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Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
4 stars in Tanskalaiset muistelevat ykymusiikkinestoriaan
Samuli Tiikkaja, HELSINGIN SANOMAT
9 September 2015
 
Mistä johtuu, että tanskalaisten säveltäjien musiikki soi melkein koko levyn ajan jylhänä ja ankarana? Ehkä siitä, että koko levy on kunnianosoitus tanskalaissäveltäjä Axel Borup-Jørgensenille (1924–2012), ja sen teokset on sävelletty hänen muistolleen.
Borup-Jørgensen oli nokkahuiluentusiasti, joten muistoteosten säveltäjille annettiin ohjeeksi säveltää joko nokkahuilulle ja jousille tai pelkästään jousille.
Bent Sørensenin Whispering-teoksessa käyvät ilmi nokkahuilun ja jousiorkesterin rikkaat yhteistyömahdollisuudet ja roolien monipuolisuus.
Vielä laveampi vaikutelma syntyy Mogens Christensenin Nordic Summer Scherzosta, joka on suoranainen nokkahuilun virtuoosisien soittotekniikoiden kavalkadi. Nokkahuilusolisti Michala Petri soittaa glissandot, multifonit ja muut erikoiskeinot varmasti, ja niiden ansiosta kokonaisuus kuulostaa energiseltä.
Tällä viikolla Helsingissä vierailevan Sunleif Rasmussenin Winter Echoes on aiheiltaan voimallinen jo siksi, että se on teosmääritelmänsä mukaan kirjoitettu nokkahuilulle ja 13 soolojouselle – jousisoittajat siis eivät soita niinkään homogeenisena jousistona kuin solistiyksilöinä.
Aivan omaa maataan tässä säveltäjäjoukossa on jazzmuusikko Thomas Clausen, jonka Concertino on uusbarokkinen sarja nokkahuilulle ja jousille. Sinänsä se kyllä tuo ilakoivalla päätösrondollaan valonpilkahduksen levyn muuten vähän jäyhään kokonaisuuteen.
Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen sävelsi muistoteoksensa Music for 13 Stringspelkille jousille, ja sen ankarat aiheet sopivat hyvin yhteen muistelun kohteen eli Axel Borup-Jørgensenin Sommasvit-jousiorkesteriteoksen (1957) kanssa, joskin tämä on sanonnassaan säästeliäämpi ja hillitympi.
Saksalaisen Clemens Schuldtin johdolla Lapin kamariorkesterin jouset paneutuvat tanskalaiseen modernismiin taitavasti, ja Rovaniemen Korundissa tehdyssä äänityksessä on sopiva sekoitus massaa ja ilmavuutta.
Samuli Tiikkaja, HELSINGIN SANOMAT

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
Petri is an honest, fabulously talented musician
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazine
September 2015
A group of three "Danish & Faroese Recorder Concertos" (as the cover proclaims) might be of only peripheral interest, at first glance, unless one hails from Denmark or the Faroe Islands. However, Michala Petri is a horse of a different color, and her presence on any project practically ensures a worthwhile musical experience. That expectation is not frustrated here.

If you've been following her career, at least on disc, you will know that Petri already recorded Thomas Koppel's Moonchild's Dream about 20 years ago for RCA Victor. (Her partners were conductor Okko Kamu and the English Chamber Orchestra.) That was its premiere recording. She recorded it a second time, a decade ago, for Dacapo, joined by the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bo Holten. Thus, Petri seems to be recording this work every ten years, and perhaps the 2026 iteration is already being planned! And why not, because Koppel composed it specifically for Petri. It's a terrific work, and Petri owns it, in more ways than one. This de facto concerto is not programmatic, although it "focuses on the hopes and fears and dreams of a little girl living in the South Harbor area of Copenhagen, one of the poorest neighborhood in the city."

The Danish Broadcasting Corporation commissioned it as a long-form music video, and indeed, Koppel's music sounds, in the best way, like a film score in search of a film. Like many film composers, he makes modern music palatable to even non-specialist listeners by using it to convey mood, emotion, and atmosphere. At the same time, the music is not simple-minded. The listener, like Petri herself, can return to it many times and find something new to enjoy. This is a gentle, wistful, and even hopeful masterwork, and it deserves to be widely known.

I have not heard the Dacapo disc (which includes two other works that Koppel composed for Petri), but I know the RCA Victor release, and I can say that Petri's ideas about Moonchild's Dream have not changed in any fundamental way in the last twenty years, nor are Kamu and the English Chamber Orchestra notably superior to Christensen and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. This time around, I'd say that Petri plays the music a little bit more intimately, and the music's textures are made to seem a little more refined. She no longer has to convince that this is a fine work; over the course of twenty years we have found that out for ourselves. The excellent engineering, which can be appreciated even without an SACD player, probably helps to put it across as well.

The other two works, also written for Petri, are receiving their premiere recordings here. Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's name will not be new to those who are interested in modern classical music, however. Initially a serialist, this composer moved into new territory in 1960s with neo-Dadaist works that "single-mindedly set out to rid music of its affects and affectations." One might add, "and to free listeners from their expectations." Chacun Son Son (literally, "to each  their own sound") is less a recorder concerto and, according to the composer, "more a ritual" in which the recorder "is completely integrated into the woodwind section as primus inter pares (first among equals), as the first voice in a long-breathed canon." Chacun Son Son sounds like a musical representation of a mobile by Alexander Calder. . .a mobile that is blown into motion by increasingly brisk winds before it breaks into pieces. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's music, even though it can seem more like meta-music, smiles mischievously, and it is difficult not to smile back at it. Petri is a good sport about a solo part that really isn't a solo part, and all of the musicians play out their roles with skill and mild-mannered objectivity.

Sunleif Rasmussen was born in 1961 on the Faroe Islands. Coming from such a tiny and remote place, he can hardly help being keenly aware of the natural world, and this awareness seems to color his music. The title Territorial Songs is an allusion to birdsong, which birds use not only to attract a mate, but also to establish their personal territory. In this work, the composer "extends this idea of 'territorial space' to the orchestra, letting some sections play independent of the conductor, marking their own territory in the orchestral landscape." Thus, the music functions on both descriptive and absolute levels. The recorder certainly can sound like birdsong, and at many times it does in this work, but Rasmussen has more up his sleeve than imitation. In this work he has created a sound-world whose interest derives, in large part, from unexpected instrumental sonorities and juxtapositions. There's nothing cliched about it. Petri and her partners are finely attuned to its shapes and shades.

Early in her career, Petri's youth and physical beauty opened doors for her, and for her recorder. In the world of classical music, as elsewhere, young artists sometimes are forgotten as the novelty fades and new pretty young things appear. Petri no longer records for Philips or RCA Victor, it's true, but now she is more free to follow her artistic inclinations than ever before, and that gives her a loveliness that no skin cream or shampoo could ever hope to lend! Petri is an honest, fabulously talented musician who is doing as much for her instrument, if not more, than any recorder virtuoso has ever done.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
"Petri is an untouchable talent..."
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazine
September 2015
Elsewhere in this issue (look under "Koppel") I review a disc of "Danish and Faroese Recorder Concertos" written for, and played by, Michala Petri, the ongoing wonder of the recorder world. Much as I like that disc, I like this one even better, because the music is an order of magnitude more gritty. The two composers common to both discs are Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Sunleif Rasmussen, and here, both of them have created provocative, unusual works that should hold up to repeated listening very nicely.

The subtitle of the present release is "Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen." Why, you might ask, are we "tributing" him? The answer is that, when he died in 2012, Denmark lost an elder statesman among composers—he was born in 1924—and the recorder lost a great advocate. Michala Petri was like a "second daughter" to him, and his actual daughter, Elisabet Selin, was the only private student that Petri ever had taken on. The new works were premiered at a concert in 2014, and the concert was transmitted all over Europe. This recording, however, is a studio affair from late 2014 and early 2015.  Borup-Jørgensen's work, which can be translated "Sommen Suite" (Sommen is the name of an oddly-shaped lake in the southern part of Sweden), was composed in 1957, and it is the only work to have been recorded previously (on the Dacapo label). One might expect it to be pastoral in nature, but it is surprisingly tense.

This is not strictly a recorder disc. Sommasvit is scored for string orchestra only, and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Music for 13 Strings is just that. In the other works, Petri's recorder is sometimes prominent, and sometimes less so. I mention this only because those who are looking for a straight-up collection of music for recorder and orchestra—and with Petri's name on the cover, why wouldn't they expect one? — will want to be aware of this before pulling out their wallets.

I like all of the works on this disc, but I like best the ones that adhere most closely to my understanding of Scandinavia: despite the presence of some rather nice people and socialized medicine, it can be a brutal place. Having been there for extended periods in the winter, and having wandered, nearly lost, along many a rural hiking trail in Sweden, I am speaking from experience. Those cold days in which the sun dies just a few hours after having been fatuously reborn, take their toll. Music for 13 Strings is an impressively dread-full summit between Bartók and Penderecki, marked by lonely sonorities and intensively percussive effects, including snap pizzicati that sound like ice cracking on a lake. Sunleif Rasmussen's Winter Echoes opens with what sounds like a hunting scene from a horror film yet to be created by Danish auteur Lars von Trier, and scored by a terminally frazzled Bernard Herrmann. Bent Sørensen's Whispering whispers in frozen landscape; a broken little melody at its end for the recorder could not be more pathetic. In contrast, Thomas Clausen's neoclassical Concertino is the very model of mental health and Nordic body culture: 20 more minutes of calisthenics and everyone into the sauna! Its Largo is cool and lovely, and its closing Rondo a bracing showpiece for Petri and her little recorder. Clausen is better known as a jazz musician, and this work might surprise his fans from that realm. The Nordic Summer Scherzo by Mogens Christensen is a veritable phantasmagoria of whistling and twittering for both the recorder and strings. It takes the listener to a strange but not unpleasant place.

As I have remarked on many occasions, Petri is an untouchable talent, but more than that, she is inquisitive, intelligent artist who has made it her responsibility to expand her instrument's repertory. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra is a precision-driven ensemble whose members are not fazed by the various technical and emotional demands made by these works.

I'm putting this in my "Want List" pile for the end of the year. I hope you give it your consideration.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Complex and Challenging New Compositions
Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine
August 2015
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.

Performance 4 stars - recording 4 stars.
Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
10/10/10
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute
August 2015
Michala Petris Aufnahmeserie mit zeitgenössischen Konzerten für Blockflöte und Orchester gehört zu den wichtigsten und ambitioniertesten Projekten in der Geschichte des Instruments. Der wohl kaum zu überbietende Standard, den die bislang erschienenen Produktionen bezüglich musikalischer, tontechnischer und auch editorischer Qualität gesetzt haben, bestätigt sich auch in der neuesten Folge mit Werken aus Dänemark und von den Färöer-Inseln.

Dass Michala Petri hier zum dritten Mal Thomas Koppels anrührendes und meisterhaft orchestriertes, modernes Sterntaler-Märchen Moonchild's Dream eingespielt hat, lässt auf eine ganz besondere Beziehung zu diesem Werk schließen. Die vorliegende Aufnahme gerät denn auch zur musikalisch schlüssigsten, fast ist man geneigt zu sagen perfektesten Aufnahme des Stücks. Petris kristallines Spiel verzaubert den Hörer von Beginn an. Gänzlich andere Wege beschreitet Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen in seinem 2014 fertiggestellten Chacun SonSon: Die Blockflöte agiert hier eher als „primus inter pares" der Bläsersektion des Orchesters denn als Soloinstrument – Musik von kraftvoller, zuweilen fast anarchischer Urgewalt , die mit harschen Blechbläserklängen, wilden Pauken-Glissandi und Schlagzeugsalven um sich selbst zu kreisen scheint. Mit den Territorial Songs des färöischen Komponisten Sunleif Rasmussen stellt Michala Petri ein außerordentlich attraktives, farbenreiches Konzert vor, das (dank des reichen Perkussionseinsatzes) rhythmischen Drive mit hoher Klangsinnlichkeit zu verbinden weiß. Die exzellent begleitenden Aalborger Sinfoniker unter Henrik Vagn Christensen setzen genau die richtigen musikalischen Akzente. Das umfangreiche, luxuriös ausgestattete farbige Booklet mit ausgezeichneten Hintergrundinformationen von Joshua Cheek bestätigt einmal mehr, dass Petri und ihr Label OUR Recordings in einer Klasse für sich spielen.

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

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Som Fejring (A Celebration)
Klassisk Magazine
08 September 2015
Som fejring af, at komponisten Axel Borup-Jørgensen ville være fyldt 90 sidste år, tog hans datter initiativ til en mindekoncert, hvor fem komponister med relation til Borup-Jørgensen blev spurgt om at skrive nye værker til lejligheden. Han fordybede sig i blokfløjtens muligheder, vel især fordi det var datteren Elisabeth Selins instrument, og det er hendes mentor, Michala Petri, der er solist på de fire værker for blokfløjte og strygere.

Bent Sørensens ‘Whispering' er inspireret af Borup-Jørgensens talestemme, som i de senere år nærmede sig det lydløse. Mogens Christensens ‘Nordic Summer Scherzo' skæver til et klaverstykke af Borup-Jørgensen og dennes elskede Sverige, hvis natur han søgte at spejle i sin musik. Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen kendte komponisten siden slutningen af 1950'erne, hvor Borup-Jørgensen var foran de unge løver, og sender en næsten Stravinskijsk hilsen i sin ‘Musik for 13 strygere' med brugen af tritonusintervallet, som var en yndet byggesten hos den ældre kollega og ven. Thomas Clausens mere afklarede ‘Concertino' tager model i Vivaldis åndedrag og livlighed. Mere knortet er Sunleif Rasmussens ‘Winter Echoes', hvor Petri må kæmpe sig vej igennem solostrygernes barske landskab gennem et intimiderende mørke og ender mutters alene i en sørgelig-smuk ensomhed.
Klassisk Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
Distinct and Magical Soundworlds
Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine
August 2015
While the mainstay of the recorder'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.

Thomas Koppel (brother of Anders and also a founder member of savage Rose) heads up the diverse Danish and Faroese Recorder Concertos (once more performed with aplomb by Petri). Koppel's recorder concerto Moonchilds Dream (1991-1992) was commissioned for a film recounting the hopes and dreams of a penurious young girl in Copenhagen, and while Koppel's rich, cinematic score may have been a fine match for the film's emotive theme, as a concert piece the work borders on the saccharine. Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's fiercely inventive recorder concertos Chacun Son Son (2014) offers a welcome astringence. Comprised of a "long-breathed canon" scored between soloist and orchestra sections, the concerto snarls, sings and whispers, making for a powerful addition to the repertoire. Sunleif Rasmussen's Territorial Songs (2008-09) explores the mingling sounds of birdsongs with notable originality, capturing distinct and magical soundworlds (including an arresting passage where Petri hums through the recorder) across the work's fine short movements.

Performance 4 stars. Recording 4 stars.
Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Henrik Vagn Christensen, conductor
Danish Faorese Recorder Concertos
4 Star (Max, 5) Review i Danish Newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad
2. September 2015
 
Nutidige blokfløjtekoncerter (4 stars)
Blokfløjten er et instrument, mange mennesker forbinder med glade amatører og mere eller mindre talentfulde skolebørn. I klassisk sammenhæng hører man den som regel i forskellig slags renæssance- og barokmusik. Men danskeren Michala petri har gennem årtier vist, at blokfløjten kan langt mere end som så. I år er det 40 år siden, hun afsluttede sine studier på Musikhochschule i Hannover.
Siden har en stor del af hendes virke været at udvide blokfløjterepertoiret ved bestilling af nye værker. På en netop udkommet CD fra pladeselskabet OUR Recordings spiller hun, ledsaget af Aalborg Symfoniorkester dirigeret af Henrik Vagn Christensen, tre nutidige blokfløjtekoncerter af tre forskellige komponister, optaget i Musikkens Hus i Aalborg.
Thomas Koppel (1944-2006) var vel den første, der for alvor trak blokfløjten ind i en nutidig koncertsammenhæng og anbragte den foran et symfoniorkester. Det skete med værket ”Moonchilds Dream” fra 1990-91, der var et meget nærliggende valg på den nye plade med titlen ”Danish & Faroese Recorder Concertos” – danske og færøske blokfløjtekoncerter. Det er et smukt, firesatset værk af godt 20 minutters varighed, sikkert opbygget – og med lange drømmeagtige passager, der sine steder nærmest lyder som feel-good-music. I Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreens ”Chacun Son Son” – hver har sin lyd, eller hvert instrument synger med sit ”næb” – har blokfløjten en mere tilbagetrukket rolle, men Michala Petri gik med på spøgen og optræder i det et kvarter lange værk som primus inter pares. Stykket er buldrende og vitalt, godt skuldret af den 82-årige komponist. Endelig rundes der af med færingen Sunleif Rasmussens ”territorial Songs”, et femsatset værk, der uvægerligt vil give associationer til klippeøen ude i den nordlige Atlant. Den længste sats med betegnelsen ”tranquillo” er i mine ører også den smukkeste.
 Peter Dürrfeld 2. september 2015
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad

Michala Petri, recorder
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Nordic Sound
Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen
First-rate music, and First-rate music-making
Alan Swanson, Fanfare Magazine
31 August 2015
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924–2012), was a considerable force in post-war Danish composition. Though he had some congress with the Darmstadt School of composers, he kept his individual musical voice. Much of his considerable output is for small ensembles, and a recent disc of percussion music was well received by Henry Fogel (38:3). He is himself represented on this disc by a piece for strings from 1957. All the other works on this CD, however, were written in 2014, to mark what would have been his 90th birthday anniversary. Whether or not the voices heard here are "Nordic" in any perceptible way is for the listener to decide.

The opening piece, by Bent Sørensen (b. 1958), in one movement, is a fine tapestry of subtle and often quite soft sound colors woven between the recorder and the strings. It is contemplative throughout, but not in the least soporific. The Music for 13 Strings by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932) is considerably sterner stuff. Elsewhere in this issue, I quite liked his Chacun son son, also from 2014. Both have a nervous energy that, to judge by his earlier piece and this one, is typical of his current work.

In his contribution to this tribute, Sunleif Rasmussen (b. 1961) uses all the recorders, beginning with the bass and moving up though the piece. Unlike an earlier piece by him, Accvire, he does not exact a great many special techniques from the recorder, though the glissandos are tricky. Mogens Christensen (b. 1955) begins with what sound like bird calls but uses them to derive material for development as the piece moves on. As the orchestra is based in Rovaniemi, in Finnish Lapland, Christensen has slipped in a small internal tribute to Sibelius (whose 150th birthday anniversary it is in 2015, along with that of Carl Nielsen).

Thomas Clausen (b. 1949) is mostly known for his work in jazz; while the Concertino cannot be said to be "jazzy," it does have a sprightly character that clearly recalls Baroque practice. This can be easily heard in the second movement, which the notes say is related to Vivaldi, but I hear more of Bach's Air from the Third Orchestral Suite in its line.

Axel Borup-Jørgensen's Sommasvit (1957) recalls his youth in southern Sweden, and is about as different from Clausen's Concertino as can be. Its four short movements and an epilogue are intended to represent the times of day at four places around Lake Sommen, in southern Sweden. This fine piece, composed before he attended the Darmstadt summer courses that brought serialism to wider attention, is very much in the Modernist tradition, but it has its own, somewhat brooding, voice. In its way, this suite may come the closest to representing the "Nordic Sound" of this collection's title.

This is first-rate music, and first-rate music-making. The always excellent Michala Petri needs no introduction in these pages, and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra—said to be the world's northernmost professional orchestra—plays impeccably under Clemens Schuldt. This recording is recommended for its fine playing and its attractive program. It goes on my Want List.
Alan Swanson, Fanfare Magazine

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
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E-mail: hannibal@michalapetri.com
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