This record is absolutely delightful, and it ought to appeal to a wider musical audience than just enthusiasts for Handel or for the 18th century style. It would make very good background music for one thing, but it deserves - more than deserves -- to be listened to with full and proper attention. Handel's recorder sonatas, the liner-note seems to say, were the product of his association with first the Earl of Burlington, whose interest in the arts was genuine, and later with the Duke of Chandos who was a bit of a poseur and opportunist. It would have been helpful to have had some comment on the pieces themselves, Handel's instrumental music being as problematical as it is. Is the attribution to Handel completely certain in all cases, for instance? Were all these sonatas originally meant for the recorder, for another instance? Is the D minor sonata, in no fewer than 7 movements, really one sonata or some kind of combination of two? All the music is good, and it all sounds like feasible Handel to me. It was a pleasure to hear the marvellous tune of the final allegro of the B flat sonata, which I also know from a violin sonata in A major, in this alternative setting, but such practice was commonplace with Handel and Bach and their contemporaries, and it proves nothing regarding the origin of the sonata.
Having received no help with any of that, the only thing for it was to enjoy the music. Michala Petri is a really wonderful artist. Her tone is strong, without any trace of whiffliness. The recording balance places her in the foreground, but there's no real harm in that, and Jarrett's harpsichord is admirably clear. The liner-note is more forthcoming on the topic of the best continuo style, described by North as 'sometimes striking only the accords...and perpetually observing the emphatick places, to fill, forbear, or adorne with a just favour'. Jarrett rises to the task admirably, showing imagination, good taste and a sense of proportion. Dull and cautious continuo-playing used to exasperate Bach, as we know from an anecdote in which one such player was startled when the Kapellmeister's arm appeared over his shoulder as Bach added extra harmony and decoration of his own. Jarrett's imagination in the matter of decoration is fully matched by Petri, and the whole effect is lively and sparkling.
The performances date from 1990, and Michala Petri uses, we are told, Moeck recorders - plural. Precisely how many she uses I didn't try to ascertain, but I thought I noticed a particularly bright timbre in the B flat sonata, adding to my special enjoyment of the gorgeous tune I've already alluded to. Under the circumstances I would have expected some information on the harpsichord as well, but if there is any I seem to be missing it. No matter. This is a disc I would recommend to just about anyone, whether they think they like 18th century music or not, indeed whether or not they even think they like 'classical' music of any kind. However I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the cover illustration might be.
I just wanted to endorse David Bryson's excellent review above - this a terrific disc. It's excellent, enjoyable music with real substance to it, and it's beautifully played by two top-class musicians. That's it really - I've nothing much more to add to Mr Bryson's review which says everything I wanted to about this disc (except that I think the cover is a slightly abstract photo of a peacock feather).
Very warmly recommended.
on 23 April 2014
Years ago I saw a young Michaela Petri and realised then that she was an amazingly talented recorder player. Anyone who plays the instrument seriously knows that, contrary to popular opinion, it's a hard instrument to play well. Petri can do it and add in all the authentic decorations that would have been expected when the music was written. Keith Jarrett has played wonderful jazz with stars like Miles Davis, played amazing improvised solo concerts throughout Europe and proved with his harpsichord playing of Bach and Handel that he can get inside their minds while supporting Petri's recorder playing. Their joint recordings are essential for anyone who takes baroque musical duets seriously - so get their CDs now if you haven't already done so!!!