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US Magazine Fanfare 4.Review - "Petri is an untouchable talent, but more than that, she is inquisitive, intelligent artist who has made it her responsibility to expand her instrument's repertory."

August 31, 2015

Raymond Tuttle

NORDIC SOUND ● Michala Petri (rcr); Clemens Schuldt, cond; Lapland CO ● OUR 6.220613 (SACD: 69:12)
SØRENSEN Whispering. GUDMUNDSEN-HOLMGREEN Music for 13 Strings—For Axel “Boje.” RASMUSSEN Winter Echoes. CHRISTENSEN Nordic Summer Scherzo. CLAUSEN Concertino for recorder and strings. BORUP-JØRGENSEN Sommasvit
Elsewhere in this issue (look under “Koppel”) I review a disc of “Danish and Faroese Recorder Concertos” written for, and played by, Michala Petri, the ongoing wonder of the recorder world. Much as I like that disc, I like this one even better, because the music is an order of magnitude more gritty. The two composers common to both discs are Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Sunleif Rasmussen, and here, both of them have created provocative, unusual works that should hold up to repeated listening very nicely.
The subtitle of the present release is “Tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen.” Why, you might ask, are we “tributing” him? The answer is that, when he died in 2012, Denmark lost an elder statesman among composers—he was born in 1924—and the recorder lost a great advocate. Michala Petri was like a “second daughter” to him, and his actual daughter, Elisabet Selin, was the only private student that Petri ever had taken on. The new works were premiered at a concert in 2014, and the concert was transmitted all over Europe. This recording, however, is a studio affair from late 2014 and early 2015. Borup-Jørgensen's work, which can be translated “Sommen Suite” (Sommen is the name of an oddly-shaped lake in the southern part of Sweden), was composed in 1957, and it is the only work to have been recorded previously (on the Dacapo label). One might expect it to be pastoral in nature, but it is surprisingly tense.
This is not strictly a recorder disc. Sommasvit is scored for string orchestra only, and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Music for 13 Strings is just that. In the other works, Petri's recorder is sometimes prominent, and sometimes less so. I mention this only because those who are looking for a straight-up collection of music for recorder and orchestra—and with Petri's name on the cover, why wouldn't they expect one?—will want to be aware of this before pulling out their wallets.
I like all of the works on this disc, but I like best the ones that adhere most closely to my understanding of Scandinavia: despite the presence of some rather nice people and socialized medicine, it can be a brutal place. Having been there for extended periods in the winter, and having wandered, nearly lost, along many a rural hiking trail in Sweden, I am speaking from experience. Those cold days in which the sun dies just a few hours after having been fatuously reborn, take their toll. Music for 13 Strings is an impressively dread-full summit between Bartók and Penderecki, marked by lonely sonorities and intensively percussive effects, including snap pizzicati that sound like ice cracking on a lake. Sunleif Rasmussen's Winter Echoes opens with what sounds like a hunting scene from a horror film yet to be created by Danish auteur Lars von Trier, and scored by a terminally frazzled Bernard Herrmann. Bent Sørensen's Whispering whispers in frozen landscape; a broken little melody at its end for the recorder could not be more pathetic. In contrast, Thomas Clausen's neoclassical Concertino is the very model of mental health and Nordic body culture: 20 more minutes of calisthenics and everyone into the sauna! Its Largo is cool and lovely, and its closing Rondo a bracing showpiece for Petri and her little recorder. Clausen is better known as a jazz musician, and this work might surprise his fans from that realm. The Nordic Summer Scherzo by Mogens Christensen is a veritable phantasmagoria of whistling and twittering for both the recorder and strings. It takes the listener to a strange but not unpleasant place.
As I have remarked on many occasions, Petri is an untouchable talent, but more than that, she is inquisitive, intelligent artist who has made it her responsibility to expand her instrument's repertory. The Lapland Chamber Orchestra is a precision-driven ensemble whose members are not fazed by the various technical and emotional demands made by these works.
I'm putting this in my “Want List” pile for the end of the year. I hope you give it your consideration Raymond Tuttle, September 2015

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