cd reviews
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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

Palle Mikkelborg
Going To Pieces - Without Falling Apart
Great review in UK Recorder Magazine on "Going to Pieces-Without falling Apart"!
Recorder Magazine
10 April 2015
Review in UK Recorder Magazine
Palle Mikkelborg is a Danish jazz trumpeter and composer who has collaborated with such luminaries as Miles Davies, Ravi Shankar and Don Cherry. This disc features "Going To Pieces Without falling Apart" and "Afterthoughts", the former being a concerto for harp and recorder and strings (with michala Petri's contribution as soloist earning the disc a note in this illustrious publication) and the latter. A work for solo trumpet.
Mikkleborg's music is very deeply rooted in his own spiritual life. Says he, " I see my musical career as a symphony in many movements: each movement capturing impressions of fascinating meetings with musicians from many cultural spheres, knowing that we are all painting with different colours on our palettes" That painterly attitude to life provides an insight the compositional process behind his concerto, which takes the form of twelve short movements. The Dawn Chorus – Morning Raga – Sunrise – The African Girl – A Summer Nightfall – Chanting Monks – Gentle Summer Rain – A Spiritual carousel – A Golden Mystery – The Chines Girl – Lullabies While the Adults Are Talking – Shadow Waltz.
NO movement is more than six minutes long, and each is primarily concerned with the crystallizing of a sound-world rather than the generating of a long-range emotional or tonal structure. Mikkelborg is, if you like, an imagine maker, and this isen't to damn his work with faint praise; his emotional pictures are obviously very deeply felt. Perhaps his music might effectively be described as film music, with the film left to the listeners imagination. At any rate, his performers respond beautifully, Helen Davies' harp and Michala Petri's recorder intertwining and entering fully into what are undeniably some pretty supremely crafted sound-worlds; Mikkelborg owes a lot to his very fine engineer, too.
Petri's sound is instantly recognizable, of course, and its fullness is entirely appropriate her, this double concerto is a fitting vehicle for her. Cat Groom,- January 2014
Recorder Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Movements
5 out of 5 Stars for Movement in German Klassik.com
Klassik.com
05 April 2015

Cover vergrößern  Ein Gemälde und drei Konzerte
Kritik von Christian Vitalis, 13.07.2008



Movements: Michala Petri plays Amargós, Börtz and Stucky
Label: Our Recordings




Interpretation:
Klangqualität:
Repertoirewert:
Booklet:




 





Ihren Ruf als reines Einsteigerinstrument wird die Blockflöte wohl so schnell nicht los werden, zahlreicher Bemühungen zum Trotz, das Instrument – etwa durch wirkungsvolle Bearbeitungen für Blockflötenensembles oder neue Konzerte – als vollwertiges Mitglied in der Familie der Blasinstrumente zu bestätigen. Vor einiger Zeit habe ich eine Blockflötenplatte besprochen, in deren Booklet der Solist Dan Laurin die allgemein verbreitete These aufgriff, die Blockflöte sei in ihrem Ausdruckspektrum eingeschränkt und käme gegen ein volles Orchester ohnehin nicht an – um sie dann in musikalischer Weise eindrucksvoll zu widerlegen. Das Studium des Texthefts der vorliegenden CD aus dem Hause Our Recordings mit der dänischen Ausnahme-Flötistin Michala Petri hat da ein leichtes Déjà-vu zur Folge: Hier jedoch ist es mit Michael Stucky einer der Komponisten, der offen zugibt, diesem Vorurteil aufgesessen gewesen zu sein und erst nach dem eindrucksvollen Erlebnis eines Konzertes mit Michala Petri umgestimmt wurde – dann aber war er ‚schnell bekehrt' und hat der bis dahin nicht für sinnvoll erachteten Komposition eines Blockflötenkonzerts sofort zugestimmt.

Klingender Gegenbeweis

Eben dieser Michael Stucky hat sein Konzert ‚Etudes' genannt – und die drei Sätze tragen dann auch etüdenhafte Titel: ‚Scales', ‚Glides' und ‚Arpeggios'. Das Orchester ist eher kammermusikalisch-solistisch besetzt; so ist es schließlich nicht die Solistin allein, die sich mit den geforderten Aufgaben (Tonleitern, Glissandi und gebrochenen Dreiklangsfiguren) herumschlagen muss, sondern sämtliche Instrumente werden in gleichen Maßen an diesem Spiel beteiligt. Es entsteht auf diese Weise eine gleichermaßen geistreiche wie allgemeinverständliche und unterhaltsam andere Art von Konzert, dessen Inhalt sich – in Ergänzung mit der harmonisch unproblematischen Tonsprache – auch denjenigen Musikhörern erschließen sollte, die nicht Mathematik und/oder Tonsatz studiert haben. Noch mehr ‚für das Ohr' sind die beiden anderen Konzerte geschrieben: Daniel Börtz liefert mit ‚Pipes and Bells' ein einsätziges Konzertstück, das den nachdenklichen Mittelteil des Programms bildet; die Farben sind gedeckt, die Musik ist von einer gewissen Stille und verbreitet ein Gefühl melancholischer Einsamkeit, wie es beispielsweise den Betrachter eines Sternenhimmels überkommen kann. Die Rufe der Blockflöte am Ende verhallen im Nichts. Packend und ‚süffig' ist dagegen das effektvolle ‚Northern Concerto' des Spaniers Joan Albert Amargós, das den größten Orchesterapparat aufbietet und sich teilweise der Unterhaltungsmusik annähert: hier darf die Blockflöte auch einmal etwas ‚Swing' verbreiten.



Meisterlich

Alle drei Konzerte sind eigenständig und auf ihre Weise hochinteressant und schön. Michala Petri bestätigt ihren herausragenden Ruf – sie beherrscht die Blockflöte meisterlich und zeichnet sich nicht nur durch technische Brillanz und hochvirtuose Beweglichkeit aus, sondern fällt insbesondere durch ihren absolut runden und vom Anblasen bis zum Verhallen vollends beherrschten reinen Ton auf, bei dem es keinerlei Trübungen in Klangfarbe oder Intonation zu beanstanden gibt. Die diversen Stimmungslagen der drei Konzerte werden darüber hinaus sehr einfühlsam herausgearbeitet. Absolut überzeugend! Das vom Chinesen Lan Shui geleitete Danish National Symphony Orchestra ist hochmotiviert bei der Sache und bildet den idealen Begleiter. Ob transparente Klangtupfer wie in Stuckys ‚Etüden' oder fulminante Klangmassen wie in Amargós' Konzert, stets überzeugen die Orchestermusiker auf hohem Niveau, und stets bleibt das runde Klangbild aufnahmetechnisch perfekt ausgewogen in der Balance zwischen Solistin und Begleitung; insbesondere der Mehrkanal-Klang der SACD ist sehr gut gelungen und bietet ein hohes Maß an Plastizität. Darüber hinaus ist der Ton in allen Abspielmodi sehr natürlich; die Klangereignisse sind in allen Schichten gut durchhörbar. Das Textheft – das seine Beiträge in englischer wie spanischer Sprache präsentiert – ist nett aufgemacht und auch recht informativ; reizvoll ist der genreübergreifende Aufhänger, das Projekt über ein Gemälde zu erschließen; dieses Bild, das wohl nicht zufällig von einem dänischen Künstler stammt, ist dann auch auf dem Cover abgebildet ist und hat zudem den Titel der Produktion geliefert.

Klassik.com

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
composer: Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963)
Half Monk | Half Rascal
Choeurs a capella
Great review on Half Monk-Half Rascal in The Arts Desk
The Arts Desk
02 April 2015
Half Monk/Half Rascal: Unaccompanied choral music by Francis Poulenc Danish National Vocal Ensemble/Stephen Layton (OUR Recordings)

"A critic said that there is both a monk and a street urchin in me. That is an accurate description of my personality." Poulenc was the first to admit the contradictions inherent in his music and character. A devout Catholic, he was openly gay, and his music can miraculously reconcile the deeply personal with the cheekily flippant. Close your ears to Poulenc and you're missing out on some of the 20th century's most alluring music. Listening repeatedly to this sharply performed a cappella choral collection is fascinating. It's easy to dismiss Poulenc as a Tatiesque clown, but the rawer sonorities serve to highlight just how sophisticated a composer he was. It's all in the harmonies and chord progressions – often breaking every rule but invariably sounding wonderful. This is music which can make life feel worth living.

Stephen Layton's Danish choir give exemplary performances. At times there's a welcome edge to the sound, a toughness, coupled with superb control – the major/minor shifts in La blanche neige are superbly done, as is the abrupt fade out at the song's close. There's a rare chance to hear two religious works for male voices, but the real masterpiece is Un soir de neige, a wartime setting of poetry by Paul Éluard. The opening of Bois meutri is chilling. And while you're still marvelling at Poulenc's eloquence in serious mode, move on to the exuberant collection of Chansons Françaises, and the tiny Chanson à boire composed for a Harvard Glee Club. It has a killer ending. Fabulous, in other words.
The Arts Desk

Michala Petri, recorder
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Movements
Sequensa 21 on Movements
Sequenza 21
01 April 2015
Jan 27 2008

Movements: Michala Petri plays Amargos, Börtz, Stucky
Posted by Lanier Sammons in CD Review, Lanier Sammons

Michala Petri, recorder
Danish National Symphony Orchestra / DR
Lan Shui, conductor

OUR Recordings


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Movements features three pieces that place perhaps the most humble of instruments, the recorder, in the least humble of settings, the concerto. While the idea of a recorder concerto probably conjures up images antithetical to new music, Michala Petri, the featured soloist on this disc, is out to dispel those associations. To that end, Petri commissioned three contemporary composers and gave us a disc that features compositions for her instrument all written within the 21st century.

The first of these is Joan Albert Amargí³s' Northern Concerto. Amargí³s' bio references jazz and flamenco traditions along with the classical, and melodic influences from those worlds pop up throughout the concerto. I can't say that the appearances of these influences always blend cohesively, but owing to the strength of the melodies, I didn't mind too much. It's an undeniably drinkable piece that takes some chances pitting the recorder against the full orchestra and largely succeeds. In fact, Petri's recording earned the piece a Grammy nomination (scroll down to category 107).

Daniel Bōrtz's one-movement concerto, Pipes and Bells, takes a completely different tack, focusing on the recorder's distinctive timbre. Particularly nice is his opening pairing of the recorder and the bass clarinet with some brass stabs thrown in for contrast. At various places in the work the titular bells ring, again offering spectral contrast with the simple profile of the recorder's pipe. Bōrtz also consistently gives the recorder plenty of space. The orchestra mostly provides a textural bath, occasionally churning itself into a crashing wave.

The final concerto is Steven Stucky's Etudes. Like most good works of that title, the piece avoids sounding like any sort study. The three movements promise scales, glides, and arpeggios respectively. Those techniques are certainly delivered, but unobtrusively and always musically. Indeed, it's here that the recorder sounds most at home with the rest of the orchestra.

With these three clever commissions, Petri offers a convincing argument that the recorder can achieve a place outside of its historical niche. Not once on the disc do Petri and her instrument sound out of place despite the new music context and the potency of the full orchestra. In fact, I'd imagine that these concertos would work quite well on any orchestra's program.


Sequenza 21

Michala Petri, recorder
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Movements
Sequenza 21 on Movements
Sequenza 21
01 April 2015
OUR Recordings


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Movements features three pieces that place perhaps the most humble of instruments, the recorder, in the least humble of settings, the concerto. While the idea of a recorder concerto probably conjures up images antithetical to new music, Michala Petri, the featured soloist on this disc, is out to dispel those associations. To that end, Petri commissioned three contemporary composers and gave us a disc that features compositions for her instrument all written within the 21st century.

The first of these is Joan Albert Amargós' Northern Concerto. Amargós' bio references jazz and flamenco traditions along with the classical, and melodic influences from those worlds pop up throughout the concerto. I can't say that the appearances of these influences always blend cohesively, but owing to the strength of the melodies, I didn't mind too much. It's an undeniably drinkable piece that takes some chances pitting the recorder against the full orchestra and largely succeeds. In fact, Petri's recording earned the piece a Grammy nomination (scroll down to category 107).

Daniel Börtz's one-movement concerto, Pipes and Bells, takes a completely different tack, focusing on the recorder's distinctive timbre. Particularly nice is his opening pairing of the recorder and the bass clarinet with some brass stabs thrown in for contrast. At various places in the work the titular bells ring, again offering spectral contrast with the simple profile of the recorder's pipe. Börtz also consistently gives the recorder plenty of space. The orchestra mostly provides a textural bath, occasionally churning itself into a crashing wave.

The final concerto is Steven Stucky's Etudes. Like most good works of that title, the piece avoids sounding like any sort study. The three movements promise scales, glides, and arpeggios respectively. Those techniques are certainly delivered, but unobtrusively and always musically. Indeed, it's here that the recorder sounds most at home with the rest of the orchestra.

With these three clever commissions, Petri offers a convincing argument that the recorder can achieve a place outside of its historical niche. Not once on the disc do Petri and her instrument sound out of place despite the new music context and the potency of the full orchestra. In fact, I'd imagine that these concertos would work quite well on any orchestra's program.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 27th, 2008 at 6:54 pm and is filed under CD Review, Lanier Sammons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Sequenza 21

Michala Petri, recorder
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord
Corelli : La Follia
Great review in US Magazine Fanfare on Corelli!
Fanfare Magazine
26 March 2015
It seems as if Michala Petri has been performing at a high level for almost my entire adult life, and indeed she has. Now, at 56, she still sounds as fresh, imaginative, and accurate as she was when she was a young virtuoso first establishing the recorder with the general public as an instrument to be taken seriously.
Arcangelo Corelli's set of 12 sonatas for violin and continuo that comprises his opus 5 concludes with the famous "La Follia." The second half of that set, nos. 7–12, were transcribed for recorder by an anonymous assortment of composers in the 18th century. Corelli wrote and published his sonatas in 1700, and the undated manuscript used for this recording is titled: "Six solos for a flute and a bass by Archangelo [sic] Corelli, being the second part of his Fifth Opera, containing preludes, allmands, corrants, jigs, sarabands, gavotts with the Spanish folly. The whole exactly transpos'd and made fit for a flute and a bass with the approbation of several Eminent Masters."
It is that grouping that Petri and her harpsichordist (who also wrote very helpful notes) presents in this recording made in Garnisons Church in Copenhagen in May of 2014. The playing is as brilliant, infectious, and imaginative as we have come to expect from Petri. Her tone is sharply focused but always appealing, with a roundness surrounding its pointed center. She and Esfahani bring an extraordinarily lively rhythmic flair to this music, clearly reveling in its dance roots. Petri's virtuosity is always placed at the service of the music; no matter how complex the ornamentation, you never have the feeling that it is there for purely display purposes. The musical shape of each movement is always maintained.
Petri plays with wit throughout. One feels a smile in the gavottes, allemandes, and correntes, while the sarabandes retain their dignity and elegance. Her tone remains even from top to bottom, and her sense of phrasing is impeccable. The music is always going somewhere, it always has momentum and a sense of direction. Esfahani is a true partner in this effort, taking a lead role where the music calls for it (the opening of the Gavotte from op. 5/11, for instance), and applying the same degree of imagination to phrase-shaping and to ornamentation as Petri does.
While much praise deserves to go to Petri and Esfahani, their talents would be less important were this second- or third-rate music. But throughout one is caught up in Corelli's consistent level of inspiration and his musical imagination. Corelli lived a generation before Bach and Handel, and he influenced them as well as Vivaldi. In his day (1653–1713) he was famous throughout the world of music, both for his violin playing and his compositions (limited though they were to six opus numbers). This group of sonatas, even arranged by others for the recorder, is music of real imagination, music that rises well above the standard of its day with a vivid presence.
Natural recorded sound and a lovely booklet with not only excellent notes but lovely photos of the church where the recording was made round out this truly delightful production. Henry Fogel
This article originally appeared in Issue 38:4 (Mar/Apr 2015) of Fanfare Magazine.
Fanfare Magazine
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