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A Winner – FIVE STARS!” (Maximum)Audiophile Audition

August 9, 2008

Peter Bates, Audiophile

A Winner – FIVE STARS!” (Maximum)

The four smiling women on the cover of this new edition of Mozart’s flute quartets have much to be happy about. They’ve compiled a winner. For a start, search and discover these wondrous samples of their craft from K285 alone: in the Allegro, there’s a graceful diminuendo at the conclusion of first theme’s opening statement; at the conclusion of the Adagio two tantalizingly long rests; then there is the keen attention the ensemble gives to subtle shadings between repeats; and of course the pure hardwood tones of the recorders . . .what? Recorders?
That’s right. Michala Petri plays these four sublime “flute” quartets on a variety of recorders: alto, soprano, even the birdlike sopranino. The first two may have originally been played on such instruments. However, this unorthodox programming choice works gloriously for all four pieces. She may dazzle us, but never do we get the impression that she’s showing off her virtuosity (of which there is plenty). She is merely revealing this music in its best light. In fact, these quartets just happen to sound better than when played by most modern flute players.
The sonics of this SACD seem perfectly balanced, with tones warmer than a comforter in March. The three string players are extraordinary: their instruments complement the recorders the way balsamic vinegar does virgin olive oil. These performances are not only smooth, they are entertaining. The Tema
con variazioni of K285b recalls affective moments from Mozart’s serenades: its poignant opening melody is seasoned with tasty triplets half way through. (Catch Petri’s deft witty switch to sopranino at the conclusion.) There are many such high points on this CD. You will have to pick out the best for yourself, so listen close. This is music that may inspire you to curl up next to a fire, cat, or lover and forget the world’s colossal disarray. – Peter Bates
*Michala Petri performs on the Mollenhauer Modern Alto recorder and the Moeck Rottenburgh Soprano and Sopranino recorders

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