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FANFARE 2 - "You have been invited to share in a special celebration of a duo of uncommon brilliance and heart, and your attendance is eagerly encouraged".

July 31, 2017

Ronald E. Grames

Collections: Instrumental

GARDEN PARTY  Michala Petri (rdr); Lars Hannibal (gtr)  OUR RECORDINGS 6.220619 (SACD: 57:42)
NIELSEN Humoresque-Bagatelles. LARS HANNIBAL Dreams. Sunset Dance. LALO Fantaisie norvégienne. ASGER LUND CHRISTIANSEN Garden Party. GRIEG Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances, op. 17: No. 1, “Leaping Dance”; No. 3, “Leaping Dance”; No. 18, “Stumping Dance”; No. 22, “Cattle Call”. Lyric Pieces, op. 12/4, “Elves’ Dance”. Norwegian Folk Songs, op. 66/15, “Lullaby”. TRAD/ZHANG WEILIANG Ge Xie Mei Ling
The garden party of the title turns out to be an anniversary party: 25 years together for the recorder/guitar duo of Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal. They played their first concert together, we are told, in Andalusia, Spain in 1992. Now, after more than 1500 concerts in venues all over the world, they are, as I write this, on an extended tour through Denmark and into Germany to celebrate the years of playing together. Some would have chosen a champagne toast over an exhausting series of two dozen plus concerts and masterclasses in the next few weeks, but perhaps the champagne will happen, too. And this in addition to the many demands of running their jointly owned record label, OUR Recordings. Some people have all the energy.
The duo’s 20th anniversary was observed, a bit early, with the 2011 release Virtuoso Baroque (OUR Recordings), exploring a particularly rich vein of their work together. This time they have taken a turn to the lighter side, offering a collection of character pieces, mostly by Scandinavian composers, that have played an important role in concerts through the years. Most originated as piano works, such as Nielsen’s six charming Humoresque-Bagatelles, op. 11, written, it is believed, for his children. These translate easily to recorder and guitar. Grieg’s many character pieces were a natural for this program, with their descriptive titles, jaunty rhythms, and folkish appeal. Édouard Lalo’s Fantasie norvégienne for violin and orchestra was written for Pablo de Sarasate after the violinist provided him with a collection of Scandinavian folksongs. Apparently a tune by Grieg snuck in there, as well. It was first was transcribed by Petri for recorder and orchestra, with some changes in register and small adjustments to the line to accommodate her instrument. It was then transformed into this more intimate form by Lars Hannibal, who crafted all of the guitar arrangements on this disc. As in an earlier recording of this duo version, with Hannibal and violinist Kim Sjøgren (also OUR Recordings), the virtuoso showpiece proves surprisingly effective when played with guitar accompaniment.
Garden Party, the title work, is inspired by birds that friend Asger Lund Christiansen has encountered on forest walks. He avoids the obvious by characterizing the birds portrayed as much as imitating the songs. The six brief avian portraits—clever and amiable—were written for the duo in 1992. Two evocative works by Hannibal are also included. Originally written for the unusual quartet of violin, trumpet, double bass, and electric lute, they are here performed on recorder (alto, tenor, and bass) and acoustic guitar, a combination that seems perfect for these delicate, warm-hearted works. The program ends with a reminder of the Petri/Hannibal Duo’s work with Chinese musicians: a realization of an ancient melancholy Chinese melody by Chinese flute master Zhang Weiliang. It is arranged here for Western instruments, but with an appreciation for Eastern aesthetics and technique. The result is both exotic and deeply moving.
Little needs to be said of the performances themselves. These extraordinary artists would seem to be incapable of anything less than the superlative. They clearly have lavished the same attention on these delightful trifles as on any imposing modern score they have tackled together, and their affection and delight is contagious.
Program notes on the duo, the project, and the music are provided by Michala Petri: interesting, but an odd inference that the Lalo Fantaisie has only recently been rediscovered by their doing is perplexing. Though hardly popular, and overshadowed by the Rhapsodie norvégienne which Lalo partially based on it, it has been recorded a number of times, first by Jacques Thibaud in 1930. And if anyone could be said to have “rediscovered” it, it would be Ruggiero Ricci, who recorded it with orchestra in the late 1970s (Vox). There are also some oddities in the listing of the Grieg works—they are all identified as Lyric Pieces, though only one actually bears that title—and a couple of opus numbers are mixed up between works. The headnote above has them correctly cited.
None of that diminishes an iota the pure enjoyment to be realized from this wonderful program, recorded in the superb sound we have come to expect from this label. You have been invited to share in a special celebration of a duo of uncommon brilliance and heart, and your attendance is eagerly encouraged. Ronald E. Grames, August 1th, 2017

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