Thursday 8 September 2011

Alison Teale - passion for the cor anglais.

If you think about the cor anglais as a solo instrument, then probably a long breathed, melancholic melody comes to mind when the instrument gets a solo moment during an orchestral work, playing something long, slow and lovely. Alison Teale, the principal cor anglais player with the BBC Symphony Orchestra is positive that there is more to the instrument than that and is keen share her enthusiasm with others. To that end she has produced an album of music for solo cor anglais which is coming out at the end of this month. It is probably the first all cor anglais recital record, certainly in the UK.

Called Cor! the album's title is something a pun which hardly translates to other countries (the rest of the English speaking work calls the instrument an English Horn and the expression 'cor' is a particularly English one). But the title reflects Teale's desire to bring the instrument into the lime-light and show it off, to introduce it to a wider, livelier repertoire. We met at the Albert Hall to talk about the new album and her desire to bring the cor anglais to a wider audience.

The cor anglais has a relatively limited solo repertoire; major moments include a concerto by Donizetti and Copland's Quiet City, plus music by Hindemith, Rubbra, and Lennox Berkely. It has been taken up by contemporary composers including Simon Bainbridge, though players usually have to steal from other instruments. Teale has commissioned a piece, Bebop Tango, from David Gordon for the new CD, a deliberately fun piece which reflects the eclectic nature of the works on the new CD with composers ranging from de Falla and Piazzolla to Messiaen and Lucchetti.

Like most orchestra musicians, Teale juggles her orchestra playing committments with other outside work including teaching at the Guildhall and she relishes the variety that this brings. She conveys her enthusiasm for the instrument with passion and is keen to demonstrate that there is far more to the instrument than we currently perceive. Though the cor anglais is very similar to the oboe from a technical point of view and sounds a 5th lower, its tone qualities are very different. Its warm, dark brown tones are immensely seductive, its timbre fruiter than the oboe's. It takes more physical effort to play than the oboe and Teale feels that for her this affects the way she approaches the instrument. If it has a drawback it is that it is not a loud instrument, it does not always easily penetrate the orchestra.

Teale wants to persuade people to experiment more and hopes that the CD and plans to publish an album of pieces for the instrument will contribute to this. To bring a bit of fun to the repertoire, making a change from Dvorak and the Swan in the Carnival of the Animals. Given Teale's infectious enthusiasm, her new CD promises to show the Cor Anglais stepping out in a new light.

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