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Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
10/10/10
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute
26 August 2015
The works of this CD were all premiered in November 2014 as part of a concert given at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, north of Copenhagen, in honor of the great Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen, who died in 2012. Besides Borup-Jørgensen's own, early string orchestra work Sommasvit (1957), five premieres of works specially commissioned for this concert (and recorded on this CD) by former friends and musical colleagues. This recording reflects a special quality of Scandinavian contemporary music, in my opnion: namely, its refreshingly un-ideological stylistic individuality and the courage to provide stand-alone musical solutions to the challenges of contemporary music.

In Whispering for recorder and string orchestra, Bent Sørensen succeeds in creating a delicate and atmospheric work of sometimes captivating beauty. No less convincing and consistent is Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen Music for 13 strings. In this piece, his compelling and uncompromising musical language most closely recalls Borup-Jørgensen himself, in particular the repeated use of the tritone interval, unreal glissandos and tremolos punctuate the excited unison passages. Sunleif Rasmussen Winter Echoes for recorder and 13 solo strings is particularly memorable, especially in the meandering, ceaselessly propulsive Toccata episodes. Mogens Christensen has been very familiar with the recorder for many  years and here, in his brilliantly colorful-chirping Nordic Summer Scherzo, he brings his material back to Borup-Jørgensen. It may be surprising to see the composer and famous Danish jazz pianist Thomas Clausen on this CD, represented by his neoclassically-inspired, Concertino. Very much in the tradition of Holmboe, Clausen‘s Concertino is a beautiful, playful work sure to win many friends with its touching, "singing" Largo (convinced with unmistakable echoes of Bach's Air) and the bubbling, virtuoso finale. A marvelous work concludes the CD: Borup-Jørgensen‘s Sommasvit (Sommen-Suite), Op 24 for string orchestra, written when the composer was 33-years-old in remembrance of his stays on Swedish the island of the same name in the  Småland region. In five concise movements that describe the progresses from morning to evening, the composer achieves a fascinating multi-layered sound panorama that ranges from delicate, subtle subdivisions on darkly elegiac passages to troubled dramatic churnings, finally fading away in a melancholy epilogue.

One can hardly imagine more competent and more committed performers for this music than soloist Michala Petri and the fabulous strings of Lapland Chamber Orchestra under the confident, colorful and illuminating guidance of Clemens Schuldt. Also the engineering, artwork and editorial quality of the booklet are on the highest level. A homage very much worth hearing, that impresses  with the sheer quality of the music, stylistic diversity and integrity of the design.

Rating: 10 / 10 / 10
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute

OUR Recordings: Lars Hannibal Profiles his Label
Martin Anderson, Fanfare Magazine
August Issue
The recording of choral music by Messiaen constitutes something of a change of direction for its label, the Danish independent OUR Recordings, whose principal focus is the music-making of the Danish recorder-player Michala Petri. Its founder, the guitarist and lutenist Lars Hannibal, is an old pal, and we recently settled down to a relaxed video conversation via Skype.
 
            In today's crowded market CD labels have to do their best to maintain an individual profile, and you've been fairly careful about the identity of OUR Recordings so far. What's the impulse that lies behind this apparent additional direction?
 
The Messiaen doesn't really fit the label profile, except that I consider the Danish National Vocal Ensemble as part of our recording family—and in the future I will extend the range of our recording family a bit. We made an agreement with the Vocal Ensemble to make five CDs, three of them with Michala and two of them with their own stuff. We had Poulenc as the first one [Half Monk, Half Rascal: Chœurs a cappella, 8.226906; 36:1]; that was already recorded with Stephen Layton. Then we had to decide which composer, which repertoire, we would like to have as the second one. I've always been very fond of the music of Messiaen, and so I asked Ivar Munk, the manager of the Ensemble, if he would agree on Messiaen, and he said: "That was the one I had thought of myself!" It was so easy!
 
            What was the impulse that led to OUR Recordings in the first place?
 
After the all the years Michala was with RCA/BMG, and Phillips, and me at EMI, we decided not to be stuck with doing all the usual thing as an artist, playing the safe repertoire again and again. We wanted to develop our own thoughts and have the full responsibility for what we wanted to do.
 
            We need to step further back to explain the domestic as well as the professional arrangements. And it's a most unusual one, with you and Michala divorced and yet working together very happily.
 
We met in 1991, decided within a month that we wanted to get married, and then we married the year after because Michala had only ten days with no concerts! We had to get married in July. We decided that if we wanted to have a few days' honeymoon afterwards, it would have to be in this period, because that was the only chance of getting ten days in a row. She was so busy, traveling ten months a year playing concerts. So, yes, in '92 we got married. And we started to play together in '92. Michala was doing a lot of recordings with BMG and I was with EMI, and it was getting more and more difficult to record contemporary music. There's no money in it; I can understand the labels—they want to release what they can make a little money from, or at least break even.
 
            Were you still married when you started OUR Recordings?
 
We were still married but at that time we did not live together any longer.
 
            It's rather an unusual position to find you separated and yet so deeply involved professionally and working very harmoniously together.
 
Well, what always worked quite well was our love for the music, and also playing together, discussing music, setting up projects—this was working; why throw it away just because we were not married? The music is more important, in a way! We're servants of music, and we still are. And we both like to expand the repertoire, especially for Michala for the recorder, asking composers to write music for her and record it, for coming generations to have music on larger scales for the recorder. There's lots of Baroque music, which is fine, and also pieces of chamber music, but also with huge orchestra, because it is possible, and Michala has shown that—especially when we heard Thomas Koppel, Moonchild's Dream, which he wrote for Michala in '90. It is a wonderful orchestration for recorder and full orchestra. It works, definitely. The recorder has another color than you find it the orchestra, so it's adding something. There are no recorders in a symphony orchestra, so the sound of the recorder adds something to the orchestra that you don't get from other instruments. The accordion does the same, adding something to the sounds of the orchestra. We think it's worth it, working in this direction, and so we have commissioned a lot of pieces, and we're still doing it; we still record a lot of pieces for recorder and orchestra. I think that will be our contribution to music history—like Evelyn Glennie with percussion, commissioning a lot of pieces. It's a good idea to have it recorded, of course. It was difficult for us to record it on BMG, because it was better for them to have the standard repertoire. So we had to struggle, and it was difficult for us to decide exactly what we would like to do, and that's the reason why we started, basically.
 
            When did you decide you were going to have to do it yourselves?
 
It was in late 2006 that we finally decided. We had been thinking about it for years, and now we thought: Let's do it! I'm still a musician who plays concerts, and I consider myself still a musician, even if I don't do the large-scale things any longer because I don't have time for it. And I'm doing everything myself, from the idea, raising money, marketing, so we have a limitation on what we do, which is Michala's recordings and then the things we do together and then some of the things I am doing if we find it has the standards it needs to have. So it is an artists' label and not a label with another profile, like contemporary or Baroque. It is, basically, "our recordings"—what we are recording and would like to record ourselves—that we support in this way; a showcase, you could say, especially for Michala.
 
            According to your website, you've made 25 recordings in the eight years you've been running OUR Recordings; is that right?
 
Yes, 25; and this year we will make a few more, which is too much work. Basically, there are three releases every year.
 
            You talked about your recording family; who are the family members? You and Michala, obviously, but who else?
 
We've included, at least for a certain period, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble. The reason we're doing it is that we started a collaboration with the Vocal Ensemble. Michala had a work written for her by Daniel Börtz for choir and recorder, and when she came back from Stockholm after doing it with the Swedish Radio Choir, she said: "This is so wonderful, I want to continue working with choir." Then I asked the Vocal Ensemble, which I like very much, since the conductor, Stephen Layton, did some great things with this choir, and they were interested in working together, so we commissioned some more pieces. For example, I asked [the Latvian composer] Uģis Prauliņš to set [H. C.] Andersen's "Nightingale"—which I had been thinking of for many, many years—because I thought he was the right person to do it. And it turned out that he was—it's a great composition he made there.
 
            To the point, indeed, where it got two Grammy nominations. The CD (6.220605) was reviewed in 35:4.

So we would like to continue there. We commissioned a CD of Danish songs, arrangements of old and new Danish songs, which works very, very well, and the next we will do is with old European Christmas songs in the medieval and Renaissance style, especially songs from the Piae cantiones, in arrangements. These are the three with Michala, and then we have the Poulenc and the Messiaen; when we've worked through those, we'll have done the five choir recordings with the Vocal Ensemble.
 
            Although there is a strong Danish element in the OUR Recordings catalog, there is also a clear emphasis on international partnerships—with Chinese musicians, for example.

 
Yes. The Chinese: I think we'll continue with this when we get a little more time. It really needs time to work with the Chinese because of the distance and the difference in culture, and also to find out in which direction it might go. The project is dialog-based, so it's not just a question of us going over there and playing some Chinese music with a Chinese orchestra; we have to have a kind of dialog between the Chinese and the western music tradition—otherwise it's not interesting enough for me and I'd rather stay here doing a lot of nice European stuff. I have some ideas I would like to do within the next five years, so it's a question of time and priority—and money, basically.
 
            I was going to ask you about money. How are you funding it all?
 
This is a problem, as you can well understand. It's through funding by Danish private sponsors. The Augustinus Foundation has really been supporting us a lot; actually, they have supported almost all of the releases. Then there's the Oticon Foundation. The law allows some possibilities for big companies to put some money into foundations, and then they can give it away for social or artistic projects, and we can apply to them for recording expenses. But it's only possible because I earn my money from playing concerts; I do not get any money myself from OUR Recordings. We all work free, otherwise it's not possible. We have to earn our money in another way, and we are doing it by playing concerts. And sometimes we have to put in a little amount of money ourselves. It is tough, but it's worth it, because I think the result is good. I consider it as part of the marketing for Michala, to show the new directions she is working in, to show the repertoire that is possible. I can go to orchestra managers and tell them: "Here's a new piece; this is what she is doing right now."  So it's part of the management for Michala, and since I coordinate her management, it's OK as long as this is working.
 
            Is there a clear trade-off, with managers accepting for concerts the pieces she is recording?
 
Not at the tempo I would like, but in the next years I will harvest what I have been working with for a long time now. It could be much more. We see that when Michala is playing with orchestras, it is always sold out. People simply love it.
 
            Even with contemporary music? Is Michala's own name enough to overcome the fear factor when audiences see a name they don't recognize?
 
Well, it helps. Actually, next week we have to upload two new recordings, with contemporary Danish pieces, one with Thomas Koppel again, and now we've got it—it's the third time we have recorded it, but we were never satisfied with the recording. This one we are very happy with. And then Sunleif Rasmussen, Territorial Songs, and a piece by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Chacun Son Son. Then we will have a tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen with five new compositions with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Clemens Schuldt, conductor. We will release two new pieces for recorder and orchestra. It's hard work for Michala to study all the pieces.
 
            I hope the Danish Composers' Union is grateful for all the commissions coming to its members!
 
They like to write for Michala, and when we ask composers, they generally say yes. They like it, and normally also they like the results. And the moment anyone cannot do it, we have a waiting list for years! And we have some commissions out there to be made in the next years, too. And we try to establish good relations with publishers—for example, Wilhelm Hansen and Edition S (the old Samfundet), who have a lot of young Danish composers as well as some older ones, and also some international publishers, too. If we could make a triangle between orchestra management, labels, and publishers, we could do much more, but the managers don't seem so keen on working with labels.
 
            You'll always find the managers the weak link in that triangle—they'll naturally prefer to put on a Vivaldi concerto to a work by Borup-Jørgensen or Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and fill the house more easily.
 
But I think it's very easy. In Michala's case and with lots of other musicians, to find for them to play Vivaldi or Mozart or Beethoven, but then one more. You can make a theme, you can make so many other interesting programs for a concert than just having a soloist play one piece. That's so old-fashioned! They're so conservative—we have to push them!
 
            OUR Recordings is an independent company but operates under the aegis of Naxos.
 
Yes, I'm very happy to have this arrangement for my basic distribution and do anything else specific from within the Naxos family. There are alternatives out there, of course, but Naxos is good for us.
 
            Are there any other plans for the future that you would like to discuss?
 
The basic thing is the repertoire for Michala. We're doing something this month, actually, with German recorder concertos. The composers are Markus Zahnhausen, Fabrice Bouillon (a Frenchman who lives in Germany; the piece he has written is a tribute to Genesis, the rock band from the '80s, on a specific album, The Lambs Lies Down on Broadway, and Michala is using loops and a lot of electronic things—it's an amazing piece), and an East German composer who died about ten years ago, Günter Kochan, great, great composer. He was performed a lot in the former East bloc but when in '89 when the Wall was taken down, he said: "Well, basically, I'm a socialist"—and that was not the right thing to say at that point, and he was sort of abandoned after that and not much played. But he's a great composer. And then we will have American recorder concertos next year: Sean Hickey is one of the composers, and the Canadian Gary Kulesha, and we are negotiating with someone else. For '17 we are planning a Japanese one. And then we will have a South American one also, with Brazilian, Argentinian, and Chilean recorder concertos. This is really one of the paths that we are working on.

We are also working on a project promoting the music of the late Axel Borup-Jørgensen. We did two recordings of his music already, and the music of Axel Borup-Jørgensen will continue to be part of OUR Recordings. We are coordinating with Dacapo—they are doing some of the releases and we are doing some. Now that the music is free and he's not controlling it any more, we can make it come out in the world, and so we are putting a lot of effort into getting this composer heard.
 
            Did he sit on his own music, then, and restrict its availability?
 
Yes, he did. He really wanted to control everything. But now his daughter really wants to let his music free, and so that's what we're doing. The next CD is a tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen by Bent Sørensen, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Mogens Christensen, Thomas Clausen, and Sunleif Rasmussen. Then we will have piano works played by Erik Kaltoft, who is the master of contemporary music in Denmark. And then we will do a recording next year with Thomas Søndergaard conducting the Danish National Orchestra in his Marin, a huge symphonic piece he wrote. We will even make an animated film for this project—I just came back from Paris yesterday, where I had a meeting with the art director for the film. So these are the next things.
Martin Anderson, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
4 Stars review
Kate Wakeling, August 2015, BBC Music Magazine
15 August 2015
BBC Music Magazine (UK)
Works by Sørensen, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Clausen, Rasmussen, Christensen & Borup-Jørgensen. Michala Petri (recorder): Lapland Chamber Orchestra/Clemens Schuldt.
While the mainstay of the recorder`s repertoire sits within the medieval-Baroque periods, recent years have seen a growing body of new music composed for that instrument, recognizing and celebrating its distinct timbre and ready agility. These 3 well- recorded discs, all af Scandinavian origin, mark the recorder`s continuing appeal, offering complex and challenging new compositions alongside more broadly accessible works.
Nordic Sound presents five world premieres for recorder and string orchestra alone, with the outstanding recorder virtuoso Michala Petri as soloist. The work were each commissioned in tribute to Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012), whose own transfixing Sommasvit (1957) for string orchestra closes the disc. Standout pieces include Sunleif Rasmussen`s Winter Echoes, which unleashes ferocious trills and flutters from the recorder in a pleasing subversion of the instrument`s dulcet reputation, and Bent Sørensen`s Whispering for recorder and strings, its title said to be inspired by Axel`s soft and fragile way of speaking` and which forms a delicate and moving tribute. Kate Wakeling, August 2015, Performance 4 stars- recording 4 stars.
Kate Wakeling, August 2015, BBC Music Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Compelling Program, enhanced by Fine Musicianship, captured in Excitingly Realistic Sound
Phillip Scott, Fanfare Magazine
15 August 2015
Under the collective title "Nordic Sound", this celebratory compilation is dominated by the adventurous Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri. The first five works premiered in 2014, and were written for a memorial concert to the final composer on the program, Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). He had been a close friend to Petri and her family, and was also well known to each of the other composers. Following the concert in October 2014, the musicians made this studio recording. The tribute pieces all employ a small string orchestra, with four featuring Petri as soloist. (Larger concertos for recorder and full orchestra by Sunlief Rasmussen and Pelle Gundmundsen-Holmgreen may be found on another new release from Petri on this label.) Although it sometimes happens that multiple tribute commissions produce hastily conceived "occasional music" or obvious imitation, that is not the case here. Each of these works boasts a musical voice with a strong, individual profile.

Borup-Jørgensen's five-movement work for string orchestra (Sommasvit, Op. 24) was composed in 1957. His musical style is aptly defined in Joshua Cheek's notes as "a finely-wrought, nature-inspired modernism". The title Sommasvit refers not to the season of summer (as I first presumed), but to an area of Sweden called Sommen: an archipelago containing several lakes and forest areas. The work depicts the course of a day in Sommen­­––its movements are titled Morning, Midday, Afternoon, Night and Epilog­­––but this is no idealized pastoral vision. Borup-Jørgensen's evocative writing for his chamber string forces creates a colder, more austere picture. At just over 11 minutes, the Sommasvit proves to be a succinct and powerful piece of music.

Something of this toughness appears in four of the tribute works, notably in their harmonies, although the composers' individual aims are quite different. Whispering by Bent Sørensen (b. 1958) is an elusive, ghostly sound-picture, making a feature of the recorder's note-bending technique. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Music for 13 Strings is perhaps closest to Borup-Jørgensen in its rigor and rugged dissonance. The Faroese composer Rasmussen's Winter Echoes virtually bubbles with activity, depicting the ferocity of Nordic winter, and allows Petri's remarkable technical facility free reign. Nordic Summer Scherzo by Mogens Christensen is similar in its nature painting, although slightly warmer. Here, the composer's use of the high-pitched descant recorder allows for the effective imitation of birdcalls, while his string writing is notable for pizzicato effects and the use of extreme high and low registers. The recorder's closing high note has to be heard to be believed. (This is my favorite among these short but arresting works.) Finally, the Recorder Concerto by Thomas Clausen (b. 1949) takes us out of the woods and into a neoclassical musical world. In four short movements, it is melodic and tonal, providing a pleasant and bracing interlude amongst the nature pieces.

This compelling program is enhanced by the fine musicianship of the soloist (which is a given), and the strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra under Schuldt. Their detailed, sensitive playing, honed in concert beforehand, is captured in excitingly realistic sound.
Phillip Scott, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Very Fine Performance
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine
15 August 2015
Though it is generally held that the essentially autodidactic Axel Borup-Jørgensen did not establish a school of composition, he was, as his country's leading modernist composer, a central figure in the musical life of Denmark. His death in 2012 at the age of 87 has affected the circle of modernist composers in Denmark in much the way that the death of a parent affects a family. As Michala Petri reminisces in an associated interview, he was a frequent presence at concerts of others' works, and a benevolent if highly demanding guide to the performance of his own pieces. There is a Ravel-like preoccupation with detail and polish in the composer's music, whether larger-scale works like his orchestral masterpiece, Marin—its name an apt reminder of another early French influence—or the many smaller chamber and solo works. He was a perfectionist, always seeking the best way to what he needed to say. He was a pioneer who sampled what others had to offer—from the Nordic romanticists and Impressionism to German Expressionism to the Darmstadt experience—and then found his own paths from among the gathered possibilities. In the end, it was as much poetry—especially, we are told, the writings of avant-garde Finnish/Swedish poet Gunnar Björling—and the majesty and silences of Swedish nature, remembered from his youth, that informed his composition.

This tribute disc is documentation of what the notes describe as a Gedenkschrift, or commemorative publication, conceived by his daughter Elisabet Selin and OUR Recordings producer and co-founder Lars Hannibal, under the auspices of Edition Borup-Jørgensen. It is a gathering of five compositions commissioned from colleagues and friends, each with a distinctive character, as well as Sommasvit, an early orchestral composition by the honoree.

To extend the metaphor of family, close friend Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, eight years the junior, now finds himself in the position of younger brother taking over the patriarchal role. In his Music for 13 Strings—For Axel "Boje"—Boje being a family nickname— Gudmundsen-Holmgreen incorporates some of the older composer's characteristic intervals and textures into an intensely dramatic work, at times mysterious, at others violent and unpredictable, occasionally lyric, but more often abrasive and angry with foot stomping and snarling tone clusters. It seems both tribute and declaration of independence.

Bent Sørensen, Sunleif Rasmussen, Mogens Christensen, and Thomas Clausen make up that next generation of Danish modernists. (Okay, Rasmussen is Faroese.) None are really young—Rasmussen at 54 is the youngest—and all approach their commission from differing perspectives born of many years of experience. Each includes a solo part for Michala Petri's recorder. Sørensen, whose early work in Danish folk music has been subsumed into a modernist aesthetic not unlike spectralism in its emphasis on timbre, chooses Borup-Jørgensen's partiality to silence as his inspiration, both for the title Whispering—the composer, late in life, tended to speak very softly—and for the primary characteristic of his own composition.

Sunleif Rasmussen has also been influenced by spectralism, and Tristan Murail in particular, though it is not clear that spectralist techniques are used in this work. Written in three continuous parts, each exploring a different part of the audio spectrum, from bass to high treble, it requires the soloist to move from the bass to sopranino recorders in a gradual ascent of the scale. In the end, the highest-pitched recorder is left to speak almost alone; the effect is of a hard-won escape from chaos, or to take a clue from the title, from a particularly fierce snowstorm.

Mogens Christensen has written a series of recorder pieces recreating his impressions of birdsong, one of which is Birds of a Midsummer Night. He revisits that concept in Nordic Summer Scherzo, in remembrance of Borup-Jørgensen's fondness for Swedish culture and for the Swedish midnight sun. The recorder soloist and strings evoke birdsong and summer winds, the result having a gritty naturalism that is most appealing even if the language is decidedly modern.

Most accessible of the homages is jazz-composer Thomas Clausen's four-movement neo-Baroque Concertino for Recorder and Strings. Petri is at pains, in our interview, to state that this is not pastiche. It is not, or at least no more so than Grieg's Holberg Suite or Stravinsky's similar enterprises in modernizing Baroque forms. Despite some decidedly contemporary harmony and progressions, it retains much of the charm of its older models.

Throughout, soloist Michala Petri is called upon to accomplish amazing acts of virtuosity, both extraordinarily demanding passage work and extended techniques such as overblowing, multiphonics (including Petri's now signature skill at playing and singing of different pitches simultaneously) and flutter tonguing. Christensen has her doing them all in bewildering rapidity. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra is a crack ensemble, and it and conductor Clemens Schuldt respond to the music's many challenges impressively.

I must conclude, however, by saying that as interesting and entertaining as I found these tributes to the lost paterfamilias, none of the pieces, with the possible exception of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Music for 13 Strings, impressed me as much as the master's own work, Sommasvit. A poignant evocation of a scenic Swedish forested lake from the composer's boyhood, this wonderful bit of "nature mysticism" is saved for last on the disc. Leif Segerstam recorded it for Dacapo twenty years ago (now available only as a download) with breathtaking control of pacing, color, and balance. Schuldt is not quite that amazing, but this very fine performance is definitely the highlight of the disc.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
Much recommended to those who don't like all of their musical experiences to be easy
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine
August 2015
Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri recorded Thomas Koppel's Moonchild's Dream in 1992 for a 1995 RCA Victor release of contemporary music for recorder and orchestra. Okko Kamu, a too often overlooked artist, conducted. Some may be surprised that Petri, who is still most often associated with Baroque music, released a CD of contemporary works that long ago. In fact, she has been playing new music on the recorder almost as long as she has been playing the instrument. I own a BBC LP from 1977, recorded in 1974, on which, along with the expected works by Jacob Van Eyck and Telemann, is a recording by the then 16-year old virtuoso of Luciano Berio's Gesti, certainly one of the more avant-garde works for recorder at that time, and a remarkably difficult work to play. There were other works written for her, going back as far as when she was 12, which are discussed in our first interview in Fanfare 37:5. So, contemporary music has been a part of her repertoire from the start, and, as she discusses in the accompanying feature article, she has been building a repertoire of works of the present to keep herself challenged. What is very nice for us is that she now has more freedom to share her interest in new music since she is recording on her own (and lutenist and manager Lars Hannibal's) label.

The new recording of Moonchild's Dream results from Petri's belief that she hadn't found everything to say about the work in her earlier performances. The appealing score provides the soundtrack for a short film following the life and fantasies of a poor little girl in a war-ravaged Copenhagen. (Presumably, this soundtrack is the first of Petri's three recordings cited by Lars Hannibal in an interview with Martin Anderson in Fanfare 38:6.) This newer version, with slightly slower tempos, emphasizes the melancholy and longing a bit more than the 1992 reading, at, perhaps, the expense of some charm in the fantasy. To these ears, there is really little to choose between two fine performances, but this is the one currently in print, and the one preferred by the soloist, and it is beautifully recorded.

The other two pieces are new to the catalog. One, the whimsically named Chacun Son Son—a play on À chacun son gout—means loosely To each their own sound. Originally a serialist of the Darmstadt school, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen has long worked in a nominally tonal language stripped of what he calls "the superficial niceties." Inspired by Samuel Beckett's plays, and their contemplation of the meaninglessness of life, it might be pretty bleak stuff if it wasn't for his sense of humor. It is not really even a concerto—Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's further whimsy—but rather a piece with a prominent, but not dominant, role for the recorder: in fact the family of recorders from bass to sopranino, and back. It is still dark, a "long-breathed canon" in which each orchestral choir is given a highly differentiated role. There is labored anticipation, and jazzy restlessness, and eventual chaos, all commented upon by the various recorders, each played in turn by the soloist.

The final work is by Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen. An unconventional concerto, as well, in five continuous sections, Territorial Songs is inspired by nature and by birdsong, and one major purpose of such songs, the defining of territory: nature music of a sometimes aggressive bent. Most of the "niceties" are back, not quite as we are used to hearing them. The recorder is once more clearly the solo instrument. The work demands rhythmic accuracy, often in subtly shifting patterns. One thinks of fractals, though I do not know that there are actually such repetitions in patterns here. There are many moments of uncommon beauty: shimmering strings, icy cold, against which the recorder intones its cry, as well as other sonorities that are quite extraordinary. In the fourth movement, the soloist is asked to play in voiced multiphonics: subtle, delicate, and haunting. It is a masterful work by a composer from whom I hope to hear more.

Henrik Vagn Christensen conducts the very fine Aalborg Symphony Orchestra with what sounds to be clear relish for the idiom. He has previously recorded with Petri, in the very different New Age-ish Palle Mikkelborg Going to Pieces without Falling Apart (OUR Recordings) and in Anders Koppel's high-spirited and jazzy Concerto for Recorder, Saxophone, and Orchestra (Dacapo). (The later has to be heard, if only to marvel at Petri's unexpected jazz chops. It is gorgeous music, to boot.) Thomas Koppel, Anders's older brother, is not overtly jazzy here, but the piece is tonal and easily accessible. The other two works will make some listeners work a bit to come to terms with the challenging styles. In an interview available on YouTube, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen describes himself as an outsider, and that is unarguable. Sunleif Rasmussen is less radical, and there is much in his concerto that is quite unforgettable. Overall, these are works of real substance that fascinate and disquiet, much recommended to those who don't like all of their musical experiences to be easy.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
An Intriguing Collection
Phillip Scott, Fanfare Magazine
July 2015
This intriguing collection is titled "Danish and Faroese Recorder Concertos". The three works were commissioned and are performed here by Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, on a label set up by her ex-husband Lars Hannibal primarily designed to feature her work. Hannibal was interviewed by Martin Anderson in Fanfare 38:6, where he outlined the background to Our Recordings and touched on his relationship with Petri. It is recommended reading for anyone whose interest is piqued by this release.

Thomas Koppel (1944-2006) was the older brother of Anders, both sons of Herman––all composers. Thomas turned to serious composition after some years in a progressive jazz-rock band, and wrote this concerto for Petri in 1990-91 (the first of three). It is an evocative piece of urban night-music; Koppel's unerring use of orchestral strings, harp, vibraphone and tuned percussion give the music its otherworldly flavor. Petri's recorder floats through these textures (and mainstream 20th century harmonies) in a virtuoso display of pyrotechnics and lyricism. She has recorded the work twice before, according to Hannibal's interview, but was never completely happy with the results. I have one of those recordings at hand for comparison, a 1995 RCA/BMG release that couples Moonchild's Dream with concertos by Arnold, Holmboe, and others. There, Petri is accompanied by Okko Kamu conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. The work seems a little prosaic on the RCA recording, due I think to Kamu's fasters tempos and comparatively dull sound. The sound quality on this new CD is remarkably vivid, and the concerto gains considerably in atmosphere.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932) is a Danish composer and teacher. One of his pupils was Poul Ruders, and you can hear the influence of the older composer in Ruders' work: both men delight equally in beautiful and ugly sounds, and both seem to share a peculiarly Nordic sense of humor that surreptitiously informs their music. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's single-movement concerto features bass recorder in the opening and closing passages, and soprano recorder at the work's climax. The soloist is more integral to the texture than standing apart from it; in fact, a violin has a solo cadenza at one point and makes a significant contribution (strongly played here by Yana Deshkova). Growling low brass and percussive thumps punctuate the concerto's progress as the music gradually increases in complexity and volume. This is perhaps the hardest to love of these three pieces, but I have the sneaking feeling that its strength and focus will cause it to remain most firmly in the mind.

Territorial Songs is the most pastoral of the three, even though its orchestration is (again) vivid. Rasmussen (b. 1961) comes from the Faroe Islands, specifically, Sandoy, but even before I read that fact in Joshua Cheek's informative notes I felt an open-air quality to this music. Perhaps the most unusual of the piece's five movements is the fourth, tranquillo, where Petri is required to vocalize as she plays a gentle but wide-ranging melody. There is a great sense of isolation and timelessness at this point. Initially I thought Rasmussen was merely including the effect because Petri was capable of it, but with frequent hearings the contrast between this movement and the others impressed me as a necessary respite, and a strong contribution to the overall structure. The finale, leggiero, brings a sophisticated rethinking of folk music, and phenomenal technical virtuosity from the soloist is again a consistent factor.

Petri's outstanding musicianship is the main selling point of this release, but it is by no means the only one. The orchestra plays extremely well for Christensen, the sound is top notch, and the concertos are more than mere showcases: Each has something interesting and individual to say.
Phillip Scott, Fanfare Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
What a tremendous disc this is!
Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine
May 13th
This disc of choral music by Olivier Messiaen only include the texts of these pieces in French and Latin, the originals used by the composer. Well, thankfully music is an international language.

The first of the Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine starts in such a way that it sounds as if it were the middle of the piece, not the opening. The choral writing focuses on the sopranos and is accompanied by a small body of strings and piano, both of which play discretely from each other. In fact, the sparseness of the writing is unusual in any sense for liturgical vocal music. So too the use of the ondes Martenot, a keyboard version of the Theremin. Messiaen himself called this trilogy "color music," referring to the fact that he saw colors when composing. I'd say that it falls somewhere stylistically between his orchestral and piano music of the same period (1945). It is indeed colorful and fascinating music, but to my ears not moving in either a religious or an emotional way. This does not make it bad music, just objective, which to a certain degree is better. Too often, music written to religious texts can try too hard to be "mystical," becoming soft or mawkish in the process. Messiaen avoids this here. I particularly liked the second piece, "Sequence du Verbe, cantique divin," for its tremendous energy and relatively attractive melodic construction. This is a piece that could easily become a staple in church services of high mass, were those churches amenable to the use of modern music. It almost sounds like a more modern, wilder version of Catulli Carmina. I was, however, disappointed by the way he wrote for the ondes Martenot, producing nothing more than swoops of sound. Well, heck, Olivier, any amateur can do that! I would have thought you'd have written something challenging for the instrument. Apparently, France didn't have an ondes Martenot player on the same high level as Theremin master Clara Rockmore. The third piece, "Psalmodie de l'ubiquité par Amour," uses a sort of forwards-backwards motion in the rhythm that resembles part of the Turingalîla Symphony. It is also longer than the first two pieces combined (by 25 seconds, but still, longer). Part of the music's charm, but also a weakness, is its episodic nature. You almost feel as if the music is coming to a close in places, but it's just switching gears. If you're not too hung up on form, however, you'll find yourself enjoying it tremendously.

O sacrum convivium, one of Messiaen's earliest works, is more conventional in construction and set to an old, pre-existing Latin text. Now, this music is lovely and atmospheric in the best tradition of liturgical music. Except for a certain amount of altered chord positions and unusual harmonic solutions, it could easily be performed at many Christian church services without upsetting the faithful.

More interesting, however, are the Cinq Rechants. This, the liner notes tell us, "is the last part of Messiaen's great Tristan trilogy, which was introduced in 1945 with the song cycle Harawi and followed two years later by the monumental Turingalîla Symphony." This is really strange, "out there" music, although I disagree with annotator Christian Hildebrandt's claim that this love drama of "tabooed infidelity and most unselfish love can be interpreted as symbols of Messiaen's own life crisis and love drama." Writers are forever trying to connect works of art to their creators' personal problems, never quite realizing that a creator creates to get away from his or her problems, not to mirror or immortalize them in words or music. That being said, there is no question that this is a really inspired work, performed by a cappella chorus of 12 voices. Sometimes, as in "Ma première fois terre," they are reduced to a whisper; in other places, they shout out their lines. The third piece of the five, "Ma robe d'amour," sounds the most mystical to me; but once again, perhaps particularly in a "Tristan piece," I question the use of the word "liturgical" to describe this music. The text, we are told, is a combination of French and a bizarre Sanskrit-like language that Messiaen invented. Regardless, it's an utterly fascinating piece, full of strange and strong contrasts of mood and style from start to finish. Several parts of the last piece, "Mayorna kalimolimo," sound like precursors to Meredith Monk's work.

Marcus Creed and his forces, choral and orchestral, really tear into this music with a passion and commitment that sweep the listener up in their energy. What a tremendous disc this is! And what great, forward sound! Highly recommended.


Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Truly Extraordinary
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine
30 June 2015
The music is truly extraordinary. "L'amour et la foi" (Love and faith) presents a trinity of Messiaen's vocal works. The explicitly religious love of Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine is juxtaposed with the surreal and erotic love of Cinq rechants, the short communion motet O sacrum convivium! Providing a buffer between these work's intense emotions. It is a heady mix of rich harmonies, texts expressing fervent love, birdsongs, fluid rhythms and exotic elements (gamelan for the Litgurgies, Sanskrit- and Quechua-inspired invented words for the Rechants).

This music is also difficult, friendishly so in the Rechants. It is no small thing, therefore, to say that, in terms of accuracy of pitch, harmony, rhythm and balance, this is the best sing performance on disc of these works, especially the Rechants. Moreover, it is captured in a marvelous surround sound. So why is it ultimately underwhelming?

At the time of these works, Messiaen was described as being a "Atomic bomb in contemporary music" by critic and composer Virgil Thomson, while Pierre Boulez has said there was a "wiff of Sulphur" about his activities. There is no such power, intensity or danger here and certainly no sense of ecstatic religious abandon. Far from whipping up to a frenzy, the repeated cries of "pour Nous" that close the second Liturgies become mildly excited. Sadly, given the excellent execution by the Danish forces, these performances somehow make this remarkable music seem ordinary.

Performance 3 Stars Recording 5 Stars
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Fantasic review on Messiaen in leading US Magazine Classical Today!
Classical Today Magazine
04 June 2015
"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind–a journey into a wondrous land bounded only by imagination…" Although that was an introduction to the strange new world of the classic 1960s television series The Twilight Zone, it came to mind as an equally apt intro to the music of Olivier Messiaen. Although his world isn't exactly the Twilight Zone's unfathomable, unpredictable "middle ground between science and superstition", in his choral music the composer definitely did create his own special, unique, alternately mystifying and frightening, ultimately exhilarating "zone" of sound, a realm of ensemble vocalism that challenges all who will hear.
The Three Liturgies–for female voices, piano, ondes Martenot, celeste, vibraphone, percussion, and string orchestra–is as radical in every aspect as anything today's composers offer, but at its core there is a passionate heart and a musical purpose beyond merely making noise. You keep listening, not because you're charmed and comforted–but rather because your senses are so deeply stirred, the familiar conventions of choral sound and rhythmic form and expression so profoundly and movingly redefined.
Long before composers such as Arvo Pärt or György Ligeti became known for works whose rhythmic and harmonic effects sparked descriptions such as "soundscape" and "suspension of time", there was Messiaen's motet O sacrum convivium! (1937), which not only embodies those concepts but remains an unforgettably moving, perfect realization of this oft-set sacred text.
Once again we approach the very edge of the boundaries of musical time and space–not to mention the edge of what's humanly possible, vocally speaking–with the Cinq Rechants (Five Refrains), written for 12 solo voices. The subject is a part of "the myth of Tristan and Isolde"; the music deals in extremes, in all aspects, from dynamics and rhythmic forms to virtuosic vocal technique. You don't forget this music once you've heard it. And fortunately Marcus Creed and his Danish singers and players–along with pianist Marianna Shirinyan and ondes Martenot soloist Thomas Bloch (in the Three Liturgies)–are more than just able advocates for Messiaen's music: they are musicians of exceptional ability and admirable commitment, who leave no doubt that we are hearing performances that will stand alongside or above any in the catalog.
Whether turned up or at a lower level, the sound is full and vibrant and well-balanced in both the combined choir/instrumental and a cappella pieces. While this program and repertoire may not be for everyone, if you're a serious choral music fan and you don't already have these works in your collection, you need to hear this, and this recording most invitingly opens the door. David Vernier, May 2015
Classical Today Magazine

Kim Sjøgren, violin
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Giuliani
Works for Violin & Guitar
Review on Giuliani
Jakob Holm, Kristligt dagblad
04 June 2015
Mauro Giuliani. Works for violin and guitar. Duo Concertante - violin: Kim Sjøgren; guitar: Lars Hannibal. OUR Recordings . 8.226904

Mauro Giuliani (1781 - 1829) is currently mainly known to lovers of classical guitar music.  When he lived he was an unavoidable Italian guitar virtuoso and one of the last great classical spokesmen for his instrument until its resurgence at the beginning of the 20th century. 

After a successful European Tour, he settled down in Vienna in 1806.  Despite the fact that Italians preferred opera over classical guitar, he soon became part of the Viennese establishment.  Apart from performing others' music, he also composed, and three of his works for violin and guitar are recorded by Duo Concertante (Kim Sjøgren on violin and Lars Hannibal on guitar). 

As mentioned, although the guitar was Giuliani's preferred instrument, it is interesting that the focus on this cd is on the violin, where the guitar has more of an accompaniment function.  The music is sweet, languorous, seductive, and particularly romantic!  The comparison could be made with today's informal and artistically unambitious easy listening, that do not move the listener but rather acts as a delicious background sound.  But being played so cleverly, one can only nod one's head in appreciation of two such great musicians as Sjøgren and Hannibal. 

The three works are rhytmically well modulated and melodically inspired, and it is great that those recordings from 1988 are released on a cd perfect for lazy Sundays!.

Jakob Holm, Kristligt dagblad January 2008
Jakob Holm, Kristligt dagblad

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
composer: Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963)
Half Monk | Half Rascal
Choeurs a capella
Great Gramophone Review on Half Monk-Half Rascal
Gramophone Magazine
26 May 2015
Layton and the DNVE follow Praulins with Poulenc.
The Danish National Vocal Ensemble face some pretty stiff competition with this disc of unaccompanied Poulenc but they do not just hold their own; they sweep a lot of it aside. Under Stephen Layton's perceptive and often inspired direction, they capture the essential dichotomy of Poulenc's writing as encapsulated in the title of ther disc, a translation of the famous quote by Claude Rostand.
Layton has shown his exceptional affinity with the music of Poulenc before – notably with Polyphony (Hyperion 4/08) – and it shines through every nuance here.
The lighting changes of mood, the abrupt transformations from the boisterous to the intimate and, of course, the unsettling switching between prayerful and playful are brought across with complete composure, and what might come across as an awkward  juxtaposition of unrelated ideas becomes a natural progression of ingenious musical invention never blunting its highly distinctive edge. Layton merely refreshes it for our ears.
Exquisitely turned phrases and superbly poised melodic lines, be they the pseudo-chanting of the lonely tenor and the magically monk-like male chorus in the last of the "Prieres de Saint Franqois d'Assis" or the vertiginous screech of the soprano, more monkey than monk, in "Luire" (from the Sept chansons), bring a sense of coherence to a programme in which the longest of the 29 tracks only slightly overruns the three and a half-minute mark.
On absolutely top form, the choir fluidly switches between the highly charged energy of the breathlessly galloping "Marie", witch its captivatingly subtle harmonic switches, and the ethereally  floating quietude of "Ave verum corpus" with absolute assurance. If a highlight has to be identified, for me it would be the sumptuously voluptuous account of "Un soir de neige". Coupled with a beautifully atmospheric recording and interesting notes (sisturbingly printed on a pink background), this is a one-disc Poulenc compendium to Poulencophile should be without. Marc Rochester, Gramophone June 2012
Gramophone Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Diapason d'Or for "L´amour et la foi!"
Benoît Fauchet
26 May 2015
OLIVIER MESSIAEN 'L'Amour et la Foi'
One of our most prominent choir conductors, Marcus Creed, honoured with the prestigious Diapason d'Or in Berlin and Stuttgart, brings the Danish vocal ensemble up to the same excellent level in a multicoloured triptych.  Technique: 4.5/5 SACD technique: 4.5/5.
Recorded at Danmarks Radio in September 2014 and the Garrison Church in Copenhagen in October 1914 by Preben Iwan. Two constellations: female voices, piano, ondes Martenot, celesta, vibraphone, percussion and string orchestra /twelve solo voices. Broad, deep, well-defined and homogenous sound recording. Subtle definition of the vocal and instrumental timbres.
A monograph dedicated to Messiaen's choral music: let us prick up our ears! And more than that – immediately we are captivated by this first recording with DR VokalEnsemblet and their chief conductor, Marcus Creed, successor to Stephen Layton, who in 2012 caught attention here with his recording of Poulenc's 'Moine et voyou' (Cinq Diapason, cf. no. 603). One can hear Creed's triumphs with the Berlin RIAS Chamber Choir and later with the SWR Vocal Ensemble in Stuttgart underlying the Copenhagen ensemble's pure and light texture, its masterful, plastic sound picture and the resilience of its sound production. With regard to vibrato, Creed makes no compromises: We have to admire the sopranos who, without losing sound and with the greatest clarity fire off the high notes in Trois petites liturgies (1943) opposite the colourful instrumental ensemble. 'This yes, that sings like a echo of light, a red and mauve melody in praising the Father...': Here, Messiaen is extremely well assisted as a poet and a composer in colours. The images of the text pass through a mysteriously constructed stained-glass picture, melting in a grandiloquent parlando with the chirping song birds of the piano and the celesta, and the mesmerising, almost heavenly Ondes Martenot and quivering strings. The a cappella qualities of the eighteen voices stands out equally strongly, if not more: The sublimeness of O sacrum convivium (1937), a sacred banquet laid out straightforwardly beneath the nave of the church, rests on the stability of the lines and the intelligence of the disposition of nuances that Creed builds up so magnificently. And the choir add that small, enthralling 'edge' that comprises its charming beauty of sound. We are held, almost breathless, by the opening of the soloist in the first song of Rechants (1948), and we remain so throughout this cycle about the love of Tristan and Isolde, in which the homage to Claude Le Jeune's (1530–1600) Printemps is interwoven with Indian patterns of rhythm. Marcus Creed brings out the curves and roundness of the shapes rather than their edges, he emphasises the colours in the two languages the composer invokes (a 'surrealist' French and a language that is Sanskrit-inspired and created by Messiaen himself) rather than their consonants. The melodies are finely chiselled, the polyphonies admirably vibrant without degenerating into the saturated. An unassuming label, but make no mistake – a great CD.

Benoît Fauchet

Benoît Fauchet

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Very fine 1th reveiw in US Magazine Fanfare on Messiaen
Fanfare Magazine
19 May 2015
MESSIAEN Trois petite liturgies de la Présence divine.1 Cinq Rechants.2 O sacrum convivium!3  •  Marcus Creed, cond; 1,3Danish National Concert Choir; 1Danish National Chamber Orchestra; 2Danish National Vocal Ensemble; 1Marianna Shirinyan (pn); 1Thomas Bloch (ondes Martenot)  •  OUR 6.220612 (59:03)

The Trois petite liturgies de la Présence divine, composed 1943-44, is a pivotal work. It marks the first appearance in Messiaen's music of the ondes Martenot and the first time he was to employ tuned percussion and piano to create a gamelan effect. Some of the piano writing looks ahead to the major influence of birdsong; indeed, one of the lines of the relentlessly ecstatic quasi-religious text is "Do not awaken me; it's the time of the bird!" (It loses something in translation.) The work features a choir of female voices, strings and percussion, with prominent solos for the piano and ondes Martenot. The music it most resembles is the Turangalîla Symphony of two years later: the calm first movement suggests the Garden of love's sleep while the disjunctive rhythms of the second liturgie are precursors to the explosive motifs of the symphony's Joy of the blood of the stars. The third movement is the longest and most varied, encompassing the frenetic climaxes and moments of floating stasis that characterize Messiaen's highly personal style.
Messiaen wrote his own text for the work. As David Hurwitz put it, in his review of an earlier recording (Fanfare 15:3), "the words... are either deeply significant or completely silly, and are probably both". That is a discussion for another day but, typically, color imagery permeates the text and is inextricably linked to the composer's musical inspiration. Silly or not, the words are well nigh impossible to catch in performance––which doesn't really matter: the liturgical atmosphere and moments of great lyrical beauty never fail to register.
A brief a cappella setting of the Latin text for communion, O sacrum convivium! is the earliest of Messiaen's choral works, and while recognizable as the composer's work, is comparatively conventional. Chromatic harmonies utilizing 7th and 9th chords recall the choral writing of Delius. To me, they sound not at all "jazzy", as the booklet note would have us believe.
The Cinq Rechants (or Five Refrains, 1948) for twelve solo voices is much quirkier: a set of technically difficult settings of poems by the composer, written in French and an imaginary form of Sanskrit. The Refrains represent the third part of Messiaen's trilogy based loosely and rather generally on the legend of Tristan and Isolde. The song cycle Harawi forms the first part of this trilogy, and the Turangalîla Symphony the second. Messiaen quotes the love chorale from Turangalîla in the third refrain "Ma robe d'amour", and several other rhythmic and thematic figures call to mind the familiar orchestral work. The Danish vocalists meet every challenge, both linguistic and musical, in this spaciously recorded performance. The primary soprano soloist is utterly fearless. 
Of the main work, there have been several recordings in the past. Although I no longer have it to hand, Bernstein once recorded the Trois liturgies with New York forces for Columbia. Raymond Tuttle, in Fanfare 28:4, was critical of that recording. (Messiaen does not seem to have been a favorite with Bernstein. Although he conducted the premiere of Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony, Lennie never returned to that work, nor did he record it. The Trois liturgies represent his entire Messiaen discography.)
The most recent version comes from Myung Whun-Chung and French radio forces, recorded in 2008 by DG. It boasts an incisive pianist in Roger Muraro, and a drier, more analytical acoustic. In both recordings the ondes Martenot's first upward swoops suggest one of the choristers has had a sudden attack of mal de mer. The major difference between the two performances is that Myung Whun-Chung uses a choir of children aged between nine and seventeen, the Maîtrise de Radio France, in place of the stipulated adult female voices. His young choir negotiates the tricky intervals and rhythms with ease, and I prefer the detachment their blanched tone lends to Messiaen's excesses. They sound particularly appropriate in the spoken sections of the third movement, where the rhythmic structure suggests the chant of a children's game. Having said that, Marcus Creed's Danish performance is not outclassed, merely different in scope and intent. The Danish singing is expressive and impressively solid in pitch. The couplings are also exceptionally fine, as indicated above. Anyone wanting a disc of the Trois petite liturgies should snap up this release. Phillip Scott April 1th 2015     
   
Fanfare Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Great review in the official Messiaen homepage:www.oliviermessiaen.org
www.oliviermessiaen.org
19 May 2015
NEW RELEASE - Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine, O sacrum convivium! Cinq Rechants. Conductor Marcus Creed The Danish National Concert Choir, Danish National Vocal Ensemble and The Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Marianna Shirinyan (Piano) and Thomas Bloch (ondes Martenot) April 2015 Our Recordings, Catalogue No: 6.220612 UPC: 747313161263.

L'amour et la foi explores the vocal music written by Messiaen within, more or less, a ten year period beginning in 1937 with O sacrum convivium the only work where Messiaen uses an original liturgical text. Marcus Creed and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble and Concert Choir make the most of Messiaen early modal colours where voices are finely balanced and dynamically phrased creating a harmonic mist where one can almost smell the incense.
This contrasts magnificently with the somewhat unsettling Cinq Rechants. If O sacrum convivium is one of Messiaen's most performed and approachable choral works, Cinq Rechants is the exact opposite requiring great virtuosity and vocal gymnastics tackled by only the most secure professional choirs and thus probably the least performed of Messiaen's choral works. I say 'unsettling' because this work is complex on many different levels, not only the technical aspects of rhythmic and vocal pyrotechnics but this work was composed (in 1948) at a time when Messiaen's domestic life was at an emotional peak. During its compostion, his first wife Claire Delbos underwent an operation that incurred complications and would later be blamed for the drastic deterioration in her memory. Her erratic behavior made life chaotic and increasingly difficult for Messiaen to compose and he often feared for the safety of his manuscripts but this was the climate in which Cinq Rechants was written. It was of course also part of what is known as Messiaen's Tristan trilogy (Harawi - Turangalila Symphonie and Cinq Rechants). The trilogy in his private life being himself, Claire Delbos and Yvonne Loriod. This heady and potent emotional mix manifests itself in Cinq Rechants with its invented language, percussive incantations and folkloristic chantings alongside the most heartfelt and 'caressant' love song moments. Creed and his choir rise admirably to these challenges with a broad and varied palette of colours and expressive hues. I just felt a little temporal caution in the opening Rechant that didn't always allow the 'stella fury' to fully flourish and the male tk tk tk percussion a little too polite. The balance and focus of the soft organ-like chords in No.3 are exquisite and the solo soprano floats effortlessly with broad breadth of phrase throughout. This is a highly polished performance recorded in a fine acoustic, but sometimes a little 'dare' and abrasion is needed to offset the polish.
Much has been written about the furore surrounding the first performance of Trois petites liturgies de la Présence divine in 1945 claiming the inappropriate nature of the music in a religious context so I will leave it up to the reader to persue (or not) this avenue. The fact is that Messiaen weaves a dense and often powerful sound world by using a relatively small combination of instrumental resourses a concept that would re-emerge in Des Canyons aux etoiles... many years later in 1974. A mark of a true craftsman. Trois petite liturgies uses female choir, small string section, minimal percussion, vibraphone, celeste, piano and Ondes Martenot and again in this recording everything is heard with crystaline clarity and colouful balance. Marianna Shirinyan's piano demonstrates just the right amount of improvisational quality in the birdsong passages while Thomas Bloch's Ondes weaves mysteriously with violin counterpoint in movement 1 and sensuously in movement 3 with choir and cushioned strings. Throughout, Marcus Creed shows great depth of understanding Messiaen's sound world and this, together with excellent recording technology and CD presentation makes for a very rewarding listening experience from this enterprising and high quality label.
www.oliviermessiaen.org

Kim Sjøgren, violin
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Giuliani
Works for Violin & Guitar
The Musician, Review on Giuliani
The Musician Magazine
13 May 2015
Kim Sjøgren and Lars Hannibal, two of Danish music "heavies", recorded this excellent cd back in 1988 (at that time probably on tape!) of music by Italian composer and guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani.

Charming, wonderful, early italian romantic, in an interplay between the two musicians that is almost indescribable. The interplay is of course a result of a thorough acquaintance with each other, through numerous concerts and cd activities together over many years.
The Musician Magazine

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Rick Jones Music Blog on Messiaen
Rick Jones Music Blog
12 May 2015
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Birthday tweet
Treated daughter to Messiaen for her birthday. Others go bowling and drink coke. We drive to Cambridge, hear Visions de l'Amen in Kings chapel, eat vegetarian supper in Rainbow Cafe, attend compline at nearly midnight and drive home to a new disc, L'amour et la foi - vocal music by Olivier Messiaen - on the car stereo. Well it is Holy Week. The performers are the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra conducted by Marcus Creed, a graduate incidentally of Kings Cambridge. They achieve the excellence which the composer says is necessary to perform these works. The voices sound reared on Messiaen's intervals. In O Sacrum Convivium, the chords linger, their lengths seemingly indeterminate, governed only partly by the solemn inflections of priestly speech. The consonants of Cinq rechants provide the percussion with the voices swooping and whooping with the ingenuity not expected of a Roman Catholic church organist. The composer has the appeal of the unexpected. The orchestra including piano and ondes martenot colours the background of the Trois petites liturgies de la Presence divine. Birdsong is never far away. Messiaen arrived at the expressive tweet years before its time.
http://rickjonesmusicblog.blogspot.co.uk/
Rick Jones Music Blog

Kim Sjøgren, violin
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Giuliani
Works for Violin & Guitar
AllMusic Review on Giuliani
All Music America
09 May 2015
Guitar players love the work of Mauro Giuliani — it is so well voiced within the instrument's capabilities, and the music itself of an echt-classic kind that is bestowed with more prodigality to instruments like the violin, piano and the like. That doesn't mean that a large listening public is likewise attendant to Giuliani; many find his music rather featureless and dull, fully belonging to the transition between classicism and the romantic and not truly worthy of serious consideration. Overexposure of Giuliani on American classical public radio has not helped his cause much either — presentation within the context of repeated, ingratiating pledges for support and "happy talk" newsbreaks is liable to exhaust the appeal of even a composer as sunny and easy on the ears as Giuliani tends to be.

Lars Hannibal — a guitarist so earnest and dedicated he can spin a mere technical exercise into gold — has come to Giuliani's rescue on Our Recordings' splendid Mauro Giuliani: Works for Violin and Guitar. Recorded in 1988 with violinist Kim Sjøgren for EMI, this disc is making its reentry on Hannibal's own Our Recordings imprint, which he co-founded with recorder virtuoso Michala Petri. Sjøgren and Hannibal's rendering of these three works — the Duo Concertante, Op. 25 (1812), Six Variations, Op. 63 (1814) and the Gran Duetto Concertante, Op. 52 (1814) — are anything but dull and demonstrate a true understanding of Giuliani's idiom, which more than anything else is distinctively Italian in flavor. Sjøgren and Hannibal's have a sincere grasp of the variability to which Giuliani adopted romantic ideas — in the Duo Concertante of 1812; they employ a buoyant classical tempo with only a slight tug of expressiveness, whereas in the 1814 works they are considerably more flexible. This is the result of considerable study invested in the fine details of expression within each piece; the absorption of romantically derived concepts of Giuliani is inconsistent from one work to the next and vexingly rather anti-chronological as well. It makes a difference from just picking up one of Giuliani's works and playing it off the page. The sense of symbiosis of the two players- as necessary here as in the more famous compositions for violin and guitar by Paganini — is clearly apparent in these warm and generous performances of Giuliani.

by Uncle Dave Lewis

To read this review online, click here.
All Music America

Marcus Creed, Conductor
L'amour et la foi
Vocal Music by Olivier Messiaen (1908 - 1992)
Great review on Messiaen in US Magazine Fanfare
Fanfare Magazine
04 May 2015
L'AMOUR ET LA FOI  •  Marcus Creed, cond; 1,2,3Marianna Shirinyan (pn); 1,2,3Thomas Bloch (ondes Martenot);  Danish National VOC E; Danish National C CH; Danish National CO  •  OUR RECORDING  6.220612 (59:03)

MESSIAEN  Trois Petite Liturgies de la Présence Divine1,2,3. O Sacrum Convivinum!  Cinq Rechants 

Messiaen is one of those composers who regularly crosses the line between nearly naïve simplicity and staggering complexity. I mean no disrespect to him or to his music; I've long been an avid fan, and in fact, his texts often allude to the seeming contradiction. Simply put, if a conductor or performer emphasizes one or the other, veers too deeply into the linguistic and syntactic complexities or attempts too much simplification for emotional effect, the music suffers. Marcus Creed and his Danish forces have managed a golden mean, no mean feat where these relatively early vocal pieces are concerned.
The three-movement Trois Petites Liturgies de la Presence Divine, premiered in 1945, is ubiquitous for its oddly constructed orchestra of strings, piano, malletted percussion, celesta and ondes Martenot, is a perfect example of how simplicity and complexity inhabit the same space in Messiaen's work. The three movements alternate between meditative slowness and that ecstatic exuberance that informs so many of Messiaen's more rapid pieces. The second movement's opening exemplifies the latter, while the third movement ends with gorgeously slow, nearly static, and reflective passages leading toward Messiaen's beloved A-major, which he associates with the color blue and with Heaven. If Creed's choice of tempi for the third movement's more exuberant sections seem a bit slower than those chosen by Marcel Coraud for his stereo version, long my benchmark, the detail Creed elicits more than compensates.  "God's presence in all things, all-encompassing in all places, all-encompassing in each place, …" declaims Messiaen's text, and indeed, shimmering strings serve as beautiful support for the elaborate counterpoint manufactured by piano, ondes and various tuned percussion, which I hear more clearly than in any other recording. The women of the Danish National Vocal ensemble exhibit a purity of tone similar that what can be heard on Myung-hun Chung's 2008 Deutsche Grammophon reading, but where his tends toward superficiality, Creed's is appropriately deep. Special mention must go to pianist Marianna Shirinyan; her special approach to articulation involves a committed kind of detachment, so that every phrase is clearly defined, providing another layer of contrast to the long vocal and string lines of slower sections and further unifying the music.
The purity of the Danish group's tone also pervades the two other works on offer here. This version of 1937's "O Sacrum Convivium!" boasts one of the most quietly ecstatic "Alleluia"s I've heard, and the nearly vibratoless singing heightens the sense of stillness and reflection that are integral to any good performance of the motet. Even the declamatory opening of Cinq Rechants, composed twelve years later as Messiaen was beginning his reciprocal relationship with Darmstadt and its students, is sung with very little vibrato, giving an almost alien quality to the linguistically mixed text. All of the qualities that make this disc the success it is are on display. Dynamic contrast throughout is breathtaking, and when rhythmic precision and dramatic pauses are of paramount importance, as in the final piece, the detailed recording and ample acoustic highlight both. This disc could serve either as an excellent introduction to the Messiaen neophyte or as a pallet cleanser to those in search of a different approach.  Marc Medwin April 5th 2015
Fanfare Magazine

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
composer: Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963)
Half Monk | Half Rascal
Choeurs a capella
Very possitive review in Daily Classical Music on Half Monk-Half Rascal
Daily Classical Music
29 April 2015
I was completely befuddled by the first words on the booklet cover: 'Half Monk' and 'Half Rascal'. Initially I thought of them as a couple of Scandinavian participants in the recording, and it was only when reading Claus Johansen (probably also Scandinavian) on the music itself that I came across Poulenc's remark that 'A critic has said that there are both a monk and a street urchin in me. That is an accurate description of my personality.' Then I understood, and partially agreed, though Poulenc was always far too boulevardwise ever to have been a 'rascal' or 'urchin'. And in 1936, during or after which nearly all this music was written, Poulenc reverted to the Catholicism of his earlier days.
Hence the heartfelt tributes to St Francis and St Antony of Padua, both for unaccompanied male voices. But there is quite enough secular music to preserve the half and half attribution. 'Tous les droits', for instance, even if not always spelt correctly, dates from that same crucial year.
Listen -- Poulenc: Tous les droits (Sept chansons)
(track 4, 0:00-0:46) © 2012 OUR Recordings :

It is a setting of words by Paul Eluard, whose poetry dominates the Sept Chansons (published as Op 81). Eluard was a founder of the surrealist movement and, much affected by the Spanish Civil War, joined the underground communists in wartime France to support the resistance.
Any setting of the Ave verum has to face very strong competition. There is above all Mozart's incomparable version written towards the end of his life. Whenever faced with a short space in a choral programme, I would slip it in as often as possible. And then there is Elgar's Op 2, given a misleadingly early opus number, but as serenely beautiful as anything he wrote. Which of the three composers had the weakest faith at the time it would be difficult to say for certain, but it is likely to have been Mozart. Like Elgar, Poulenc uses only female voices, and in his case they are unaccompanied.
Listen -- Poulenc: Ave verum corpus
(track 12, 0:00-0:46) © 2012 OUR Recordings :

The fourth of the Chansons françaises is about as 'rascally' as Poulenc here allows himself to become. It is a joyous and infective piece, with strong rhythmic drive and a delicious sense of humour. There can be no doubt that the Danish National Vocal Ensemble is Scandinavian, nor that their commitment to this music under Stephen Layton is total. There is much here to savour. I am particularly touched by the purple colour of the booklet, as a recently departed friend who happened to be devoted to this particular composer was always addressed by me as the 'Purple Poulenc'.
Copyright © 9 March 2012 Robert Anderson,
London UK
Daily Classical Music
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