Tabea Debus: Ohrwurm review – tunes that will dance around in your head

Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 05:00



Tabea Debus, Jonathan Rees, Alex McCartney

Linn Records


Ohrwurm is the word for earworm in recorder player Tabea Debus’s native German. The word appears to have arrived in English, with a credit to its German origin, in Desmond Bagley’s 1978 novel Flyaway as “something that goes round and round in your head and you can’t get rid of it”. Debus traces the idea back much further, to explore “how tunes and dances wormed their way into many aspects of music-making in 17th- and 18th-century Europe”.

She begins with a Chaconne (after Bertali, Merula and Monteverdi) and weaves a circuitous route through time to end with the anonymous 14th-century Lamento di Tristano. The obvious points of contact along the way include the Folies d’Espagne by Marais, the Fandango by Soler, Dowland’s Earle of Essex Galiard and a Jig by Handel.

Tabea Debus: Soler | Fandango in D minor

She also includes two pieces specially written for her, Caffeine by Freya Waley-Cohen (a contemporary moto perpetuo that will definitely become an earworm for anyone who has to practise it) and the altogether more oblique Diaries of the Early Worm by Gareth Moorcraft. The playing is first-rate throughout.

Earworms, of course, are a bit like the smell of garlic. A pleasure when welcome, a curse when not. Sample before you buy.