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Fanfare (US) 2. Review " A most interesting recording"

May 27, 2017

Colin Clarke

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. 28.05.2017 Fanfare Colin Clarke