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US Magazine Fanfare 2. review - This compelling program is enhanced by the fine musicianship of the soloist (which is a given), and the strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra under Schuldt.

August 9, 2015

Phillip Scott

NORDIC SOUND • 1Michala Petri (rec); Clemens Schuldt, cond; Lapland CO • OUR 6.220613 (69:12)
SØRENSON Whispering1. GUDMUNDSEN-HOLMGREEN Music for 13 Strings. RASMUSSEN Winter Echoes1. CHRISTENSEN Nordic Summer Scherzo1. CLAUSEN Concertino for Recorder and Strings1. BORUP-JØRGENSEN Sommasvit.
Under the collective title "Nordic Sound", this celebratory compilation is dominated by the adventurous Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri. The first five works premiered in 2014, and were written for a memorial concert to the final composer on the program, Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012). He had been a close friend to Petri and her family, and was also well known to each of the other composers. Following the concert in October 2014, the musicians made this studio recording. The tribute pieces all employ a small string orchestra, with four featuring Petri as soloist. (Larger concertos for recorder and full orchestra by Sunlief Rasmussen and Pelle Gundmundsen-Holmgreen may be found on another new release from Petri on this label.) Although it sometimes happens that multiple tribute commissions produce hastily conceived "occasional music" or obvious imitation, that is not the case here. Each of these works boasts a musical voice with a strong, individual profile.
Borup-Jørgensen's five-movement work for string orchestra (Sommasvit, Op. 24) was composed in 1957. His musical style is aptly defined in Joshua Cheek's notes as "a finely-wrought, nature-inspired modernism". The title Sommasvit refers not to the season of summer (as I first presumed), but to an area of Sweden called Sommen: an archipelago containing several lakes and forest areas. The work depicts the course of a day in Sommen¬¬––its movements are titled Morning, Midday, Afternoon, Night and Epilog¬¬––but this is no idealized pastoral vision. Borup-Jørgensen's evocative writing for his chamber string forces creates a colder, more austere picture. At just over 11 minutes, the Sommasvit proves to be a succinct and powerful piece of music.
Something of this toughness appears in four of the tribute works, notably in their harmonies, although the composers' individual aims are quite different. Whispering by Bent Sørensen (b. 1958) is an elusive, ghostly sound-picture, making a feature of the recorder's note-bending technique. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Music for 13 Strings is perhaps closest to Borup-Jørgensen in its rigor and rugged dissonance. The Faroese composer Rasmussen's Winter Echoes virtually bubbles with activity, depicting the ferocity of Nordic winter, and allows Petri's remarkable technical facility free reign. Nordic Summer Scherzo by Mogens Christensen is similar in its nature painting, although slightly warmer. Here, the composer's use of the high-pitched descant recorder allows for the effective imitation of birdcalls, while his string writing is notable for pizzicato effects and the use of extreme high and low registers. The recorder's closing high note has to be heard to be believed. (This is my favorite among these short but arresting works.) Finally, the Recorder Concerto by Thomas Clausen (b. 1949) takes us out of the woods and into a neoclassical musical world. In four short movements, it is melodic and tonal, providing a pleasant and bracing interlude amongst the nature pieces.
This compelling program is enhanced by the fine musicianship of the soloist (which is a given), and the strings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra under Schuldt. Their detailed, sensitive playing, honed in concert beforehand, is captured in excitingly realistic sound. Phillip Scott