Recorder virtuoso makes triumphant Chicago debut

Sat Apr 02, 2016 at 10:53 am

By Tim Sawyier

Dorothee Oberlinger performed Friday night at Mandel Hall.
Dorothee Oberlinger performed Friday night at Mandel Hall.

University of Chicago Presents hosted the local debut of recorder virtuoso Dorothee Oberlinger at the Logan Center for the Arts on Friday night. The program, entitled “Il Flauto Veneziano,” surveyed mostly Venetian recorder works of the Renaissance and Baroque eras and was a tour de force of period wind playing.

Oberlinger was joined by harpsichordist Alexander Puliaev and baroque cellist Marco Testori, who took the stage without the evening’s headliner to begin the concert with two secular dances by Giorgio Mainerio. Shiarazula Marazula opened with a profound embellished drone from Testori, over which Oberlinger slowly walked onstage playing the bass recorder. Her rich, throaty tone and improvisatory pitch bending evoked a didgeridoo, about the last instrument one might associate with Renaissance Italy. Oberlinger switched from bass to sopranino recorder for La Lavandara Gagliarda, where she exhibited stunning control in artful euphoric chirping.

Giovanni Battista Spadi’s Anchor che col partire found Oberlinger on the more familiar alto recorder and continuing to demonstrate her instrumental mastery. Fleet passagework was poised and articulate, and her note endings tapered subtly without pitch sagging. Her rock-solid pitch and focused tone allowed her to fill the space with instruments not known for projection, a refreshing reminder that projection and volume are two different things. 

Two trio sonatas of Dario Castello followed. The first, Sonata prima a soprano solo, opened with an extended pizzicato introduction from Testori, which sounded suave and took harmonic turns reminiscent of some of today’s better pop music. The Sonata ottava a 2 soprano e fagotto overo viola was filled with conversationally imitative writing, which the trio executed with precision, and more incredibly nimble playing from Oberlinger.

Puliaev took center stage for the Toccata con lo Scherzo del Cucco by Roman composer Bernardo Pasquini. The work is in an early Baroque idiom and an amusing depiction of a bird, but in his attempts to underscore the latter Puliaev employed dubious rubato and curious hesitations that made his performance sound stilted.

The rest of the program comprised familiar composers of the period. Benedetto Marcello’s Sonata in F Major, Op. 2, No. 12 was given a reading as aristocratic as its composer, with noble dotted rhythms and elegant deceptive cadences from all involved. Vivaldi essentially plagiarized his Sonata in G Minor, Op. 13, No. 2 Il Pastor Fido from Nicholas Chédeville, but Oberlinger’s performance was anything but derivative, her Aeolian gymnastics driving home the operative second half of the word “woodwind.”

Oberlinger got a short break while Testori and Puliaev performed Vivaldi’s Sonata in G Minor, a change from the A Minor Sonata in the printed program. Testori’s well-intentioned phrasing and musical choices were undermined by errant intonation, and the closing Gigue was taken so quickly it became muddy and inarticulate. 

Oberlinger came to the rescue in Corelli’s Sonata in D Minor, Op. 5, No. 12, La Follia where she adorned all twenty-one virtuosic variations on the familiar Portuguese dance with fluid, engrossing ornaments. As an encore the trio performed a Masked Dance & Division on a Ground from seventeenth-century London, which saw Oberlinger elegantly singing on alto recorder and pyrotechnically whistling on sopranino.

The next University of Chicago Presents concert is the Artemis Quartet 7:30 p.m. April 8 at Mandel Hall. The group will perform Wolf’s Italian Serenade, Janáček’s Quartet No. 1 “Kreutzer Sonata,” and Beethoven’s Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 “Razumovsky.”

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