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"Les flûtes d'Angleterre: The Delightfull Companion"

Frédéric De Roos (recorders)
La Pastorella
Dir: Frédéric De Roos
rec: Sep 2001, Our, Eglise
Ricercar - RIC 220 (2001; 63'00")

anon: Greensleeves to a Ground [5] f,m,q,s; Johney Cock the Beaver [5] c,r; Pauls Steeple [5] h,m,q,s; Slow Ayre, Jig & Bore [2] d; Slow Scotch Tune [3] h; Tollets Ground [5] a,m,r,s; W Babell: Concerto nr 2 in D [8] b,j,k,m,n,o,s; J Baston: Concerto nr 5 in D [7] b,j,k,l,m,n,o,s; R Carr: Division upon an Italian Ground [1] i,p; W Croft: Sonata in G g,m,q,s; Mr Hills: Division by Mr Hills [5] g; G Keller: A Ground [4] h,p; A Parcham: Solo [4] g,m,o,s; G Sammartini: Concerto a più Istromenti & la fluta e,j,k,l,m,n,o,s; R Woodcock: Concerto nr 3 in D [6] b,j,k,m,n,o,s

(Sources: [1] Carr, The Delightfull Companion, 1686; [2] Synopsis Musicae, 1693; [3] Apollo's Banquet, 1701; [4] George Bingham, ed, 50 airs anglais, 1702-1706; [5] The First Part of the Division Flute, 1706; [6] Woodcock, XII Concertos in Eight Parts, c1720-30; [7] Baston, Six Concertos in six parts, 1729; [8] Babell, Concertos in 7 Parts, 1730)

Frédéric De Roos, flautino (a), sixth flute (b), handfluyt (c), fourth flute (d), fifth flute (e), alto in G (f), common flute (g), voice flute (h), bass flute (i); Dirk Vandaele (j), Marianne Herssens (k), violin; Hans Devolder, viola (l); Bernard Wolteche, cello (m); Eric Mathot, double bass (n); Philippe Malfeyt, archlute (o), theorbo (p), guitar (q), cittern (r); Guy Penson, harpsichord (s)

At the end of the 17th century, not only Italian music - in particular Italian opera - was gaining popularity in England, but also the recorder. At the time it was suggested that it was something like a "rebirth" after almost a century of neglect. From the 1680's on a large number of collections of music for the recorder was published, and collections with dance music for the violin were reprinted with additional suggestions of the recorder as an alternative to the violin.
Recorders of all sizes and ranges were used. Most music was composed or arranged for the alto recorder, simply called common flute. But since John Hungebut, who was the first to publish a recorder method, wrote that the recorder can be carried in a man's pocket one wonders whether the alto recorder was as 'common' as it was supposed to be. In his extensive and interesting essay in the booklet, Jérôme Lejeune suggests that many pieces were expected to be played in transposition, on smaller flutes (who could be carried in a man's pocket), like the fourth, fifth and sixth flute. Hence the performance of a number of pieces here on that kind of recorders, in particular the solo concertos. It is known that their composers - like Babell, Baston and Woodcock - published their concertos for recorders as transposing instruments.
This recording presents a cross-section of the repertoire played in England around 1700. There are some solo concertos by English composers - John Baston, William Babell, Robert Woodcock -, but also by Giuseppe Sammartini. Italian music was very popular in England and works by Italian composers were published in London. Therefore it is certainly justified to include a concerto by one of them. But some English pieces were also strongly influenced by the Italian style. For example, a Solo by Andrea Parcham, of whom even dates of birth and death are unknown, is sounding like an Italian piece of the mid-17th century, with its short, contrasting sections and sudden changes. But there are also typical English dances, like the ground and the jig, and divisions on popular tunes. Some are played on recorders only, others with basso continuo. There is a nice variation in the scoring of the basso continuo: harpsichord, archlute, theorbo, cittern and guitar are used, alongside the cello and the double bass.

This is a very interesting recording, which gives a nice picture of musical life around 1700. And most of the repertoire played here was destined for amateurs. These must have been highly skilled players. So is Frédéric De Roos, who is playing a whole number of recorders of different range, from the flautino to the bass recorder. That, of course, wasn't a solo instrument, but basically a consort-instrument. Just to demonstrate its sound one solo piece has been played on it, which wasn't such a good idea.
The members of La Pastorella give excellent support in the concertos and the playing of the basso continuo part is lively and energetic.
The title of this CD refers to the book Harmonie Universelle (1631) by the French theorist Marin Mersenne, who called the recorder flûte d'Angleterre (English flute). It was - at least in France - considered a typically English instrument. It wasn't, of course, but England was a source of a large and interesting repertoire for the recorder. This recording gives conclusive evidence.

Johan van Veen (© 2002)

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