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Fanfare (US)"The indefatigable Michala Petri continues her championship of the recorder repertoire in this beautifully recorded and annotated disc".

February 17, 2019

Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA

AMERICAN RECORDER CONCERTOS  Michala Petri (rec); 3Anthony Newman (hpd); 3Nordic Str Qrt; 1Alexander Shelley, 2Lan Shui, 4Jean Torel, conds; 1Tivoli Copenhagen PO, 2Danish Nat SO; 4Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band  OUR 8.226912 (72:51)
SIERRA Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion1 STUCKY Etudes2 NEWMAN Concerto for Recorder, Harpsichord and Strings3 HICKEY A Pacifying Weapon4
The indefatigable Michala Petri continues her championship of the recorder repertoire in this beautifully recorded and annotated disc. Composer Roberto Sierra’s Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion develops a 2006 piece for recorder and guitar. It is precisely this sort of piece that allows us to rethink what the recorder means (what we associate it with) and what it can achieve. The dark Prelude leads to an habanera that is more like an outline of an habanera; shadowy, elusive and slinky in a specter-like way, it leads to a Perpetual Motion that does exactly what it says on the can, with the underpinning of characteristic Afro-Caribbean rhythms. I very much enjoyed an Albany release of cello music by Sierra played by John Haines-Eitzen (Fanfare 41:5); the sheer vivacity of this “Perpetual Motion” finale reminds us of how alive his music can be. Needless to say, perhaps, but worth restating, that Petri is the nonpareil of recorder players and she is faultless here; the Tivoli Copenhagen Philharmonic is in fine, responsive form under the baton of Alexander Shelley (the son of Howard Shelley, incidentally).
Steven Stucky (1949—2016) was once known mainly as an authority on the music of Lutosławski (I personally remember an excellent lecture he gave at King’s College London to grad students in the early-mid 1980s); now, more and more, we can enjoy his own music. Stucky’s Etudes (Concerto for Recorder and Chamber Orchestra) is a more expressive piece than the title might imply. Each movement has a descriptive title (Scales, Glides, Arpeggios), none of which does justice to the delights inside, particularly in the case of the creeping (and creepy) night music of the central panel. The playing is simply remarkable. All players, not only the soloist, need their full wits about them in the scampering finale: cheeky, glittering, agile, this is magnificent, its virtuoso ed guaranteed to raise a smile. A great follow-up would be Stucky’s Album Leaves and Little Variations for David heard on Gloria Cheng’s Telarc recital (which rightly made it to two critics’ Want Lists in 2008).
The name Anthony Newman needs no introduction to Fanfare readers, surely. His huge output is consistently refreshing, in neo-Baroque style and marked by clarity of line and texture, all features of the little packet of delight that is his Concerto for Recorder, Harpsichord and Strings. Newman himself plays harpsichord. The opening Toccata is busy and expert both from composer and performers (the ripieno is performed by a string quartet) while “Devil’s Dance” has Old Nick in circus mode rather than nightmarish visions. The lower end of the recorder invites us into more interior spaces in the “Lament”; the finale is a proper romp, but listen to how Newman’s harmonies have a magnificent unpredictability about them.
Sean Hickey’s A Pacifying Weapon (2015) has already been issued on an all-Hickey OUR disc reviewed in Fanfare 41:1 reviewed as a download by myself. Interestingly enough, that disc had a neo-Baroque piece also, but that
time by Thomas Clausen (and accompanied by the Lapland Chamber Orchestra). Hickey’s piece’s immediate achievement is to ensure we can actually hear the soloist against such a barrage of wind and brass, but his keen ear and ability to work in plateau of different dynamic levels ensures the soloist more than makes her mark. Reacquainting myself with Hickey’s meditation on contemporary disquiets which uses the solo recorder as the “pacifying weapon” confirmed the stature of Hickey’s utterance. There is a real ear here for finely judged sonorities, and the work sustains its length well via the soliloquizing power of the recorder.
Both the Sierra and the Newman are World Premiere recordings; like the Hickey, Steven Stucky’s piece was released previously by OUR on a disc entitled Movements, there sharing space with music by Joan Albert Amargós and Daniel Börtz. A lavish booklet and detailed notes complete a high-class release. Colin Clarke, 18.02.19

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