XXIV Fantasie per il Flauto

Tabea Debus recorder
TYXart TXA 18105
Telemann+modern composers

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]nly very rarely do we get the chance to encounter musicians in full artistic control and bestowed with a technical ability that makes you sit and listen in awe. With these clever juxtapositions of Telemann’s original Fantasias for Flute, alongside these specially commissioned pieces by London’s City Music Foundation for this highly gifted recorder player in the composer’s anniversary year 2017, we have in effect, 12 new “Fantasias on Fantasias”! The notes in German on Fumiko Miyachi’s Air, described as “keck” (bold/daring) and “nachdenklich” (pensive/thoughtful), exploring the musical transition from Presto to Largo (after TWV40:6) could easily be two extremely apt headings for most of the newly conceived, commissioned works. This is a top-draw exposition of recorder playing that straddles not only the centuries, but has the clarity of tone of a Frans Brüggen, and the technical wizardry of a Piers Adams! The first encounter with these newly spawned “Fantasias” is a bit of a slap in the face, or hot coffee in the lap whilst on a comfortable train ride through the Baroque modes and “gouts réunis”, yet one does soon acclimatize to these departures which often still have a toe-hold in the original music. This is musical deconstruction at the highest level, and Tabea Debus matches her admirable skills with these new pieces, completely recognizable from their sources, like emergent Promethean offspring given new life! The return to Telemann often feels somehow spruced-up and informed by these new departures which hold you in their thrall. This well-conceived project lifts this recording above the many others that simply re-produce the neat formality and known qualities of the original set of Fantasias, with perhaps occasional flourishes, and takes it to a very impressive and imaginative level! On nine different recorders, too!! We are both enriched and informed by such an encounter.

David Bellinger

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In Sorrow’s Footsteps

The Marian Consort, Rory McCleery
Delphian DCD34215
Music by Allegri, Palestrina, [Jackson & MacMillan]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his CD mixes modern and Renaissance music, which shares a melancholy mood. At the centre stands the ubiquitous Allegri Miserere, a work presented in the now fairly thoroughly discredited early 20th-century version. The programme notes rather disingenuously side-step the controversy by asserting that any version of the Allegri is simply one improvisation chosen over another – mmm. The performance, with the semi-chorus hidden somewhere in the bowels of Merton College chapel, is pleasant enough, although as both choirs are singing one to a part, the contrast between the two sections is not as marked as usual. The rest of the ‘early’ music is by Palestrina : his Super flumina Babylonis, Stabat Mater  and Ave Maria. The Marian Consort’s singing is never less than polished and beautifully crafted, but the choice of ‘early’ repertoire is entirely conventional bordering on the bland, and is clearly aimed at the easy-listening end of the market. Think of the less familiar but deeply affecting Renaissance music the group could have sung to illustrate Sorrow’s Footsteps. James Macmillan’s setting of the Miserere  makes a nice foil for the Allegri, while the opening account of Gabriel Jackson’s declamatory Stabat Mater  was enough to make this Renaissance-attuned reviewer spill his coffee. A pity the rest of the CD wasn’t more startling. And how did no-one at Delphian notice the typo on the actual CD? – ‘Sorrow’s Footseps’ sounds like an alarming form of foot fungus…

D. James Ross