Saturday 29 July 2023

The Art of the Recorder - 1975 LP by David Munrow et al

Here is a treat for you! - a record that I borrowed from the Bristol record library back in 1975, and recorded on cassette tape for my own usage (except for the modern music at the end) - long since lost or broken, alas. 

It has many gems featring recorder as solo, in ensemble, or as obbligato, spanning several centuries - including such songs as "Sheep may safely graze" sung by Norma Burrowes, Robert Lloyd singing "Ruddier than the cherry", Martyn Hill doing a Shakespeare song by Arne, and James Bowman's superb rendering of Esurientes from Bach's Magnificat. These are all singers that I enjoyed 'in real life over' the next few years; and indeed I once sang in a choir for which Martyn Hill was the tenor soloist. 

This LP was also where I first came across that absolute gem by Bach featuring a pair of recorders, which I have twice featured on this blog. 

David Munrow was an important figure in my development of appreciation for "early music", and early classical music - both through his playing of various wind instruments; and from his scholarly and educational activities on vinyl and via TV and radio. He committed suicide in his thirties, almost out-of-the-blue, apparently; but the suicide was never mentioned at the time, and I never understood why he had died so young, until several years later. 

I retain a special fondness for the Treble Recorder, which has an unique, innate, plaintive and yearning quality. It was reintroduced to classical music in Germany, especially by Arnold Dolmetsch - but I always found Dolmetsch's playing to be rather constipated and lacking inspiration. 

It took Munrow to 'free' the recorder from the smoke of academicism - where it now basks openly!


Mark In Mayenne said...

Recorders have been replaced in orchestras by the flute that can play loudly enough to hold its own. But students spend years trying to get a decent tone from the flute, while the recorder has it built in. Also the symmetrical playing position of the recorder is much better for young, growing bodies.

Not many flute students end up playing in orchestras, so I firmly believe that starting on a recorderis best. Musically talented and ambitious students who want to play in orchestras or as soloists can transfer to the flute at age 13 or so, without loss of technique, as can those who simply like the flute. Those who remain enchanted by the recorder can continue to develop their talents on that instrument.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MinM - That sound decent advice. As you say, on a decent quality of instrument, the recorder has a built-in good tone.

Although it perhaps depends on whether someone prefers Baroque era and earlier - when recorder is best in terms of repertoire; or Classical and later - when transverse flute is best.

Transverse flute also has the advantage of being excellent for folk music, especially Irish: