Richard Harvey - Divisions On A Ground [Talking Elephant Records - 2020]Originally released in 1975 Divisions On A Ground highlights the considerable talents of British recorder player Richard Harvey. Over the fourteen track album he, along with a small classical Ensemble, play work from the likes of Vivaldi, Matthyysz & Handle. And it’s a surprising varied & mood shifting album that highlights both Harvey skill and versatility as a recorder player. Here on Talking Elephant Records is a recent CD reissue of the album.
The reissue comes in a nicely presented digipak- this features the albums original cover artwork, which is an illustration of Harvey dressed in baroque dress sitting at a table with his recorder, script written music score, a chessboard, a few bottles of wine, and a few other items…it looks like an illustration from a 1970's fairy tale book. On the back we get the tracklisting/ credits, and a write-up about Harvey’s career- then on the inside there's a write-up about the history of the recorder, and the recorders played on the album- descant & treble….so all in all a compact, but very nicely presented bit of packaging.
The album was recorded in St Paul’s Church in Wimbledon Park between July & August 1974. For the recordings Harvey is joined by a small Ensemble taking in- Andrew Parrott: Harpsichord, Monica Hugget & Eleanor Sloan: Violin, Trevor Jones: Viola, Catherine Finnis: Cello, and Adam Skeaping: Violone. Through over the albums length each member of the ensemble appears & has their moment, the focus is very much of Harvey’s wonderful & highly accomplished recorder playing.
The album opens with a three-part Vivaldi work “Concerto In C Major, Op.44, No11”- in it's first part we find a wonderful ornate-yet-rollicking rendition of the work with Harvey's recorder playing flowing rapidly & vibrantly over a galloping blend of strings & harpsichord. But late tracks see the pace slowed for a more moody-yet-graceful blend of slowly cascading harpsichord & recorder. Over the remainder of the album, we have another three multi-part works- and these again show the shift in pace of all the players. We also get some nice stand-alone tracks like Godfrey Fingers “Division On A Ground” which features a very baroque melody that's jaunting yet slight sad- with the blend of elegant harpsichord runs & Harvey rapid pipework. Or there's Jacob Van Eyck’s “Variations on Amarilli Mia Bella”- and here we find just Harvey on his own piping out a complex, speed switching and virtuoso performance.
The idea of recorder renditions of largely more known/ mainstream classical composers may sound like it’s going to be either stuffy or gimmicky- but due to the well & balanced selection, and of course Harvey’s often breathing taking-yet felt playing this is never the case. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised & rather taken by the album, and nice to see Talking Elephant Records stepping away from there normal folk/ prog reissuing to uncover & reissue this gem.Roger Batty