Bach Cello Suite No 1 has been transcribed for many instruments so it is not surprising to find a performance here for bass recorder. Bach often transcribed his own pieces for totally different instruments and voices and using different texts as well. It is therefore fair game to transpose this popular Suite for any instrument you like, certainly not limited to strings. By necessity some passages which require double stopping on the cello have had to be arpeggiated for wind instruments as they can only play one note at once. However the music was not diminished because of this. Bach’s music is pretty robust! The piece has less bite on the recorder, particularly one as gentle in sound and slow-to-speak as the bass recorder, and Crossley’s performance was accordingly more etherial. Her phrasing was suitably adapted but the rather lively tempi required in the faster movements were not always ideal in the resonant acoustic of St James Church. The playing was however intelligent and heart-felt.
The rest of the program was also transcribed pieces, but played on the tenor recorder. I wondered why the treble was not used as it is a more usual solo instrument. Upon reflection, the tenor is middle C based like the flute from which most of the transcriptions are derived, so it does make sense.
I guess the transcriptive nature of the concert is where the “Alchemy” title comes in; turning lead to gold… Anne Boyd’s Goldfish through summer rain was originally scored for flute and piano, but Boyd’s work, with its decided Asian character, seems better suited to the almost shakuhachi like sound of the tenor recorder. Likewise the harp, here delicately played by Verna Lee, was more reminiscent of the koto than the original piano. Apparently the performance was workshopped with the composer and thus the transcription carries her blessing. This piece was very beautifully rendered and here the acoustic helped to create a meditative atmosphere. Gold indeed.
Also Debussy Syrinx transcribed from solo flute was ideal for this instrument and place.
The three movement Partita V by the German flautist and classical composer Johann George Tromlitz was transposed down a tone to fit the rather more limited range of the recorder. The phrasing, articulation and dynamics were beautifully executed and the sound well supported, again making the most of the space. The rapid movements worked rather better than in the Bach due to the more lively tone of the tenor instrument. From the physical shape of Crossley’s instrument and sound rich in overtones, I am guessing it has a rather more narrow bore than the usually more hollow sounding tenor recorders I have heard. It worked very well.
Fauré revised his Siciliene many times. Presented here was a transcription based on the Op78 version for cello and with the harp again taking the piano part. Though considerably more chromatic, robust and full in texture than the Boyd piece, Crossley and Lee achieved a fresh youthful pastoral feel.
The Garden of Love by JacobTV was a transcription from the original scoring for oboe. Accompanied by a preprepared multimedia presentation, this is an interesting piece, highly rhythmic with sound loops. I have not heard the original scoring and I imagine the penetrating tone of the oboe might have been more appropriate here, but it was well executed and an interesting conclusion to a diverse concert.