Notes and Editorial Reviews
"Just over ten years ago RCA brought out a version of The Four Seasons with its star Flute-player James Galway, as soloist, replacing the violin, and very enjoyable it was (RL25034, 2/77; CD RD70161, 6/85). Now with another star wind-player newly under contract, the same company uses a similar device, and among the dozens of versions of this much-recorded group of works it could hardly be more distinctive. As expected, it proves an admirable vehicle for a winning artist, who in her own transcriptons puts her personal magic on rhythm and phrasing, not least in the slow movements, never dawdling sentimentally but always setting the solo instrument in relief by its very contrast of timbre.
Those likely to be attracted by the
idea of Petri as soloist are not going to be worried overmuch about any scholarly justification, and though the recorder might be counted a period instrument, it remains alone in this ensemble, with, the talented young string-players (originally assembled at Guildhall School in London) adopting their usual modern performance technique. The hand of another highly individual artist lies behind this too, George Malcolm, who springs rhythms in his continuo to match his soloist, and adds his own little harpsichord cadenza before the first movement coda of ''Autumn''.
The problem for Petri in making her transcription for recorder has been largely one of pitch, far more critical than with Galway's flute. In the opening tutti, you hear the bright silvery sound of the soloist from the start, and then the great shrieks on high B confirm the arrival of the sopranino recorder, never a discreet instrument. Though Petri does wonders in making it more expressive than I have ever known it, the relentlessly penetrating quality of sopranino tone is wearing, and the very end of ''Winter'', shrieking away up an octave gets near to being painful. Even so, the bird-song imitations are made the more naturalistic by the brightness of timbre, and unlike such a baroque flautist as Frans Bruggen in his accounts of Vivaldi's Flute Concerto, Il gardellino (RCA GL70951; CD RD70951, 2/87), Petri steers a relatively discreet line between naturalism and the notes in the score, when it comes to bird-song. In fast movements her articulation is a marvel, as in the Danza pastorale of ''Spring'', while understandably she opts out in favour of the violin in some of the last movement tuttis of the Storm in the second concerto.
Where in the slow movements of the first two concertos the relatively low pitching of the melody allows for the more comfortable timbre of the ordinary descant recorder, the slow movements of ''Autumn'' and ''Winter'' are made the more edgy by sopranino tone, and it is the same instrument which is used in the concerto which comes as makeweight on Side 2, the delightful Concerto in C, RV443, with its haunting minor-key slow movement and a finale which brightly uses horn-pipe rhythm. Compared with Petri's earlier version for Philips with Iiona Brown and the St Martin's Academy (9500 714, 11/80; CD 400 075-2PH, 7/83), this one is even fresher and clearer, largely a question of recorded sound.
The recording is bright and fresh to match the performances, with the solo instruments grabbing prominence naturally without too much spotlighting."
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [12/1987]
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piccolo in C major, RV 443 by Antonio Vivaldi
Michala Petri (Recorder)
Guildhall String Ensemble
Written: Venice, Italy
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