Fanfare US Magazine.- Natural recorded sound and a lovely booklet with not only excellent notes but lovely photos of the church where the recording was made round out this truly delightful production.
CORELLI Sonatas, op. 5/7–12 • Michala Petri (rec); Mahan Esfahani (hpd) • OUR RECORDINGS 6.220610 (65:56)
It seems as if Michala Petri has been performing at a high level for almost my entire adult life, and indeed she has. Now, at 56, she still sounds as fresh, imaginative, and accurate as she was when she was a young virtuoso first establishing the recorder with the general public as an instrument to be taken seriously.
Arcangelo Corelli’s set of 12 sonatas for violin and continuo that comprises his opus 5 concludes with the famous “La Follia.” The second half of that set, nos. 7–12, were transcribed for recorder by an anonymous assortment of composers in the 18th century. Corelli wrote and published his sonatas in 1700, and the undated manuscript used for this recording is titled: “Six solos for a flute and a bass by Archangelo [sic] Corelli, being the second part of his Fifth Opera, containing preludes, allmands, corrants, jigs, sarabands, gavotts with the Spanish folly. The whole exactly transpos’d and made fit for a flute and a bass with the approbation of several Eminent Masters.”
It is that grouping that Petri and her harpsichordist (who also wrote very helpful notes) presents in this recording made in Garnisons Church in Copenhagen in May of 2014. The playing is as brilliant, infectious, and imaginative as we have come to expect from Petri. Her tone is sharply focused but always appealing, with a roundness surrounding its pointed center. She and Esfahani bring an extraordinarily lively rhythmic flair to this music, clearly reveling in its dance roots. Petri’s virtuosity is always placed at the service of the music; no matter how complex the ornamentation, you never have the feeling that it is there for purely display purposes. The musical shape of each movement is always maintained.
Petri plays with wit throughout. One feels a smile in the gavottes, allemandes, and correntes, while the sarabandes retain their dignity and elegance. Her tone remains even from top to bottom, and her sense of phrasing is impeccable. The music is always going somewhere, it always has momentum and a sense of direction. Esfahani is a true partner in this effort, taking a lead role where the music calls for it (the opening of the Gavotte from op. 5/11, for instance), and applying the same degree of imagination to phrase-shaping and to ornamentation as Petri does.
While much praise deserves to go to Petri and Esfahani, their talents would be less important were this second- or third-rate music. But throughout one is caught up in Corelli’s consistent level of inspiration and his musical imagination. Corelli lived a generation before Bach and Handel, and he influenced them as well as Vivaldi. In his day (1653–1713) he was famous throughout the world of music, both for his violin playing and his compositions (limited though they were to six opus numbers). This group of sonatas, even arranged by others for the recorder, is music of real imagination, music that rises well above the standard of its day with a vivid presence.
Natural recorded sound and a lovely booklet with not only excellent notes but lovely photos of the church where the recording was made round out this truly delightful production. Henry Fogel