Stephen Varcoe

Stephen Varcoe
Bass Vocals

The English bass-baritone, Stephen (Chistopher) Varcoe, studied at Cambridge, and during his school years there he sang in the King's College Choir. In 1977 he won a scholarship from the Gulbenkian Foundation. Stephen Varcoe has established a reputation as one of Britain's most versatile baritones, and has sung in opera, concerts and recitals covering a wide range of repertoire in Europe, the USA and the Far East. He is often to be heard performing Bach Cantatas, Songs from Schubert, and Victorian Ballads. His musical repertoire is quite extensive and reaches into modern music. An area of emphasis, however, is compositions from the time of Bach and Händel. Stephen has always been fascinated by the relationship between words and music, and the role of the singer in communicating meaning to an audience and is currently writing a book on singing in English. He is in constant demand for Master Classes as a specialist in German lieder and English songs, having taught at many UK Universities and Colleges. Stephen Varcoe's operatic appearances include Haydn's L'Infedelta Delusa in Antwerp, Debussy's Fall of The House of Usher in Lisbon and London, John Tavener's opera Mary Of Egypt for the Aldeburgh Festival and Plutone in Peri's Euridice for the Drottningholm Festival, Sweden. His repertoire also includes Death in Holst's Savitr, Demetrius in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Salieri in Rimsky Korsakov's Mozart & Salieri. Stephen Varcoe has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, New Zealand Chamber Orchestra, the Hanover Band, at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal, at the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa, with the King's Consort, at the Festival Cervantino in Mexico, and with conductors Frans Brüggen, Daniel, John Eliot Gardiner, Richard Hickox, Lindberg, Charles Mackerras, Malgoire, Minkowski, Östman, Trevor Pinnock, Joshua Rifkin, Roszdevensky and Tortelier. Recent engagements have included Goehr's Sonata About Jerusalem with Knussen and the Schoenberg Ensemble, Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with Trevor Pinnock in Ottawa, Bach Cantatas with the Bach Sonnerie at the Spitalfields Festival, Vaughan-Williams' Sir John In Love with Richard Hickox and the Northern Sinfonia, Webern Cantata II with Simon Joly and The BBC Symphony Orchestra, Schubert's Mass in E flat with Roger Norrington and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Messiah with Steuart Bedford the City of London Sinfonia.
Stephen Varcoe appears regularly in recital in England and abroad and is heard frequently in recital with the Songmakers' Almanac and on BBC Radio 3. Recent recital work has included a programme of Finzi and Somervell with Iain Burnside, Schubert's Winterreise with Eugene Asti, Brahms, Schumann and Wolf at the Wigmore Hall with Graham Johnson, Grainger with Penelope Thwaites for BBC Radio 3 and Schubert and with Graham Johnson at the Bury St Edmund's Festival. Stephen Varcoe has made over 100 recordings including Purcell, Händel and Bach with Pinnock, John Eliot Gardiner, Richard Hickox and Sigiswald Kuijken, Mozart with Neville Marriner, Fauré with Rutter, Holst with Richard Hickox, Richard Strauss with Roger Norrington, recitals of Finzi and Parry with Clifford Benson and French songs with Graham Johnson, with whom he recorded Volume 2 in the Hyperion Schubert edition. He has also recorded Haydn and Grainger for Chandos with Richard Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia, Schoenberg with Robert Craft and The 20th Century Classics Ensemble and Stravinsky with Robert Craft and The Orchestra of St. Luke's.
George Fr. Handel · JephthaGeorge Fr. Handel · Jephtha
George Frideric Handel:

The English Oratorio HWV 70, performed according to the traditions of the time

by Emma Kirkby (Soprano), Melinda Paulsen (Mezzo-Soprano),
Charles Humphries (Countertenor), Julian Podger (Tenor),
Stephen Varcoe (Bass), Monastery Baroque Orchestra,
Maulbronn Chamber Choir (Maulbronner Kammerchor)
Conductor: Jürgen Budday

A live recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery

DDD · Double Album · c. 150 Minutes

2 CD
EUR 33,00SpotifyDeezerNapsterApple MusicYouTube MusicIdagioTidalAmazon.comiTunesQobuzReview

A splendidly atmospheric recording

The oratorio Jephta was George Frideric Handel's last large work, written in 1751 in London and first performed at Covent Garden in the following year. This dramatic and poetic work in three movements reflects the inner aspect of Jephta's unsolvible solitude when he is expelled from Gilead by his half-brothers and grows up in exile. This splendidly atmospheric recording was made at the medeieval Monastery Maulbronn in Germany and fully captures the music's great force and beauty. The performers here include Emma Kirkby (soprano), Melinda Paulsen (mezzo-soprano), Charles Humphries (alto), Julian Podger (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (bass), together with the Barockorchester der Klosterkonzerte, Maulbronner Kammerchor, and conductor Jürgen Budday.

New Classics UK


Clear and beautiful

In this public performance of his last oratorio, recorded and performed at the church of monastery Maulbronn in Germany, the sound is very clear and beautiful...This K&K issue is pleasurable a worthwhile addition to the work´s discography...

John T. Hughes, International Record Review


***** I could not be happier with this superb recording

I have been listening to Jephtha and Samson quite extensively, and I must say that these two recordings are truly impressive. First, the cast of soloists is an absolutely superb assembly of historically-informed performers. It would be hard to find singers any better than Emma Kirkby, Steven Varcoe, Michael Chance. I found all of the performances by the soloists nearly impeccable.
Second, I suspected that the recordings themselves might be filled with ambient and background noises since these were the result of live performances.
I have been extremely pleased with the technical aspects of the recordings: they are 'clean' and clear with very little extraneous sounds. The engineering of these recordings is highly commendable!!
Finally, the orchestral playing by the Barockorchester der Klosterkonzerte and the participation of the Maulbronner Kammerchor are nearly flawless. The string playing is especially strong, and the choruses - filled with drama and emotion - are executed at the highest possible level. Even the pronunciation and intonation of the English is perfect. In sum, I could not be happier with these two superb recordings. Already possessing several recorded versions of each of these masterful oratorios, I felt that it would be difficult to match the strength and quality of, for example, the performance under John Elliot Gardiner.
These two new additions by K&K Verlagsanstalt to the recorded Handel repertoire are magnificent models, exemplary of how to bring these monumental works to life for the modern audience. The crisp, clear recording, the excellent engineering, the incredible acoustics, the superb performances make these two of the best Handel compact discs I have purchased in a long time.
I should be most happy if you would keep my name on your mailing list, since I would like to be informed when your fine enterprise releases any more Baroque repertoire. These are performances to be treasured and are of the highest caliber of historically-informed practice.

Thomas R. McCallum (USA) on


Very impressive

Kirkby shines vocaly, this being a performance to emphasise the profound and the serious. The chorus sing strongly, with warm and rounded tone, and firm lines; several of the choral numbers are very impressive, for example the Part I chorus '0 God, behold our sore distress', which has considerable grandeur. The marvellous chorus that ends Part 2, one of Handel's noblest, 'How dark, 0 Lord, are thy decrees, all hid from human sight' (his blindness overcame him as he wrote it) is well sung. Some of the quicker choruses are done with real vigour and confidence, for example 'When his loud voice' and the jubilant final ones.
The resonant church recording enriches the sound of the choir. The orchestra is hearty and the conductor, Jürgen Budday, draws some buoyant rhythms from them in the faster music.
The strongest inducement to buy this set lies in the loveliness of Emma Kirkby's singing. This is no longer the exquisite, delicate thread of sound that it once was, but it is still exquisite and delicate while being much fuller and richer, and her characterisation of lphis, the daughter of Jephtha who 'must a victim fall' because of his 'impious vow' to sacrifice the first person he encounters after victory. Listen to her wonderfully shapely and natural singing of 'Tune the soft melodious lute', for example, or 'Farewell, ye limpid springs and floods', as she movingly welcomes death.
Storgè is sung with strength and clarity by Melinda Paulsen (who also does the Angel air in Part 3). Jephtha himself is well taken by Julian Podger, a very capable singer. He is at his best in the heroic music, such as 'His mighty arm'. Zebul is warmly and sensitively sung by Stephen Varcoe, Charles Humphries provides an able Hamor, duetting gracefully with Emma Kirkby in two numbers.

Stanley Sadie, Gramophone Magazine

George Fr. Handel · SaulGeorge Fr. Handel · Saul
George Frideric Handel:
The English Oratorio HWV 53, performed according to the traditions of the time
by Nancy Argenta (Soprano), Laurie Reviol (Soprano),
Michael Chance (Countertenor), Mark Le Brocq (Tenor),
Michael Berner (Tenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass), Steffen Balbach (Bass),
Hanoverian Court Orchestra (Hannoversche Hofkapelle),
Maulbronn Chamber Choir (Maulbronner Kammerchor)
Conductor: Jürgen Budday
A concert recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
HD Recording · DDD · Double Album · c. 150 Minutes
2 CD
EUR 33,00SpotifyDeezerNapsterYouTube MusicApple MusicIdagioTidalAmazon.comiTunesQobuz HDPresto Classical HDeClassical HDHD TracksE-Onkyo HDReview

***** A superb listening treat

I have just finished listening to the oratorio 'SAUL' from Maulbronn conducted by Jurgen Budday. It leaves me breathless with it's high drama and excellent singing. The fact that this is a LIVE performance makes it all the more exciting to hear... This is a superb listening treat!

George Peabody 'Ariel' on
(A voice teacher and early music fan from Carlisle, Pa. USA)


Spendidly performed

Georg Frideric Handel’s glorious oratorio in three movements, Saul, is splendidly performed here in English by Nancy Argenta, Laurie Reviol, Michael Chance, Mark LeBrocq, Michael Berner, Stephen Varcoe and Steffen Balbach, together with the Hannoversche Hofkapelle and Maulbronner Kammerchor, conducted by Juergen Budday. This atmospheric concert recording was made in 2002 in the historical setting of the beautiful convent church of Maulbronn. Other albums in the beautifully produced Maulbronn Edition from K & K include performances of Gounod’s Missa Solemnis (ISBN 3-930643-63-4) and an cappella concert, Goettliche Liturgie, with Don Kosaken singing works from the Russian Missa (ISBN 3-930643-72-3). For more informion, see the K&K website.


***** Five Stars

Enjoyed it greatly

Sally Ann Mcallister on

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