In this reissue of a disc originally made for Upbeat in 1997
Piers Adams plays a variety of recorders—sopraninos in F and
E, descant in C, trebles in G and F, and tenors in D and C.
There is no shortage, therefore, of timbral variety, and no
accusations that the same old plough is being furrowed, at least
in terms of the sound produced. As for the programme, it does
wear a largely tried and tested ‘recital favourites look’, though
it’s fair to add that what’s true of the fiddle or the piano
is not necessarily standard fare for the recorder.
Howard Beach, here at the piano rather than his more accustomed
harpsichord, amuses himself with a naughty passage or two in
the Sarasate with which the recital begins, a work in which
Beach and Adams’ solution to the violin pizzicati will amuse
listeners. So too, perhaps, will their ‘catch me if you can’
rubati and Adams’s avian portamenti. Faster pieces contrast
with slower ones, thus Chopin’s Rossini variations is pleasing
for its charm and legato, and Finzi’s reflective Come Away
Death - an unusual choice - is appropriated from the English
It’s always valuable to come across new things. Hans Wessely’s
Feu follet was one such. Wessely himself is a known
quantity as an influential violinist and teacher but I don’t
think I’ve ever come across any of his little genre pieces before,
which makes its appearance in a recorder disc all the more surprising.
Fortunately it’s a charmer, capricious with regard to tempi,
and most enjoyably put together.
Hunyadi was a Hungarian composer much influenced by the virtuosity
of Ernst Kraehmer, who played a now obsolete instrument called
the czakan—which by this time had become a sophisticated seven
keyed instrument. Inspired by Kraehmer’s popularity, Hunyadi
wrote this Concert Polonaise which is in many ways the centrepiece
of the programme. Its roulades and operatic bravura are much
as one might expect of a very public showstopper, and Adams
plays it with remarkable vigour and dash.
There are two directly bird-inspired pieces: both the Nightingale
and the Lark are perfect for the recorder and Damaré’s The
Lark is an especially felicitous fit. The disc ends with
Vitali’s Chaconne, which I’d have programmed earlier
in the recital. It’s also the least impressive performance.
It’s rather rushed, lacks gravity, and is downright frivolous
in places, and not in a good way.
It’s a pity to end on a complaint, so reprising the many good
points, one will notice that this is an engaging disc for the
recorder addict, and might just give a few repertoire pointers
us financially by purchasing this disc
for £12 postage paid World-wide.