Music for the Queen of Scots
Among the hardest challenges in all music must be to keep over an hour’s worth of recorder quartet-playing alive without resorting to show or virtuosity. When the Flautadors did their earlier CD of consort music by Purcell and Locke they had the help of some absolutely marvellous counterpoint bristling with bizarre invention. But here they succeed brilliantly with a programme of mostly simple and often dour music; and their success is at least partly because they are so fully in control of every detail that they can fascinate the ear by the range of their colours, their articulations, their delicate phrasing, their sheer musicianship. The percussionist who joins them for a few pieces is the very soul of discretion. Some people may think this far too restrained an approach to the secular music of the 16th century; they may even feel that it sits poorly with Mary’s chaotic life; but I find it totally absorbing.
It is also very instructive. The beautifully written booklet-note takes us through Mary’s life (glossing over the gory details
that are easily enough sourced elsewhere) and says just enough about each piece to help you to understand its context. It is even absolutely clear about which pieces are Scottish, or how far they are likely to be Scottish. That is to say that the packaging and presentation are as poised as the playing.