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Byrd, Sweelinck, des Prés, Bennet etc
Flanders Recorder Quartet & Friends

Opus 111 OPS 30-272 [65'31]

1. Recercada Primera Sobre El Passamezzo Antiguo & Recercada Ottava Sobre La Folia (Ortiz)
2. Ye Sacred Muses (Byrd)
3. Estampie
4. Saltarello
5. Mille Regretz/Les Miens Aussi Brief (des Pres)
6. Pavana Lachrimae (Sweelinck)
7. Ballo Del Granduca (Sweelinck)
8. O Jove, From Stately Throne (Farrant)
9. Prepare To Die (Patrick)
10. Batalha (Araujo)
11. Scaramella Fa La Galla (Compere)
12. Scaramella (des Pres)
13. Complain With Tears
14. Eliza, Her Name Gives Honour (Bennet)
15. Recercada Segunda Sobre 'O Felici Occhi Miei' (Ortiz)
16. Recercada Segunda Sobre El Passamezzo Moderno (Ortiz)

This is a pleasing programme and its compilation was evidently a labour of love. The Flemish recorder players are as good as any recorder consort I have heard since the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quaratet raised standards and expectations for this often humble genre of domestic music making.

The notes are jokey, but not without wisdom too. They aim at a concept of 'magic' and repudiate stuffy authentic pretensions - 'authentic, schmauthentic', that's the tone. They claim to be seeking Magic Moments, which happen with the coming together of 'the perfect connection between composition, public and musicians in an attractive and acoustic space' - something such as the happy experience I described at South Place last Sunday .

For a CD the equivalent is a well chosen and unique programme, rendered to perfection by musicians in tune with each other, and supported by good presentation. This one scores well on those criteria. Recorders take centre stage, with a mellifluous counter-tenor soloist (Steve Dugardin) and a well balanced male vocal quartet (Capilla Flamenca). It is good to have songs, some familiar, others decidedly not, with recorder accompaniments instead of a lute for a change. The sequence is predominantly of 16C. pieces, some by the prolific anon, with a judicious input of cross-over with percussion and improvisation from three exponents of different lutes (including ud and p'i-p'a).

The programme runs smoothly for just over an hour and it goes well played straight through, which often is not the case. Texts are supplied, but the essays say little about the composers and their pieces; they are instead more in the nature of mission statements for the assembled groups. This matters little, and on the other hand there is a big plus for the excellent typography (clear print, black on white) and the quite excellent codification which makes it easy to know who (initials) is playing precisely what instrument (numbers 1-17) in each track. Their method should be universal for this sort of music.

Nothing jars; not a trace of the edgy difference tones frequently heard in recorder consorts. I wondered whether post-production treatment was a factor in this? We are not vouchsafed information about the recording date(s) or venue(s).

Don't hesitate, it's a lovely CD.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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