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Recorder31 Day 26 | Lizzie Knatt: In Search of a Bass Recorder Repertoire

Recorder31 Day 26 | Lizzie Knatt: In Search of a Bass Recorder Repertoire

It's time for some weekend reading, and we're delighted to spotlight some excited and innovative work by the London-based recorder player Lizzie Knatt for today's Recorder31 Guest Blog. We're highlighting Basses and Beyond in this weekend's promotion, so it seems the perfect time to pass over to Lizzie to tell us more about her research into works for bass recorder...

In Search of a Bass Recorder Repertoire: Lizzie Knatt

As part of my Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music, I am conducting a research project into generating new repertoire for the bass recorder. While there are some original compositions for the bass, or basset, recorder by CPE Bach, Benjamin Thorn, Emmanuele Casale and others, it is a historically underrepresented member of the recorder family, with relatively few solo or chamber works compared to the soprano, alto or tenor. It’s also one of my favourite sizes of recorders to play, with a range that matches my own voice and the flexibility to produce a wide range of different sound colours.

The creation of this new repertoire falls into three strands: working with composers on new commissions, adapting existing pieces for alto and bass flutes, and using c16th bassline diminution treatises. As well as hopefully being useful to the wider recorder community, this has been a very interesting personal project: each new piece that I embark on adapting or creating has pushed and challenged my technique in different ways. In particular, I’ve received a real variety of pieces from composers – ranging from music inspired by chant melodies to ocean waves, using improvisation and mathematical processes, and for different combinations of bass recorders, narrator, harp and guitar.

What the Future Holds by Declan Molloy was originally written for my project Floodplain in January. This project, inspired by the effects of flooding and drought across Europe last summer, used poetry, improvisation and photography to explore the human relationship we have with rivers. The text used is “Little Rivers Feed Bigger Rivers” by Jemma Borg.

Toru Takemitsu’s Toward the Sea is the first piece that Declan and I worked on as a duo. Takemitsu’s incredibly detailed dynamic and expression markings led me to discover many new ways of creating different colours and dynamic levels on the bass recorder – something we recorder players are often not known for!

Part of the reason I love working with composers is that they think of things I would never think of myself. This is a section of Stan’s Scrap Piece by PhD composer James McIlwrath, for two bass recorders. The piece is built from words found around James’ theatre company and constructed by translating some of the day-to-day processes of the company into numbers. I’m looking forward to performing this with Otto Hashmi, just as soon as we’ve worked out how to pronounce “Bradford” while playing!

I’ve recently been able to purchase my own bass recorder from The Early Music Shop, with generous financial support from the Walter Bergmann Fund and Royal Academy of Music.

I will be sharing some work in progress from the project at 6:15pm on the 15th September, in the Angela Burgess Recital Hall at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Do come along if you’re interested. 😊

If you are inspired by Lizzie's work and would like to purchase a bass recorder of your own, why not discover our 'Basses & Beyond collection with big savings until Sunday 23:59PT...


The Sound of Recorder Music!

Each day this month we're highlighting an audio clip of a recorder from our extensive range. Mollenhauer's Canta Knick Bass in Pearwood is a comfortable and relatively lightweight bass recorder with a responsive, warm tone. Listen to the clips below or follow this link to find out more about this instrument.


Van Eyck Doen Daphne:

Playford King of Poland:


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