The concert was appropriately named as the recorder orchestra, Praetorius, flew in for rehearsal and the concert and then flew home. It was an intense time for them as not all the ensemble was able to come, so many players were on parts they had not rehearsed before. They spent many hours rehearsing while in Montreal. The theme The Flying Dutchmen, celebrated the height of the Dutch mastery of the seas, during their days of exploration and trade in the Dutch Golden Age. A phantom ship brought fear to many. These flying Dutchmen, instead brought pleasure.
The group started with a Sweelinck fantasie, playing on a matched set of Renaissance recorders. The effect was like listening to an organ. The group has a number of low instruments (down to the sub contrabass) which makes for a full, rich sound. This is a well-rehearsed group with consistent articulation throughout the ensemble. There is precision in their playing which makes for wonderful ensemble playing. As in the Sweelinck, the effect is of listening to a large pipe organ, rather than a collection of instruments.
All those people who think of recorders, only in terms of the high soprano, should hear this group. There was an interesting variety of music. The change in sound was marked as they moved from the Renaissance to the Baroque instruments. The Ruppe (I hope it was this one - announcements were blurred) at times sounded like a calliope. The Schuyt, with more of the higher recorders sounded celestial.
The concert was tied together by some interludes of recorded music which allowed the musicians to change places and instruments. I found the music, which was meant to give cohesion to the concert, interfered with the experience. It was too loud and not in character with the feel of the other pieces. The pieces were announced by microphone, but it was not always easy to hear what was next as the announcement blended in with the transitional music.
Matthias Maute joined the orchestra as a soloist in a Schickhardt concerto. The playing was excellent; the orchestra did a nice job of accompanying the soloist but I found the choice of a solo recorder with recorder accompaniment did not provide enough contrast in sound and colour. There was a nice interplay between the soloist and the "first alto" from the orchestra.
Although the members of this ensemble are amateurs, they take music very seriously and it is obvious in their playing. Although they had to deal with playing new lines, they played well. Though there were sections that were a little uneven, the overall effect was very satisfying. I would love to hear the entire group in concert in the Netherlands. Who knows? Perhaps for ICRO in October 2006.