Music improvisation in the Baroque Era (review) 

Music written in the 17th and 18th centuries offers, and indeed demands, a lot of freedom from the performers.  But freedom demands responsibility; how do we know how far to go, what is good taste regarding such additions, and how do we learn to be creative within a stylistic context? To what extent is a score intended to be played as written, how do we choose between different versions of the same music, or do we make our own, and how do we use written music as a springboard for our own improvisations and…

Read more

Baroque Duos 


Baroque Duos is a new programme with Estehaagse Ensemble.

The violin duo emerged in the 18th Century, as music moved away from the court and towards a more intimate and conversational style suitable for the salon.

The programme includes two contrasting duos for violas: W.F. Bach, with a contrapunatal approach which looks back stylistically to the music of his father, and Stamitz in Mannheim, with a lighter and more melodic approach which looks forward to a classical style.

The French composer Leclair and…

Read more

Framing the Ephemeral 

Improvisation is fleeting and ephemeral; but what stays in our mind after an improvisation, and how can we return to an idea, in a subsequent improvisation, to build on our discoveries in music and performance? 

Improvisation is not the opposite of composition. There will always be decisions and conditions which affect the music before it happens; and even decisions made in the moment form as it were a score for what happens subsequently. By developing a keen awareness and control over these, we can…

Read more

Review of Scroll Ensemble at York Early Music Competition 

The Scroll Ensemble

Harpsichordist Iason Marmaras’s colourful socks suggested that we might be about to hear something unusual before he and his fellow musicians had played a note. They also dispensed with stands and sheet music. Was this an experimental drama troupe? A circus skills workshop?No, this was something much better. Based in The Netherlands, The Scroll Ensemble specialise in historically-informed improvisation. Baroque jazz, for want of a better term. We tend to forget that improvisation…

Read more

Kircher’s Music Machine 

Kircher’s Music Machine
Explorations in Improvisation by the Scroll Ensemble

Athanasius Kircher, 17th Century traveller, writer, and polymath, describes in his Musurgia Universalis (1650) a machine, whereby any person, even a non-musician, can make music. This Arca Musurgica  (musical arch) consists of a complex of musical choices and parameters, very much foreshadowing the logic of the modern computer, and it travelled widely, even as far as China, as it was very advantageous for kings and emperors to be…

Read more

The DaMu Collective- Explorations in the Printing Press 

The interdisciplinary DaMu  Collective blends music, dance, performance art, visual art, and film, and recently started a project with Victorine Van Alphen set in the printing press, De Raadraaier Amsterdam.

DaMu (short for Dance and Music) began with a workshop with Mary Oliver and Michael Schumacher on dance and music improvisation, but quickly developed its own individual approach, in which space and movement becomes part of the musical performance.  The performers are just as likely to move, speak…

Read more

Improvisation Courses 

In November, the Scroll Ensemble gave courses in historical improvisation at the conservatoires of Katowice and Bydgoszcz in Poland.

Improvisation is often seen as something specialised, or the result of sudden inspiration; but it can be learnt, just as a language, from a few simple tools. Starting with basic realisations of harmonic progressions, we experimented with rhythmic and melodic figures based historical models, and different ways of interacting, before finding a form together. In addition to…

Read more

Amsterdam Virtuosi 

Amsterdam Virtuosi is a programme with lutenist Irene Thomas.
Amsterdam was a centre of musical activity during the 18th century and, along with London, one of the major centres of music publishing.

Dutch composers such as Willem de Fesch and Pieter Hellendael lived in Amsterdam. But Amsterdam also attracted musicians such as the Italian violinist Locatelli, who lived at the Prinsengracht from 1729 for many years.
Although responsible for some of most progressive virtuoso music for the violin of his time…

Read more

The Story of Christ's Crucifixion - or -The Birth of a Passion 

As  all  good  stories,  this  one  begins  at  the  beginning,   when  Robert  de  Bree  said,naturally during Lent, "What we need is a new Passion!" Being of the adventurous type, he and his Scroll Ensemble colleague, James Hewitt, decided to leave the safety of their home territory, the Baroque, in pursuit of a more 'oriental' period. Perhaps thinking that it might be thematically preferable to look backwards in time, James turned to Rebecca Stewart for inspiration, to whom 'old' meant chant, of…

Read more