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Music Web International (UK)He takes the recorder up high, infiltrates troubadour warmth and has constructed a rich, warm, avid setting, clearly responding to Andersen’s texts with imagination and flair.

March 10, 2012

Jonathan Woolf

Ugis PRAULINS (b.1957)
The Nightingale (2010) [28:01]
Daniel BÖRTZ (b.1939)
Nemesis divina (2006) [13:55]
Sunleif RASMUSSEN (b.1961)
“I” (2011) [9:05]
Peter BRUUN (b.1968)
Two scenes with Skylark (2011) [8:30]
Michala Petri (recorders)
Danish National Vocal Ensemble/Stephen Layton
rec. August 2011, Christianskirken, Copenhagen
Texts included
OUR RECORDINGS 6.220605 [59:22]

These are all world premiere recordings and feature the combination of Michala Petri’s flute, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble directed by Stephen Layton, and some enjoyable new music from Swedish composer Daniel Börtz, Latvian Ugis Praulins, the Dane Peter Bruun and Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen.

Praulins’ 2010 The Nightingale takes a text after Hans Christian Andersen (in English) broken down into nine sections, or eight tableaux and a reprise to be strictly accurate. It’s better known as The Emperor and the Nightingale. This is directly communicative, aurally piquant music, so different from the sterile, audience-denying academism still sometimes to be found. Startling glissandi and rich contrast animate the music, so too antique-sounding airs, and succinct evocation and romance. Rasmussen utilises Petri’s technical adroitness at fast tonguing, and there are plenty of opportunities for bird imitation, whether real or mechanical – in the latter case adding mechanical, rhythmic, jagged qualities too. He takes the recorder up high, infiltrates troubadour warmth and has constructed a rich, warm, avid setting, clearly responding to Andersen’s texts with imagination and flair.

Nemesis divina was written by Börtz in 2006. The text is by Carl von Linné, better known as Linnaeus (1707-1778), the botanist and physician. Petri employs, as instructed, multiple recorders from tenor to sopranino, and this vests the music with plenty of colour. Fortunately Börtz is a subtle colourist and his richly voiced choral writing works well. The recorder lines perhaps evoke Messaien but there is a strong and questioning independence in the writing, and a sense of things remaining incomplete in the final lines of the text.

An equally well structured work is Rasmussen’s “I”. The recorder’s often incessant commentary adds to the density of the solo and choral writing, leading to a visionary and raptly beautiful recorder meditation as the work draws to a close. Finally Bruun’s Two scenes with Skylark takes two poems by Hopkins — as with all the other texts, they are set in English, a tribute to the linguistic superiority of the vocal ensemble. In The Sea and the Skylark the lark ascends against the crash of the sea, a vehemence conveyed with precise calibration; so, too, the rather dour interpretation of the stark last lines of the poem. Bruun vests The Caged Skylark with a stuttering rhythm, and this proves effective.

Each of these composers has his own strong voice and his own way of reconciling the recorder, or recorders, with choral and/or solo voices in these settings. There is variety here, an exploration of a precise sound-world, a sensitive exploration of text and sonority, and a — never simplistic — wish to communicate with fellow performers and with listeners.

Jonathan Woolf, March 2012