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Magazine Howard Schmidt (UK) PURE MAGIC- 'Don't miss it.'

February 11, 2012

Howard Smith

UK internet magazine Howard Schmidt
Pure Magic
Michala Petri and the Danish
National Vocal Ensemble -
heard by
'Don't miss it.'

At various intervals this bewitching CD brings to mind compositions by twentieth century composers from England, Germany and Hungary; viz -- William Walton (1902-1983), Mike Oldfield (born 1953), Carl Orff (1895-1982) and György Ligeti (1923-2006).
Much of the music evokes desolate, glaciated, taiga-tundra landscapes -- Karelia, northern Minnesota.. Equally it (unintentionally?) suggests limitless interstellar voids, as in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Avian life (nightingale, blackbirds and skylark) is visited in sparse, isolated, aerial settings yet joyfully injected via Petri's pure, filigree sopranino and treble imput.
First published (Copenhagen, 1843) in New Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen's yarn is believed to have been inspired by the author's unrequited love for diva Jenny Lind (1820-1887), the 'Swedish nightingale'. 'The Nightingale' has been adapted for opera, ballet, musical play, TV drama and animated cinema.
The first few seconds took me back to 1968 and episodes from Stanley Kubrick's mind-expanding deep-space conundrum 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Listen -- Ugis Praulins: Introduction (The Nightingale)
(track 1, 0:00-1:00) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
However 'The Nightingale' settles down and though much within its length (tracks 1-9) is austere, The Danish National Vocal Ensemble (DNVE) perform with the unanimity and beauty of a precise, finely tuned instrument.
Track 2, 'Nightingale Theme' is part sung, part spoken, and tracks 3 and 4 illustrate the vocal agility/versatility of the Danish (DNVE) singers. Listen for Petri's extraordinary, immaculate solos on tracks 5 and 7, and Praulin's mastery of consistent and instantly accessible vocal writing.
Listen -- Ugis Praulins: The Artificial Bird (The Nightingale)
(track 7, 2:41-4:00) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
His setting of The Nightingale (Danish: 'Nattergalen') by Andersen (1805-1875) tells the fable of an emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled robotic bird to the song of a real nightingale. As the Emperor lies dying the nightingale's song restores his health.
The 'Reprise' (track 9) takes us back to an unsullied yet otherworldly conclusion.
Ligeti works in the Kubrick (1928-1999) movie are (a) Atmosphères, (b) Lux Aeterna, Requiem and Kyrie, and the electronically altered version of (c): Aventures (for 2001's abstruse final scenes).
Somewhere in the 58+ minute Petri/Layton Norse/Faroes experience I believe I caught a ghostly vibration of Tubular Bells (1973), a debut record album of Mike Oldfield, and the first album released by Virgin Records.
Nemesis divina by Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) reveals a little-known side of the great natural historian. A classic of Swedish literature it influenced Stockholm-born playwright, novelist, poet and essayist August Strindberg (1849-1912) and his contemporaries.
A guide to divinity, the book explores the occult operation of a Theologia experimentalis, a 'pragmatic theology', for men and women, Linnaeus' friends and acquaintances.
In retrospect an award-winning poet, scholar and commentator has revised Linnaeus' fascinating and eloquent work in a broad literary and philosophical context, linking it to disparate studies; viz New England Transcendentalism, the subculture of Norwegian Black Metal, ancient Icelandic sagas and contemporary Swedish poetry.
Consequently Nemesis divina is a source of lasting intrigue for scholars in the arts and humanities.
Listen -- Daniel Börtz: Nemesis divina (text: Carl von Linné)
(track 10, 9:23-10:47) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
With Börtz's Linnaeus setting we find passing likenesses to Belshazzar's Feast by William Walton (1902-1983), first performed at the Leeds Festival on 8 October 1931 and echoes of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) utilizing music of György Ligeti (1923-2006). Petri's solos are distantly subsumed into the work as a whole.
Rasmussen's I is the setting of a text by Inger Christensen (1935-2009), a Danish poet, novelist, essayist and editor considered her country's foremost poetic experimentalist. (See the Newsletter from Gehrmans Musikförlag & Fennica Gehrman, Autumn 2006).
In this bleak, contemplative, inward-looking lyric Christensen responds to the austere Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (1917) by American poet and lawyer Wallace Steven (1879-1955).
I is prefaced with the words 'A man and a woman are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird are one'.
Listen -- Sunleif Rasmussen: I
(track 11, 1:08-2:36) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
During the late 1970s Sunleif became aware of 'spectralism', a composition practice where decisions are often informed by the analysis of sound spectra. To some degree it is computer-based using tools like DFT, FFT and spectrograms. The approach focuses on manipulating the features identified through this analysis, interconnecting them, and transforming them.
The approach originated in France in the early 1970s. Its singularly dedicated proponent Tristan Murail (born 1947, Le Havre) describes spectral music as an aesthetic rather than a style, not so much a set of techniques as an attitude -- that 'music is ultimately sound evolving in time'.
Hints can be found at the turn of the nineteenth century; consider traces in Hermann von Helmholtz's On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. In 1907 Busoni published Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst (later translated as 'Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music') with references to microtonal music. Similarities occur in Henry Cowell's New Musical Resources (1930), establishing a relation between acoustics, perception and composition.
Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), poet, Roman Catholic convert, Jesuit priest and professor of Classics, is represented in settings by Peter Bruun, ie The Sea and the Skylark and The Caged Skylark (1918).
Listen -- Peter Bruun: The Sea and the Skylark (Two scenes with Skylark)
(track 12, 3:38-4:46) © 2011 OUR Recordings:
Manley Hopkins achieved posthumous twentieth-century fame establishing him among the leading, traditional Victorian poets. His experiments in prosody (Notably sprung rhythm) and a kaleidoscopic use of imagery distinguished him as a daring innovator in an era of largely regular verse.
OUR Records has captured this winning release with striking fidelity, and recorders with the vocal ensemble are a rarity, realized here with consummate artistry. This is pure magic seemingly bathed in the glow of an aurora borealis. Unmatched recorder; deliquescent choruses. Don't miss it.
Copyright © 14 February 2012 Howard Smith,

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