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FANFARE (US) 3 - " This is not a recital that needs to be analyzed. It was meant to be enjoyed, and there's nothing about the music or the performances that would get in the way of that. If you're looking for something that's relaxing but not soporific, and music that won't make you feel talked down to, Garden Party is heartily recommended".

August 2, 2017

Raymond Tuttle


GARDEN PARTY ● Michala Petri (rcr); Lars Hannibal (gtr) ● OUR 6.220619 (57:43)
NIELSEN Humoresque Bagatelles. HANNIBAL Dreams. Sunset Dance. LALO Fantaisie Norvégienne. CHRISTIANSEN Garden Party. GRIEG Lyric Pieces: Leaping Dance; Elves' Dance; Cattle Call; Lullaby; Stumping Dance. TRAD/ZHANG WEILIANG Ge Xie Mei Ling
Michala Petri never sleeps. This must be the third CD of hers that I have reviewed in the last 12 months. I have yet to hear anything from her, however, that sounds routine or casual, so I have no reason to complain. Bring 'em on, Ms. Petri!
This CD is identified as a collection of character pieces, defined (in the Oxford Dictionary, and quoted in the booklet note) as “A short composition intended to evoke a given mood, atmosphere, scene, etc. by purely musical means rather through text or dramatic action.” For Petri, such works, because they bear a descriptive title, let audience members know what the composer had in mind, and therefore listeners are made to feel “safe.” In this way, a shared listening experience is created. Petri also writes about her 25 years of performing with Lars Hannibal, who was not just her musical partner but also her marriage partner up until 2010. They have made many CDs together and this one, although Petri plays a starring role, nevertheless reveals the ongoing sympathy and support that they have for each other as musicians.
Asger Lund Christiansen's Garden Party, a suite of six sketches based on birds (the blackbird, the chaffinch, etc.) was composed for Petri and Hannibal. It's a charmer, and I particularly liked how the cuckoo, more clueless than aggressive, has the very last word in his duet with the wagtail, as if he hasn't realized that the piece has ended! The works by Nielsen and Grieg were composed for piano. The former's Humoresque Bagatelles sound very unlike Nielsen, and I suppose that's because a) they are early works; and b) they were composed for children. They work beautifully when played on a recorder and a guitar. The selection of five Grieg works is described as “Lyric Pieces,” but to be picky about it, I think several of them actually are from that composer's Op. 17 collection of 25 Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances. Because the recorder is, in a sense, a folk instrument, music in a folk style is particularly well suited to it. Listening to these selections by Christiansen, Nielsen, and Grieg I was reminded of those beloved old “Duets With Spanish Guitar” LPs in which guitarist Laurindo Almeida partnered with flutist Martin Ruderman. Petri and Hannibal give off very similar “good vibes.”
Lalo's Fantasie, probably most familiar in its version for violin and orchestra, also exists in a version for violin and piano. It has never seemed particularly Norwegian to me, and it seems even less so in this version for recorder and guitar, but that doesn't matter, given how nicely Petri and Hannibal play it. It has plenty of atmosphere; just don't expect Scandinavia! I would have thought that Hannibal's two pieces were composed for him and Petri. Surprise—he wrote them for a chamber ensemble. Dreams was inspired by Satie's Gymnopédies, and, more indirectly, so was Sunset Dance. These are lovely, quiet works, and they exert a hypnotic charm. The closing work is Zhang Weiliang's adaptation of a traditional Chinese tune whose title is translated as “Flowering [Blossoming?] Flowers at the River Ge.” It is unclear if Zhang Weiliang composed it for recorder and guitar or for some other instruments, but indeed, the recorder imitates Chinese bamboo flutes and the guitar imitates the pipa, the traditional Chinese lute. It brings Garden Party to a quiet and somewhat mysterious close—just perfect!
Petri, as usual, plays several recorders on this CD, and Hannibal's guitar gets a page to itself. Both “guitar nerds” (Hannibal's phrase, not mine!) and recorder nerds will experience frissons of quiet delight when they attend this Garden Party. You don't need to be in either of those groups to be delighted with it as well. This is not a recital that needs to be analyzed. It was meant to be enjoyed, and there's nothing about the music or the performances that would get in the way of that. If you're looking for something that's relaxing but not soporific, and music that won't make you feel talked down to, Garden Party is heartily recommended. Raymond Tuttle Fanfare, August 3th 2017