Adrian Butterfield

Violin, director and conductor

“The sweetness of his tone, aptness of tempi and the lightness with which he wears his virtuosity perfectly complement the music…”

November 2009

Born in London, Adrian is a violinist, director and conductor who specialises in performing music from 1600-1900 on period instruments. A former chorister of St. Paul’s Cathedral and a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge, he is Musical Director of the Tilford Bach Society and Associate Musical Director of the London Handel Festival. He regularly directs the London Handel Orchestra and Players and is increasingly invited as a guest director and soloist in Europe and North America.

He has appeared on numerous recordings and with most of the period-instrument orchestras in London. His solo recordings include CPE Bach sonatas (ATMA), Bach’s Concerto for oboe and violin with John Abberger (Analekta), Handel’s complete Violin Sonatas (SOMM) and Leclair’s 1st Book of sonatas (Naxos). Leclair’s Book 2 sonatas (Naxos) will appear on two CDs in July and September 2013.

He leads two chamber ensembles in London. The London Handel Players perform regularly at the Wigmore Hall and at festivals throughout Europe and in the United States and Canada. Their recent Handel recordings, of his Op.2 and Op.5 trio sonatas, “Handel at Home” as well as the Violin Sonatas, all for SOMM, have received glowing reviews and their latest CD, the first complete recording of Geminiani’s Op.1 Sonatas, was released in late 2012.  The Revolutionary Drawing Room specializes in classical and romantic music on period instruments, has recorded quartets by Boccherini and Donizetti for CPO and has performed in North America and across Europe. Their recent recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet with Colin Lawson, also released in late 2012, on Clarinet Classics, reached No.17 in the Classical Charts.

Repertoire Adrian has conducted includes Bach’s B minor Mass and St. John Passion, Handel’s La Resurrezione and Alcina, Purcell’s Fairy Queen, Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e Corpo and Rameau’s Pigmalion and concerto appearances include numerous baroque works, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the LHO and rare performances on period instruments of the Beethoven Concerto with the Hanover Band.

He directs a baroque project annually with the Southbank Sinfonia, is Professor of Baroque Violin at the Royal College of Music in London, gives masterclasses in Europe and North America and teaches on the Aestas Musica International Summer School of Baroque Music and Dance in Croatia.

Recent highlights have included conducting the LHO in Bach’s St. John Passion and Magnificat at Tilford and Handel’s La Resurrezione at the Wigmore Hall on Easter Monday, directing the London Mozart Players in Bach and Mendelssohn and appearing on Croatian Television with LHP as well as appearances at the Newbury and Regensburg Festivals and a special collaboration between LHP and the Scottish fiddler, Alasdair Fraser, at the opening of the Spitalfields Winter Festival.

Adrian is married to the period-instrument flautist and recorder player Rachel Brown and they have one daughter.

You can listen to Adrian playing Leclair with the Croatian Baroque Ensemble on YouTube.

Please contact us for a fully updated biography for concert programmes


Beethoven, the reluctant pupil?

A new series of three quartet programmes from the Revolutionary Drawing Room

Beethoven started taking lessons in composition with Haydn in November 1792 shortly after Haydn’s return from his first visit to London and these continued for about a year. The relationship wasn’t always a smooth one but in later life Beethoven acknowledged the debt he owed to his famous predecessor.

1.     Dedicated to Prince Lobkovitz
Haydn Op.77 No.1, Op.77 No.2, Beethoven Op.18 No.3

Both Haydn and Beethoven enjoyed the patronage of Prince Lobkovitz, Haydn for what proved to be his final completed quartets and Beethoven for his first set. Both sets were written at the same time and it is fascinating to compare the older composer’s final mastery with his former pupil’s striking confidence.

2.     The Fugal Connection
Haydn Op.20 No.5, Mozart K.387, Beethoven Op.59 No.3

Beethoven wrote out the fugue of Mozart’s K.387 when writing his Op.18 quartets, probably in preparation for the exhilarating fugue he wrote as the finale to Op.59 No.3 and both composers learned from the fugal finales of Haydn’s Op.20 set.

3.     Tribute to Haydn
Beethoven Op.95, Haydn Op.20 No.1, Beethoven Op.74

Beethoven was unwilling to acknowledge his debt to his teacher, Haydn, as a young man but wrote these two quartets just after Haydn’s death, finally acknowledging that debt. Beethoven wrote out the slow movement of 20/1 in the 1790s and the parallels between that movement and his own A flat major slow movement of Op.74 are very strong.

“To Play before the King”

Rachel Brown                                       flute
Adrian Butterfield, Oliver Webber         violin
Katherine Sharman                               cello
Laurence Cummings                             harpsichord


‘To play before the King’

Telemann              Quartet in G
Quantz                  A major concerto for flutE
Handel                  Trio Sonata in D major op5


F. Couperin          Concert Royal in G major
Geminiani             Sonata
Handel                  Arias for King Solomon (arr Brown)
What tho’ I trace
Beneath the Vine,
Will the Sun forget to streak


The Angel and the Devil – Leclair and Locatelli

ADRIAN BUTTERFIELD            violin
with LAURENCE CUMMINGS  harpsichord

The Angel and the Devil


It is said that, when the two great violinists Jean-Marie Leclair the Elder and Pietro Antonio Locatelli played on the same bill at a concert in Kassel in 1728, the former played ‘like an angel’ and the latter ‘like a devil’.

Leclair and Locatelli represented two utterly antithetical ends of the musical spectrum; Locatelli the extremes of expression of the vocal Italian style and Leclair the subtlety, grace and beauty of the dance-based French style. This programme of violin sonatas is designed to bring out the differences in these fascinating and highly influential musicians who both died 250 years ago in 1764.


Jean-Marie Leclair                            Book 1 No.10 in D major

Pietro Antonio Locatelli                 Violin Sonata Op.6 No.2 in F major

Arcangelo Corelli                             Op.5 No. 5 in G minor

Leclair                                                Book 1 No.5 in A major


Locatelli                                             Violin Sonata Op.8 No.2 in D major

Giovanni Battista Somis                  Violin Sonata Op.2 No.9 in B minor

Leclair                                                Le Tombeau Bk 3 No.6 in C minor


Tribute to Corelli (1653-1713)


Director Adrian Butterfield


Tribute to Corelli (1653-1713)


Handel Sonata a Cinque (Violin Concerto) in B flat major

Corelli Concerto Grosso Op.6/7 in D major

Muffat Sonata No.5 ‘Armonico Tributo’ in G major


Handel Concerto Grosso Op.6/6 in G minor

Muffat Sonata No.1 ‘Armonico Tributo’ in D major

Corelli arr. Geminiani ‘La Folia’ in D minor



A programme to mark the 300th anniversary of the death of Corelli


Instrumentation: + organ/harpsichord + archlute with 2 violins doubling on viola for Muffat


Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 2 Nos. 1 – 5 and 8
Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 2 Nos. 1 – 5 and 8

with Laurence Cummings, harpsichord and Jonathan Manson, viola da gamba

The joys of Jean-Marie Leclair’s Violin Sonatas Op 2, published in 1728, five years after his first book of sonatas, can be found in the beauty of their melodic invention, and their expressive and surprising harmonies. Leclair takes us on unexpected journeys of landscape and scenery in his slow movements and excites with Italian energy and fire in the fast.

Naxos 8.572866

Mozart: Clarinet Quintet
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet

Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A K.581
with quintet fragments K.581a, K580b, K516c in completions by Robert Levin and Franz Beyer

with Colin Lawson (basset clarinet/clarinet in C) and Michael Harris (basset horn)

Clarinet Classics CC0068, released December 2012

“…an interpretation of distinction. Mozart’s ‘unplumbed melancholy underlying even his brightest and most vivacious moments’ (WJ Turner) strikes a chord with Lawson and the Revolutionary Drawing Room. He draws from his basset (copy of a period model, as are the other clarinets used here) a woody tone of subtly varied hues, balanced with strings equally sensitive to the composer’s skill in texturing.”  Gramophone, March 2013

Francesco Geminiani – The Complete Sonatas Op.1

Rachel Brown – recorder, flute
Adrian Butterfield & Oliver Webber – violins
Katherine Sharman – cello
Laurence Cummings – harpsichord

Sonatas 1 to 12 from Geminiani’s Op.1

SOMMCD 248-2

CPE Bach Sonatas for Keyboard and Violin
CPE Bach Sonatas for Keyboard and Violin

 … imaginative vitality …  formidable performer …  the supreme art with which Butterfield brings all this [variety of articulation, phrasing, and imagination] together with a sense of style that kindles the listener’s interest.” – Le Devoir (Montreal)

During CPE Bach’s early years, the trio sonata underwent a number of significant changes. The keyboard, especially, made the transition from a continuo role to an independent obbligato part, with the right hand on par with the treble, melodic parts. It was then not a great step to the interesting idea of a solo piece for keyboard with the accompaniment of one or more melody instruments. This is what we witness in CPE Bach’s pieces for keyboard and violin recorded here. This is the debut solo recording on ATMA of the two outstanding English musicians Adrian Butterfield and Laurence Cummings.

ATMA Classique ACD22313

Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 5-8
Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 5-8

Adrian Butterfield      violin
Alison McGillivray     viola da gamba
Laurence Cummings  harpsichord

While enlivening French chamber music with Italianate vivacity, Leclair also revels in the ornamentiation, love of lyricism and touches of pastoral colour characteristic of his native land, while nodding here to the Scottish style of fiddling or there to the gentle sound of a shepherd’s bagpipe.

Naxos CD 8.570889

Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 1-4
Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 1-4

Adrian Butterfield       violin
Alison McGillivray      viola da gamba
Laurence Cummings   harpsichord

With his four books of Sonatas, Jean-Marie Leclair established himself as the founder of the French School of violin playing, whose elegance he enlivened with the lyricism of the Italian baroque master, Corelli.  The first four from Leclair’s first book of sonatas balance humour, flamboyance and rustic charm with many technical challenges.

Violin Sonata in C major Op.1 no.1
Violin Sonata in B flat major Op.1 no.3
Violin Sonata in A minor Op.1 no.1
Violin Sonata in D major Op.1 no.4

Naxos CD 8.570888

Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 9-12
Leclair Violin Sonatas Book 1 Nos. 9-12

Adrian Butterfield      violin
Alison McGillivray     viola da gamba
Laurence Cummings  harpsichord

Leclair’s studies of dancing and violin, and his admiration for Corelli’s influential set of Violin Sonatas Op.5, stimulated the young Frenchman to compose his own set of twelve Violin Sonatas Op.1, in which the fusion of the two national styles, les goûts réunis, is charmingly achieved.

Violin Sonata in B flat major Op.1 no.11
Violin Sonata in D major Op.1 no.10
Violin Sonata in B minor Op.1 no.12
Violin Sonata in A major Op.1 no.9

“This CD completes Adrian Butterfield’s three-disc set of Leclair’s first volume of violin sonatas from 1723. Like the others, this disc is shaped by exquisite phrasing and studded with lovely Italianate ornamentation and French enflés. The tempi are by turns graceful and exuberant. There is, in fact, so much to savour: the charm of the dances; the refreshing rustic quality of two of the rondeaux; the glorious homage to birdsong in the D major Sonata; and double-stopping that pervades the whole of the B minor Sonata. Here, as before, Butterfield plays with assurance and musicality. The bass viol and harpsichord accompaniments from Alison McGillivray and Laurence Cummings are sublime and, just occasionally, Leclair allows them the last word!”

Julie Anne Sadie, Gramophone, February 2010

Naxos 8.570890

Handel: Complete Sonatas and Works for Violin and Continuo
Handel: Complete Sonatas and Works for Violin and Continuo

Adrian Butterfield, violin
Katherine Sharman, cello
Laurence Cummings, harpsichord

Adrian Butterfield plays beautifully throughout…and is lent wonderful support by Katherine Sharman and Laurence Cummings (of whom Butterfield writes that he could have wished for no better companions). This should be required listening for anyone playing these works. Will this dream team now undertake some Geminiani or Corelli, please.”

Brian Clark, Early Music Review, February 2008

“Piers Burton-Page welcomed the London Handel Players’ Somm account of Handel’s Op.5 as “well-nigh perfect” (September 2005), a view from which I would not dissent regarding the current issue… Butterfield’s subtly nuanced, light-as-air reading…a special revelation. That could be said for everything in this richly enjoyable recital…Here these three outstandingly gifted players are at the peak of their collective form, pouncing on the third movement Furioso with gleeful abandon and stunning virtuosity (a special word of praise here for cellist Katherine Sharman’s staggering agility). There is lovely sound, too, from Siva Oke and Ben Connellan.”

Julian Haylock, International Record Review, March 2008

Sonata in A HWV361
Sonata in D HWV371
Sonata in G minor HWV364
Sonata in D minor HWV367
Sonata in D minor HWV 359
Sonata in G HWV358
Allegro (for unaccompanied violin) HWV407


Handel: Trio Sonatas Op.5
Handel: Trio Sonatas Op.5

Rachel Brown, flute
Adrian Butterfield, Oliver Webber, violins
Peter Collyer, viola
Katherine Sharman, cello
Laurence Cummings, harpsichord/organ

“I find all the performances well-nigh perfect…the music is absolutely gorgeous”.

Piers Burton-Page, International Record Review (Handel Trio Sonatas Op.5)

“…Rachel Brown’s incomparable flute playing… The performances are uniformly excellent: they have the straightforward integrity that is essential for Handel, and yet they are full of delicacy and refinement. I was particularly taken with their subtle use of notes inégales in the French-style dance movements.”

Peter Holman, Early Music, May 2006 (Handel Trio Sonatas Op.5)

“The London Handel Players shine in immaculately prepared, finely balanced and lyrical performances.”

David Vickers, Early Music Today, August/September 2006 (Handel Trio Sonatas Op.5)


Sonata I in A major HWV 396
Sonata II in D major HWV 397
Sonata III in E minor HWV 398
Sonata VI in G major HWV 399
Sonata V in G minor HWV 400
Sonata VI in F major HWV 401
Sonata VII in B flat major HWV 402

Handel at Home
Handel at Home

Rachel Brown, flute
Adrian Butterfield, Oliver Webber, violins
Peter Collyer, viola
Katherine Sharman, cello
Laurence Cummings, harpsichord

“This extremely attractive release is sure to find a wide audience; it’s as much fun as it is beautiful.” Robert Levett, International Record Review (“Handel at Home”)

“Their consummate musicianship is consistently delightful”

David Vickers, Gramophone Magazine

“This review could be reduced to just three words: ‘Buy this recording… On this disc Rachel Brown and the London Handel Players give performances that are perfection itself, with a dazzling beauty of tone and of phrasing, a breadth of colours and a range of dynamics that are employed to serve the music and to entertain the listener. More than that, this recording is full of the most delicious music you could ask to hear, and the players give every indication of loving every note they play.”

Robert Bigio, Pan


Flute Concerto
Overture and movements from Alcina
Overture and movements from Solomon
Movements from Semele

all in instrumental versions

Handel: Trio Sonatas Op.2

Rachel Brown, flute
Adrian Butterfield, Oliver Webber, violins
Katherine Sharman, cello
Laurence Cummings, harpsichord

“(Rachel Brown’s) contribution in Sonatas Nos 1 and 4 is a delight. It cannot be denied that what should be an equal relationship between treble instruments in a trio sonata texture is knocked a little off-balance when the pairing is flute and violin (one’s ear is always drawn to the flute), but when the playing is as gently breathed and musically refined as the kind Brown has to offer, there can be no reason for complaint.  Adrian Butterfield and Oliver Webber do not have the lyrical grace of Sonnerie, but there is perhaps more clarity of texture here, and their playing is stylistically confident, with plenty of intelligent interpretative detail to entertain the ear. The continuo section manages to be both punchy and resonant – a bold sense of line from Katherine Sharman, rich chords from Laurence Cummings – and the pair are not afraid to take centre stage when the time comes to stride around like pocket-Polyphemuses in the Larghetto of the Third Sonata. These are fine performances from players who really know their ground.”

Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone, July 2009


Sonata no.1 in B minor
Sonata no.2 in G minor
Sonata no.3 in B flat
Sonata no.4 in F
Sonata no.5 in G minor
Sonata no.5 in G minor

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Photographer: Chris Christodoulou

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