Author: Becca Vaclavik

Redefining the recorder for American audiences

“Hot Cross Buns.”

“Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“Pop Goes the Weasel.”

For decades, learning how to play a simple soprano recorder has been an integral part of early music education in America. The recorder is easy to play and is a much more affordable option for schools to purchase than, say, 20 pianos.

But it is unfortunate many of us only hear the recorder as performed by a group of fifth graders, says Anna Fusek, a recorder soloist coming to Boulder in November with the Venice Baroque Orchestra (VBO). A high-pitched instrument such as the soprano recorder can’t be appreciated when played en masse. “If 30 people—or only 20 or only 10—are playing the recorder together, it must sound quite terrible. Even if 30 professional recorder players played all on soprano recorders together, it wouldn’t be a pleasure to listen!

“It’s a shame, actually, for the instrument … You have to convince people that the recorder could be an instrument they would like to listen to.”

But given the chance to hear the recorder played professionally by a soloist, this simple instrument offers sort of a unique experience, ensures Fusek. “If you are lucky, people are surprised by how this little simple piece of wood can sound.”

On this promise, Fusek can deliver. As The French Muse Baroque (le magazine de la musique baroque) described a past performance: “Incredible! [It] sent electric shock waves through the evening.”

For Fusek, it’s a joy to present this well-known instrument in a new and surprising light, especially side-by-side with the VBO. “I really enjoy working with this orchestra because it’s so much fun. I started touring with them, I think, 10 years ago, and I learned some parts of music-making from them that weren’t so present before in my life.”

When Fusek joins the orchestra in Macky this fall, the soloist’s performance will be just one part of a night of Baroque concertos by Vivaldi and Geminiani. “There’s a super-virtuoso violin concerto, and there is a double concerto with two cellos … Then there is also the recorder. You really get very different sounds and combinations of sounds. It’s very entertaining!”

Hear the Venice Baroque Orchestra with Anna Fusek in Macky Auditorium Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15.