Owing to its simplicity and inexpensiveness, the recorder has become one of the most commonly taught instruments in grade-school music classes. But that very position has also, perhaps, made it a less respected instrument than it could be. We may vividly remember the hours spent fumbling with the holes on the front of our plastic recorders in an attempt to master the basic melodies assigned to us as homework, but did we ever learn anything of the instrument's long history — or, for that matter, anything of what it can sound like in the hands of a virtuoso instead of those of a frustrated ten-year-old?
The recorder goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages, and with its pastoral associations it remained a popular instrument throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods. But then came a period of widespread disinterest in the recorder that lasted at least until the 20th century, when musicians started performing pieces with instruments from the same historical periods as the music itself.
Despite the instrument's going in and out of style, the list of composers who have written for the recorder does boast some formidable names, including Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, and Antonio Vivaldi, whose Recorder Concerto in C Major you can see performed in the video at the top of the post.
"After a few measures, musician Maurice Steger stepped up to the microphone and with amazing skill, shredded several serious solos on the recorder," Laughing Squid's Lori Dorn reports of the spectacle. "Steger rested for a few bars to catch his breath and then start all over again. Simply a wonder to behold." We also, in the video just above, have Lucie Horsch's also-virtuosic performance of Vivaldi's Flautino Concerto in C Major, albeit transposed to G major transposition for soprano recorder. Even among those who learned to despise the recorder in school, there will be some who now can't get enough. But even if it hasn't become your favorite instrument, you've got to admit that we're a long way indeed from "Hot Cross Buns."
via Laughing Squid
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.