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Fanfare (US) 5 stars: A lovely release in every respect.

October 2, 2020

Robert Schulslaper


In American music, people don’t usually sing the blues when happy, and in the culture at large, to be “blue” is to be sad, depressed, despondent. But while guitarist/composer/arranger Lars Hannibal writes about “the expression of Blue as a mood or state of mind,” to him it’s “The feeling where things flow calmly and freely in a light where both performers and listeners are equally open to let their thoughts and minds wander safely.” As a musician, one way to facilitate this feeling is to write singable tunes supported by simple, direct harmonies. He’s followed that course throughout, and additionally, in the 8 Danish Song arranged for recorder and guitar, he’s chosen “to use only the lower instruments of the recorder family in order to keep this introvert and unflashy ‘blue mood.’” Elsewhere, smaller recorders are used as necessary to reach the higher notes, in the process adding a pleasing liveliness and timbral variety to the virtuosic embellishments.
Stylistically, Hannibal’s compositions are an attractive amalgam of personal melodic style with influences from Baroque, Renaissance, and even Medieval models: passages recalling the great lutenists of old; grounds and descending bass lines of the sort made famous by Pachelbel’s Canon—“one of the most calm and soothing phrases that I know of in music”—and that underpin Chaconnes and Passacaglias; patterns very close to those used by J.S. Bach in several of his preludes; and occasional drones, common to both medieval music and its folksong descendants. Despite Hannibal’s professed emphasis on calm, simplicity, and clarity, the mood is not uniformly laidback: ample scope is given to movement, ornament, and virtuosity, not only in the recorder part but also evident in Hannibal’s skillful accompaniments, cleverly conceived counterpoints, and unobtrusive melodic doublings. As might be expected, he and his longtime duo partner and former wife, Michala Petri on recorder, are always in synch, and their daughters, cellist Agnete and vocalist Amalie are a credit to their musical parents. A singer/songwriter who has recorded with various bands, Amelie’s light, gracefully modulated soprano is a perfect vehicle for the two flowing, nature-inspired songs, Autumn Rain and Springtime Sun, as well as the poignant Magical Thoughts. She’s briefly overdubbed in Springtime Sun, metamorphosing from one singer into three, while for Autumn Rain, Hannibal has added a “subtle far away sound of sampled guitar…in the intro and the deep bass drum in the verse,” the latter symbolizing the earth. In The Moor, a moody recorder solo with something of the character of a lament, Michala Petri, too, “sings,” vocalizing while playing à la Roland Kirk or Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. One more word about the instrumental-only 8 Danish Songs: while they cohere well, the varied tunes, settings, and affects highlight each song’s individuality. Hannibal has arranged two for solo guitar, including C.E.F. Weyse’s Quiet is the night, which, in homage to Spanish guitarist/composer Francisco Tárrega, is the only piece featuring tremolo effects: listen to Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra to truly appreciate Hannibal’s tribute. Addressing folk music’s emotional impetus, Hannibal caps his booklet snapshot of the history and tradition of Danish song with a quote from “The ancient Greenlander Orpingalik from the Netsilil people: ‘Songs are thoughts that are sung out with the breath when people are moved by great virtue and regular speech no longer suffices.”
It’s tempting to end my review there, but I wouldn’t wish to overlook the recording’s fine acoustical qualities, its clear and accurate attention to instrumental and vocal timbres, the warm, subtly resonant ambience, and the carefully nuanced balances. The descriptive booklet sports an evocative cover, an atmospheric landscape captured during the fabled “blue hour” beloved of photographers everywhere, that visually suggests the synergy between music and the Natural World so beautifully rendered by Lars Hannibal in this lovely release. Robert Schulslaper, October 2020
Five stars: A lovely release in every respect
Fanfare Magazine Archive of CD Reviews: BLUE (Lars Hannibal) (fanfarearchive.com)