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GERALD FENECH (UK) Spectacular Virtuosity - '... nimble fingering and miraculous breath control ...'

Gerald Fenech

Spectacular Virtuosity
Michala Petri plays
English recorder concertos -
enjoyed by
GERALD FENECH
'... nimble fingering and miraculous breath control ...'

In the history of Western music, the recorder has been part of the scene for more than seven hundred years, during which time it has enjoyed an excellent relationship with English composers and musicians alike. It was played by amateurs and professionals, and even royalty had a special liking for it. Indeed, Henry VIII owned a sizeable collection of forty seven, and at one time the recorder was considered as the 'English' flute. With the onset of modernism, the instrument started to fade from the European 'scenario', but even so, its sounds still echo through the English countryside.
This disc highlights the music of three generations of English composers who have embraced the instrument anew, making significant contributions to the genre. Concerto Incantato by Richard Harvey (born 1953) was written for the soloist on this issue, and the work draws on both aspects of Harvey's musical life; as a recorder player and a composer of movie and television music. The idea was to write something challenging, energetic and fun, while exploring the different characters of the whole set of recorders, from sopranino to tenor. The
lightly orchestrated accompaniment combines muted and pizzicato strings, flutes and clarinets, giving an air of
joyous freedom to the piece in general.
Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) wrote his recorder concerto in 1988 during a final burst of creativity that included, among others, the Ninth Symphony and the Cello Concerto. Also dedicated to Michala Petri, the work is a breezy creation that never outstays its presence. But as with most of Arnold's pieces, beneath the surface wit one can discover a confident craftsmanship of a supreme master. Perhaps most ironic are Arnold's allusions to the sound world of Carl Nielsen, that giant of Danish music, maybe as a concealed tribute to compatriot Petri.
The Suite for Recorder and Strings by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was written in 1957 after a commission by virtuoso Carl Dolmetsch. At this time the composer was at the height of his popularity and highly regarded as an expert exponent of wind instruments. The seven-movement work has confidence written all over it, providing a delightful and enchanting divertissement where the recorder is treated not as a 'museum' piece,
but as a perfectly normal instrument.

The final 'Tarantella' has remained one of Jacob's most loved compositions and has gone on to enjoy a life of its own as a popular concert encore.
The soloist performs these pieces with spectacular virtuosity, and yet, her nimble fingering and miraculous breath control are a prime example of how this instrument should be approached and handled. Thorel and his Hong Kong forces give sympathetic support. A highly pleasurable disc that sheds some very important light on the hidden byways of English twentieth century music. Notes are average, but sound-quality is as fine as anyone can hope for.
Copyright © 10 May 2012 Gerald Fenech,


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