‘an exciting performance…
we listened in rapt silence’

Early Music Performer

‘Demonstrates just how flexible in colour
and weight clarinet playing can be’

Edward Higginbottom, Review 'Beethoven and the Art of Arrangement' CD

‘Ensemble DeNOTE capture the mood
of the young Beethoven perfectly.’

Andrew Benson-Wilson, Review 'Beethoven and the Art of Arrangement' CD

‘For lovers of historical instruments and performance, this is a
real treat…superb, nobody will wish for a modern instrument

MUSIC WEB, Review of Vanhal Clarinet Sonatas CD, 2014

‘Excellent performance…played
with historical awareness and humour’

INTERNATIONAL PIANO

‘A WONDERFUL concert:
Absolutely stunning and gorgeous’

JAMIE WATSON

An astonishingly fine concert,
and a great inspiration for our students. Bravo!

DAVID ALLINSON, Director of Music, St. Gregory’s Centre for Music, Canterbury

Ensemble DeNOTE are noted for the vibrancy, commitment and communicative power of its performances at home and abroad

Ensemble DeNOTE is a community of creators passionate about exploring the sound worlds and expressive potential of music from Bach to Brahms, inspired by past performance traditions but reinterpreted for today.

Our commitment to historical instruments and musical performance styles drives us to revisit familiar landmarks of chamber music and to open up fresh dialogues in performance – all backed up by the latest scholarly research.

Our starting-point:

“The Music is not the Score”

In order to bring our music alive, to lift it off the printed page and make it resound in the moment, we return to the roots of eighteenth-century performance style.

Eighteenth-century composers, including both Mozart and Beethoven, were great improvisers, and many of their works started out as improvisations, building elaborate and exciting surface detail out of simpler, underlying foundations. We take this as an invitation to think and act creatively around their notated scores, treating them as blueprints inspiring our creative responses, rather than “the last word” – maps for a journey, rather than the destination.

DeNOTE’s programming begins with classical era chamber music (broadly 1750-1820). Our core configuration (clarinet, violin, viola, cello and fortepiano) offers us flexibility to explore a breadth and variety of repertoire. This might include quintets, quartets, trios and duos by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their Viennese contemporaries. From this vantage-point, we reach back into the baroque and forwards to the romantic periods as our repertoire demands.

‘Graceful…beautiful …enthralling…intimate…clarity and delight!’ (The Birmingham Post)

Our performances reveal novel perspectives to this music, combining the rich and colourful potential of period instruments and playing techniques with a bold expressive approach challenging the boundaries of musical notation and expression, bringing creative improvisational flair into the foreground of our communication with the audience.

  • Hear some of the greatest music ever composed
  • Experience the unusual, vibrant sounds of period string, wind and keyboard instruments
  • Discover some design features of period instruments, how they are different from modern counterparts, the craftsmanship that lies behind them, and how this impacts the sounds they conjure up!

Gorgeously subtle colouring’ (The Observer)

 5 FINGERPRINTS OF A DeNOTE CONCERT

  • We will sometimes include an arrangement: ‘familiar music as you’ve never heard it before’
  • We will certainly be including improvisation: ‘the Music is not the Score’
  • We introduce what we play and do accessibly, underpinning our vibrant performances with solid research, giving you added insights into the composers and their music – a musical conversation
  • We will encourage you to get involved in our conversation afterwards on social media (@denote2)
  • And yes, we play on period instruments (but that’s no big deal…)

DeNOTE’s core musicians

Ensemble DeNOTE was founded by in 2010 as a resident ensemble at London University’s The Institute of Musical Research (IMR) by John Irving, then Director of the IMR.

John Irving

JOHN IRVING (piano and co-founder)

Recently described as ‘One of the foremost exponents of the period piano in the UK’, John specializes in music of the later 18th century. International Piano has described his Beethoven playing as ‘Excellent…played with historical awareness and humour’. His most recent solo CD is Josef Haydn Piano Sonatas (Devine Music DMCD005). His Mozart and Beethoven chamber music CDs with Ensemble DeNOTE have garnered 5* and 4* reviews in The Observer, Guardian Classical and Early Music Review – the Mozart playing praised for its lyricism, inventive ornamentation and ‘gorgeously subtle colouring.’

John is Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and previously taught at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. His academic career embraced Bristol University (where he was Professor of Music) and London University (Director of The Institute of Musical Research. An internationally recognized Mozart scholar, he has published six books on Mozart, including an international best-selling biography, The Treasures of Mozart (André Deutsch, 2010) and contributions to the internationally-acclaimed The Mozart Project (a digital book for iPad).

JANE BOOTH (clarinet and co-founder)

Jane is a specialist in the early clarinet and chalumeau. Previously Head of Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, Jane now leads their successful Coaching and Mentoring Department within Guildhall Innovation. In addition to regular masterclasses and international adjudicating, she has pursued a busy international career, playing all over the world with many renowned ensembles including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Tafelmusik and The Academy of Ancient Music.

Her repertoire is vast and extends from the works of Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi through to Wagner, Mahler and Debussy – all on historically appropriate instruments. Jane has recorded for Analekta (Canada), ATMA (Canada) and sfz music (UK) and Devine Music (UK) performing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, solo repertoire for the Basset Horn, wind music by Gossec and Méhul and Lieder by Schubert. Her chamber music discs, Mozart Chamber Music Vols.1 & 2 (Devine Music 2017, 18), and Beethoven and the art of Arrangement with Ensemble DeNOTE (Omnibus Classics, 2015) gained 4* and 5* reviews in The Observer, The Guardian and Early Music Review.

MARCUS BARCHAM-STEVENS
(violin)

Marcus

Marcus is co-leader of the Britten Sinfonia, Principal 2nd Violin of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has broadcast as a soloist on BBC Radio 3, played with the Nash Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall, and performed chamber music with Freddy Kempf, Peter Donohoe, Paul Lewis, Alina Ibragimova, Leon McCawley,  Paul Watkins, and with Thomas Adès as pianist in music by Adès.

Period performance includes playing with  Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s orchestras ORR/EBS, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Jonathan Cohen’s ensemble Arcangelo, as well as Ensemble DeNOTE. Marcus is also a composer: “Dhyana” for soprano and ensemble was described by George Hall (the Guardian, 2011) as “hugely impressive”.

OLIVER WILSON
(viola)

Marcus

After reading Classics at Clare College, Cambridge, Oliver studied the viola with Bjorn Sjogren in Stockholm. Since then Oliver has pursued a diverse musical life performing a wide range of repertoire on modern and period instruments. Working with groups such as the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and English Concert, Oliver has performed repertoire ranging from Purcell to Debussy on period instruments with conductors including William Christie, Simon Rattle and Mark Elder. He has also been guest Principal with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and has recorded with Classical Opera Company and Arcangelo, as well as with Ensemble DeNOTE. As the viola player of the Welsh chamber collective Ensemble Cymru Oliver has performed widely across the Principality.

RUTH ALFORD
(cello)

Marcus

Ruth thrives on a broad musical diet from Baroque toContemporary, and from solo and chamber music, through to full-scale operatic and symphonic repertoire. Educated in Middlesbrough, Manchester University and the Royal Academy of Music, where she was awarded various prizes for solo and chamber music, she became a principal player in English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as well as working with BBC Symphony Orchestra.

As a member of Ensemble DeNOTE and period quartet, The Revolutionary Drawing Room she has made several acclaimed CD recordings.