UK DK

By Joshua Cheek

About this album...

by Joshua Cheek

Nothing in life falls precisely into neat boxes, despite our best efforts to make things “fit”. Consider the two featured instruments on this recording. First, the recorder, which despite its relatively simple design, enjoyed near-universal popularity from the Middle Ages to the

Baroque, played by prince and pauper alike. Then, there is the harpsichord, a marvel of engineering for its time; an extraordinary canvas upon which generations of composers wrote tone poems and toccatas, crafting contrapuntal mazes and virtuoso displays that still challenge the most skillful interpreter. But times and tastes change, and eventually, these quintessential representatives of the musical arts (along with most of their repertoire) were packed away, together with the powdered wigs and knee breeches for a long slumber during the 19th century.

By the dawn of the 20th century, the revival of interest in early music heralded a new golden age for this dynamic duo; as early as 1901 Dr. Joseph Cox Bridge, following upon his extensive research, composed the first 20th century work for the recorder. Interest in the harpsichord soon followed and thanks to the tireless efforts of Wanda Landowska and her Pleyel Grand Modèle de Concert - a veritable dreadnought of manuals, pedals and stops - Europe’s greatest composers were soon supplying a steady stream of masterworks for this “new-old” musical wonder.

The idea for this album and its unusual programme was both personal and refreshingly spontaneous: “We decided to have Danish and English as our frame, since Michala is a Dane and Mahan lives in UK!” explains producer Lars Hannibal. The duo famously gave their first public performance at the 13th international Pharos Chamber Music Festival on the island of Cyprus. The Festival took place during the height of the Greek economic crisis, and with the sudden cutting of bank funds, not everyone could manage to fulfil their pledges of support. Michala and Mahan were among the many musicians who waived their performance fees so the Festival could go on. The English music critic Norman Lebrecht was present that night and excitedly posted to his blog, “Slipped Disc”:

“A match made in heaven”

“The symbiosis was remarkable. When they spoke to the audience between pieces, they finished each other’s sentences. When they played, each anticipated the other’s breath. There was not a stale note all night. The best matches are made in heaven. This one was born of adversity. By the night’s end, plans were taking shape. A legend made in Cyprus will be heard around the world. Banks may crash. The music plays on.”

The fruitful collaboration of these two artists, distinguished for their consummate mastery of the entire range of repertoire for their chosen instruments, provided the additional inspiration to focus on 20th century and contemporary works from their respective homes.

When dealing with an artist such as Michala Petri, one is constantly amazed by her passionate commitment to her craft; she is a true visionary. Her virtuosity has enchanted listeners around the world since she was in her teens, whilst her devotion to building the recorder’s concerto repertoire has been the inspiration for dozens of composers. Indeed, with the exception of Sonatina by Malcolm Arnold, and the little suite by Benjamin Britten, all of the music on this program was written expressly for her.

  • Michala Petri has performed more than 4000 concerts in the worlds leading festivals and Concert Halls,and has broken down the boundaries of her instrument, the recorder.. Since youth she has followed her wish for musical expansion in various ways, through commissioning more than 150 new works, - including more than 30 recorder concertos, through dialogue with other musical cultures and through developing new playing techniques.

    Recorder

    Michala Petri

  • Mahan Esfahani was born in Tehran in 1984 and first was exposed to the piano by his father before exploring a teenaged interest in the harpsichord.

    Harpsichord

    Mahan Esfahani

  • Benjamin Britten was a life-long devotee of the recorder, featuring it in his opera “Noye’s Fludde” (1957) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1960). He was also a fairly good player, himself, and served as president for the British Society of Recorder Players from 1958 to 1976.

    Composer

    Benjamin Britten

  • Daniel Kidane is a young composer with an eclectic taste spanning everything from Olivier Messiaen and Bach to Johnny Cash and Pantera, Kidane stands in the forefront of England’s vital New Music scene. Kidane first received composition lessons at the Royal College of Music Junior Department where he studied with Avril Anderson. He went on to study at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, receiving lessons in composition from Professor Sergey Slonimsky.

    Composer

    Daniel Kidane

  • Sir Malcolm Arnold embraced the recorder as featured solo instrument for a series of miniature masterworks. Following studies at London’s Royal College of Music, Arnold began his career as a professional trumpet player, eventually becoming Principle Trumpet in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1948, he won the Royal Academy of Music’s Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to study composition in Italy.

    Composer

    Sir Malcolm Arnold

  • Vagn Holmboe, Gordon Jacob’s Danish near-contemporary, was an enormously prolific composer, with almost 400 works to his credit. Holmboe began his compositional career in earnest following his entrance examination to the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, when the national composer Carl Nielsen looked through some of his compositions and encouraged him to continue.

    Composer

    Vagn Holmboe

  • Henning Christiansen was a composer, artist and a central figure of the Danish branch of the Fluxus movement. He worked with artists such as Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Bazon Brock and Wolf Vostell as well as with his wife Ursula Reuter Christiansen. Following studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Copenhagen, he attended the Darmstadt Summer School in 1962, where he became involved with the Fluxus movement and later, the radical Danish art movement Ex School.

    Composer

    Henning Christiansen

  • Gordon Jacob had a special affinity for wind instruments. Born in the same generation of British composers as Vaughan-Williams, Ireland, Howells and Bax, Gordon Jacob soon departed from the ripe romanticism of his teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford and embraced a simpler, more direct musical language, inspired in part by Baroque and Classical models but with an accessible, modernist perspective.

    Composer

    Gordon Jacob

Reviews

UK DK

Classical Music Magazine (UK) 5 stars (Full House)

Classical Music Magazine 5 star (Full house)

UK DK

Klassik Heute 10/10/10

Heinz Braun

UK DK

Gramophone (UK)A wonderful advert for this instrumental pairing and for virtuosity in general.

Guy Richards

UK DK

Diapason d`Or and Diapason d`Or de L´année

Benoît Fauchet

UK DK

Classical Ear (UK)

Mark Walker

UK DK

BBC Music Magazine 5 Star Review

Anthony Burton

UK DK

CD Spotlight, Australia, Imaginative Programming

Geoff Pearce

UK DK

Pizzicato (Luxemburg)Blockflöten-Höhenflüge

Remy Franck

UK DK

Fanfare (US) it goes without saying that anything this superstar pairing puts its hands to will be extraordinary.

Ronald E. Grames

UK DK

Musik Magasinet Klassisk Denmark

Klassisk Aps

UK DK

MusicWeb International

John France

UK DK

Fanfare (US) UK DK is a nice outing for two talented musicians, and furthermore, the repertoire is surprising and sometimes demanding, and always worth the listener's effort.

Raymond Tuttle

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