Recorder Fireworks
Elis PEHKONEN (b.1942)
Fireworks Music [4:47]
David BECK (b.1941)
Sonatina [11:13]
Robin WALKER (b.1953)
Untitled [6:15]
Peter HOPE (b.1930)
Geordie Tunes [8:01]
David LORD (b.1944)
Miniature Suite [9:39]
Mervyn BURTCH (b.1929)
Sonatina [8:29]
David ELLIS (b.1933)
Fantaisie Epigrammatique, op.87 [6:22]
Derek BOURGEOIS (b.1941)
Sonata op. 295 [12:20]
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Meditazioni sopra ‘Coeurs Désolés’, op.67 [5:38]
John Turner (recorders), Ian Thompson (harpsichord)
rec. 3-4 April 2011, Holy Trinity Church, Casterton
A complete CD of music for recorder and harpsichord? How on earth would you go about filling that? Well, it is, apparently, no problem for the redoubtable John Turner. He has assembled here a varied and fascinating programme of music, almost entirely by living composers.
Turner is an intriguing individual; he spent many years as a leading Manchester solicitor - once flawlessly carrying out a conveyance on my behalf - just declaring an interest - while steadily acquiring a reputation as a quite exceptional recorder player. He eventually, perhaps inevitably, moved entirely into music, and has played with most of the top chamber orchestras and ensembles in the UK. Even more importantly, he has either personally commissioned, or been the dedicatee of, a wide range of compositions, many of which are to be found on this entertaining and beguiling CD.
Turner is joined in this enterprise by a long-time collaborator, Ian Thompson, who adds brilliance to the music with his fine harpsichord playing - clean as a whistle, and always stylish. The pair begin with Fireworks Music by the (despite name) English-born composer Elis Pehkonen. The Handelian title may be misleading, but this is a scintillating piece in three short movements, each named after a type of firework - Catherine Wheel, Roman Candle and Rocket. One of the joys of the CD is that Turner has the opportunity to use the different sizes of recorder, thus giving constant contrast. I do advise, however, removing any pets from the room during Roman Candle, as Turner frequently disappears off the top of the instrument with painfully supersonic squeaks.
David Beck’s Sonatina of 2008 is more thoughtful, highly chromatic in language, yet firmly tonal. Strange that Robin Walker couldn’t find a title for his piece on track 7 - unless I’m missing some subtle humour in Untitled. A nudge towards those New Years Honours List compilers perhaps. Nevertheless it is a lovely piece, which had me thinking of a relaxing train journey … despite one brief becalmed stop outside a station.
Peter Hope’s Geordie Tunes is witty and entertaining, even though the keyboard writing might be thought more appropriate to the piano than the harpsichord; it is given as an alternative. Turner’s playing of Blow the Wind Southerly achieves to perfection the folk-song quality of tone needed, and also the improvisatory feeling.
I was very taken with David Lord’s Miniature Suite, a work of real melodic charm. Again, Turner’s expressive treble playing in the Air takes the breath away - magical. The piece was composed back in 1969 for none other than David Munrow; a poignant link, for Turner played and recorded frequently with that remarkable musician.
The 84-year-old Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch composed his Sonatina in 2007 for these two performers. It thoroughly exploits the textural potential of this pairing, and has a real sense of conversation or dialogue between the two instruments. The final moto perpetuo is scored for the little sopranino recorder, and makes use of the bird-like flutter-tonguing effect.
David Ellis’s Fantaisie Epigrammatique of 2009 is possibly the most structurally original of the pieces, being based on the idea of ‘a short poem with a witty twist at the end’ as the composer describes ‘epigram’.
Derek Bourgeois is probably best known for his many excellent works for brass but his Sonata is thoroughly idiomatic - even if the treble recorder is, in the first movement, often a little low in its compass for comfort. This problem persists in the quirkily neo-Classical second movement.The final Écossaise, though, is wholly irresistible; Bourgeois describes it as a ‘slightly inebriated Scottish romp’. Quite.
Edmund Rubbra is the biggest ‘name’ among the composers on the disc. He wrote, I discover to my surprise, a number of works for this combination of instruments, often inspired by the great Carl Dolmetsch. These ‘Meditazioni’ are free and continuous variants on part of Josquin’s chanson ‘Coeurs Désolés’, and they make a fitting conclusion to this beautiful CD. Congratulations and thanks to both performers, as well as to the production team - which includes the composer David Ellis - of this sonically perfect recording.
Gwyn Parry-Jones 

A CD of recorder and harpsichord music, performed with outstanding musicality and technique by two masters of their instruments.

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