The Latvian composer weaves Michala Petri`s tweeting recorders around his singers and an ever-present, uncannily natural evocation of the nightingale itself.
Gramophone , June issue 2016
June 6, 2016
 
This vision by Ugis Praulins (b1957) of Andersen`s story about a Chinese Emperor who prefers a blinged-up mechanical nightingale to a real bird capable of genuine songs (another prescient tale) is brimming with imagination and harmonic wonderment. The Latvian composer weaves Michala Petri`s tweeting recorders around his singers as an ever-present, uncannily natural evocation of the nightingale itself. 
Gramophone , June issue 2016

Great Audiophile Audition review on The Nightingale
Audiophile Audition
21 February 2013
An essential disc of world premieres that stuns the senses and absolutely delights the ear.

I hate jumping on bandwagons and like to think that for the most part I can come to decisions myself without the influence of the international press, but in this case I have to follow them with no little eagerness. This new album by the ever-inventive Michala Petri and the spectacular Danish National Vocal Ensemble that collects four commissioned world premieres is nothing short of astonishing, having garnered—so far—a Deutsche Phono-Akademie 2012 ECHO Klassik Award, plus a Gramophone nomination, less notable to be sure, but still important.

One would wonder at the wisdom of assembling a choral group with only a recorder as the solo instrument, but the cleverness with which each of these composers integrates the instrument into the textures of their music, each with a specific design in mind, is most impressive. As on any disc there will be favorites, and in my mind all four works are not equal in importance or the impression they make. Latvian composer Ugis Praulins has created the best work on the disc, taking eight sections from Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale to make a 30-minute piece of great theatricality and ecstatic utterance, notwithstanding what also amounts to a full-fledged recorder concerto as well. Praulins has a wide and eclectic background that refuses to be pigeonholed, so I won't try here; suffice it to say that this piece grabs you immediately while also giving the choir an intense workout in choral virtuosity and range, the recorder commenting perfectly along the way.

Daniel Börtz, whom many readers may recognize, treats us to a much darker world of choral sound, not surprising since his earlier years were heavily influenced by the sonorities of the Polish avant-garde. Here he takes two texts from the botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus, "The Dietetics of Respiration" and "Nemesis divina", a meditation on theodicy written for his son. The piece revels in the brokenness of the word settings, using the text as a springboard for intensely manifested passages that almost over-emote their innate meaning. One does not come away with an impression of the words as a meaning in total, but of individual moments focusing on one word or a group of words.

Faroe Islands native Sunleif Rasmussen presents us with the most "difficult" work on this disc (though none of them are terribly esoteric) by taking the text of Danish modernist poet Inger Christensen's response to Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways at looking at a Blackbird, focusing on intimacy and the freedom of the individual. Though the piece is structured, it is done in such a manner that the number organization used to represent several of the phrases mean little to the listener, who instead is drawn into the variety of independent voices and disparate, dissonant melodies. A work like this, though loaded with fascinating sounds and colors, uses the text as inspiration instead of trying to illuminate the meaning.

The final work by eclectic Danish composer Peter Braun uses two poems by Gerard Manly Hopkins, whose many "bird" poems serve as metaphors for the human condition and their souls, enabling a poetic excursion into his very personal contemplation of the world and the divine. Both pieces are wonderfully reflective of Hopkin's world, using a modified consonance inundated with arpeggios and appoggiaturas and pentatonic melody to create waves of fragmented songlike melody.

The surround sound on this disc is resonant and spectacular, with the voices soaring over your head. Despite some of the more challenging moments on this disc, it would be a crime to not acquire it. Excellent notes, complete with full texts round out the project.

Published on August 25, 2012—Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition

Great review in MusicWeb International on The Nightingale
Music Web International
01 January 2013
These are all world premiere recordings and feature the combination of Michala Petri's flute, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble directed by Stephen Layton, and some enjoyable new music from Swedish composer Daniel Börtz, Latvian Ugis Praulins, the Dane Peter Bruun and Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen.

Praulins' 2010 The Nightingale takes a text after Hans Christian Andersen (in English) broken down into nine sections, or eight tableaux and a reprise to be strictly accurate. It's better known as The Emperor and the Nightingale. This is directly communicative, aurally piquant music, so different from the sterile, audience-denying academism still sometimes to be found. Startling glissandi and rich contrast animate the music, so too antique-sounding airs, and succinct evocation and romance.Proulin's utilises Petri's technical adroitness at fast tonguing, and there are plenty of opportunities for bird imitation, whether real or mechanical – in the latter case adding mechanical, rhythmic, jagged qualities too. He takes the recorder up high, infiltrates troubadour warmth and has constructed a rich, warm, avid setting, clearly responding to Andersen's texts with imagination and flair.

Nemesis divina was written by Börtz in 2006. The text is by Carl von Linné, better known as Linnaeus (1707-1778), the botanist and physician. Petri employs, as instructed, multiple recorders from tenor to sopranino, and this vests the music with plenty of colour. Fortunately Börtz is a subtle colourist and his richly voiced choral writing works well. The recorder lines perhaps evoke Messaien but there is a strong and questioning independence in the writing, and a sense of things remaining incomplete in the final lines of the text.

An equally well structured work is Rasmussen's "I". The recorder's often incessant commentary adds to the density of the solo and choral writing, leading to a visionary and raptly beautiful recorder meditation as the work draws to a close. Finally Bruun's Two scenes with Skylark takes two poems by Hopkins — as with all the other texts, they are set in English, a tribute to the linguistic superiority of the vocal ensemble. In The Sea and the Skylark the lark ascends against the crash of the sea, a vehemence conveyed with precise calibration; so, too, the rather dour interpretation of the stark last lines of the poem. Bruun vests The Caged Skylark with a stuttering rhythm, and this proves effective.

Each of these composers has his own strong voice and his own way of reconciling the recorder, or recorders, with choral and/or solo voices in these settings. There is variety here, an exploration of a precise sound-world, a sensitive exploration of text and sonority, and a — never simplistic — wish to communicate with fellow performers and with listeners.
Jonathan Woolf, March 2012



Music Web International

Enthusiastic review in German Magazine Klassik Heute on The Nightingale
Klassik Heute Magazine
10 October 2012
Wertung: 10 / 10 / 10

Kennen Sie das? Sie hören nicht einmal zwanzig Sekunden einer neuen CD und sind schon vollends gebannt vom überwältigenden Klang und einer Musik, die mit Macht den Hörer in ihr eigenes Universum entführt –  Liebe auf's erste Hören sozusagen!
Ich finde kaum Worte, die geeignet wären, den Zauber zu beschreiben, der von dieser brillanten und poetischen, so noch nie gehörten Musik für Chor und Blockflöte ausgeht, die von vier skandinavischen Komponisten für Michala Petri komponiert wurde. Glückliche Komponisten! Idealere Interpreten als Petri und das ebenso phänomenale Danish National Vocal Ensemble unter Stephen Layton kann man sich nicht vorstellen. Sie meistern ihre teils aberwitzig virtuosen Partien mit einer Professionalität und einem hörbar emotionalen Engagement, das seinesgleichen sucht.
Michala Petri und Lars Hannibal von OUR Recordings haben offenbar ein untrügliches Gespür für Qualität und Originalität. Davon zeugen nicht allein die vielen, von der internationalen Kritik hoch gelobten Aufnahmen und innovativen Programme des noch relativ jungen Labels, auch die vier nordischen Komponisten dieser CD hat man mit Bedacht gewählt. Jedes Werk steht für eine eigenständige Künstlerpersönlichkeit, einen individuellen Stil.
Das mit fast einer halben Stunde Spieldauer längste Werk eröffnet das Programm: The Nightingale (nach Hans Christian Andersen) des lettischen Komponisten Ugis Praulins. Das 2010 für Petri geschriebene Stück beginnt in mystischer Atmosphäre, um sich nach und nach zu strahlendem Glanz emporzuschwingen. Meisterhaft verbindet Praulins in seinen konzertanten Tableaus Einflüsse aus Folk, Pop, Mittelalter und Renaissance mit klassischer Moderne und Anklängen an die große Chor- und Volksliedtradition seiner Heimat zu einem musikalischen Amalgam, das mit seiner hochoriginellen Klangsprache und zauberhaften Blockflötensoli sofort für sich einnimmt.
Daniel Börtz, einer der angesehensten schwedischen Komponisten der Gegenwart, hatte 2002 bereits ein Blockflötenkonzert für Michala Petri komponiert („Pipes and Bells", zu hören auf der Grammy-nominierten CD Movements – OUR Recordings), als er sich nur wenige Jahre später anlässlich der Dreihundertjahrfeier des Geburtstages des großen schwedischen Naturforschers Carl von Linné erneut mit der Blockflöte beschäftigte: Herb, kühn und dramatisch, auf ganz eigene Art expressiv, gibt sich seine Nemesis divina (nach Texten von Linnés) – kraftvolle, reife Musik. Sunleif Rasmussen, der erste „akademisch" ausgebildete Komponist von den im Staatenverbund mit Dänemark weitgehend autonomen Färöer-Inseln im Nord-Atlantik, überzeugt in One mit einer intimen, eher kammermusikalischen Faktur. In der Riege skandinavischer Komponisten darf natürlich Dänemark nicht fehlen, hier vertreten durch den 1968 geborenen Peter Bruun, der für Petri Two Scenes with Skylark auf Texte des victorianischen Dichters und Priesters Gerard Manley Hopkins verfasste, deren Chortextur traditionelle und sonoristische Elemente mischt.
Zum Standard bei OUR Recordings gehört neben der selbstverständlich audiophilen Aufnahmequalität die liebevolle Ausstattung des Beihefts mit kompletten Gesangstexten, Fotos und biographischen Abrissen der Komponisten und Künstler sowie ausgezeichneten, hilfreichen Werkeinführungen. 
Eine der stimmigsten, zutiefst berührenden und gleichzeitig neuartigsten Blockflöten-Aufnahmen der letzten Jahre!

Heinz Braun
(14.03.2012)

Klassik Heute Magazine

5 star review on The Nightingale in Danish Magazine Klassisk
Klassisk Magazine
14 September 2012
SOM FØDT TIL HINANDEN
5 star review on The Nightingale in Danish Magazine Klassisk

Michala Petri spænder musikalsk milevidt. Efter sidste års Grammy-nominerede cd med kinesiske koncerter optræder hun her med det toptrimmede DR VokalEnsemblet i fire ny værker af nordiske komponister.
Siden fløjtens fødsel har de to urinstrumenter sang og fløjte dannet musikalsk partnerskab. Konstellationen er oplagt, for den luftige blokfløjte og de flydende mennskestemmer matcher hinanden i overjordisk harmoni.
At lade fløjten agere fuglestemme er også indlysende. Lettiske Ugis Praulins (f.1957) er ophavsmand til værket The Nightingale, hvis engelske sangtekst består af brudstykker fra H.C.Andersens eventyr. Fantasifuldt lader Praulins blokfløjten illustrere nattergalen. Det høres, at Ugis Praulins har rødder i Letlands rock-og folkemusik: I The Nightingale møder atonal lettisk folkemusik alt fra jazzrytmer, flydende koraler med fløjtemønstre til talesang og håndklap. Slutningen minder om Howard Shores soundtrack til Ringenes Herre. Et avanceret værk, der konstant skifter klanglig og tempomæssig karakter.
Peter Bruun (f.1968) bruger i sit værk Skylark to digte af den britiske digter Gerard Manley Hopkins. Musikken svæver poetisk - igen med fløjten som fugl.
Vi hører i værkerne Michala Petri skifte behændigt mellem dybe og høje fløjter. Også i svenske Daniel Böertzs (f.1943) himmelske Nemesis divina. Teksten er skrevet af svenske Carl von Linné, men oversat til engelsk. Slutningen med de høje, skringre sopraninoskrig står som en flot effekt.
Færøske Sunleif Rasmussen (f.1961) og Michala Petri har før samarbejdet om solokompositioner. I sit kor-og fløjteværk bruger Rasmussen et digt af afdøde Inger Christensen. Værket hedder I, på dansk Jeg. Heri kredser kor og fløjte tæt, efter at en dyb, sælsom basfløjtesolo har indledt værket.
Den eminente engelske kordirigent Stephen Layton styrer med autoritet sangere og blokfløjtesolist gennem de komplekse klange. Også DR VokalEnsemblets medlemmer udfylder overbevisende deres solistroller. Sangerne stråler og Petri flytter som vanligt fingrene i vanvittig fart, eller hun former smukt de langsomme fraser. Denne klangrejse gennem Norden er en times intense toner, som fortjener flere lytninger. Christine Christiansen, March 2012

Klassisk Magazine

Great Pizzato review on The Nightingale
Pizzicato Magazine
02 April 2012
Alle Chorsänger, die sich auch für zeitgenössische Choirmusik interessieren, werden an dieser CD mit Weltersteeinspielungen von Werken für Blockflöte und Chor Gefallen finden. Michala petri und das "Danish National Vocala Ensemble" laden ein zu einer Musikalischen Nordlandreise. Die vier Werke, entstanden zwischen 2006 und 2011, entführen in geheimnisvollen Klanglandschaften. "Die Nachtigall" des Ltettische Komponisten Ugis Praulins basiert auf dem Märchen von Hans Christian Andersen, in dem die flötende Nachtingall über den Choirstikmmen Schwebt.
In seinem sehr suggestiven und stimmungsvollen Stück "Nemesis Divina" schreibt der Schwede Daniel Börtz eine ätherishe Engelsmusik. "I" Sunleif rasmussens Vertonung eines Gedicht von Inger Christensens, ist eine literarish-musikalische Meditation über das menscheliche Dasein. Der junge dänische Komponist Peter Bruun setzt sich mit dem Mystizismus des britischen Lyrikers Gerad Manley Hopkins auseinander.
Dier auf die Wirkung der Stimmen im Klangraum setzenden Surround-Produktion hüllt den Hörer mit Tönen ein, die allesamt von oben zu kommen scheinen. Das Danish National Vocal Ensemble" beeindruckt dabei mit seinem sehr differenzierten un klaren, nuancenreichen und fein abgestimmen Singen, das immer einen teil Mysterium in die Musik einbringt!
n.t. Pizzicato Februar 2012
Pizzicato Magazine

Great Gramophone review on The Nightingale
Gramophone Magazine
14 March 2012
Layton in Denmark for another Baltic voyage!
This new disc reinforces the extraordinary strengths of the Danish choral tradition. Here are voices of mature suppleness and agility, surveying new music by Nordic quartet of a Dane, a Latvian, a Swede and a Faroese, stirring from a deep wellspring of creativity and all sung in English. The oldest piece recorded here (a mere four years old) is Nemesis divina by Daniel Börtz, born in Sweden in 1943. This is a challenging "musical/metaphysical meditation" on the word "man" reminiscent of 1970s Berio but none the worse for it. Rasmussen's "I" is equally challenging on first hearing, full of twist and turns.
The Nightingale (2011) by Latvian Ugis Praulins is essentially a 30-minutes concerto, sonsisting of a series of eight colourful tableaux based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the Emperor and The Nightingale. It demands a astonish choral range of four octaves. The seventh section " The Artificial Bird", is a marvel of invention, with percussive imitations and multiphonics. The ornithological theme is continued with Bruun's pair of Hopkins bird-poem settings. In an accessible and diatonic idiom, they make a splendid and satisfying conclusion the distinctive programme.
Needless to say. Stephen Layton steers his peerlessly virtuoso musicians through this electric and innovative mix with his customary polish and dramatic energy. Also running through it all like a golden thread is Michala Petri's iridescent playing. She uses the full "chest" of recorders with mercurial ease. This is an unequivocal treat for connoisseurs of fine choral singing and recorder lovers alike.
Malcolm Riley, March 2012
Gramophone Magazine

Fantastic review on The Nightingale in Daily Classical Music
Daily Classical Music
07 March 2012
At various intervals this bewitching CD brings to mind compositions by twentieth century composers from England, Germany and Hungary; viz -- William Walton (1902-1983), Mike Oldfield (born 1953), Carl Orff (1895-1982) and György Ligeti (1923-2006).
Much of the music evokes desolate, glaciated, taiga-tundra landscapes -- Karelia, northern Minnesota.. Equally it (unintentionally?) suggests limitless interstellar voids, as in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Avian life (nightingale, blackbirds and skylark) is visited in sparse, isolated, aerial settings yet joyfully injected via Petri's pure, filigree sopranino and treble imput.
First published (Copenhagen, 1843) in New Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen's yarn is believed to have been inspired by the author's unrequited love for diva Jenny Lind (1820-1887), the 'Swedish nightingale'. 'The Nightingale' has been adapted for opera, ballet, musical play, TV drama and animated cinema.
The first few seconds took me back to 1968 and episodes from Stanley Kubrick's mind-expanding deep-space conundrum 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Listen -- Ugis Praulins: Introduction (The Nightingale)
(track 1, 0:00-1:00) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
However 'The Nightingale' settles down and though much within its length (tracks 1-9) is austere, The Danish National Vocal Ensemble (DNVE) perform with the unanimity and beauty of a precise, finely tuned instrument.
Track 2, 'Nightingale Theme' is part sung, part spoken, and tracks 3 and 4 illustrate the vocal agility/versatility of the Danish (DNVE) singers. Listen for Petri's extraordinary, immaculate solos on tracks 5 and 7, and Praulin's mastery of consistent and instantly accessible vocal writing.
Listen -- Ugis Praulins: The Artificial Bird (The Nightingale)
(track 7, 2:41-4:00) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
His setting of The Nightingale (Danish: 'Nattergalen') by Andersen (1805-1875) tells the fable of an emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled robotic bird to the song of a real nightingale. As the Emperor lies dying the nightingale's song restores his health.
The 'Reprise' (track 9) takes us back to an unsullied yet otherworldly conclusion.
Ligeti works in the Kubrick (1928-1999) movie are (a) Atmosphères, (b) Lux Aeterna, Requiem and Kyrie, and the electronically altered version of (c): Aventures (for 2001's abstruse final scenes).
Somewhere in the 58+ minute Petri/Layton Norse/Faroes experience I believe I caught a ghostly vibration of Tubular Bells (1973), a debut record album of Mike Oldfield, and the first album released by Virgin Records.
Nemesis divina by Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) reveals a little-known side of the great natural historian. A classic of Swedish literature it influenced Stockholm-born playwright, novelist, poet and essayist August Strindberg (1849-1912) and his contemporaries.
A guide to divinity, the book explores the occult operation of a Theologia experimentalis, a 'pragmatic theology', for men and women, Linnaeus' friends and acquaintances.
In retrospect an award-winning poet, scholar and commentator has revised Linnaeus' fascinating and eloquent work in a broad literary and philosophical context, linking it to disparate studies; viz New England Transcendentalism, the subculture of Norwegian Black Metal, ancient Icelandic sagas and contemporary Swedish poetry.
Consequently Nemesis divina is a source of lasting intrigue for scholars in the arts and humanities.
Listen -- Daniel Börtz: Nemesis divina (text: Carl von Linné)
(track 10, 9:23-10:47) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
With Börtz's Linnaeus setting we find passing likenesses to Belshazzar's Feast by William Walton (1902-1983), first performed at the Leeds Festival on 8 October 1931 and echoes of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) utilizing music of György Ligeti (1923-2006). Petri's solos are distantly subsumed into the work as a whole.
Rasmussen's I is the setting of a text by Inger Christensen (1935-2009), a Danish poet, novelist, essayist and editor considered her country's foremost poetic experimentalist. (See the Newsletter from Gehrmans Musikförlag & Fennica Gehrman, Autumn 2006).
In this bleak, contemplative, inward-looking lyric Christensen responds to the austere Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (1917) by American poet and lawyer Wallace Steven (1879-1955).
I is prefaced with the words 'A man and a woman are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird are one'.
Listen -- Sunleif Rasmussen: I
(track 11, 1:08-2:36) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
During the late 1970s Sunleif became aware of 'spectralism', a composition practice where decisions are often informed by the analysis of sound spectra. To some degree it is computer-based using tools like DFT, FFT and spectrograms. The approach focuses on manipulating the features identified through this analysis, interconnecting them, and transforming them.
The approach originated in France in the early 1970s. Its singularly dedicated proponent Tristan Murail (born 1947, Le Havre) describes spectral music as an aesthetic rather than a style, not so much a set of techniques as an attitude -- that 'music is ultimately sound evolving in time'.
Hints can be found at the turn of the nineteenth century; consider traces in Hermann von Helmholtz's On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. In 1907 Busoni published Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst (later translated as 'Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music') with references to microtonal music. Similarities occur in Henry Cowell's New Musical Resources (1930), establishing a relation between acoustics, perception and composition.
Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), poet, Roman Catholic convert, Jesuit priest and professor of Classics, is represented in settings by Peter Bruun, ie The Sea and the Skylark and The Caged Skylark (1918).
Listen -- Peter Bruun: The Sea and the Skylark (Two scenes with Skylark)
(track 12, 3:38-4:46) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
Manley Hopkins achieved posthumous twentieth-century fame establishing him among the leading, traditional Victorian poets. His experiments in prosody (Notably sprung rhythm) and a kaleidoscopic use of imagery distinguished him as a daring innovator in an era of largely regular verse.
OUR Records has captured this winning release with striking fidelity, and recorders with the vocal ensemble are a rarity, realized here with consummate artistry. This is pure magic seemingly bathed in the glow of an aurora borealis. Unmatched recorder; deliquescent choruses. Don't miss it.
Copyright © 14 February 2012 Howard Smith,


Daily Classical Music