Fanfare 2 (US) Although I always enjoy Michala Petri's discs, this one is particularly enjoyable, as it contains three previously unrecorded works that serve as something more than mere vehicles for Petri's considerable technical and intellectual virtuosity.
ZAHNHAUSEN Recordare. BOLLON Your Voice Out of the Lamb. KOCHAN Music for Alto Recorder, 25 String Instruments, and Percussion ● Michala Petri (rcr); Christoph Poppen, cond; Odense SO ● OUR 6.220614 (54:04)
Although I always enjoy Michala Petri's discs, this one is particularly enjoyable, as it contains three previously unrecorded works that serve as something more than mere vehicles for Petri's considerable technical and intellectual virtuosity.
Recordare, by Markus Zahnhausen (b. 1965), was composed in memory of the composer's grandfather, who was murdered by the Nazis in Belarus. (The work's title alludes both to the Latin word for “remember” and to the recorder itself.) The composer writes, “In my concerto the recorder functions as an omnipresent first-person narrator who guides the music from beginning to end as the first among equals.” He has structured the work as a diptych, with several subdivisions and contrasting moods. As the work approaches its end, there is extended “Farewell” in which, against very Shostakovich-like high string writing, the quietly chirping recorder, perhaps representing a soul that is winging skyward, takes its leave. It is a most magical ending. Zahnhausen, unlike most of the composers who have written works for Petri, is also a recorder virtuoso. His intimate relationship with that instrument helps make Recordare a very effective work.
Fabrice Ballon (b. 1965) subtitled his concerto “Tribute to Genesis.” Initially, I thought he meant the first book of the Bible, but actually he meant the British prog rock group that had its artistic heyday in the 1970s. And indeed, the title alludes to Genesis's iconic The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album. Thematic fragments from that album are used in this concerto. Now, to be honest, although I like Peter Gabriel's early solo albums, Gabriel-era Genesis usually strikes me as unlistenably pretentious, like the self-importance of a freshman philosophy student at his first college kegger. What a surprise, then, that I was blown away by Your Voice Out of the Lamb, which is one of the most inventive recorder concertos I've ever heard—and I've heard quite a few of them, thanks to Ms. Petri! Bollon's aim was “to write a hyper-virtuoso concerto bordering on the unplayable.” What gives this work its unusual sound is the use of a digital effects unit, which is used to produce loops, echoes, delays, and other effects in the solo part. The orchestral scoring also plays a role. You don't have to like Genesis, then, to enjoy this atmospheric and dynamic concerto, which is neither rock nor classical, but some very interesting thing in between. Bravo, Bollon!
Don't be put off by the objective title of Günter Kochan's concerto, a work revised in 2000 for his pupil Zahnhausen. This is a concerto in seven fairly short movements whose intellectual agility keeps the listener (and the performer) on his or her toes. It may be pure music, but it is purely engaging, as it takes the soloist across a variety of landscapes. Each movement has its own sound, yet the seven of them come together to make a coherent and convincing whole. Kochan divides the strings into solo instruments, and the lightness of the scoring complements the soloist.
There's really nothing that Michala Petri can't do with her instrument, is there? She probably is its most important exponent, in terms of creating a repertoire and developing a modern technique for it. Hearing this CD, one can't help but shake one's head in wonderment. How does she do it? She receives excellent support from Poppen and the Odense Symphony Orchestra, who give as much to these three worthwhile concertos as she does.
This disc goes under the title “German & French Recorder Concertos,” but whatever you call it, it is a particularly impressive addition to the large Petri discography. Recommended, particularly for the wildly entertaining Your Voice Out of the Lamb! Raymond Tuttle