AAM SpotifySundays | with Davina Clarke

A weekly ‘concert’ taken from the finest recordings in the extensive Academy of Ancient Music catalogue: join us each Sunday at 3pm on Spotify as we unveil a new playlist of music, personally chosen by AAM players, directors, soloists and guests.

Academy of Ancient Music violinist Davina Clarke joined us  Sunday 11 October 2020 to share her #SpotifySundays playlist. A superb performer, Davina maintains a busy concertising and teaching schedule whilst sharing insights through podcasts and films on social media and beyond. Here, Davina’s programme illustrates some of her most memorable projects along with favourite and formative recordings from the AAM archives.

Davina performs around the world with the UK’s most highly regarded period ensembles – the Academy of Ancient Music, the English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Dunedin Consort and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, among others. After study at The University of Manchester and the Royal Academy of Music under Simon Standage and Rachel Podger, Davina continues her long association with the Royal Academy as a Guest Principal in the Kohn Bach Cantata Series and has recently been made Associate of the RAM for her outstanding contribution to the music industry. Her most recent engagements have included the BBC Proms, extensive European and USA tours of Beethoven, Handel and Berlioz under Sir John Eliot Gardiner as well as performances at the Royal Albert Hall with her own ensemble.

Davina is founder and host of ‘The Classical Corner’, a podcast which takes listeners behind the scenes of the classical music world today, through discussions with highly regarded musicians. In partnership with The Connaught Hotel, she explores the relationship between classical music and cocktails in her YouTube series, ‘Martini Melody’ which is co-hosted with Agostino Perrone, the Head of Mixology at the Connaught Bar.

A passionate advocate of chamber music, Davina performs regularly with fellow members of the English Baroque Soloists, as well as frequently traveling to the United States for solo and chamber recitals.

Davina plays on a 1659 Francesco Ruggieri violin.

Follow Davina on Instagram and YouTube, and find out more on her website.

 

‘I’m choosing my playlist on a wet and dreary October morning. The raindrops are lashing against the windowpanes and as I sit with my steaming tea and scented candles, it is suddenly obvious what would lift my spirits today… and that is some John Dowland.

This recording, expertly sung by the incredible Barbara Bonney accompanied by Jacob Heringman, makes my heart soar. The combination of Dowland’s simplicity and complexity in these lute works from 1597 and 1600 is something that I simply adore. Barbara’s emotive interpretation of the text is incredibly touching and evocative. Her sometimes breathy, sometimes direct vocal clarity is perfect for this repertoire and it is just heaven to listen to.

Purcell has been a true love of mine from childhood. Many people don’t know that I used to sing a huge amount alongside my violin playing. I actually received a choral scholarship to Cambridge and almost went on to pursue my masters in vocal studies! However, I caught the historical performance bug just in time, and after studying the baroque course at the Royal Academy, I am fully immersed in this wonderful early music world of interpretation as a violinist. 

I remember learning ‘Sweeter than Roses’ in my teens and being struck by the juxtapositions of moods and tempi throughout; something I had never experienced before and which I found hugely exciting and intriguing. This recording selection demonstrates Purcell’s incredible writing, which marked him as one of the most iconic English composers of his time. The opening majesty of his Chacony in G Minor paired with the following songs, sung beautifully by Silvia McNair, rounded off by his Slow Air sums up Purcell for me: pure, emotive, exciting, unexpected and just… aaaah!

ALBUM: ‘Baroque Journey’ – Lucie Horsh, Thomas Dunford, Richard Egarr
VAN EYCK: Der Fluyten Lust-Hof: 130. Lavolette
TOLLETT: Divisions on a Ground
MARAIS (ARR. HORSCH): Couplets de Folies

This was the most wonderful project to be a part of. It was fantastic to work with Lucie Horsch and to perform this programme with her around Holland to warm and inviting audiences. Lucie is a superb musician and there was a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere within the ensemble on the tour. Here are a few selections of my favourites from our disk, which demonstrate Lucie’s incredible technique and musicianship and also Tom Dunford’s beautiful theorbo playing.

This work has a very special place in my heart. Several years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited back to the Royal Academy as a soloist to perform the Bach Double alongside Rachel Podger as part of a project with the Juilliard School in New York. It was an absolute dream to stand in front of a packed Lincoln Center with new and old friends and to perform this masterpiece. The tour took us to New York, Boston, London and Leipzig, where we played in the iconic Thomaskirche by Bach’s grave as part of the Bach Festival which was incredible. 

This AAM recording of Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins is absolutely wonderful. The combination of Rachel and Andrew’s energy is very exciting and in the second movement, mesmerising and sensual. Listening to this brings back memories of performing with Rachel and also the combination of the Royal Academy of Music and Academy of Ancient Music, both of which have been very important chapters in my life so far.

I have to also include a movement from Bach’s Concerto for 3 Harpsichords as it is just fabulous and makes me smile. The three violin parts just soar and the energy is infectious, not to mention the mind-blowing speed of the string crossing at 02.28!

ALBUM: ‘The Dark Side of Vivaldi’ – Monica Hugget, Elizabeth Wilcock, Christopher Hogwood
ALBUM: ‘Vivaldi Concerti Opp. 3,4,8&9’ – Simon Standage, Christopher Hogwood

VIVALDI: Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Two Violins, Cello and Strings RV 578: II. Allegro
VIVALDI: Concerto No. 3 in G minor, RV 334, I. Allegro
VIVALDI: Concerto No. 5 in A minor, RV 358, I. Adagio, Presto

Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico or ‘The Harmonic Inspiration’ is a set of 12 concertos for stringed instrument and was published in Amsterdam in 1711. I have chosen three movements of different concertos, because we need some Italian fire here to shake things up a little! The reason I adore this recording so much is that it’s a showcase for the original pioneers of the historically informed performance movement. We have Simon Standage, Monica Huggett and Elizabeth Wilcock to name a few, dazzling us with their interpretation of Vivaldi’s writing, all with Christopher Hogwood at the helm. I couldn’t think of a better combination. The timbre of each soloist matches each other perfectly and excitement is kept throughout with wonderful execution of terrifyingly fast passages.

ALBUM: ‘Handel: Brockes-Passion’ – Tim Mead, Elizabeth Watts, Robert Murray, Cody Quattlebaum, Morgan Pearse, Gwilym Bowen, Rachael Lloyd, Ruby Hughes, Nicky Spence, Richard Egarr et al.
HANDEL: Brockes-Passion HWV 48: I. Symphonia, 99. Brich, brüllender Abgrund, 90. Pfui! Seht mir doch den neuen König an!

This recording of Handel’s Brockes-Passion was a huge achievement during my time on trial as Principal Second violin with AAM. It was an enormous undertaking and an extremely exciting project. The score had been beautifully re-imagined by our Principal Oboist, Leo Duarte and resulted in a wonderful new edition which we performed and recorded all over a few days. Handel uses his Concerto Grosso Op 3, No 2. in this opening Symphonia which is peppy and uplifting and was a joy to play with Bojan Čičić. I remember us frantically trying to get this track down well into the night after an adrenaline fuelled performance at the Barbican earlier that day. As a treat, we were sipping martinis on stage to take the edge off during recording…. it was Good Friday after all! I’m thrilled with how it turned out.  The terrifying aria ‘Brich, brüllender Abgrund’, sung brilliantly by Nicky Spence is another of my favourites from the disk… ‘Break, roaring abyss, disintegrate, tear apart, you globe!’

ALBUM: ‘Bach: Magnificat in D, etc’ – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury
BACH: ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zaden’ BWV12 (G minor version), Sinfonia; Sei getreu, alle Pein
BACH: ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, BWV 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme; Mein Freund ist mein!

We move back to my number one man, Johann Sebastian Bach for two of my favourite cantatas.

Performing and recording Bach’s cantatas has played a huge part in my life as an early musician. I was lucky enough to be at the Royal Academy during the Ralph Koln Cantata Cycle, a wonderful monthly performance of cantatas on the last Sunday of each month. Shortly after my time at RAM, I became a member of the English Baroque Soloists and under Sir John Eliot Gardiner was once again fully immersed in Bach’s glorious cantatas during tours and recordings.

The opening sinfonia of ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ is heartbreakingly beautiful. The cantata translates as ‘Weeping, lamentation, worry, despair’ and that is certainly evident in the almost wailing oboe line which soars over the sobbing strings. The blend of timbres in this AAM recording is stunning. The following tenor aria ‘Sei getreu’ is sung in such a meditative and entrancing way- ‘Be faithful, all pain will yet be a little thing’. One can almost feel the worries of life dissipating as the purity of the trumpet obligato line drifts over us.

By contrast, the opening of ‘Wachet auf’ feels so joyful with the vibrant string scales and imitative winds energising and rousing us from sleep while the beautiful cantus firmus sung by the King’s trebles, soars overhead. Another favourite from this cantata is the love duet for the soprano Soul and the bass Jesus with the playful obligato oboe alongside. It never fails to make me smile.

ALBUM: ‘Beethoven Symphony No. 6; Coriolan and Egmont overtures’ – Christopher Hogwood
BEETHOVEN: Overture to ‘Egmont’, Op. 84

Another wonderful project with AAM which I remember fondly was our performing of Beethoven’s Egmont, a set of incidental music pieces which he wrote in 1787. I had played this spectacular work before but never with live narration from the one and only Stephen Fry! It was an absolute joy to work with Stephen- he took the piece to the next level with such engaging and convincing narration throughout- we were all hanging on his every word. It led to a glorious atmosphere within the ensemble and a hugely enjoyable project all round. Beethoven’s incidental music begins with this powerful Overture which summarises the course of the drama to unfold throughout. The programmatic writing takes us from an ominous slow introduction to manic tragedy and then into triumph in a brilliant coda. All in all a truly exhilarating experience for the listeners and of course the players too!

ALBUM: The Complete Ella and Louis on Verve – Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong 
BERLIN: ‘Cheek To Cheek’

I had to finish my playlist by including, most probably my favourite tune of all time. I have been in love with Ella’s voice since I first heard it and Fred Astaire’s film, ‘Top Hat’ is also at the top of my list. Ella and Louis’ arrangement is absolutely sublime and it makes me smile each time I hear this wonderful song. My late father and I used to love listening to this by the fire together on winter evenings with a champagne cocktail. This song is filled with love, laughter and wonderful memories.’