in America and his main experience of the recorder was hearing Jill playing in America on the concert tour. George King is a jazz pianist and composer, and Jill feels that their worlds are so very different, yet the piece works well.
Almost bringing the idea full circle, Jill Kemp premiered David Bedford and George King's pieces at a festival at the Royal Northern College of Music which was celebrating Carl Dolmetsch.
A really earthy piece
The only piece on Aztec Dances not written for Jill is the title track, Edward Gregson's Aztec Dances. This was written for Chris Orton, who premiered it at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in 2010. and Jill heard Chris Orton playing it at the RNCM Carl Dolmetsch festival. She describes it as a really earthy piece (not an adjective you normally associate with the recorder) and quite dramatic, including moments such as a sacrifical dance, passages at the very top end of the recorder range, and even spoken passages. These latter have to be done into the piano, to take advantage of the piano resonance and Jill comments that when she heard the recording played back she felt she sounded like Lady Macbeth! It is also a taxing piece, what Jill calls 'a big blow'. She played it at Dartington last year in a programme with Bach pieces with harpsichord accompaniment, and afterwards it felt like she had had a big workout.
Both old and new pieces
|Jill Kemp rehearsing at Dartington with pianist Gavin Roberts|
At Dartington this summer she will be performing Luciano Berio's Gesti (one of the pieces written for Frans Bruggen) which she describes as being like one of the Sequenzas. In Gesti Berio splits up the three elements of recording playing, breath, tongue and fingers, and treats them independently. When learning it, Jill started to look at the music away from her recorder but realised she needed the recorder too, to make sense of it. It is not a piece to be learned quickly.
'Because I love it'
|Jill Kemp performing at Keiskamma in South Africa|
Jill did play the flute whilst at school, so that she could play in the school orchestra, and she also plays the piano and has done a lot of singing (at one point working as an actor/musician), but it is clear that the recorder remains Jill's focus and passion.
She sees so much going on in the recorder world at the moment, with so many talented young players. Jill feels that the recorder fell out of fashion after the Renaissance and Baroque periods, so that the instrument never developed further, though it is doing now (we have a diversion in our conversation about the Paetzold recorders which I heard BLOCK4 play at the London Handel showcase, see my review). But it is still a slow burn, and Jill thinks that you only have to look at the things Frans Bruggen was doing when he was young recorder player to realise that recorder playing and composition is only developing slowly. Not only did Berio write Gesti for Bruggen, but Louis Andriessen wrote Sweet for him, a work which Jill describes as very difficult, impossible!
|Jill Kemp performing at |
Keiskamma in South Africa
Jill and Aleksander are also giving some fundraising concerts for the music academy in Keiskamma in South Africa. Jill describes it as an amazing place. She went out there to give concerts and masterclasses and was struck by the children's energy and enthusiasm (she describes them as 'fired up') despite the school not having tables and chairs, and having rooms where the roofs are crumbling. Jill hopes that her UK concerts will not only raise much needed funds, but will also raise Keiskamma's profile in the UK. The concerts are on 6 May at Sophie’s Barn, Chacombe, Oxfordshire and on 20 May at Lauderdale House, London.
She will be teaching at Dartington again this summer. She has taught there since 2008 and loves the summer school's atmosphere with its mix of young students (some as young as 14 or 15), college graduates and older amateurs. Teaching and encouraging others to play the recorder is another theme which crops up regularly in our discussion. Jill goes into schools to perform for young recorder players, feeling that if she had not heard Michala Petri she would not have taken up the recorder seriously and so wanting to give other young players the possibility.
But, she found that there was a problem that children in some schools were taught by people who cannot play the recorder, and she saw children developing bad playing habits. So she is developing Recorder Revolution, where her new website will be providing resources including videos to help people get it right from the start.
Full details of Jill Kemp's forthcoming concerts from her website.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- We're crowdfunding for Quickening, a disc of new settings of Rowan Williams, AE Housman, Ivor Gurney, Christina Rossetti by Robert Hugill coming out on the Navona Records label, please visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/quickening
- Slow burn: Sondra Radvanovsky at Rosenblatt Recitals - Concert review
- Nancy Cunard invites: Handel's Partenope at ENO - opera review
- Festa Veneziana: Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School - concert review
- Youth Brahms: Serenades from Gävle on Ondine - Cd review
- Birthday double bill: Noah Mosley's Mad King Suibhne and L'Ospedale at Bury Court Opera - Opera review
- Live in HD: La traviata from the Met - Opera review
- Intoxicating mix: ZRI's Schubert at the Red Hedghog - CD review
- Pointed delight: Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience from ETO
- Its heart in the right place: ETO's Tosca - Opera review
- Sacred and Profane: Netherlands Chamber Choir and Peter Dijkstra - Concert review