Recorder Visitation from Three Part Fugue
The promise from Capital Early Music and Three Part Fugue's members-- Héloïse Degrugillier, Emily O'Brien, and Roy Sansom--was to show a full spectrum of what a recorder concert could deliver. Indeed the October 10, 2014, "Recorder Kaleidoscope," a program of renaissance, baroque, and contemporary compositions played on recorders varying in size and range from the six-foot contrabass to the ten-inch sopranino exceeded the Dresser's satisfaction quotient. The concert was performed in the acoustically satisfying sanctuary of St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia.
Among the compositions played that was particularly unique for a recorder concert was the jazzy "Kadanza" by the contemporary Dutch composer Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk. This energetic piece that features a percolating beat expresses what is new and old in recorder music, making it a perfect choice for the work that followed.
"Trio sonata in F (after organ trio in C)" by J. S. Bach, the second concert selection, showcased O'Brien playing the contrabass, an instrument that adds depth in the way an organ might. Because this instrument is so large, there is a delay between delivery of the musician's breath and sound production. So part of the pleasure in hearing this lyrically soothing three-movement work was watching O'Brien make the contrabass speak.
Three short Renaissance pieces--the pastoral "In mijnen zin" by Alexander Agricola, the breathy song-like "Helas mon bien" by Jacob Obrecht, and the stately air "Tander naken" by Henry VIII--followed and lead beautifully into the dance composition "Canarios" by Gaspar Sanz. Sanz wrote "Canarios" for classical guitar and Roy Sansom and Héloïse Degrugillier coordinated the composition for recorders, including additions of original divisions (rapid scale-like passages that connect notes of the melody) written by Degrugillier.
After an intermission, the selection turned to two playful compositions from the Middle Ages: "Una pantera" by Johanes Ciconia and "Par maintes foy" by Jehan Vaillant. The latter piece, which featured sopraninos to capture the birds depicted in this spritely work, was introduced by O'Brien with a engaging dramatic reading of an accompanying text.
Two ambitious and serious works--"Abendkonzert" by Modernist Paul Hindemith and "Trio" by baroque composer C. P. E. Bach--bookended four fantasias by Renaissance composers Edward Blankes ("Fantasie VI"), William Byrd ("Fantasia a 3"), Olando Gibbons ("Fantasia I and II"), and John Bull ("Fantasia") to complete a thorough exploration of musical periods.
Three Part Fugue based in Boston is an ensemble with multi-talented members who demonstrated through their program selections and performance the intelligent care and passion they each bring to the recorder as an instrument that can stand on its own for entire concert. Capital Early Music is to be commended for bringing them to the Washington, DC area and attracting a large appreciative audience.
In Ellen Steinbaum's poem "Visitation," the reader experiences an ensemble of voices, where the form using indented lines encourages two different ways of reading the poem until the last two stanzas that counter demand to unite into one voice in a call to join two people romantically. This is much like what one experiences in hearing the different players on instruments with varying tonal range in a chamber group like Three Part Fugue.
I saw the wings first.
.............We were in his kitchen cooking
.............onion soup, a recipe we had each
.............made before, alone. He was slicing
.............onions. I stirred stock, tried to remember
.............where he keeps the skimmer, and
I saw it, an enormous
folding in of wings, dark grey and brown and
startling white against the
.............Carmen had just sung
.............l'amour est un oiseau rebelle.
.............I called him to the window and
.............we stood together long unmoving minutes,
.............willing it to stay.
It was a red-tailed hawk, we later learned by
matching pictures--shape of head and
dangerous beak, size and color, spread of wings.
Later, too, we heard online
the call it might have made
.............though it made none, only stared
.............into us with animal knowing while
.............we held our breath. The hawk, less
impressed, had seen our kind before, watched
for moving food then tired of us,
by Ellen Steinbaum
from Brightness Falls
Copyright © 2013 Ellen Steinbaum
Photo byJulie O'Brien shows from left to right Emily O'Brien with contrabass recorder, Roy Sansom with tenor recorder, Héloïse Degrugillier with a base recorder