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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Johann Christian SCHICKHARDT (1680-1762)

Concerto I for 4 treble recorders and bc in C [09:47]
Joseph Bodin DE BOISMORTIER (c1691-1755)

Concerto IV for 5 recorders in b minor, op. 15,4 [07:57]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Concerto for 4 recorders in E (arr by Markus Zahnhausen after the ‘Concerto a.4. Violini Senza Basso’ in G [06:34]

Sonata VI for 4 recorders and bc in a minor, op. 34,6 [06:50]
Johann Christian SCHICKHARDT

Concerto II for 4 treble recorders and bc in d minor [10:19]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN

Concerto for 4 recorders in F (after the Concerto a.4. Violini Senza Basso’ in D [05:38]

Concerto II for 5 recorders and bc (ad lib) in a minor, op. 15,2 [07:30]
Sonata III for 4 recorders and bc in e minor, op. 34,3 [06:07]
Johann Christian SCHICKHARDT

Concerto III for 4 treble recorders and bc in G
Sirena: Karina Agerbo, Marit Ernst, Pia Loman, Helle Nielsen, recorder
Dan Laurin, recorder; Mogens Rasmussen, viola da gamba; Fredrik Bock, theorbo, guitar; Leif Meyer, harpsichord, organ
Recorded in July 2001 at the Kastelskirken, Copenhagen DDD
BIS–CD-1234 [70:30]


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During the period we call ‘baroque’ the recorder was losing ground, being increasingly pushed onto the sidelines by the transverse flute. A clear sign of this trend was the publication of Vivaldi’s opus 10, around 1728 in Amsterdam. Originally two of the six concertos were composed for the recorder, but when they were published as part of opus 10, all the solo parts were for the transverse flute. And although Johann Sebastian Bach regularly used recorders in his vocal works, he never composed any solo pieces for the instrument.

The recorder held its popularity, though, in circles of amateurs: the instrument was played well into the 19th century. It is no coincidence that it was Telemann who, as one of the few composers of the 18th century, wrote quite a number of pieces for the recorder. He had a good feeling for the demands of amateur musicians.

No wonder many of today’s recorder players look for an extension of the repertoire for their instrument. They often play music originally composed for other instruments, like the violin. For an ensemble of recorders it is even harder to find appropriate music, since the phenomenon of the recorder consort vanished during the 17th century – except in England. The Swedish recorder quartet Sirena has done what solo recorder players do: they have arranged music for other instruments for their consort – with mixed success.

Let me start with what is the most satisfying part of this recording: the Concertos for 4 treble recorders and basso continuo by the German composer Johann Christian Schickhardt. Although he – like Telemann and Boismortier – composed a great number of works, he never reached the status of someone like Telemann, who – thanks to the printing licence he acquired – could publish a large number of works and earn quite a lot of money. Schickhardt’s works are quite unique because of their scoring for 4 treble recorders with basso continuo. He is strongly influenced by the Italian style and his concertos are very lively and idiomatic for the instruments.

Where in Schickhardt's Concertos the recorders are treated equally and the motifs wander from one part to the other, Boismortier uses the instruments regularly as a kind of ‘orchestra’. In his Concertos op. 15, which were originally composed for 5 transverse flutes, passages for one or two flutes are interspersed by ‘tutti’. This is the main reason the performance on recorders doesn’t work very well. The sound is very massive and static: five flutes playing together can have a wonderful effect, as the recording of these concertos by members of the Concert Spirituel (Naxos) proves. The dynamic differentiation in that recording is lacking here, partly because of the way the ensemble plays, but even more so because of the limited dynamic possibilities of the recorder. The Sonatas from opus 34 are much better. Since the title of opus 34 suggests a performance by transverse flutes, violins or other instruments, Boismortier may have avoided everything that was too idiomatic for a particular kind of instrument.

Telemann’s Concertos are another example of pieces that are not very convincing on instruments other than violins. The most striking example is the Concerto in E, where the ‘principal’ recorder regularly has to play an octave lower than notated, since the recorder’s compass is smaller than that of the violin. But this just undermines the intentions of the composer and changes the whole character of the work.

It would have been nice if Sirena had recorded all six Concertos by Schickhardt: these are delightful works, which deserve to be played and recorded, and since there is no complete recording in the catalogue, such a recording would have been most welcome.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this recording: the ensemble is excellent, no doubt about it, but it has been a bit unlucky in its choice of repertoire. As far as the interpretation is concerned, I would have wished for a little more imagination and boldness.

Johan van Veen

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