She premiered a new work for harpsichord and tape by the South African composer Kevin Volans, touring throughout the UK as well as Munich and Copenhagen. In 2002/3 she performed in France (La Roque d'Anthéron, Sablé, Ambronay), Belgium, Israel, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Japan; she has recently returned from a trip to Bogota, where she gave two recitals and a masterclass, and gave the opening concert at the 2003 Lausanne Bach Festival. With her group Ensemble Türk, a flexible group with the classical trio format at its centre, performing on original instruments, and comprising some of England's finest and most respected young musicians, she explores the classical fortepiano chamber repertoire; they have recently given concerts at the Wigmore Hall, Zürich Tonhalle and for the BBC. Her first solo CD, the complete works of Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre on the Ruckers harpsichord housed at Hatchlands Park, received unanimous praise from the press and won the prestigious Baroque Instrumental Gramophone Award; discs of sonatas by C.P.E. Bach and works by Thomas Tomkins were received to great critical acclaim, including the Diapason d'Or de l'Année. Her next CD, J.S.
Bach and the Möller Manuscript, was released in 2002, winning a further Diapason d’Or de l'Année and coming second in the Gramophone Baroque Instrumental Awards. Her latest disc has just been released, of music by one of Scarlatti's most colourful and quirky contemporaries, Manuel Blasco de Nebra. Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656) The family of Thomas Tomkins came from Cornwall, but in 1565, the future composer’s father (also named Thomas) took up an appointment as a vicar choral (and subsequently master) at St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, where the younger Thomas was born. Probably in 1586, but certainly by 1594, Thomas senior had moved the family to Gloucester. It is generally thought that Thomas junior became a Chapel Royal chorister and studied with William Byrd - though the details are subject to some conjecture. (The Chapel Royal was not a single, specific building, but rather a body of musicians in the service of the monarch and liable to travel as duty required.) He was later affiliated to Magdalene College, Oxford.
By 1596 he had become organist and master of the choristers of Worcester Cathedral, a position he held until the closure of the cathedral under Cromwell. In 1621 he was appointed a gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, and had probably been a ‘gentleman extraordinary’ for some time before that. For years he made the journey between London and Worcester, in fulfilment of his duties to both institutions. On May 24th 1597, Thomas Tomkins married Alice Patrick, the widow of his predecessor at the cathedral. They moved into a house on College Green, which was both their home and the Song School.
(There is today no blue plaque to commemorate the fact that one of this country’s finest and most conscientious musical servants lived and worked there for many years.) In 1612, a new organ for the cathedral was commissioned from the foremost builder of the period, Thomas Dallam - a major event in the life of both the cathedral and of its organist. Meanwhile Tomkins had acquired a seniority at the Chapel Royal which gave him prime responsibility for the music at both the funeral of King James and the coronation of his successor. The Court at last proposed some real recognition of his status and service in 1628, when he was offered the post of Composer-in-Ordinary: sadly, however, Tomkins was the innocent victim of shabby confusion, and the offer was revoked. During the turbulent years leading up to the Civil War, marked by political disputes at both cathedral and national levels, Thomas and Alice Tomkins remained well-respected Worcester citizens, noted for their charity. It is not clear exactly when and how Tomkins detached himself from London, but it is possible that his last visit there was in 1639/40.
He continued to carry out duties at Worcester, playing regularly for services; and he was sufficiently respected to be called upon for advice about a proposed new organ at Gloucester. Tomkins’ personal life, however, suffered a major blow when his wife, Alice, died in January 1642. In the same year, the Civil War began: the life of Tomkins was never to be the same again. An attempt was made to destroy the Dallam organ, and although that particular piece of vandalism was halted, wider assaults continued – Tomkins’ own house suffering considerable damage.
During this period, he married again, to the widow Martha Browne, the mother of one of his choristers. Tomkins’ most famous piece of keyboard music, ‘A Sad Pavan for these distracted times’, is his musical response to the ultimate defeat - in the execution of the King - of the cause with which he undoubtedly sympathised strongly. Although he was able to return to his house on College Green, he suffered increasing hardship. The forced cessation of cathedral services (and the final dismantling of the organ) deprived him of both income and purpose. His stoical response was to struggle as best he could with advancing old age and financial difficulties (making a point of continuing to set aside something for the poor), and to continue - quite remarkably - to compose keyboard music.
If he could not compose for the cathedral organ, he could still compose: in the shadow of his now-closed cathedral, he wrote music much of which he might have played at the services he was no longer allowed to conduct. Relief from physical hardship and much of the emotional strain finally came when his son Nathaniel married Isabella Ffolliot, who had inherited the manor at Martin Hussingtree, a village a few miles northeast of the city of Worcester. Thomas Tomkins spent the final years of his life there, from 1654 until his death in early June 1656. He is buried in the churchyard at Martin Hussingtree, but the plot is unmarked. Read more on Last.fm.
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