Recorder Rara
St. Cyprian’s Church, North Adelaide, January 17, 2014
Blown away by shape, nuance

In the time of J.S. Bach, music was often a family business, and the Bachs were the most remarkable of all.

For recorder player Brendan O’Donnell it’s also a family business. On this occasion he was ably accompanied by his mother, Glenys March, at the harpsichord as together they explored some rarities of the recorder repertoire.

If your experience of the recorder is limited to out-of-tune school ensembles, or you imagine that the expressive range of the instrument is limited to pleasant tootling, then this concert would have been a revelation.

The passionate intensity of Jean-Baptiste Loeillet’s Sonata in G minor was striking, with O’Donnell giving the melody line exquisite shape and nuance.

Despite the extreme heat, intonation did not become a serious problem; it’s difficult to stop a recital and retune the harpsichord so it fell to O’Donnell to compensate, which he did very well. The technical demands of the program were considerable, culminating in a virtuosic sonata by one Ignazio Sieber, a name that scarcely resounds down the centuries if you are not a recorder player. His Sonata No. 9, although it has abundant difficulties, is more than a show piece; it does have musical substance.

O’Donnell conquered most of its challenges with ease, leaving the audience to appreciate the composer’s inventiveness and the performer’s exceptional skill.

Stephen Whittington, The Advertiser, 23 January 2014