Aureole etc.

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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonatas: K.90 in D minor; K.87 in A minor; K.9 in D minor; K.30 in F minor; K.159 in C; K.8 in G minor; K.513 in Bb; K.208 in F#; K.58 in C minor; K.96 in C; K.200 in Ab; K.89 in D minor
Copenhagen Saxophone Quartet: Michala Petri, recorder, Kjell-Åke Andersson, zink, Viggo Mangor, baroque organ continuo
No date or location given

This is a weird but very engaging CD. Make what you will of saxophones playing Scarlatti, in the company of one of the most brilliant and distinguished recorder players of our time. Michala Petri needs no introduction; her fabulous technique and musicianship would light up any recital, and it was an excellent scheme to frame this off-beat collection with her unfailingly stylish playing. She is an object lesson to any musician, and most of all, of course, recorder players, in how to introduce variety into 18th century music by the use of different types of articulation. As soon as she sets off into the first Allegro of K.90, you are borne along irresistibly by the effervescence and restless energy of her playing.

The likelihood is that, while you are being carried away by Petri’s virtuosity, you might not even have noticed that she is being accompanied by a quartet of saxophones! The Copenhagen Quartet are a model here of unobtrusive support, and blend quite superbly with the baroque organ of Viggo Mangor. Having been ‘softened up’ in this way, we are then treated to a whole sequence of Scarlatti sonatas, originally for harpsichord, cunningly arranged for the quartet. The playing is of the highest quality, though opinions will vary as to the relative success of the different pieces in this medium. The slower, more expressive numbers arguably do not work as well, for the inherently louche character of the saxophone tends to be only too evident. However, numbers such as K.30, the wonderful ‘Cat’s Fugue’, or the hunting swagger of K.208, seem to me to work like a dream.

What this recital does bring home is the sheer wonder of the music; its lively wit, its unpredictability within quite strict stylistic limits, and above all its amazing harmonic resourcefulness - all of these make an enhanced impact when scored out in this way. Naturally, one loses something when they are moved from their natural métier, but there are enormous gains, especially when they are performed as well as this.

One more little surprise is hidden away on track 9 in the form of an arrangement of K.8 in G minor for zink and sax quartet. ‘Zink’ is the German name for ‘cornett’, and the notoriously uncertain instrument is tamed superbly by Kjell-Ake Andersson.

Unfortunately, no recording details are given, that I could find anyway, other than the fact that organ continuo player Viggo Mangor was also the producer of the disc. An unusual but extremely rewarding musical experience.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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