Hickey´s capitalizes on the icy edge of his percussion-heavy wind band by channeling Shostakovich-like brutality against which the recorder is the picture of whimsical innocence.
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone, UK
04 February 2018
LP releases
Andrew Mellor on a handful of vinyl issues from Northern Europe specially conceived for the medium
Sean Hickey´s recorder concerto A Pacifying Weapon stands in directly timbral contrast to pretty much everything discussed. But its inclusion on the first LP release from its label reminds us that the presence achieved by analogue sound is just as transformative for hard-edged shouts and scrapes as it is for hand-holding hums and whispers. As the dichotomy of its title suggest, this is a piece in which swards are beat into ploughshares but with accomplished sleight of hands.
Hickey´s capitalizes on the icy edge of his percussion-heavy wind band by channeling Shostakovich-like brutality against which the recorder is the picture of whimsical innocence. But it is the Fife and Drums of battle that end up consoling Michala Petri´s adroit flutters, making way for her final dialogue with an exotic but subtly-deployed battery of percussion. It is filigree, agile music suited to low-fi analogue sound? This is the only record of the six that comes with a download card, Hicheys piece won´t outstay its welcome should you wish to spend some time arguing the toss. 
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone, UK

A New lokk at the concerto
Kathleen McGowan, I Care if you Listen,
09 September 2017
Music relies on listeners’ expectations to present its material—a kind of portable structure that goes from piece to piece, and changes over time. Composers and performers either meet or subvert those expectations in the music that they write. Some do so intentionally, while others do not. Composers and performers in the twenty-first century make it their business to challenge the forms and functions of the classical canon, and generally give every norm they encounter a new voice. A Pacifying Weapon (OUR Recordings) does this with great success, striking an excellent balance between tradition and innovation by writing in established forms for uncommon combinations of instruments without adding electronic elements. The recorder is the unquestioned star of this album, and soloist Michala Petri. has a clear command of both its technique and of composer Sean Hickeys vision for its more modern voice. She also carries the more traditional Concertino for Recorder and Strings by Thomas Clausen with grace and poise.
Petri commissioned the title composition, A Pacifying Weapon, in 2015. Though not titled as a concerto, Hickey wrote it as such and used it to “wrestle with the concerto tradition and its complications.” He kept many of the structures that make a concerto recognizable: three distinct movements presented in a fast-slow-fast succession; alternating between solo instrument and accompaniment ensemble passages. Hickey wrote for the Royal Danish Academy of Music (RDMA) winds as a constantly fluctuating chamber group. His accompaniment has a clear yet subtle influence from film music: a chord here, a specific orchestration there; never a direct quote. The brass is limited to section chorales that, even when quiet, sound enormous. The result is atmospheric, and about as far from traditional recorder music as one might get.
This mix of exposed passages and chamber writing in the accompaniment creates the kind of space the solo recorder needs, and this is also where Hickey departs from the traditional concerto structure. The first movement is more of a tone poem with a significant soloist. The soloist’s virtuosity is excellent–Petri plays clearly and confidently in long technical passages (obligatory, for a concerto), but doesn’t default to “noodling” in cadenza and unaccompanied passages. She has an obvious command of the recorder’s capabilities beyond notes per minute, and it’s gratifying to listen to an artist explore the virtuosity of simplicity as well as of technicality. Particularly in the second movement, Hickey writes in sustained tones that Petri has to keep interesting throughout, and this requires a less-celebrated brand of artistry.
The third movement is where Hickey really puts the recorder and the concerto form through their respective paces. Instead of a more traditional show piece, the third movement is a character study. The brass chorales are still traditional, but they’ve traded their earlier sedateness for an angular, urgent tension. The recorder is capricious—like a character out of Shakespeare, popping in and out of the scenery. The use of bass recorder in the middle section is a departure from everything else so far. It alternates between the ethereal and the striking, with an intensity that recalls Feldman and Boulez. The final fast section calls back to the recorder as a folk instrument. The accompanying percussion and winds are short, light, and closely orchestrated—punctuation for the soloist’s final remarks.
Thomas Clausen´s Concertino for Recorder and Strings provides a much more traditional context for the recorder. Clausen’s solo writing owes much to clarinet repertoire, providing a very different role for Petri to play than those in in A Pacifying Weapon. The middle section could be Baroque, but for its more modern benefits (like extra cellos and basses). The final presto owes many of its mannerisms to Mozart and Rossini, though in a contemporary landscape. Whether these are conscious allusions by the composer or whether he is simply well-schooled in classical repertoire is hard to tell. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It is light, humorous, exciting, and a technical tour de force—an excellent counterpoint to Hickey’s previous piece.
The album in total strikes an excellent balance of fulfilling and subverting its listeners expectations, both of the recorder and of the concerto. Having a period instrument play in a contemporary context breaks the recorder’s norm and adds a new dimension to its largely historical repertoire. The music, the soloist, and the student musicians of the RDAM are all genuinely impressive, and they’ve produced an excellent recording worth regularly revisiting. Kathleen McGowan, 2017 September 7th
 
 
Kathleen McGowan, I Care if you Listen,

A Pacifying Weapon: A New Look at the Concerto
Kathleen Mc Gowan, I care if you Listen
07 September 2017

10/10/10 for A Pacyfying Weapen in German Music Magazine Klassik Heute
Heinz Braun,Klassik Heute
22 August 2017
Totgesagte leben länger: Nachdem seit den Achtziger Jahren des vergangenen Jahrhunderts der unaufhaltsame Siegeszug der Compact Disc die herkömmliche Langspielplatte immer mehr vom Markt verdrängte, sagte man der LP den raschen Untergang voraus. Doch allen Unkenrufen zum Trotz ist sie nie wirklich ganz verschwunden und insbesondere den wahren HiFi-Enthusiasten galt sie nach wie vor als das klangliche Nonplusultra. Heute ist Vinyl wieder stark im Kommen. Selbst die größeren Plattenlabels veröffentlichen inzwischen wieder schwarze Scheiben und so überrascht es nicht, dass sich OUR Recordings, eines der innovativsten skandinavischen Klassik-Labels mit einem ausgeprägten Faible für exquisiten Klang, dazu entschlossen hat, die vorliegende Produktion exklusiv auf Vinyl herauszubringen. Mit dem bewährten Tonmeister des Labels, dem Grammy-nominierten Preben Iwan, hat man zudem einen der weltweit besten Klangmagier im Boot.
Und in vielerlei Hinsicht überrascht diese Aufnahme: Nicht allein durch ihren exzeptionellen Klang und die hohe Fertigungsqualität, sondern vor allem natürlich durch ihre musikalischen Qualitäten. Allen voran Michala Petri als herausragende Solistin, aber auch die jungen Musiker der Königlichen Dänischen Musikakademie unter Leitung von Jean Thorel.
Mit dieser „amerikanischen“ Platte endet vorerst Petris Serie von Konzerten für Blockflöte und Orchester aus verschiedenen Ländern und mit Sean Hickey (Jg. 1970) hat man dafür einen der bekanntesten und erfolgreichsten amerikanischen Komponisten seiner Generation gewinnen können. Hickeys dreisätziges Konzert A Pacifying Weapon (zu Deutsch etwa: eine beruhigende Waffe oder – sinngemäß übersetzt: ein Werkzeug des Friedens) entstand 2015 für Blockflöte, Bläser, Schlagzeug und Harfe, eine originelle Besetzung, wenn auch nicht zum ersten Mal verwendet: Bereits der schwedische Komponist Ingvar Karkoff und der Österreicher Viktor Fortin haben konzertante Werke für die Blockflöte und symphonisches Blasorchester komponiert. Was Hickeys Werk dennoch so unverwechselbar macht, ist seine deutlich amerikanische Klangsprache – im besten Sinne eklektisch und Einflüsse aus ganz verschiedenen Welten und Stilen vereinend gelingt Hickey ein überzeugendes und oft überaus klangsinnliches Stück, in dem sich die Blockflötenpalette (von Sopranino bis Bass) in vielen schönen Dialogen und kammermusikalischen Sequenzen mit den diversen Blas- und Perkussionsinstrumenten des Orchesters vereint. Für Hickey ist die Blockflöte, dieses im Grunde jahrtausende alte Instrument, ein Werkzeug des Friedens in einer immer unfriedlicher werdenden Welt. Völlig zu Recht wurde die attraktive, schillernde Partitur und die außerordentliche Einspielung kürzlich mit der Goldmedaille der Global Music Awards 2017 ausgezeichnet.
Auf der B-Seite ist noch einmal eine Übernahme aus einer früheren OUR Recordings Produktion zu hören, das Concertino für Blockflöte und Streichorchester des bekannten dänischen Jazzpianisten und Komponisten Thomas Clausen, ein wunderschönes, neoklassizistisch angehauchtes, spielerisches Werk, das mit seinem rührend „singenden“ Largo (mit unüberhörbaren Anklängen an Bachs Air) und einem virtuos-sprudelnden Finalsatz begeistert. 
Heinz Braun,Klassik Heute

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

. 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)

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

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