The recorder, so named for an obsolete sense of the verb "record" as meaning "to practice," was for many early music enthusiasts an initial introduction to the whole world of historical performance. But performances that re-create the world of the recorder in detail have been fairly rare. This fine release by Toronto-based recorder player Alison Melville fills a big gap with its generous selection of recorder music that an English player might have known around 1700. Such a player would have been attuned to the powerful new virtuosic currents of music coming from Italy, and it is especially noteworthy that Corelli's Violin Sonata Op. 5, No. 12 ("La follia"), was published in a recorder arrangement in London in 1702, barely two years after the Roman publication of the violin version. Melville handles the technical challenges elegantly, both here and in the Recorder Sonata Op. 2/2, of William Topham, one of Corelli's earliest English imitators. Yet the recorder was not just about virtuosity, and what makes this recording special is the way virtuoso pieces are mixed in with teaching works and pieces of what would now be called more of a mass-market nature. Handel's overture to Rinaldo was arranged for recorder simply as a way of getting the music affordably into the hands of fans, just as operatic pieces would quickly be made into piano or quartet versions a century later. The piece called Solo No. 2 by Daniel Purcell, Henry Purcell's much-neglected younger brother, is in fact a sonata-like piece for recorder and the nicely flexible continuo group Melville assembles here. The single pieces here are true solo pieces, drawn from instruction books, and they uniformly offer testimony to the fertile imagination of the mostly forgotten group of composers represented here: a group with international origins that nevertheless cohered into something characteristically English. Best of all, the sound from the small Pipistrelle label is as thoroughly pleasant as the music and Melville's playing. An essential purchase for recorder fans that will also make a few new ones.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata 6, Op. 2|
|Sonata 4, Op. 3|
|Sonata 2, Op. 2|