Review by Judith Caldwell
Oct. 10th, ‘16
The ACTA Recorder Quartet consists of Alison Melville, Anne Massicotte, Colin Savage and Tatsuki Shimoda are each formidable musicians with varied and interesting resumes. They began their program with some lovely and lively French dances from the time of Catherine de Medici where the soprano recorder carried the tune and the others provided accompaniment. Then, still in the same time period, the audience heard a much more structured and solemn instrumental in four parts by James Harding where the recorders sounded like a pipe organ. This was followed by an interesting piece by Boismortier.
The composition which was originally written in F sharp for flute and was transposed into F major for recorders – a usual transposition from sharp to major when using recorders. Then instead of his well known Canon and Gigue, the quartet performed three Fugues written by Johann Pachelbel that had clearly begun life as organ music and once again had the recorders sounding organic.
For a change of sound, they moved to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Suite for Pipes. Vaughan Williams was passionate about collecting folk tunes from the British Isles and much of his music sounds vaguely familiar. The Suite for Pipes was written for Northumbrian Bagpipes which are smaller and more delicate than the Scottish version and true to their chameleon abilities the recorders managed to sound like small bagpipes. The first half of the concert wrapped up with a brilliant version of Mozart’s Concerto for Oboe with Shimoda playing the oboe part on a soprano recorder and the other three sounding like a good part of a symphony orchestra.
Post intermission the Quartet played four Parisian Chansons from the 16th century which Melville mentioned had the same universal love themes as country and western music. So we heard about a sad, broken heart; three young girls bringing wine to a party; a long suffering swain longing for his lady; and a rather risqué song about a monk exposing himself to general laughter. A jump to the 20th century brought us Hans Ulrich Staeps’ Dances for Flute. Each dance was written for a different flute ranging from a Tibia or Roman bone flute, to a Hungarian flute which doubled as a walking stick, to a Sambuca or elderberry flute. These were complicated and intricate dances and showed the players mastery of their recorders.
Back to the 18th century and three Fugues by Bach gave the players both a mental and physical workout and were thoroughly satisfying. The last two pieces were very well known, ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ sounded like an ethereal calliope and Strauss’ Trish Trash Polka was wonderful and used all four recorders to great effect, even the minor goof followed by a laugh sounded good. The arrangement for this final piece was, by far, the best of the concert. The range of sizes and tones of the recorders, from the small soprano to a very large bassoon-like one, and the ability of the players to get such a variety of sounds (from what is essentially a stick with holes in it), was amazing. The next Hammer Baroque concert is the Toronto Consort on Sunday, Nov 13th.