Babell: Concertos op. 3 for violins & small flute

Anna Stegmann, Ensemble Odysee
75:02
Pan Classics PC 10348

The six concertos recorded here appeared in an error-ridden Walsh print three years after the composer died. His (seemingly badly extrapolated) ripieno parts have been discarded for the purpose of the performances, as have odd instances of the violins doubling the bass part where this leads to some infelicity. The results are a joy to hear, with Anna Stegmann’s small flutes (she plays no fewer than four different instruments) well matched by bright one-to-a-part strings in four of the works; in the fifth she is paired with fellow recorder player Yongcheon Shin in a concerto with two oboes and continuo (transposing the entire concerto up a minor third because it does not fit standard oboes strikes me as an extravagance; surely oboes d’more would have preserved the original pitch?), and in the sixth concerto they are matched by a pair of violins. The final work on the programme is a Sinfonia in A, whose last movement features a virtuosic harpsichord part (presumably for the composer himself, who will be known to most of our readers as the arranger of Handel arias and overtures for keyboard). As a recorder player myself, I very much enjoyed the way Stegmann crafts each note and phrase beautifully; virtuosity without the eccentricity that can often accompany it… This was among the discs I listened to most often through December and January.

Brian Clark