Notes and Editorial Reviews
VIVALDI AND BACH FOR RECORDER
DYNAMIC CDS 667 (55:00)
All the pieces on this program are arrangements and transcriptions for recorder quartet—and in three cases, transcriptions of transcriptions—of concertos and other music by Vivaldi and Bach. The usual
in the case of these two composers is that they themselves transcribed their own and others’ works and are, thus, fair game themselves, and that is the operative rationale here. There is a body of
work explicitly for recorder ensembles, most of it written to help foster the revival of interest in the instrument from the middle years of the last century. There is also the considerable body of recent music written for the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet (still very much in business after 30 years). If the ensemble in question is a quartet of recorders, played by specialists in early music, however, the pickings are slim, indeed.
For the record, the transcriptions here are of Vivaldi RV 153, 157, and 443, and Bach BWV 596 (from RV 565), 593 (from RV 522), 595 (from a concerto by Bach’s pupil Johann-Ernst of Sachsen-Weimar), and of contrapuncti 1, 3, and 9 from
The Art of Fugue
. The Vivaldi pieces are string concertos; the Bach pieces are all for organ, except for the three late fugues, whose scoring is, of course, open. The issue at hand here is not how well, or even whether or not, these transcriptions and arrangements represent or tell us something about Vivaldi and Bach. One can easily imagine far deeper and more radical inroads into these pieces. The issue, it seems to me, is, given this approach to making this music, is the result musical, and the answer is, generally, yes.
On the face of it, one would expect the Bach pieces to come off best, derived as they are from organ works. They are played in the best modern detached style and at attractively lively tempos. What one misses, however, is the wonderful fullness of the pedal, something the Loeki Stardust solved with Friedrich von Huene’s invention of contrabass and sub-contrabass recorders. Alas, one also misses the variety of color an organ offers. The ensemble sounds best in the contrapuncti and in the transcriptions from Vivaldi, all anonymous, save for Bertho Driever’s of RV 443, made originally for Loeki Stardust.
The recording has good sound; it is recorded quite close up, however, so the listener is treated to occasional key-slaps and quick breaths. There are no musicological revelations here; the playing is fine and straightforward. There is little direct competition for this program, save for BWV 596 and the three contrapuncti, which the Loeki quartet has recorded for Channel Classics.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Written: circa 1745-1750; Leipzig, Germany
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