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Michala Petri, recorder
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Garden Party
These extraordinary artists would seem to be incapable of anything less than the superlative.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare US
31 July 2017
 The garden party of the title turns out to be an anniversary party: 25 years together for the recorder/guitar duo of Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal. They played their first concert together, we are told, in Andalusia, Spain in 1992.

Now, after more than 1500 concerts in venues all over the world, they are, as I write this, on an extended tour through Denmark and into Germany to celebrate the years of playing together. Some would have chosen a champagne toast over an exhausting series of two dozen plus concerts and masterclasses in the next few weeks, but perhaps the champagne will happen, too. And this in addition to the many demands of running their jointly owned record label, OUR Recordings. Some people have all the energy.

The duo’s 20th anniversary was observed, a bit early, with the 2011 release Virtuoso Baroque (OUR Recordings), exploring a particularly rich vein of their work together. This time they have taken a turn to the lighter side, offering a collection of character pieces, mostly by Scandinavian composers, that have played an important role in concerts through the years.

Most originated as piano works, such as Nielsen’s six charming Humoresque-Bagatelles, op. 11, written, it is believed, for his children. These translate easily to recorder and guitar. Grieg’s many character pieces were a natural for this program, with their descriptive titles, jaunty rhythms, and folkish appeal. Édouard Lalo’s Fantasie norvégienne for violin and orchestra was written for Pablo de Sarasate after the violinist provided him with a collection of Scandinavian folksongs. Apparently a tune by Grieg snuck in there, as well. It was first was transcribed by Petri for recorder and orchestra, with some changes in register and small adjustments to the line to accommodate her instrument. It was then transformed into this more intimate form by Lars Hannibal, who crafted all of the guitar arrangements on this disc.

As in an earlier recording of this duo version, with Hannibal and violinist Kim Sjøgren (also OUR Recordings), the virtuoso showpiece proves surprisingly effective when played with guitar accompaniment.

Garden Party, the title work, is inspired by birds that friend Asger Lund Christiansen has encountered on forest walks. He avoids the obvious by characterizing the birds portrayed as much as imitating the songs. The six brief avian portraits—clever and amiable—were written for the duo in 1992. Two evocative works by Hannibal are also included. Originally written for the unusual quartet of violin, trumpet, double bass, and electric lute, they are here performed on recorder (alto, tenor, and bass) and acoustic guitar, a combination that seems perfect for these delicate, warm-hearted works.

The program ends with a reminder of the Petri/Hannibal Duo’s work with Chinese musicians: a realization of an ancient melancholy Chinese melody by Chinese flute master Zhang Weiliang. It is arranged here for Western instruments, but with an appreciation for Eastern aesthetics and technique. The result is both exotic and deeply moving.

Little needs to be said of the performances themselves. These extraordinary artists would seem to be incapable of anything less than the superlative. They clearly have lavished the same attention on these delightful trifles as on any imposing modern score they have tackled together, and their affection and delight is contagious.

Program notes on the duo, the project, and the music are provided by Michala Petri: interesting, but an odd inference that the Lalo Fantaisie has only recently been rediscovered by their doing is perplexing. Though hardly popular, and overshadowed by the Rhapsodie norvégienne which Lalo partially based on it, it has been recorded a number of times, first by Jacques Thibaud in 1930. And if anyone could be said to have “rediscovered” it, it would be Ruggiero Ricci, who recorded it with orchestra in the late 1970s (Vox). There are also some oddities in the listing of the Grieg works—they are all identified as Lyric Pieces, though only one actually bears that title—and a couple of opus numbers are mixed up between works. The headnote above has them correctly cited.

None of that diminishes an iota the pure enjoyment to be realized from this wonderful program, recorded in the superb sound we have come to expect from this label. You have been invited to share in a special celebration of a duo of uncommon brilliance and heart, and your attendance is eagerly encouraged.
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare US

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
I enjoyed this attempt to highlight a particular crossover movement
Lark Reviews,- UK
24 July 2017
A light and enjoyable collection of music from a variety of Brazilian composers this CD seeks to demonstrate the links and interplay between the classical world (represented by Villa-Lobos) and the popular (represented by Jobim) to form a “third stream” of popular music with classical influences taken up by contemporary Brazilian composers. None of this music was known to me and I enjoyed this attempt to highlight a particular crossover movement, although at times I might have wished for a slightly more varied instrumentation to cover a whole CD.
Lark Reviews,- UK

Michala Petri, recorder
Lars Hannibal, guitar
Garden Party
Garden Party is a wonderful celebration of a quarter century of the Petri/Hannibal duo
Dave Saemann, Fanfare US
24 July 2017
Part of recorder player Michala Petri's appeal as a concert artist, apart from her musicianship and stunning virtuosity, is that she is a beautiful woman. With the years, she has grown more beautiful in body and soul. I'm sure the two are connected.

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing Petri's vibrant and evocative album Brazilian Landscapes, featuring percussionist Marilyn Mazur and Brazilian guitarist Daniel Murray. Now, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Petri's duo with guitarist Lars Hannibal, they have released Garden Party, a collection of character pieces. The guitar parts have been arranged by Hannibal, except for the title work, Garden Party, which was written for Petri and Hannibal by the Danish cellist and composer Asger Lund Christiansen.

Petri says that she enjoys playing character pieces in her recitals, because their titles give the audience an idea of what to expect and puts them at ease, so they can be emotionally responsive to the music. Petri also likes the fact that character pieces typically possess a humorous element, which encourages the artist to play with more exaggeration than in a standard concert work. For proof of Petri's delicious sense of humor, I direct you to her YouTube video of Vittorio Monti's Czardas accompanied hilariously by Victor Borge, at the latter's 80th birthday concert.

Garden Party is an admirable album, not merely for its repertoire, but also for the collective wit and wisdom of two performers who have trod the boards together for a good part of their lives. They are gentle souls whose artistry deserves to be cherished.

Carl Nielsen's Humoresque Bagatelles originally are lovely and charming piano miniatures. Petri's evocation of "The Spinning Top" makes one dizzy. "A Short Slow Waltz" is treated to a beautifully lyrical interpretation. "Puppet March" is a delightfully balletic work of youthful fantasy. "The Musical Clock" could be the score for a music box. Hannibal's warmly atmospheric Dreams has the deceptive simplicity of Satie. Edouard Lalo's Fantasie Norvégienne weaves a rich tapestry of Norwegian folk melodies. Petri demonstrates her expressive range in this work, originally written for Pablo de Sarasate. In the final movement, Petri's playing has the feel of a game of hopscotch. Garden Party is a cheeky title by Christiansen for a collection of pieces about birds. "The Blackbird" paces the ground with a certain solemnity. One can see "The Peacock's" herky jerky movements, including the instant of shock when it spreads its feathers. "The Lark" soars with brilliant sound in the recorder part. There's a touch of Herbie Mann in Hannibal's Sunset Dance. In the selections from Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces, the "Elve's Dance" is filled with Petri's stunning, quicksilver virtuosity. By contrast, her ease in "Cattle Call" summons up the pastoral life. She almost seems to be playing a penny whistle in "Stumping Dance."

Flowering Flowers at the River Ge is an ancient Chinese melody recently discovered and realized by Zhang Weiliang. It ends the program with musical speech from a different and distant culture. The sound engineering on the album's CD layer is excellent. I was unable to hear the surround sound program.

Garden Party is a wonderful celebration of a quarter century of the Petri/Hannibal duo. Here's wishing them another twenty-five years of eloquent music making together. Highly recommended.
Dave Saemann, Fanfare US

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
So convincing are these performances.
perkustooth, NewMusicBluff (US)
17 July 2017
Petri Goes Brazilian
Since her debut in 1969 at the tender age of 11 Danish born recorder virtuoso Michala Petri has been one of the finest masters of the recorder.  This ancient instrument, a forerunner of the flute, has existed since the Middle Ages and has amassed a huge repertoire and Petri seems to have demonstrated mastery over all of it and has been an advocate and promoter of new music for her instrument as well.  She has inspired composers to write new works for her and she continues to entertain audiences and has assembled an ever growing discography of startling range and diversity.  Nearly single handed she has managed to honor past repertoire and firmly ensconce this instrument in the 21st century.
In this release, produced by Lars Hannibal (himself a fine guitarist and frequent Petri collaborator) Petri takes on the music of Brazil and, despite the fact that recorders have seldom found their way into the music of this geographic region, she delivers a convincing and hugely entertaining program on this disc.  Along with Marilyn Mazur on percussion and Daniel Murray on guitar the listener is given an entertaining cross section of Brazilian music ranging from the more classically oriented work of Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) and Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) to the smooth jazz/pop sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim (1925-1994) and Egberto Gismonti (1947- ).  In between are included works by the album’s guitarist Daniel Murray (1981- ) and a few names unfamiliar to this reviewer including Paulo Porto Alegre (1953- ), Paulo Bellinati (1950- ), Hermeto Pascoal (1936- ), and Antonio Ribero (1971- ).
There is a remarkable unity in this Danish production which stems from a meeting between producer Lars Hannibal and Daniel Murray in Vienna in 2014.  Hannibal’s ear found a kindred spirit whose musicality is a good match for that of Petri.  And like a good chef he added the delicate and necessary spice of the tastefully understated (but extraordinary) percussionist Marilyn Mazur to create a unique trio that sounds as though they’ve played together for years.  Here’s hoping that they’ve secretly recorded enough material for a second album.
All the tracks appear to be transcriptions though the transcriber is not named (I’m guessing they’re collaborative).  What’s nice is that there is nothing artificial or uncomfortable about these arrangements.  The overall impression left is that of a skilled ensemble and listeners encountering the original forms of these works might well assume those to be the transcriptions.  So convincing are these performances.

One last thing.  The sound.  This super audio CD release was engineered by Mikkel Nymand and Preben Iwan and the sound is fabulous.  I don’t have a machine that can read the super audio tracks on this hybrid disc but what I can hear is a lucid recording which embraces the subtleties of this unique ensemble.  Enjoy! 
perkustooth, NewMusicBluff (US)

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
Hun spiller som sædvanlig fremragende i det kvasi-avantgardistiske stykke, hvor også de øvrige medvirkende gør sig glimrende gældende.
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark
28 June 2017
Kristeligt Dagblad (DK)
Michala Petri på Vinyl (4 stjerner)
Lp- pladen har gennem de senere år fået en betydelig renæssance, eller som en yngre musiker for nylig sagde til mig ”Vinyl er hip”. Nu kan man også opleve den berømte danske Michala Petri på en nyudgivet grammofonplade, produceret af det driftige selskab OUR Recordings.
Hovednummeret er intet mindre end en verdenspremiere, nemlig det tresatsede værk A Pacifying Weapon skrevet af den amerikanske komponist Sean Hickey (født 1970). På bagsiden af lp´en redegør han personligt for baggrunden for og indholdet af sit nye værk for blokfløjte, blæsere, messing, percussion og harpe. Hicjey er blevet inspireret af et album med Indigo Girls, specielt et nummer med tiltlen ”Welcome Me”. Det hører med til historien, at indspilningen har involveret en international gruppe af studerende på det Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium, der bliver dirigeret af Jean Thorel – og at værket er didikeret Michala Petri.
Hun spiller som sædvanlig fremragende i det kvasi-avantgardistiske stykke, hvor også de øvrige medvirkende gør sig glimrende gældende. De tre satser har en varighed på en lille halv times tid, og man har derfor meget rimeligt fået plads til en såkaldt Concertino for blokfløjte og strygere af Thomas Clausen, et lille åndfuldt værk, der godt kunne have fortjent et par ord med på bagsiden, lp-formatet giver jo rigelig plads hertil. Lydkvaliteten er takket være Preben Iwan oh hans team aldeles glimrende.
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
10/10/10 in Klassik Heute on Brazilian Landscapes
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute
27 June 2017
Klassik Heute (Germany) (10/10/10)
Die Farbigkeit und Vielfalt der Landschaft und Ethnien des größten Landes Südamerikas hat von jeher die Musik Brasiliens beeinflusst. So spiegeln und vermischen sich in der brasilianischen Kunstmusik des 20. Jahrhunderts europäische, afrikanische und indigene Wurzeln zu einem, eben originär brasilianischen, Stil.
Michala Petris neueste CD ist, um es vorwegzunehmen, ein großer Wurf! Zusammen mit ihren kongenialen Partnern, dem phänomenalen brasilianischen Gitarristen und Komponisten Daniel Murray und der nicht weniger eindrucksvollen dänisch-amerikanischen (Jazz-)Perkussionistin Marilyn Mazur präsentiert sie in ihrem, mit fast 72 Minuten Spieldauer gut gefüllten Album ein breites Spektrum brasilianischer Musik der Gegenwart in wunderbar stimmigen Arrangements für Blockflöte, Gitarre und Percussion. Mit dabei selbstverständlich zwei der „Klassiker“: Antonio Carlos Jobim (Brasiliens bedeutendster Komponist populärer Musik) sowie Heitor Villa-Lobos, der international bekannteste Schöpfer brasilianischer klassischer Musik. Aber auch jüngere Komponisten sind vertreten, darunter u.a. mit drei Stücken auch der Gitarrist Daniel Murray.
Blockflöte und Gitarre sind eine geradezu ideale Kombination (und es existieren eine ganze Reihe hervorragender Originalwerke für diese Besetzung). Ergänzt durch die große Zahl der eingesetzten Perkussionsinstrumente, die zuweilen fast eine mysteriöse Amazonas-Urwald-Atmosphäre kreieren, entsteht ein Klangspektrum, dessen unwiderstehlichem Charme man sich kaum entziehen kann: Heiße Rhythmen, stimmungsvoller Groove und Interpreten vom Feinsten!
Eine Gute-Laune-CD voller Überraschungen – zum Hinhören und Chillen. Ideal für laue Sommerabende. 
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
. Petri, the recorder's reigning goddess, is doing much to expand that instrument's modern repertoire.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare (US)
31 May 2017
 
HICKEY A Pacifying Weapon.1 CLAUSEN Concertino for Recorder and Strings21,2Michala Petri (rcr); 1Jean Thorel, 2Clemens Schuldt, cond; 1Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band; 2Lapland CO ● OUR OUR-LP001 (LP: 41:50)
            Although his music has been discussed in Fanfare previously, Sean Hickey probably deserves a few words of introduction. He was born in Detroit in 1970, played the electric guitar when he was in high school, and studied music composition at Wayne State University. The first commercial recording of his work was released by Naxos in 2005, and it was reviewed a year later (Fanfare 29:4) by Phillip Scott, who found it “enjoyable” but not essential. Since then, there have been two releases on Delos. Lynn René Bayley (Fanfare 38:1) opened her review of one of them with a real humdinger: “For a composer who came out of the puerile musical background of rock music (when he was 12, he owned 'a stack of Van Halen records'), Sean Hickey's music has a great deal of sophistication.” Ouch.
            A Pacifying Weapon (the title comes from a lyric by the, tee hee, puerile band Indigo Girls) was commissioned by and dedicated to Michala Petri. In his sleeve note (it feels funny to write that in 2017, but this is an LP, not a CD), Hickey talks about all the crappy things that were happening in 2015. He hit upon the idea of a sort of atomic bomb in reverse—one that would cause not sudden death but “instant and irreversible peace.” (Actually, a sufficiently large atomic bomb would produce just that, but none of us would be around to enjoy it.) One wonders if Hickey ever saw the terrific Cold War-era film “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” with its memorable Bernard Herrmann score. Anyway, Hickey's score is a concerto for recorder, winds, brass, percussion, and harp, and is not strictly programmatic, although the first two movements, and most of the third, convey varying degrees of tension, conflict, and desolation. Eventually, the third conveys the possibility of peace, with the recorder serving as its harbinger. An authentic Highland reel is introduced, but what initially sounds innocuous and cheerful eventually is revealed as threatening, when the recorder and a snare drum confront each other. At the end, there is a stand-off. I am glad that Hickey did not resolve the confrontation with the facile waving of an olive branch. That would have been unrealistic. This is nicely crafted music that seems made to order for Petri's recorders (she plays several in this work) and the percussion instruments that were available in the Royal Danish Academy of Music. (Hickey thanks its director, Gert Mortensen, also a fine percussionist, for an afternoon exploring the Academy's holdings.) This probably is one of those works that needs to be seen as much as heard. I found it entertaining and communicative, but maybe not something that will make a lasting impression. We shall see. I have no doubts about the excellence of the performance. Petri, the recorder's reigning goddess, is doing much to expand that instrument's modern repertoire. Thanks for that, but let's hope she keeps exploring the Baroque repertoire, because plenty of work remains to be done there as well.
            The LP is filled out with the “bonus” of Clausen's Concertino. Because it uses a string orchestra, it is a sensible foil for A Pacifying Weapon. I think that this is the same recording that I reviewed last year (Fanfare 39:3) when it was issued on a CD with other works dedicated to the memory of composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen. At that time, I wrote, “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.” Compared to A Pacifying Weapon, it is emotionally uncomplicated, but it is not an easy piece for the recorder. Of course Petri makes light of its difficulties.
            I reviewed this not as an LP but as an mp3 sent to me by OUR Recordings. I was a little skeptical about how it would sound, but it sounded great, and I expect the LP will sound even better. For those not equipped to play an LP, perhaps a CD version will appear sooner or later. 
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare (US)

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
The Brazilians must have a secret for getting oil to mix with water!
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare (US)
31 May 2017
Fanfare 3. review
BRAZILIAN LANDSCAPES ● Michala Petri (rcr); Daniel Murray (gtr); Marilyn Mazur (perc) ● OUR 6.220618 (71:11)
PORTO ALEGRE Sonhos I & II. BELLINATI Jongo. Pingue-Pongue. JOBIM Olha Maria. MURRAY Cauteloso. Canção e Dança. NAZARETH Fon-Fon. GISMONTI Karatê. A Fala da Paixão. PASCOAL São Jorge. RIBEIRO VIII Miniaturas. VILLA-LOBOS Choros No. 2. Choros No. 5 (Alma Brasileira)
            Most people will file this release as a recorder CD; after all, it has Michala Petri's name on it, and she must be the most indefatigable recorder player in action today. Nevertheless, it's really an equal collaboration between Ms. Petri, Danish-American percussionist and composer Marilyn Mazur, and Brazilian guitarist and composer Daniel Murray. All of the arrangements are by Murray, but because the music has a nicely relaxed air to it, one might guess that all three musicians were improvising a bit as the recording sessions went on, although I am not saying that that definitely was the case.
                Brazilian Landscapes treads the sometimes fuzzy border between classical music and semi-classical or even popular music. For that reason, it is a bit of a departure for Petri, but that's OK. In the case of the present program, that border seems particularly fuzzy. Most people would call Heitor Villa-Lobos a classical composer, but they might not bestow that title on Ernesto Nazareth (because most of his works are in dance genres), and they probably would leave Antônio Carlos Jobin out of the classical genre entirely, given his reputation as a jazz musician. (Everyone knows “The Girl from Ipanema,” although she does not make an appearance on this CD.) As you listen to this CD, you probably won't be thinking “that's classical” and “that's not.” Instead, the program is characterized by its stylistic continuity, which is not to say that it is monotonous. That continuity comes partly from the character of  Brazilian music, and partly from the unfussy approach taken by Petri, Murray, and Mazur.
                The program is effectively bracketed by the two impressionistic Sonhos (Dreams) by Paulo Porto Alegre. Unusual percussion effects in these two tracks make me wish that I could see what Mazur was doing. In between, there is much to enjoy: sonic environments that are languid and sensual; unexpected rhythmic juxtapositions; beckoning melodies; and piquant, yet always comforting, harmonies. One piece that works particularly well for these three musicians is Nazareth's nervously syncopated Brazilian tango Fon-Fon. (Elsewhere, its title has been translated as “Toot-Toot.” The sheet music is headed with a cartoon of two men in a flivver, and a little boy scurrying to get out its way.) Anyone attempting to dance to it as if it were a traditional tango will end up tripping on his or her shoelaces. Daniel Murray's Dança (Dance) is another bizarre delight, in terms of rhythm; all three instruments seem to be doing their own thing in their own time, and yet they mysterious come together to form a satisfying whole. The Brazilians must have a secret for getting oil to mix with water!
                As I write this, it's almost June, and the weather in Virginia is getting warmer. This seems like a good time to think about South America, and also about vacationing in Denmark. Brazilian Landscapes lets you do both at the same time!
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare (US)

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
played with exceptional flair and precision by Ms. Petri, all that the composer could possibly hope for.
Robert Carl, Fanfare US
29 May 2017
Robert Carl, Fanfare US

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
Colorful music, exquisitely played and recorded: I can’t imagine a more engaging way to spend an hour that doesn’t involve flying down to Rio
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare (US)
28 May 2017
Collections: Ensemble
BRAZILIAN LANDSCAPES  —  Michala Petri (rcr); Daniel Murray (gtr); Marilyn Mazur (perc)1 —  OUR RECORDINGS 6.220618 (SACD: 71:11)
ALEGRE 1Sonhos. BELLINATI 1Jongo. Pingue-Pongue. JOBIM Olha Maria (Amparo). DANIEL MURRAY 1Cauteloso. 1Canção e Dança. NAZARETH 1Fon-Fon. GISMONTI 1Karatê. 1A Fala da Paixão. PASCOAL 1São Jorge. RIBEIRO 7 Miniatures. VILLA-LOBOS Choros: No. 2. No. 5, “Alma Brasileira”
 
Those who know Danish recorder virtuoso extraordinaire Michala Petri primarily for her Baroque music recording or for her advocacy of often challenging new music, might be a little surprised by a release of Brazilian works that ride the line—admittedly faint in Brazil—between classical and popular. If so, perhaps those persons missed Siesta, an absolutely delightful disc that she and guitarist Lars Hannibal released in 2006. That disc included several works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, whose music is—to use the term of annotator and composer Paulo Bellinati—one of two pillars of Brazilian music: the classical one. The earlier CD offered Latin-flavored works by a number of well-known composers from Piazzolla to Ravel, all in stylish arrangements.
This new release is different in a couple ways from this predecessor. First, it focuses on the music of this one country and, beyond “pillars” Villa-Lobos and Antonio Carlos Jobim—the popular music side of this symbiotic arrangement—on to a later generation of composers whose music feels the influence of both. The other is the addition of percussion to the guitar/recorder duo. In several of the works, such as Paulo Porto Alegre’s simple vocalise Sonhos (Dreams), played twice here as bookends for the program, improvised percussion creates atmosphere and a touch of the uncanny.
The percussion, provided by drummer/composer/bandleader Marilyn Mazur—American-born but living in Denmark for many years—colors a number of the works besides the Alegre. In Paulo Bellinati’s Jongo, arranged from the original for guitar duo, her percussion line adds the West African flavor of the dance’s origins and finishes with an extended demonstration of fine African drumming. Brazilian guitarist/composer (and third member of the trio) Daniel Murray’s Canção e Dança—originally for solo guitar—gets similar treatment: subtle at first in the song and with more abandon in the dance. Mazur adds drive to the good-humored (and often-played) Karatê by Egberto Gismonti, and delicate atmosphere to his signature piano solo A Fala da Paixão (Passion Talk) with light metallic percussion and wind chimes. She offers similar coloristic touches to Hermeto Pascoal’s São Jorge.
Every work, with and without percussion, has been significantly rethought for the program.Antônio Ribeiro’s piquant but thoroughly agreeable miniatures and Villa-Lobos’s Alma Brasileira, both originally for piano, and others for guitar duo or even—Villa-Lobos’s Choros No. 2—flute and clarinet duo, have all been arranged by Daniel Murray.
 Purists may prefer originals, but there is no denying the charm and beauty of these works, or the skill with which they are arranged and played. There are brief but helpful notes on the origins and short bios of the performers. Topping it off is the superb sound to which we have become accustomed from this label. Note in particular the lovely percussion transients caught at extraordinary DXD resolution, providing smooth, open, nearly tangible aural images of the performers, especially in the SACD layer. Colorful music, exquisitely played and recorded: I can’t imagine a more engaging way to spend an hour that doesn’t involve flying down to Rio
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare (US)

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
A most interesting recording.
Colin Clarke Fanfare US
28 May 2017
LP Review
 
HICKEY A Pacifying Weapon CLAUSEN Concertino for Recorder and Strings  — Michala Petri (rcrs); 1Jean Thorel, 2Clemens Schuldt, conds; 1Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band; 2Lapland CO — OUR LP-001 (41:50)
 
This is an LP release on 180g vinyl, auditioned for the purposes of review via a sequence of MP3 files. The sound was mastered by Preben Iwan in DXD format (352.8 kHz/32 bit sound) and is available in a number of formats for download. American composer Sean Hickey (born 1970) has written a concerto for recorders, winds, brass and extended percussion section, called A Pacifying Weapon. The idea is that the recorder, with its long history, can provide “an instant and irreversible peace,” an idea that came from a lyric of a song by the Indigo Girls.
The concept of recorder with (or indeed against) modern symphony orchestra is an intriguing one indeed. Especially as Hickey’s piece begins with an orchestral war cry approached via various snake-like melodic configurations. The recorder responds initially solo before being joined by its woodwind brethren. The scoring is in fact, masterly and often magical. There is a presence to the recording, too (the brass and percussion in particular). Petri’s virtuosity is predictably impeccable; it is the way that she maintains dialog with the complex orchestral part that truly impresses though. The atmospherics at the opening of the central panel are palpable, and there are moments of attractive rhythmic swing in amongst the more frozen sections. Petri is highly expressive. The percussion, assembled with the help of the expert Gert Mortensen, come into their own in the crescendos that open the finale; so does the recording: listen to the presence not just of the brass but of the percussion “comments” at this point. Hickey uses various external themes, including a highland pipe tune (there is no missing it in the finale when it arrives). But this finale is no mere whistler’s holiday: the finale, and the work as a whole, includes plateaux of real depth. This is music to “silence the madness of violence” in the face of the recent (and sadly seemingly continuing) atrocities around the World, whether London, Manchester, Paris, San Barnadino or Brussels. The performance of the orchestral contribution by the students of the Royal Danish Academy of Music is impeccable and exudes a focus professional orchestras might do well to emulate. A YouTube trailer is available at https://www.seanhickey.com/recordings/pacifying-weapon.
The neo-Baroque, twelve-minute Concertino by Thomas Clausen was originally released on Nordic Sound: A Tribute to Axel Borup-Jøgensen (OUR Recorings 6.220213) where it shared disc space with music by Bent Sørensen, Gudmundsen-Holmgren, Rasmussen, Christensen and finally Borup-Jørgensen himself. An interview around this disc and several others by Petri was published in Fanfare 39:2, together with reviews. Known best perhaps for his jazz activities, Clausen provides a remarkably approachable piece with which to close the listening experience. Cantabile lines in the slow movement clearly reference those of Bach in his concertos; harmonic arrivals refer that composer too, before twists remind us that all is not what it seems. The latter stages of the work are an absolute delight, with the strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra digging in vigorously. Petri’s flitting about right at the top of her register is positively avian.
A most interesting recording.  
Colin Clarke Fanfare US

Michala Petri, recorder
Jean Thorel, conductor
A Pacifying Weapon [LP]
Sean Hickey
" Warmly recommended" Review on A Pacifying Weapon in Fafare (US)
Ronald E.Grames, Fanfare US
25 May 2017
Fanfare 1. Review
È HICKEY A Pacifying Weapon1. T. CLAUSEN Concertino for recorder and strings2  —  1Jean Thorel, cond; 2Clemens Schuld, cond; 1Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band; 2Lapland CO; Michala Petri (rcr)  —  OUR RECORDINGS 001 (41:50) Reviewed from a FLAC download: 174.6 kHz/24-bit
 
Title and concept comes from the lyrics to an indie folk song, Welcome Me, by the Indigo Girls, a duo whose work is not often cited in these pages. Imagine a weapon—a pacifying weapon—the use of which brings “an instant and irreversible peace.” American composer Sean Hickey’s flight of fantasy grew from that image, as he contemplated the world in its present chaos, and tried to imagine a device, an “instrument”: something that would confront the violence and end it. It’s a beautiful dream. If it proves elusive, even in the three-movement concerto for recorder and wind ensemble that gives that aspiration voice, it is nonetheless a marvelous thing to contemplate.
In his notes, Hickey explains that he chose the recorder because of its lengthy history “as witness to the rise and fall of empires, crusades, wars, and countless births and deaths, as a musical voyeur.” It acts here as observer, but also as metaphor for the speaking of truth to power: the small voice raised against the mighty. Traditional concertos create tension by pitting the soloist against the resources of the orchestra. Hickey seemingly goes one better by arming a soloist with a threesome of diminutively voiced recorders—soprano, alto, and bass—against a moderate-sized but potent ensemble of 33: woodwinds, brass, a harp, and an imposing phalanx of percussion. True, much of the time the recorder plays alone or in combination with ensemble soloists or small sections, but at other times, the symbolic threat is very real, with the recorder overshadowed by massive waves of brass or percussion. The result is like a flower-bearing David against an implacable Goliath or better, the Tiananmen Square protestor against the tanks.
It is, however, a joy to listen without the political—or as soloist Michala Petri suggests in a YouTube trailer—the human statement proposed by the program. The sonorities are beautiful in themselves, with the various recorders high-spirited, poignant, darkly angry, or plucky. Hickey’s writing for the recorder—idiomatic and ingenious in its interactions with other instruments—draws less on the sheer virtuosity for which Petri is justly famous than on her considerable skills at musical characterization, her unparalleled ability to sustain a phrase with rock-solid pitch, and her remarkable capacity to color the sound of her instrument. The writing for brass is sonorous and the woodwinds lively and vivid. The percussion, assembled with the guidance of Gert Mortensen, world-renowned percussionist and professor at the Danish Royal Academy of Music, is imposing and full of character. All of the ensemble members are students at that conservatory, representing 11 countries—a statement in itself—and even making no allowance for their status, they are most impressive. Noted French conductor Jean Thorel, who led an earlier English Recorder Concertos disc with Petri, directs with panache.
Strangely, vinyl is the only physical carrier on which OUR Recordings has released the music. I am not part of the LP-nostalgia craze. I find that high-resolution digital has all of the advantages of high-end analog, without the noise and distortions, however benign some find them. For audiophiles who take their music in ones and zeros, OUR does offer downloads from multiple sites in original DXD (352.8 kHz/24-bit), 174.6/24, and 96/24. I have heard CD resolution WAV files, as well. I reviewed 174.6 kHz files, the highest of the three rates which my DAC handles. The sound is spectacular: tactile, with a stable, convincing soundstage, plenty of air around the instruments, and beautiful definition on percussion transients. It doesn’t get better than this.
But does the dream have a happy ending? Yes, it seems, as a sprightly dance between the soloist and members of the ensemble appears near the conclusion of the final movement, set to the Scottish folksong, Druimuachdar or The Highland Road to Inverness. However, it ends with a short duet between recorder and snare drum—fife and drum, the composer notes— halted with a belligerent roll-tap from the drum. Ambiguous at best, I’d say, though there should be nothing ambiguous about the listener’s delight. The program is concluded with Thomas Clausen’s pleasing neo-Baroque Concertino for recorder and strings, a “bonus track” reprised from the label’s earlier Nordic Sound release (Fanfare 39:2). Some may balk at the LP-imposed time limit, but premium art justifies premium investment, and I cannot imagine any lover of the recorder or the eclectic and accessible music of Sean Hickey feeling at all shortchanged. Warmly recommended. 25.05.2017 Fanfare Ronald E. Grames
Ronald E.Grames, Fanfare US

Michala Petri, recorder
Marilyn Mazur, percussion
Brazilian Landscapes
This is music to savor and be refreshed by, regardless of your preference for musical genres. Highly recommended.
Dave Saemann, Fanfare (US)
25 May 2017
BRAZILIAN LANDSCAPES Ÿ Michala Petri (rcr); Marilyn Mazur (perc); Daniel Murray (gtr) Ÿ OUR 6.220618 (SACD: 71:11)
 
ALEGRE Dreams. BELLINATI Jongo. Pingue-Pongue. JOBIM Olha Maria. MURRAY Cauteous. Song and Dance. NAZARETH Fon-Fon. GISMONTI Karatê. Passion talk. PASCOAL Saint George. RIBEIRO VIII Miniatures. VILLA-LOBOS Choros Nos. 2 and 5
 
            I long have had a soft spot for Michala Petri, ever since I heard her play in Princeton many years ago. So when confronted with her recorder album of Brazilian music, my reaction was anticipation rather than skepticism. Petri excels in cross cultural endeavors. I recommend her YouTube videos paired with a master of the Chinese flute, Chenyue. Petri and Brazilian music are a natural. The arrangements on Brazilian Landscapes are by the Brazilian guitarist/composer Daniel Murray. The arrangements are intelligent, vivid, and sensitive. A good introduction to Murray as arranger and guitarist are his four YouTube videos of music of Egberto Gismonti arranged for solo guitar, in one case for an 11 string guitar. Murray and Petri establish a marvelous rapport on this album, sounding like two old friends just getting together to play for their own pleasure. I wonder how much of the percussion part was written out and how much was left to the performer. Marilyn Mazur is a veteran percussionist of great versatility. Her jazz quartet, the Marilyn Mazur Group, may be seen on YouTube in two of her compositions, Magic Box and Sage Passion. Her playing brings an extra dimension to Brazilian Landscapes, giving it a cache beyond that of a chamber ensemble. This is music of great heart and terrific sound that deserves to appeal to a wide audience, beyond the confines of classical acolytes.
            Composer Paulo Bellinati in his program notes stresses the blurring of the lines between classical and popular music in Brazilian culture. Its greatest popular composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, was influenced by the gestures of classical music, while Heitor Villa-Lobos, the greatest Brazilian classical composer, sought artistic sustenance from popular and folk music. Jobim’s Olha Maria has the dark, sensitive mood of a Latin Shostakovich. Chico Buarque’s haunting lyrics are included in the booklet. Street corner players are evoked by Villa-Lobos’s Choros No. 2. Choros No. 5, subtitled “Brazilian soul,” at times feels like a plaintive lament, while elsewhere it possesses the vigor of folk poetry. I’ve previously alluded to Daniel Murray’s affinity for the music of Egberto Gismonti, and the two arrangements on Brazilian Landscapes are no exception. Karatê really requires a virtuoso solo modern dancer to bring its jagged rhythms completely to life. Passion talk has the depth of feeling of two lovers communicating. This music contains such intimacy of emotion that words really cannot describe it. Mazur’s contribution here adds immeasurably to its allusiveness of meaning. Her participation is very much to the forefront of Dreams by Paulo Porto Alegre. Mazur creates a gossamer aural environment, not unlike electronic music. Petri maintains the overall sonic mood beautifully.
            Paulo Bellinati’s music possesses a balletic grace. Daniel Murray’s own compositions are well made, with an appealing melancholy streak. By contrast, Ernesto Nazareth’s Fon-Fon sparkles with joy. The stereo engineering on the CD is superb. I was unable to listen to the surround sound program. Brazilian Landscapes is a delicious, frothy beverage designed to tickle your taste buds. This is music to savor and be refreshed by, regardless of your preference for musical genres. Highly recommended. 
Dave Saemann, Fanfare (US)

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
BRAVO!
Grego Applegate Edwards,
February 24 2017
Those who like me revel in the cathedral organ and at the same time respond readily to high modernism in this context (for example in the organ music of Messiaen) will find the recent release of Axel Borup-Jorgensen's Organ Music (Our Recordings 6.220617) quite appealing, a sophisticated trip into an organic cosmos both mysterious and bracing.

He was born in 1924 in Denmark, grew up in Sweden, lived a quiet but productive life as composer and teacher and left this world in 2012. Originally primarily a pianist-composer (type his name in the search box above for a review of some of that), he became increasingly attracted to the organ, happily, since the current release contains nine works that stand out for their contrasting quietude and energy, their subtle shifts and cosmic openness. This is a music of matter-of-fact suchness rather than virtuoso complexities. Part of that has to do with Axel's insurance that the works would be well performed by very competent players who were not necessarily leading technicians.

Borup-Jorgensen's attention to nuance and atmospheric presence, of silence into sound and vice-versa ensure that we do not miss extended passages of demonically difficult passagework. His is a music of the earth and sky, a spiritual reaching out to sonic worlds we do not often dwell in, an original cosmos of organicity,

The nine works on the CD include three for organ alone, one for organ duo, one for cembalo and organ,  two for organ and percussionist, one for alto and organ and one for bass and organ.

"Winter Music" for percussion and organ makes use of the cathedral space for some dramatically resonant drums against a searching organ. That one is perhaps the most dramatic but Jens E. Christensen's careful attention to detail and sympathy for the Borup-Jorgensen universe ensure that we are immersed in a sonic wash of sound that is as extended in modern realms as it is unassumung.

This is not music to overwhelm the senses or shock. It is a very personal journey into Borup-Jorgensen's exploration of sonic and textural possibilities latent in the modern cathedral organ.

Bravo!
Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards at 5:45 AM February 24rd 2017
Grego Applegate Edwards,

Erik Kaltoft, Piano and Celesta
Piano Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s music is very special if not strange, yet atmospheric and, at the end, inspiring if not magic
Oliver Fraenzke, Pizzicato, Luxumburg
27 January 2017
Er kam nie wirklich zu internationaler Bekanntheit, der 2012 in hohem Alter verstorbene Däne Axel Borup-Jørgensen. Erst nach seinem Tod wurde man langsam auf ihn aufmerksam, nicht zuletzt durch die Edition Borup-Jørgensen des Labels Our Recordings, das vor allem durch ihren « Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen: Nordic Sound » (Our Recordings 6.220613) mit fünf extra für diesen Anlass komponierten Werken von namhaften Komponisten für Flöte und Streicher für Aufsehen sorgte – Bent Sørensen, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Sunleif Rasmussen, Morgens Christensen und Thomas Clausen steuerten je ein Werk bei.
Borup-Jørgensen in eine Schublade zu ordnen, fällt schwer, da er auf eigenen Pfaden wandelte, sich immer wieder neu erfand und seinen Stil modifizierte. Am ehesten könnte man ihn durch seine stimmungsvoll-flüchtige Atmosphärik vielleicht den Post-Impressionisten nahestellen. Große Geste, Aufbegehren oder triumphale Extraversion wird man vergebens suchen, man findet zarte Tropfen von zerbrechlicher Anmut und surreal erscheinender Eleganz. Wo es keine Expansion gibt, gibt es auch keine zielgerichtete Stringenz, und so zeichnet sich die Musik Borup-Jørgensens eher durch Kreisen oder Umherwandern aus, oft um verschiedene Patterns wandelnd. Die Musik erscheint so fremdartig und ungewohnt, man kann sich kaum heimisch fühlen in diesen Klängen, und doch lädt sie einen auf wunderbar inspirierende Reisen ein und der Hörer kann sich treiben lassen von andeutender Magie.
Fünfundvierzig Jahre lang arbeitete Erik Kaltoft mit dem Komponisten zusammen, dies spiegelt sich unweigerlich in der Musik und ihrer Wiedergabe wider. Mit vollster Souveränität und Selbstverständlichkeit geht Kaltoft an diese Musik heran und stellt sich voll in ihren Dienst. Er blendet die interpretatorische Subjektivität vollkommen aus, so dass der Hörer fast meinen könnte, die Musik spiele aus sich heraus ohne einen ausführenden Pianisten. Alles entsteht aus dem Moment heraus, direkt aus der Stille kommend, in feinst gewachsener Natürlichkeit. In dieser Aufnahme zeigt sich, wie sehr der darbietende Musiker und der Komponist verschmelzen können und welch ein suggestiv fesselndes Ganzes daraus resultieren kann. Oliver Fraenzke, 27.01.2017
Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s music is very special if not strange, yet atmospheric and, at the end, inspiring if not magic. Erik Kaltoft, a long-time collaborator of the composer, fascinates with outstanding and suggestive performances.
Oliver Fraenzke, Pizzicato, Luxumburg

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
I recommend this disc wholeheartedly.
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare Magazine USA
07 December 2016

Readers possessed of particularly good memories may recall my favorable review of Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s piano music just two issues ago. This Danish composer had an unusually distinct compositional voice, one which might not appeal to every reader of this magazine, but would to many readers, as it did to this reviewer. These are not showy virtuosic works, but (as the booklet notes) they emerge from stillness. The disc opens with Portal, scored for organ and percussion, wherein the listener is quickly immersed in thunder-evoking timpani rolls (the effect, however, is quite dissimilar to that produced by Berlioz in his Symphonie fantastique). The organ is used only in the piece to employ subtle dissonant chords in its tenor register, as the timpani dominates the proceedings throughout. For orgel IV features almost other-worldly sonorities in the organ, produced by sustained clusters of notes in the treble staff with Pointillistic interjections by the feet and other hand of the organist. Around the five-minute mark, Borup-Jørgensen brings in some of the ascending non-tonal arpeggiated figures that I noted in a number of his piano works in my previous review. The organ is equally if not more effective in this figuration.

Strophen adds an alto voice to the organ. The dark character of the voice is enhanced by the equally dark stops employed in the piece, and the work is the musicafication (don’t go looking this word up in your dictionary: It’s my coinage for the musical equivalent of personification) of depression. So, I wouldn’t listen to this if you need a good cheering up, but the piece will reveal its exquisite beauty to most listeners. Kalligrafier continues the mood but not the register of the preceding work, as it resumes an exploration of the upper notes in the organ’s wide range of pitches. As far as I can tell without access to a score, the piece eschews the pedals entirely, in fact. It forms an interesting conflation of Pointillistic and sustained sonorities, and ends in a whisper. Für Cembalo und Orgel deftly synthesizes harpsichord and organ sounds, something that I doubt that Max Reger, for instance, could have brought off, even if he’d wanted to. Borup-Jørgensen can get away with it because for him the organ is rarely the powerhouse instrument that it often is for other composers; it is instead a vehicle for colors, often pastel ones. Thus, this combination of harpsichord and organ, given its utterly distinctive sound, is a particular testimony to his gifts as a composer. It is my favorite work on the disc.

Textures are unsurprisingly more dense in the Organo per due for two organists, which was written for Eva Feldbæk and her colleague Jens Christensen. The notes don’t specify if this work is intended to be played on a single instrument or on two. By Borup-Jørgensen’s standards, the piece becomes more dramatically turgid than does most of his generally subtle music. Trilogi adds a bass voice to the organ, or more accurately, alternates organ and bass, as the two never perform simultaneously. The organ plays a few dissonant chords, and the bass follows with a wandering, more tonally focused line, and back and forth they go. The effect of the piece is an evocation of timelessness, and it is hauntingly beautiful. The text of this work is drawn from writings of Rilke and Nietzsche, and deals with transitions to darker times, reflections I have to say are particularly appropriate nowadays.

The Italian word misterioso graces the score at the beginning of For orgel XI, and sums up the essence of the piece. This particular work utilizes a greater range of the organ than most heard herein, as the composer explores different registers in its various sections. Closing the disc is winter music, which once again adds percussion and, like the first work in the recital, opens with a roll in the timpani. This work is, however, almost 10 times the length of Portal, giving the composer much more time to develop his ideas, and here the organ also has a much more prominent role. The piece is full of sound and fury (at around the seven-minute mark, you’ll hear the greatest outburst of timpani you’ve likely ever heard in a piece of music), but unlike what Shakespeare has his character state in Macbeth, it does signify something, and something quite profound at that. As in Strophen, this is dark music, and will engender sober reflection on the part of the listener.

Listening to an entire CD of music by Axel Borup-Jørgensen is quite an emotionally draining experience, although the experience lingers pleasantly in my memory, as I like Borup-Jørgensen’s organ music even better than I did his piano music. Aficionados of the new and unusual will find it as rewarding as I did, and to them, I recommend this disc wholeheartedly.

David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare Magazine USA

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
30 November 2017
A disc of piano music by Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen made the 2016 Want List of my colleague Marc Medwin (issued on the same label as this organ disc, catalog number 6.220616.) The organ music of Borup-Jørgensen seems to be equally impressive. The introspection that the composer exhibited as a person is reflected in his sound-world, which is intensely private. One feels almost privileged to be eavesdropping into these musings; and as one listens, one hears that this is music of no compromise. There is a purity and honesty to Borup-Jørgensen’s expression that makes for compelling listening.
This is an SACD release, and the sound is stunning. The 2009 piece Portal is scored for organ and percussion and was written for a concert celebrating his own 85th birthday. There is an almost primal facet here, the drama of the timpani swells counteracted by the organ’s slitherings. Only one minute 40 seconds long, it punches way above its weight. It leads to the earlier (1983/4) piece for Orgel IV. Marked as “gliding but without haste,” the piece is dedicated to the present performer (the close musical relationship between performer and composer is chronicled in the booklet by Christensen.)  There is a sort of Messiaen-like hypnosis to the slow moving surface; the move from this work to Strophen is simply like moving from one room to the next. Scored for mezzo and organ, the much earlier Strophen (1961) sets a poem by Rilke (from Das Buch der Bilder). Enigmatic in the extreme, in terms of harmony, its somewhat Schoenbergian melodic shapes and its low dynamics, it operates as a question mark in sound.
The art of calligraphy inspired Kalligrafier of 1985/6. A mere five minutes in duration, it is a tightly constructed meditation. The fascinating combination of harpsichord and organ is impressively explored in Für Cembalo und Orgel of 1989. Mahan Esfahani is the virtuoso harpsichordist whose virtuoso, rapid gestures complement the slow-moving majesty of Christensen’s playing. The organ positively glistens in this recording, so the sonic contrast is one of ethereal, silvery sounds of the organ against impish silvery sounds from the harpsichord. The result is phenomenal, a real treat for the ears. Borup-Jørgensen’s sense of harmonic coherence ensures the work never wanders.
Organ duets are on the same level of rarity as didgeridoo duets, I imagine (and before you say anything, I actually own a tape of music for two didgeridoos, or whatever the plural of didgeridoo is.) Dating from the same year as Für Cembalo und Orgel, Organo per due is if anything more remarkable. As Jens E. Christensen says in his booklet notes, “the diversity of sound in the music makes one think of electronic music.” And diverse the sounds are indeed, but this never sounds like a soundtrack to a “B” horror movie: the intent, and the result, are serious and perfectly delivered.
Taking texts by Rilke and Nietsche, Trilogi of 1996 is for bass and organ (here performed by bass-baritone Jakob Bloch Jespersen.) The organ and voice parts are largely separate. In one sense, the organ commentates and responds to the voice’s declamations; mutual responses to the darkness of Winter and a leave-taking from Summer and Autumn. Jespersen is superbly firm of line, something worth noting given the wide meanderings he has to deliver.
The world of the For Orgel series returns with For Orgel XI of 1991—94, mysterious and profound before the extended Winter Music of 1986/7 rounds off the disc. This latter work, for organ and percussion and therefore creating a perfect balance within the program, is a varied panorama of sound. The percussion contribution includes dramatic gestures from cymbals, while the timpani seems to refer to the natural phenomena of wind and thunder.  
The organ playing of Jens E. Christensen is of sterling quality throughout; as noted above but worth underlining, the recording itself is demonstration standard. A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.  
Colin Clarke, Fanfare

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA
29 November 2016
A disc of piano music by Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen made the 2016 Want List of my colleague Marc Medwin (issued on the same label as this organ disc, catalog number 6.220616.) The organ music of Borup-Jørgensen seems to be equally impressive. The introspection that the composer exhibited as a person is reflected in his sound-world, which is intensely private. One feels almost privileged to be eavesdropping into these musings; and as one listens, one hears that this is music of no compromise. There is a purity and honesty to Borup-Jørgensen’s expression that makes for compelling listening.
This is an SACD release, and the sound is stunning. The 2009 piece Portal is scored for organ and percussion and was written for a concert celebrating his own 85th birthday. There is an almost primal facet here, the drama of the timpani swells counteracted by the organ’s slitherings. Only one minute 40 seconds long, it punches way above its weight. It leads to the earlier (1983/4) piece for Orgel IV. Marked as “gliding but without haste,” the piece is dedicated to the present performer (the close musical relationship between performer and composer is chronicled in the booklet by Christensen.)  There is a sort of Messiaen-like hypnosis to the slow moving surface; the move from this work to Strophen is simply like moving from one room to the next. Scored for mezzo and organ, the much earlier Strophen (1961) sets a poem by Rilke (from Das Buch der Bilder). Enigmatic in the extreme, in terms of harmony, its somewhat Schoenbergian melodic shapes and its low dynamics, it operates as a question mark in sound.
The art of calligraphy inspired Kalligrafier of 1985/6. A mere five minutes in duration, it is a tightly constructed meditation. The fascinating combination of harpsichord and organ is impressively explored in Für Cembalo und Orgel of 1989. Mahan Esfahani is the virtuoso harpsichordist whose virtuoso, rapid gestures complement the slow-moving majesty of Christensen’s playing. The organ positively glistens in this recording, so the sonic contrast is one of ethereal, silvery sounds of the organ against impish silvery sounds from the harpsichord. The result is phenomenal, a real treat for the ears. Borup-Jørgensen’s sense of harmonic coherence ensures the work never wanders.
Organ duets are on the same level of rarity as didgeridoo duets, I imagine (and before you say anything, I actually own a tape of music for two didgeridoos, or whatever the plural of didgeridoo is.) Dating from the same year as Für Cembalo und Orgel, Organo per due is if anything more remarkable. As Jens E. Christensen says in his booklet notes, “the diversity of sound in the music makes one think of electronic music.” And diverse the sounds are indeed, but this never sounds like a soundtrack to a “B” horror movie: the intent, and the result, are serious and perfectly delivered.
Taking texts by Rilke and Nietsche, Trilogi of 1996 is for bass and organ (here performed by bass-baritone Jakob Bloch Jespersen.) The organ and voice parts are largely separate. In one sense, the organ commentates and responds to the voice’s declamations; mutual responses to the darkness of Winter and a leave-taking from Summer and Autumn. Jespersen is superbly firm of line, something worth noting given the wide meanderings he has to deliver.
The world of the For Orgel series returns with For Orgel XI of 1991—94, mysterious and profound before the extended Winter Music of 1986/7 rounds off the disc. This latter work, for organ and percussion and therefore creating a perfect balance within the program, is a varied panorama of sound. The percussion contribution includes dramatic gestures from cymbals, while the timpani seems to refer to the natural phenomena of wind and thunder.   
The organ playing of Jens E. Christensen is of sterling quality throughout; as noted above but worth underlining, the recording itself is demonstration standard. A phenomenal release that rewards repeated listening. 
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
The 5.0 multichannel is splendid, and the stereo comes close".
John Miller and HRAudio.net
28 November 2016
Performance: 4.5 stars
Sonics (Stereo): 4.5 stars
Sonics (Multichannel):5.0 stars (Max!)
Axel Borup-Jørgensen, born in Denmark, lived with music from 1924-2012. When he was 2, his parents moved to Sweden, and after some travelling settled at the small country town of Mjölby. His father was an inventor by nature and young Axel inherited his creativity. From his early boyhood, he was able to play several instruments by ear: mouth organ, small accordion, mandolin and piano, which he played at school. In parallel, Axel became an artist skilled at drawing, and also studied astronomy. His wish was to become an engineer or architect.
For the rest of his career, he never had an official post and thought of himself as self-taught, and his engineer's working in high levels of detailing persisted in all his musical compositions. These changed to a preference for classical music, after his piano teaching gave him Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata. This made the piano his favourite instrument, and in 1946, Axel Borup-Jørgensen returned to Denmark as a student at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, with the piano as his main subject and supplementary lessons in other instruments.
 Another element of his early life which deeply affected his music was the influence of nature's Sweden. A younger composer, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holm Green, said of Sweden "Borup has found its own, poetic beauty. He is a kind of composers poet. He has a Swedish touch in his music, one can almost hear the Swedish forests and the great room and peculiar melancholy that often hovers over Swedish art ". In 1942, the family acquired a small island in a lake on the border between Östergötland and Småland. This gave Borup-Jørgensen the pleasure of walking, cycling and rowing during the summer holidays, and losing himself in the stillness of nature. Even while he was working in Copenhagen, he kept visiting his parents on their Swedish island, maintaining his interest in that country.
After graduating, Borup-Jørgensen became a piano teacher with private students. In 1959, he visited Darmstadt School which every other summer held a two-week International Summer Course for New Music, which became the centre of modern music. He was already interested in the progress of music in Denmark, and he was developing his own interpretation of it. His early compositions were in German Romantic style. Then he moved towards French Impression; next, gathering increasingly complex rhythms with bitonality and then atonality (not serialism).
Looking at Borup-Jørgensen's output, chamber music dominates. There are some vocals but only a few orchestral pieces. The chamber formats are often unusual, involving guitar, percussion, viola, recorder and celeste (harking back to his youth) and similar duets occur in a number of the organ pieces (24), of which 9 are on this disc. Percussion is one of the commonest additions; it appears in three of this SACD's programme, with duets of harpsichord, alto and bass baritone, leaving only two solo and one duet for the organ alone.
The organ chosen for this disc is Vor Freisers Kirke (Our Christ's Church) in Copenhagen, a highly decorated Baroque church, well-known because of its twisted spire reaching skywards. The magnificent façade of the organ case on the west wall of the church is one of the most photographed music instruments in the world. A glorious three-storey organ case contains a superb instrument built by the Botzen brothers in 1696-98. The organ has more than 4000 pipes with 4 manuals and pedal-board. After restoration the entire instrument produces the sound that was heard in the church over 300 years ago.
 However, organist Jens E. Christensen plays Borup-Jørgensen's scores with only a sparse palette of stops overall, mainly a few simple principals such as Diapasons and Flutes.16' and 32' ranks are also sparsely used, except for some more lengthy passages such as 'In Winter' where sometimes the organ battles with the percussion (Track 9). Rather than an organ recital, in this selection, Borup-Jørgensen's pieces are mainly duos, with the organ mostly acting as an accompanying instrument, usually played slowly and with a volume rarely louder than mezzo-forte.
In my opinion, the most expressive works are those with human voices. 'Strophen' op. 39 (1961) takes texts from poet Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Das Buch der Bilder' (The book of Images) and Pia Rose Hansen, a fine alto, gives this contemplative piece a grave, mysterious, languid and beautiful but very slow rendering; it is static music. 'Trilogie' for bass and organ, op. 154.4 (1996) contains two poems by Rilke and the other by Friedrich Nietzsche - Rilke 'Autumn day' and 'O Trees of life' with Friedrich Nietzsche's 'Lonely'. Jacob Bloch is the bass baritone and he is masterful at exploiting the responsive acoustic of the church, for once more the whole piece has to be very slow and the singing utterly miserable in what is a long solo with only short, quiet interpolations from the organ. Danish versions of the German texts are given, but it is a great pity that an English translation was not presented, although I suppose that translating of Rilka's poetry is particularly difficult.
The British-Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani is part of the duet in Für Cembalo und Orgel op. 133.2 (1989). A conversation between the plucked and the wind instruments is carried out in a set of continuous short pieces, some of them thankfully rather faster than usual. Mathias Reumert is well-known as a percussionist, conductor and arranger as well as the leader of ensemble EKKOZONE and his parts are first ('Portal' for percussion and organ op 182, 2009) and last ('Winter Music' for percussion and organ op. 113.2, 1986-7). 'Winter Music' has drawn some notoriety for Borup-Jørgensen; a CD recording has already been marketed (Marco Polo, organist Eva Feldbæk and Gert S. Sørensen). Remarkably it is only a few seconds difference in timing (15:22, Christensen vs. 15:46, Feldbæk),
 Misery, duress and violence seem to be the vision of Winter held by Borup-Jørgensen, followed by some remarkable instructions to Reumert demonstrating his unconventional scores, apparently full of illustrations. The instructions include "sluggishly", "tiredly", "irregularly", "woolly", "vague", "gliding", and all of these appear to be employed.
The Winter gives us a marvellous example of the responsive acoustic captured for recording by former hornist Preben Iwan, now regarded as an internationally famous recording engineer, mixer and producer. By Danish standards, the dimensions of the church are enormous. The height to the ceiling rafters is 36 metres, but the large resonance has been tamed, and it is particularly beautiful around the singers rather than the instruments. Larger drums are well back, so the wide echo they produce gives one a real frisson. Recorded in the DXD audio format (Digital eXtreme Defination) at 352.8 kHz/32 bit, the 5.0 multichannel is splendid, and the stereo comes close.
OUR Records' bright lemon-covered digipak has a well-illustrated booklet in Danish, English and German, where the organist Christensen has contributed an interesting account of working with Borup-Jørgensen as this quiet man "characterized by his focus on minute details of sound and texture”.
 
OUR Records' has an on-going series of Axel Borup-Jørgensen, with most of the pieces on this present SACD being premières. I commend all taking part in further opening his unique style to a wider audience. While respecting Axel Borup-Jørgensen's music on this disc, I confess not to particularly enjoy the music, which in its tendency to slowness, consistent dissonance and extreme detail leaves my mind wandering. From that point of view, I feel that potential buyers should be warned that this is not of the usual organ recital type, although listeners with special interest in hifi recordings might well be interested in the particular sonics of 'Winter Music'. My advice would be to go to Our Record's web site at http://www.ourrecordings.com/releases/Organ-Music. Select the tab "TRACKLIST", and each track has a "Listen" button press this to hear the track. Most unusually, this plays the whole piece.
John Miller and HRAudio.net

Jens E. Christensen, organ
Organ Music
by Axel Borup-Jørgensen
10/10/10 "Zeitgenössische Musik vom Feinsten!"
Heinz Braun, 23.11.2016 Klassik heute
23 November 2016
Das kleine, aber feine dänische audiophile Label OUR Recordings engagiert sich seit Längerem intensiv für die Musik Axel Borup-Jørgensens (1924-2012), einem der bedeutendsten skandinavischen Komponisten des vergangenen Jahrhunderts. Nach einer erst jüngst veröffentlichten CD mit Klaviermusik des Komponisten folgt nun eine repräsentative Auswahl seiner Orgelwerke.
Ausgangs- und Endpunkt des Programms bilden zwei Kompositionen für Orgel und Schlagzeug: Portal, ein konzises, doch kraftvoll-monolithisches Eröffnungsstück, das sich Borup-Jørgensen 2009 selbst zum 85. Geburtstag geschrieben hat sowie die über viertelstündige winter music von 1986/87.
Die zwei Solostücke for orgel IV und XI (1983/84 bzw. 1991-94 entstanden) stehen in vielerlei Hinsicht prototypisch für den Stil des Komponisten mit seiner feinsinnigen Auslotung der spezifischen Orgelsonorität, Akkordbrechungen und melodischen Verästelungen. Insbesonders das spätere der beiden Werke beeindruckt durch seine geheimnisvollen, dunkel-gedeckten Farben. Der Zyklus Kalligrafier mit seinen pointilistisch kontrastierenden Miniaturen ergänzt die beiden Solowerke.
In den beiden Instrumentalduos organo per due für zwei Organisten sowie Für Cembalo und Orgel verfolgt Borup-Jørgensen unterschiedliche Ansätze: Während sich im Orgel-Duo explosives Donnergrollen und Klangsplitter im höchsten Register gegenüberstehen, gelingt dem Komponisten in der ungewöhnlichen Kombination von Cembalo und Orgel ein kommunikatives Zwiegespräch, bei dem sich der dunkle Orgelklang mit dem silbrig hellen Cembalo kontrastiert, sich gegenseitig ergänzt und kommentiert.
Eines der frühesten Stücke der CD, die Rilke-Vertonung Strophen aus „Das Buch der Bilder“ von 1961 für Alt und Orgel zählt für mich zu den Höhepunkten des Programms. Die wunderbare Solistin Pia Rose Hansen verleiht diesem kontemplativen Stück den unabdingbaren großen Bogen, ein in sich ruhendes Fließen und eine selbstverständliche, unaufgeregte, nichts wollende Gelassenheit. Noch reduzierter wirkt Borup-Jørgensens Musiksprache in seinen Trilogi: Hier setzt der Komponist drei berühmte deutsche Gedichte (Rilkes „Herbsttag“ und „O Bäume Lebens“ aus den Duineser Elegien sowie Friedrich Nietzsches „Vereinsamt“) für Bass und Orgel. Der Vokalpart mit seinen expressiven, großen Intervallsprüngen und melismatischen Linien wird hier nur ganz selten und äußerst behutsam von der Orgel sekundiert. Der Bariton Jakob Bloch Jespersen reiht sich ein in eine Liste außerordentlicher Interpreten, allen voran der hochsensible Organist Jens E. Christensen, der sich mit einzigartigem Gespür in die Musiksprache Borup-Jørgensens eingefühlt hat. Ebenso erfreulich ist es, dass OUR Recordings
mit dem britisch-iranischen Cembalisten Mahan Esfahani einen der herausragenden Interpreten seines Faches für die Aufnahme gewinnen konnte. Das längste und meines Erachtens ergreifendste Stück steht am Schluss der CD: die 1986/87 komponierte winter music für Schlagzeug und Orgel (Jens E. Christensen hier im Duett mit dem fantastischen Perkussionisten Mathias Reumert). Die Dunkelheit und Gewalt des Winters nimmt mit sich auftürmenden Klangballungen der Orgel und wilden, fast rohen Schlagzeugsalven klingend Gestalt an. Eine starke, erschütternde Musik, die man so leicht nicht vergisst.
Lässt man sich auf sie ein, entfaltet Borup-Jørgensens Klangsprache einen einzigartigen Zauber, dessen Ernsthaftigkeit und Klangsinnlichkeit man sich kaum entziehen kann. Zeitgenössische Musik vom Feinsten! 
Heinz Braun, 23.11.2016 Klassik heute
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E-mail: hannibal@michalapetri.com
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