The Nostalgic Recorder & The Proud Recorder: Music for recorder and string quartet
John Turner (recorder)
The Manchester Chamber Ensemble
rec. St. Thomas’s Church, Stockport. 28-30 May 2014
PRIMA FACIE PFCD038 [75:00]
These two well-filled discs on the Prima Facie label celebrate the consummate musicianship of one of Britain’s leading recorder players. John Turner has premiered over 500 works and composers of the calibre of Kenneth Leighton, Arthur Butterworth, Gordon Crosse, John Casken, Stephen Dodgson and John Gardner have written concertante pieces for him. The admirable extent of Turner’s musical sympathies and interests is reflected in the range of music on both CDs.
Chamber forces require a direct and intimate approach in which there is no room for padding and many of the featured pieces constitute a quintessence of their writer. Several of the works are valedictory in that they count among the very last scores penned by their composer and thus represent a summation of a creative life. Yet the overall effect is decidedly life-affirming and the sheer breadth of repertoire ensures interest is maintained throughout the two carefully chosen programmes.
Called ‘The Proud Recorder’, Prima Facie’s second collection is designed to demonstrate that composers can write for the instrument in a serious context, exploiting its capacity for depth and emotion, especially when accompanied by strings. To illustrate this point, the disc contains no fewer than three substantial quintets, each revealing very different responses to the individual character of the recorder.
The programme begins impressively with the Quintet by Patric Standford. This, the composer’s last completed work, makes a fine coda to his creative output. Weightiest of the four movements, the tripartite opening piece covers a lot of terrain in less than six minutes and from the slow and richly ornamented framing material to the quirky central jig, the ideas are of the highest calibre. Following an introspective Arietta, the joyful rondo-finale is infused with pealing bells and birdsong effects. This is a polished and skilful score which could win the recorder many new converts.