The Cambridge Critique (UK) "Blue’ is brilliant"
The Cambridge Critique (UK)
Scandinavians have the answer to everything at the moment. Liberal, relaxed they remain, even as they maintain a cool night life, fail to panic and at the very same time still fling open their doors – and their hearts - to refugees. Lars Hannibal, the composer/performer star of this album, is intimately involved in a swathe of Third World projects and international initiatives.
But what about the music? ‘Blue’ is brilliant. If you need to chill in a good way, Lars on his guitar will drift you into that Danish landscape beloved of their most famous composer Karl Neilson, who so loved his native country and its unique countryside and culture, he felt alienated anywhere else.
“From my childhood” he wrote “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature”. Lars Hannibal, a major figure in contemporary Danish music appears to have the same light, unmistakable engagement in the joyousness of his homeland.
Baltic Recording Studio have produced a very cool album indeed. ‘Blue’ has overtones of Lars Hannibal’s early influences listening and performing the work of Bob Dylan and even Joni Mitchell- the album title Blue is surely homage (copyright clearly now expired) to her greatest work. He performs now, in true Scandinavian style, with his ex-wife and musical partner of fifty years, Michala Petri and their two daughters, Agnete Hannibal Petri cello and Amalie Hannibal Petri who has been performing since she was seven years old (she’s now 24) and has the most beautiful , voice; her compositions sung in English rely on harmonics , all the more plangent for their simplicity. The melodies are haunting, but their plain nature belies the layers of musical experience below the presentation. And the performance world behind this album is immense. Michala alone has had more than 150 pieces composed especially for her talents, including major works by Sir Malcolm Arnold and Michael Berkeley. Her own compositions claim the title of first of the Crossover/World Music/ indie album – entitled Going to Pieces without Failing Apart (it sounds as if the characteristic cool was at cracking point here) and celebrates her world-class facility on the recorder (one to put on after a session listening to any child practising first notes on that easily-annoying instrument?). ‘The ensemble have toured the globe and are a special success in China ; their repertoire now includes some distinctly oriental sounds. In Britain, so far from habitués of folk clubs, their last performance was in the Wigmore Hall.
Amalie’s haunting voice, her mother’s lovely playing, the quiet control of father Lars’ guitar and sublime strings of Agnete create a soothing Northern antidote to the current maelström. Many English composers have tried to evoke the beauty and chill of the Scandinavian world, My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land by our own Edward Elgar, leaps to mind but this distinguished Danish ensemble truly conjures through wonderful instrumentation and lovely song, the spirit of Denmark, its landscape and admirable cultural attitude at its heart.
Out on Naxos this week, or see October 1th,- Anne Carvey