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CD Spotlight, Australia "Remarkable Playing .. '... Michala Petri is a champion of this instrument.'

November 18, 2015

Geoff Pearce,

CD Spotlight, Australia

Remarkable Playing
Danish and Faroese
recorder concerti -
enjoyed by
GEOFF PEARCE
'... Michala Petri is a champion of this instrument.'

This is another CD featuring the great Michala Petri playing music from her homeland. All the works were written for her, and two are first performances. The quality of the recording on this Super Audio CD is first class, even on a conventional player, and the performances are exemplary.
The first work is by Thomas Koppel, who came from a well-known Danish family. His sister is well-known to Australian audiences as a leading soprano with Australian Opera during the 1970s and 80s. Thomas, whilst trained in classical music, was a force in rock music before returning to classical during the last fifteen years of his life. This piece, Moonchild's Dream, written during the last year of his life, 'focuses on the hopes and dreams of a little girl living in the south harbour district of Copenhagen, one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods'. As the most readily accessible of the works on this disc, I think it will be enjoyed by all.
The first movement, 'Largo Fluente', has a lovely rhapsodic opening section which is meant to evoke the play of light across the surface of the harbor in the morning.
The second movement, 'L'istesso tempo ...', is, largely, a recorder and violin duet. This lovely, evocative music represents the dreams and hopes of a still innocent young girl. The tempo picks up and the mood darkens, but never threateningly so, and then the music reverts back to the earlier calm. This music has an ethereal quality, and is lovingly orchestrated.
Moonchild dreams of being a dancing princess in the third movement, marked 'Prestissimo'. The speed of Michala Petri's articulation in this enchanting and refreshing music is amazing. The middle section is dominated by an eerie cadenza where the soloist is accompanied by an extremely quiet roll on the bass drum, to which is later added some string clusters. The earlier calm returns briefly but is not convincing — the dream has been shattered.
The last movement, 'Largo ...', opens with thudding percussion. The concerto's opening cantilena is repeated in the recorder, but an octave higher. This beautiful but bitter sweet music is wistful, as if the child's dream will never be realized.
The next work, Chacun Son Son (2014), by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, is a fifteen minute concerto for recorder and orchestra. This is a play on the French phrase A Chacun son goût (originally 'to each their own taste', but here becoming 'to each their own sound'). In many ways this is the most challenging work here for the listener, but the disc provides good programme notes, and as long as you approach the work with an open mind, you'll be beguiled by the ever-changing textures, the commitment of the performers and the wit of the composer. It's well worth a listen.
The final composer is Sunlief Rasmussen, born on the Faroe Islands, and his concerto, Territorial Songs, was written in 2009. The piece is inspired by a couple of lines in Italo Calvino's novel Mr Palomar. Mr Palomar was very taken with birdsong. The work takes the idea of how birds use songs to mark out their territories, and how their songs will change when there are incursions. The composer extended this idea to the sections of the orchestra, and he has some groups of players (which may not be on stage but in other places around the hall) play independently of the conductor. It is as if these groups are marking their own territories.
The opening movement, 'Leggiero', opens with tubular bells, and the recorder soon joins in with birdsong-like patterns which are broken by orchestral interjections.
It runs into the next movement (as they all do). The second movement, 'Misterioso', is nebulous, often veiled, and the texture is constantly changing which adds to the restless nature.
'Espressivo' has a sort of gamelan percussion effect, interspersed with brass interjections and figures of rapid repeated notes in the recorder.
I think 'Tranquillo' is the emotional heart of the work. In a haunting section towards the end of this movement, the recorder player has to sing and play at the same time. Michala Petri does this so well, and the effect is beautiful.
The last movement, 'Leggiero', both virtuosic for the soloist and dramatic at the same time, provides a kaleidoscope of sound and a suitable ending for this work.
This disc contains remarkable playing by the soloist and orchestra, and the music is quite interesting and varied. I enjoyed it all, but I think the first piece, Moonchild's Dream, will appeal to most people. It is great to see so much new music being written and recorded for recorder and orchestra, and Michala Petri is a champion of this instrument.
Copyright © 19 November 2015 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia