Monday 8 April 2013

Some spectacular performances of 20th Century English Recorder Music from Jill Kemp on the Music and Media label

In my review of Piers Adams’ recording Shine and Shade I spoke of the revival of interest in the recorder during the 20th Century.

Now comes a new release of 20th century English Recorder Works from Music and Media featuring a top line up of artists.   Recorder player Jill Kemp not only studied under Piers Adams but has performed with Adams’ ensemble Red Priest, standing in for Adams at short notice resulting in her being hailed in the press as ‘one of the top recorder players in the world’ something that is shown clearly on this new disc.

Aleksander Szram (piano)  was winner of the 2004 Vlado Perlemuter Award and has played in more than twenty-five countries over four continents. The Brodowski Quartet were first Prize Winners of the 2008 Royal Overseas League Competition with The Independent newspaper declaring that ‘the brilliant Brodowski are a group to watch out for.’

MMC 103
Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989) wrote his delightful little  Sonatina for treble recorder and piano in 1939. The opening moderato shows Jill Kemp’s beautiful tone and articulation in this lovely movement full of little decorative passages for the recorder. The lovely adagio, full of pathos, receives a lovely performance in the long held phrases.  The brilliant allegro moderato fairly jogs along, full of good humour.

Malcolm Arnold’s (1921-2006) Sonatina for Recorder and Piano Op.41 was written in 1953. In the Cantilena Jill Kemp and Aleksander Szram (piano) handle Arnold’s surprisingly dissonant opening and the slightly unstable melody that follows, beautifully. The plodding, slightly hesitant chaconne receives some great playing, as does the delightful rondo, full of rapid passages and tempi changes.

Gordon Jacob’s (1895-1984) Suite for Recorder and String quartet dates from 1958 and has a thoroughly English sound. This comes in the opening Prelude with the Brodowski Quartet not just giving Jill Kemp’s exquisite recorder sounds fine support, but making an equal contribution.  The lively English Dances receive some terrific playing from Kemp together with the Brodowski’s incisive playing. The Brodowskis underlay the poignant recorder theme of the lament with a lovely string sound, a timeless lament with the quartet occasionally coming to the fore with some lovely playing. This is a beautifully played movement.

We appear to move abroad for the riotous burlesca alla Rumba, which has some lovely slides for the recorder and some incredibly fluid passages from Kemp and a terrific contribution from the quartet. These artists work so well together.  A very English Pavane, showing just how good a composer Gordon Jacob could be, is given such a sensitive beautifully nuanced performance. In the Introduction and Cadenza, after the lovely introduction, the cadenza receives some tremendously virtuosic playing, before returning to the more reflective tone of the opening. In the tarantella, Kemp shows recorder playing of exceptional articulation and brilliance in this terrific little movement, ably supported by the Brodowskis.

This is a fine work, given a wonderful performance by all.

Malcolm Arnold’s leisurely Solitaire for Recorder and Piano is a light and attractive little piece given a lovely performance by Jill Kemp and Aleksander Szram.

York Bowen (1884–1961)  wrote his Sonata for treble recorder and piano, Op.121 in 1946. The rhapsodic moderato e semplice gets a beautifully judged performance by Kemp and Szram, with lovely dynamics. The Andante tranquillo has a beautifully limpid opening and the Allegro giocoso receives a spectacular performance of this delightful piece.

Edmund Rubbra’s (1901-1986) Meditazione Sopra Coeurs Désolés for recorder and piano, Op.67 was written in 1949 and is a set of variations on a 15th Century theme. As the piano strums and the recorder plays a plaintive melody, there is a somewhat Iberian feel to the piece, played to perfection by both.

With Malcolm Arnold’s Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet, Op 140 (1991) the Brodowskis return to join Jill Kemp in Arnold’s unusual work written for Michala Petri and exploiting her ability to vocalise whilst playing the recorder.

In the Andante e mesto there are lovely sonorities from the Brodowskis as the piece opens and some remarkably fine recorder playing.  The delightful allegro is terrifically done with some lovely sliding phrases for the recorder. Again how wonderfully these players combine.  The Lento e mesto brings strange harmonies from the recorder in this transfixing movement, full of strange and lovely sounds from all concerned.  A rather haunting little allegretto only adds to the strangeness of this fantasy whilst the light and breezy vivace produces some unusual wistful sounds as Jill Kemp masterfully manages to vocalise as she plays.  

Jill Kemp truly is one of the best recorder players in the world. With an excellent recording and informative notes this new release from one of our most accomplished recorder players is very much recommended.

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