artistry beyond the notes…

DeNOTE: who we are – what we do

DeNOTE Logo jpeg

artistry beyond the notes…

‘Gorgeously subtle colouring’ (Sir Nicholas Kenyon – The Guardian)

‘Superbly inflected performances – outstanding’ (Sir Nicholas Kenyon –The Observer)

‘Exemplary – beautifully grasped’ (Andrew Benson-Wilson)


 The Mozart Project Live!


LATEST CD (May 2018)

Devine Music DMCD008



Ensemble DeNOTE’s musical approach returns to the roots of eighteenth-century performance style, exploring the soundworld of period instruments and integrating the latest scholarly research with a passion for live musical communication.

‘The playing is splendid, with a nice early 19th century feel…an approach which is both serious and enjoyable’ (Sir Roger Norrington on our CD Beethoven and the Art of Arrangement)

5 STAR REVIEW for Beethoven and the art of Arrangement in Early Music Review!  

‘An enthralling account [of the Gran’ Partita], as was that of Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio – rich in empathy and interplay’  5*****. Birmingham Post

‘With their bold, expressive musical approach and an impressive mastery of period string, wind and keyboard instruments, Ensemble DeNOTE performs iconic classical compositions as they’ve never been performed before.’ (Eventium)

‘an exciting performance…we listened in rapt silence’ Early Music Performer

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DeNOTE’s core programming focuses on classical era chamber music (broadly 1750-1820). Our basic configuration is clarinet, violin, viola, cello, fortepiano, from which quintets, quartets and trios by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their Viennese contemporaries form our staple repertoire.

Ensemble DeNOTE’s performances bring novel perspectives to this music, combining the soundworld of period instruments and playing techniques with a bold expressive approach that goes beyond the notated texts into the world of creative improvisation.

‘Lifting the music off the page…a wonderfully authentic touch’


CC5007 Beethoven CD

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

(Andrew Benson-Wilson’s review of Ensemble DeNOTE’s Beethoven CD, Beethoven and the Art of Arrangement)

Our programming offers an opportunity to hear classics of the chamber music repertoire played on period instruments, introduced and accessibly explained by the players themselves, focusing on our ‘small is beautiful’ approach to music-making that involves just a handful of performers passionate about exploring the connections between musical expression, the talented ‘cottage industry’ craftspeople who make our reproduction period instruments, and the power of communication in live musical performance.

  • Hear some of the greatest music ever composed
  • Experience the unusual, vibrant sounds of period string, wind and keyboard instruments
  • Explore how music sounded in a domestic context around 1800, compared to a concert hall
  • Discover some design features of period instruments, how they are different from modern counterparts, and the craftsmanship that lies behind them

‘Excellent performance…played with historical awareness and humour’

International Piano

‘Demonstrates just how flexible in colour and weight clarinet playing can be’
(Edward Higginbottom on our Beethoven and the Art of Arrangement CD)


 Making Music Selected Artists 2015-16

‘For lovers of historical instruments and performance practices, this is a real treat…superb, and nobody will wish for a modern instrument in their stead’ (MusicWeb review of Vanhal Clarinet Sonatas CD, 2014)


  1. We will probably include an arrangement: ‘familiar music as you’ve never heard it before’

  2. We will certainly be including improvisation: ‘the Music is not the Score’

  3. 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

  4. We will encourage you to get involved in our conversation afterwards on social media (@denote2)

  5. And yes, we play on period instruments (but that’s no big deal…)

‘A WONDERFUL concert: Absolutely stunning and gorgeous’ (Jamie Walton)

For DeNOTE, the Music is so much more than the Score! Focusing on Classic-period repertoire of the later 18th/ early 19th centuries, DeNOTE’s basic philosophy is to treat every performance as an experience in which we challenge the boundaries of musical notation and expression, bringing creative improvisational flair into the foreground of our communication with the audience. Our dual belief in the provisionality of the text and its power to trigger startling performance creativity underpins all of DeNOTE’s work. Our thought-provoking performances, workshops and lecture-recitals have been admired nationwide at venues such as London’s Senate House, the Greenwich International Early Music Festival; King’s Place; Milton Court, Barbican Centre; LSO St Lukes; the Guildhall School of Music & Drama; Guildhall School of Music and Drama; Brighton Early Music Festival; Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton; St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh; Cardiff University; West Road Concert Hall, University of Cambridge; Victoria Rooms, Bristol; King’s Hall, Newcastle; and the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.

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

(David Allinson – Director of Music, St. Gregory’s Centre for Music, Canterbury)


DeNOTE’s core musicians are John Irving (fortepiano), Jane Booth (clarinet), Marcus Barcham-Stevens (violin) Oliver Wilson (viola), and Ruth Alford (cello).

JohnJohn is a leading Mozart scholar and fortepianist and has held Professorships at Bristol University, London University (where he was Director of The Institute of Musical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London). He is now Professor of Performance Practice at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.

IMG_9902aJane has had an international career with orchestras such as The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestre des Champs Elysees and Tafelmusik and in chamber music with the Eybler Quartet, OAE Winds, Les Vents Devienne and with artists such as Robert Levin and Ronald Brautigam. She is Head of Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London.

MarcusMarcus is both a performer and a composer. He is Co-Leader of the Britten Sinfonia and second violinist in The Fitzwilliam Quartet; he regularly works with both period and  contemporary ensembles including the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique He has guest-led the CBSO and RLPO and his chamber music performances include work with Peter Donohoe and Thomas Adès.

RUthpictureRuth thrives on a broad musical diet from Baroque to Contemporary, whilst sharing her enthusiasm for music through various educational outlets. She performs and records widely throughout Europe , Far East and America as a principal player and continuo ’cellist with the English Baroque Soloists , Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as well as chamber ensembles including Brandenburg Consort, Revolutionary Drawing Room, The Music Collection ,Fiori Musicali , Florilegium, Configure8 and The Chamber Players.

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.

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