A complete CD of music for recorder and harpsichord? How on earth
would you go about filling that? Well, it is, apparently, no problem for the
redoubtable John Turner. He has assembled here a varied and fascinating
programme of music, almost entirely by living composers.
Turner is an intriguing individual; he spent many years as a leading
Manchester solicitor - once flawlessly carrying out a conveyance on my
behalf - just declaring an interest - while steadily acquiring a reputation
as a quite exceptional recorder player. He eventually, perhaps inevitably,
moved entirely into music, and has played with most of the top chamber
orchestras and ensembles in the UK. Even more importantly, he has either
personally commissioned, or been the dedicatee of, a wide range of
compositions, many of which are to be found on this entertaining and
Turner is joined in this enterprise by a long-time collaborator, Ian
Thompson, who adds brilliance to the music with his fine harpsichord playing
- clean as a whistle, and always stylish. The pair begin with Fireworks
by the (despite name) English-born composer Elis Pehkonen. The
Handelian title may be misleading, but this is a scintillating piece in
three short movements, each named after a type of firework - Catherine
, Roman Candle
One of the joys of the CD
is that Turner has the opportunity to use the different sizes of recorder,
thus giving constant contrast. I do advise, however, removing any pets from
the room during Roman Candle
, as Turner frequently disappears off the
top of the instrument with painfully supersonic squeaks.
David Beck’s Sonatina
of 2008 is more thoughtful,
highly chromatic in language, yet firmly tonal. Strange that Robin Walker
couldn’t find a title for his piece on track 7 - unless I’m
missing some subtle humour in Untitled.
A nudge towards those New
Years Honours List compilers perhaps. Nevertheless it is a lovely piece,
which had me thinking of a relaxing train journey … despite one brief
becalmed stop outside a station.
Peter Hope’s Geordie Tunes
is witty and entertaining,
even though the keyboard writing might be thought more appropriate to the
piano than the harpsichord; it is given as an alternative. Turner’s
playing of Blow the Wind Southerly
achieves to perfection the
folk-song quality of tone needed, and also the improvisatory feeling.
I was very taken with David Lord’s Miniature Suite
work of real melodic charm. Again, Turner’s expressive treble playing
in the Air
takes the breath away - magical. The piece was composed
back in 1969 for none other than David Munrow; a poignant link, for Turner
played and recorded frequently with that remarkable musician.
The 84-year-old Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch composed his
in 2007 for these two performers. It thoroughly exploits the
textural potential of this pairing, and has a real sense of conversation or
dialogue between the two instruments. The final moto perpetuo
scored for the little sopranino recorder, and makes use of the bird-like
David Ellis’s Fantaisie Epigrammatique
of 2009 is
possibly the most structurally original of the pieces, being based on the
idea of ‘a short poem with a witty twist at the end’ as the
composer describes ‘epigram’.
Derek Bourgeois is probably best known for his many excellent works
for brass but his Sonata
is thoroughly idiomatic - even if the treble
recorder is, in the first movement, often a little low in its compass for
comfort. This problem persists in the quirkily neo-Classical second
The final Écossaise,
though, is wholly
irresistible; Bourgeois describes it as a ‘slightly inebriated
Scottish romp’. Quite.
Edmund Rubbra is the biggest ‘name’ among the composers
on the disc. He wrote, I discover to my surprise, a number of works for this
combination of instruments, often inspired by the great Carl Dolmetsch.
are free and continuous variants on
part of Josquin’s chanson ‘Coeurs Désolés’,
and they make a fitting conclusion to this beautiful CD. Congratulations and
thanks to both performers, as well as to the production team - which
includes the composer David Ellis - of this sonically perfect recording.