Photo: Carsten Olson
The Sirena Recorder Quartet
The Sirena Recorder Quartet, like a lot of recorder ensembles, haven’t confined themselves to the early music renaissance and baroque heyday of their instrument but explore a lot of 20th-century and contemporary repertoire as well.
Historical correctness is less important than shaking things up in the established concert tradition. The Quartet likes to see themselves not as “yet another post-modern crossover experiment” but as an ensemble “working to forge a genuine link between the two aspects of music: the abstract and the physical.”
And, they hope to pass “seamlessly between different eras and musical styles, between ‘now’ and ‘then’.”
Now and Then is the title of the Sirena Recorder Quartet’s most recent BIS records release—a program that spans a period from the 14th century to the 21st and whose arrangements include such warhorses of the repertoire as a concerto from Vivaldi’s L’estro Armonico and chorale preludes from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein.
Arrangements are a hallmark of recorder ensembles. They have a disadvantage when compared with other types of ensembles—a trio sonata or a string quartet for example—in that the ensemble repertory can be somewhat limited by comparison. Sirena’s arrangements all work well, but one in which they seem especially in their element is a Canzona by Tarquinio Merula.
Sirena also shines in contemporary music. Selections on this disc include a piece called Pet Rescue by Chiel Meijering loosely inspired by Josquin des Prez, an autobiographical piece called Childhood by Swedish composer Staffan Mossenmark, and a Reichian influenced piece called Clockwork Toccata.
These are all newer compositions than Dick Koomans’ The Jogger. Also influenced by Steve Reich and the minimalist style, Koomans’ 1994 piece is constantly in motion with its rhythmic pulse. Originally composed for the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Recorder Quartet, you can also hear clear jazz influences that never stray too far away from counterpoint and baroque clichés.
Medieval Music and Rock Music?
Sirena’s recording closes with the medieval estampie “Petrone”from the English Robertsbridge Codex of 1360. Interestingly, the ensemble observes in the CD’s liner notes that medieval music and rock music share some common musical structures, and this, they say, helps the oldest piece on the program also seem the most familiar.