Fanfare Magazine, (US) Petri makes these pieces her own, whether they belong to the recorder or not. So just listen and enjoy. Strongly recommended.
My first encounter with Michala Petri was in 1980 on a Philips CD of Vivaldi’s op. 10 flute concertos played on recorder. Uneducated at the time in the burgeoning period instrument and historical practice movement, I didn’t question Petri’s choice of instrument, not knowing that in all likelihood Vivaldi wrote his concertos for the new transverse flute, not the recorder. But I’m not sure it would have mattered even if I had known, for I was so transfixed by Petri’s amazing virtuosity and the performance of my speakers’ tweeters that I reveled in the sound.
The present release is a sampler of Petri and Lars Hannibal’s Baroque favorites, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the duo’s first appearance in 1992 at the Monastery La Cartuja de la Sierra in Andalusia, Spain. For the occasion, OUR Recordings was formed and the program at hand was newly recorded for this state-of-the-art SACD.
If you’re familiar with Michala Petri—perhaps you’ve seen her play, as I have in a TV special a few years ago—you will already know that she is a real phenomenon. Perhaps more than any other single player, she has made the recorder into an instrument to be taken very, very seriously.
Purists may frown at this release, for as I’ve said before, simply performing on period instruments does not automatically lend historical legitimacy to the realization of the works in question. It could be argued that not one of the pieces on this disc was written for recorder and that one or two of the works that flute and recorder players have regularly taken up may not even have been written by the composers they’re attributed to. Well-known pieces like Vitali’s Chaconne, Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” Sonata, and Corelli’s “La Folia” were conceived for violin and contain double-stops (impossible on recorder) and arpeggio-like string-crossing figuration that don’t adapt naturally to a wind instrument.
Bach, of course, did write a number of flute sonatas, but they were almost certainly written for the transverse flute, not recorder. Curiously too, Petri chooses the one sonata among the lot, BWV 1033, that is of doubtful authenticity.
Handel did write the Sonata in B Major, HWV 377; of that, there’s no doubt. But it’s only assumed to be for recorder because of its range. Handel did not actually specify a solo instrument, and the Adagio of this sonata turns up as the third movement in the composer’s Organ Concerto in F Major, op. 4/4.
Still more curious is the case of the Sonata in G Major, RV 59, allegedly by Vivaldi. This hoax of the 18th-century was perpetrated by French composer Nicolas Chédeville (1705–1782), in collusion with publisher Jean-Noël Marchand who put out a collection of Chédeville’s own works as Vivaldi’s Il pastor fido, op. 13. To this day, recordings of “Vivaldi’s” non-existent Il pastor fido sonatas for flute and continuo still abound. The only real question about these rather convincing 1737 “fakes” is whether Chédeville was writing them for recorder or transverse flute. As noted by Lisa Beznosiuk in her Hyperion recording of Bach’s flute sonatas, after about 1725 compositions specifically for or including recorder became increasingly rare. So, when we’re talking about Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and in this case, Chédeville, the transverse flute was the more likely target.
Lo and behold, it seems that Telemann’s D-Minor Sonata, TWV 41:d4 is the only work on the disc not clouded by questions of authenticity or transplantation from another instrumental medium of questionable compatibility. The sonata comes from Telemann’s compilation of trios, sonatas, and suites collected under the title of Essercizii Musici dating from approximately 1740. The late date suggests once again though that the transverse flute rather than the recorder was the designated instrument.
None of this, however, is really going to matter other than to the absolutists. Petri’s playing is so riveting one could listen to her play anything and make music of the gods out of it. The combination of recorder and archlute lends a timeless quality to these performances that transports this listener into the intimate setting of an 18th-century drawing room, and the SACD recording enhances that ambiance. Petri makes these pieces her own, whether they belong to the recorder or not. So just listen and enjoy. Strongly recommended.
Jerry Dubins. November 2011