Sunday, November 4, 2007

Althea Ifeka, Nigerian Oboist of 18th & 20th Century Works

[From Leipzig To London: Duo Sonatas from the 18th and 20th Centuries; Bach, Dodgson, Head, Jacob, Maconchy; Althea Ifeka, oboe, oboe d'amore, cor anglais; Katharine May, harpsichord; Oboe Classics CC2013 (2006)]

Althea Ifeka is an oboe soloist who was born in Nigeria and specializes in works from the Baroque period and the 20th century. Based in London, England, she performs actively as a concerto soloist, duo recitalist and chamber ensemble player. Her career is in a state of flux, she explains. She and pianist Dominic Saunders are presently working as a duo. Her partnership with harpsichordist Katherine May is inactive at the moment, as is the Blake Ensemble.

Althea's CD From Leipzig To London is given this introduction at her website,

This CD explores the innovative role of J.S. Bach in creating the earliest duo sonatas, by presenting three sonatas now known to date from his Leipzig period performed on the oboe, oboe d'amore and cor anglais and harpsichord. The demise of the oboe as a solo instrument and the complete demise of the harpsichord during the nineteenth century were overturned in the twentieth as both instruments made impressive comebacks.”

Ivan March reviews the CD in the September 2006 issue of Gramophone:

"A cleverly designed programme with three Bach sonata arrangements, one each for oboe, oboe d'amore and cor anglais, interwoven with contemporary works. Althea Ifeka is a superb oboist with a slightly plangent tone which fits well with the harpsichord, as the engaging Gordon Jacob Sonatina shows with its variety of invention, splicing melancholy, wit and geniality. Here the balance seems ideal but in the Bach, beautifully played by both parties, I would prefer the oboe d'amore and cor anglais (both of which have a slightly more robust timbre) to be just a little less forward. But the Andante of BWV 1028 is so beautifully played that I really must not grumble."

Althea Ifeka's website chronicles her heritage, countries of residence and music education:

“Born in Nigeria of Nigerian and English parentage, Althea grew up in Canberra, Australia, read Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, where she was also a University Choral and Instrumental Scholar, and completed her education at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. After winning prizes at the RAM for the interpretation of eighteenth-century chamber music, and for orchestral playing, she reached the class finals of the 1992 Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition. Scholarships awarded during her studies include those from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the Ian Fleming Awards, and the U.S. Government Fulbright-Hays programme.

Althea was asked to mention her recent career activities. She highlighted two important events which took place earlier in the year:

“In March I won Third Prize at the Paris International Oboe Competition at Ville d'Avray near Versailles. Later that month I was privileged to perform in the service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 200th anniversary of the parliamentary abolition of slavery, in the presence of HM The Queen and the Prime Minister.”

We asked if Althea wished to make any other comment; she replied:

“I am deeply committed to encouraging the involvement of people of African descent in classical music. For many years, young African musicians have been a major force in my private teaching practice in London. As far as my performing career is concerned, I am currently looking for composers of African descent who would be interested in writing for the oboe, oboe d'amore or english horn. I have an exciting project in mind that requires some new music."

Althea added that she can be contacted at

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