Recorder Bravura: Transcriptions for Recorder and Piano in the Grand Romantic Style
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Gypsy Airs [5.52]
Maria Theresia von PARADIS (1759-1824)
Sicilienne [3.30]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Variations on a Theme of Rossini [5.34]
Nocturne Op.9 No.2 [4.26]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Meditation from ‘Thaïs’ [4.20]
Hans WESSELY (1862-1926)
Feu Follet [2.50]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Come Away Death [3.24]
François GOSSEC (1734-1829)
Tambourin [1.17]
Johann von HUNYADI (fl.1830)
Concert Polonaise [10.01]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise [5.08]
François SCHUBERT (1808-1878)
The Bee [1.41]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Intermezzo from ‘Goyescas’ [3.33]
Wilhelm POPP (1828-1903)
Nightingale Serenade [3.11]
Eugéne DAMARÉ (1840-1919)
The Lark [4.08]
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)
Chaconne [7.55]
Piers Adams (recorders)
Howard Beach (piano)
rec. March 1997, Vestry Hall, London College of Music
In this reissue of a disc originally made for Upbeat in 1997 Piers Adams plays a variety of recorders—sopraninos in F and E, descant in C, trebles in G and F, and tenors in D and C. There is no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 song repertoire.
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 too.
Jonathan Woolf
An engaging disc for the recorder addict.

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