Review of The Art of the Recorder
(Rated 5/ 5 )
Rob Cowan on this week's releases, March 28, 2005.
....the period-instrument lobby will likely offer a rather different perspective of Bach's Fugues. When it comes to period "ear-cleansing", no British musician did more to revitalise our interest in old instruments than David Munrow, who died in 1976. The David Munrow Recorder Consort takes centre stage for The Art of the Recorder (Testament SBT2 1368, two discs ). This justly famous collection takes us from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, early Baroque and late Baroque, and on to the 20th century (a Britten Scherzo, a Hindemith Trio and an imaginative quarter-hour dialogue for recorder and pre-recorded tape by the English composer Peter Dickinson). The range of music and textures on offer not only educates but edifies, especially the Bach items, principally the opening duet Sonatina from Cantata 106, surely the loveliest recorder music of all, in which one line wraps around the other like ivy around a vine.
Testament's expertly refurbished package (the recordings date from 1974) is supplemented by over 30 tracks devoted to the "Instruments of the Middle Ages", meaning shawms, reeds and pipes of all shapes and sizes, recorders, lutes, numerous percussion instruments, a harp with "bray" pins, a hurdy-gurdy, various organs, and so on. Munrow's collaborators included some then fledgling specialists who are now very well known in their own right. The recordings hardly ever sound their age, while Munrow's own annotations are models of communicative scholarship.