Monica Huggett took up the violin at six to be ‘different’ from her six piano-playing siblings. She learnt with Manoug Parikian and Kató Havas at London’s Royal Academy of Music, later studying Baroque performance with Sigiswald Kuijken and following this specialised path throughout her career. Like others of the Kuijken circle she has herself become an authority on early performing practices and is as much devoted to teaching as to concertising and recording. As well as holding posts at the Bremen Hochschule für Künste and the Royal Conservatory of The Hague she also directs the Juilliard School’s graduate programme in historical performance and gives masterclasses around the world. Huggett has practised her art with numerous period ensembles, often appearing as guest director, and has formed two ensembles of her own: Sonnerie for Baroque repertoire, and Hausmusik London for classical and early Romantic music.
In Baroque performance Huggett epitomises the revisionist approach, with sparing vibrato, clean, crisp tone, plenty of small-scale articulations and nuanced phrasing (although her authenticity is, of course, not entirely quantifiable). Her attempts to carry this historically-orientated ethos into nineteenth-century repertoire are less convincing than with earlier works, given the wealth of detail now known about Romantic performance traits. Huggett and Hausmusik thus deliver Cherubini’s Quartet No. 1 (2003) with several positive characteristics of period performance—notably, a fine balance of warmth and articulation from gut-strung instruments—but gloss over aspects of tempo flexibility including the nineteenth-century habit of looseness of ensemble. Huggett also avoids that most misunderstood device important at least from the late eighteenth century to the first third of the twentieth—the portamento.
Huggett’s Bach G minor Sonata (from her Gramophone Award-winning 1997 recording) is suitably clean and varied, although some of the tempo variation in the Prelude is perhaps rather quirky. The Fontana and Leclair sonatas (1995 and 1998 respectively) are performances of neglected repertoire given persuasively. Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (1994) is bright, with dazzling colours and poise from both Huggett and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. As a period-instrument specialist of the Dutch school Huggett is as assured as one might anticipate and her playing represents some of the best of its type.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist