Notes and Editorial Reviews
The makers of this recording begin by asking the question "What is it that makes English Baroque music English?" To help answer this, the performers--a newly formed group with two recorders at its core (winds and strings are added as required)--offer several examples of works by composers who were part of the "melting pot" that was London in the 17th and 18th centuries. Of these composers, Handel was the most celebrated, but on this excellent program we find some fascinating pieces by two Gottfrieds--Finger and Keller--along with fellow German Thomas Baltzer (a noted violin virtuoso) and Englishmen William Babell, Robert Woodcock, and Henry Purcell. Whether you actually get an
answer to the above question is not as important as the sheer pleasure of hearing the always engaging, sometimes startling music, played with rare virtuosity and recorded in vividly realistic sound. And if you're worried about a whole disc of recorder music, don't be. The duo (Dorothee Oberlinger and Karsten Erik Ose) is joined variously by violins, oboes, harpsichord, organ, and cello, and the musical selections are also quite varied, showing off the skills of different players as well as the imagination of composers who seemed to relish writing for these instruments.
And boy, do these players love to play this music! Of course, a subtext for the program is a focus on the importance of the recorder as a kind of universal instrument, employed in chamber and orchestral concert music as well as for private and home use. But in works such as Handel's Concerto in B--as theatrical a piece as you'll ever hear for the flautino, the highest-pitched recorder--and Woodcock's Concerto No. 4 in A minor for two high recorders and solo violin, you'll have trouble escaping the spell of the instruments' wild, leaping antics, catchy melodies, and plaintive slow-movement calls and trills.
You may guess the ensemble's specialty from its name--Ornamente 99--and these players' quest to "rediscover the old art of ornamentation" is on full display everywhere, especially in slow movements like the Adagio of Handel's G minor sonata. Handel isn't the only star here; on the contrary, Gottfried Finger offers some of the more adventurous and fun twists and turns along this mostly untraveled repertoire path. Among these are the charming Division on a Ground, with its increasingly complex melody for "flauto dolce" and the bizarre, alternately sweet and percussive Largo from the Sonata in F. And if you're among the unfortunate addictees to that dreadful yet obscenely popular Pachelbel piece (you know the one), you may find a happy source of withdrawl in Finger's Chaconny from the abovementioned F major sonata, which does all the same things but in a merciful two minutes and 15 seconds!
And if it's sonority you want, look no further. One reason for the warm, richly colored sound is the instruments themselves--the complementary timbres of wood, reeds, and gut strings; another is the choice of lower-than-usual standard pitch, which varies here from 392 to 415 depending on which instruments are used. But none of this would be as impressive without ideal miking--which is what we get, capping one of the year's more unusual and satisfying recordings, one that Baroque fans shouldn't miss.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Trio Sonata in G minor by Gottfried Keller
Length: 5 Minutes 16 Secs.
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