cd reviews
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Michala Petri, recorder
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord
BACH
6 Sonatas for recorder
Bach - 6 Sonatas for recorder
11 October 2019

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Great Dutch review!
Ben Taffijn, Neuwen Noten
17 September 2019
De blokfluit is een onderschat instrument. Het zal komen door het gebruik op scholen dat het niet door iedereen als volwaardig wordt gezien. Onzin natuurlijk, beluister maar eens één van die blokfluitconcerten uit de Barok. Met name de Italianen hebben heel wat virtuoze concerten geschreven. De blokfluit is in de hedendaagse gecomponeerde muziek echter wat minder goed vertegenwoordigd, iets waar de fameuze Michala Petri al jarenlang verandering in probeert te brengen.
Met succes, want na eerdere albums met blokfluitconcerten, uitgebracht door Petri’s eigen label OUR Recordings, uit Denemarken, Engeland, Duitsland en Frankrijk en China, ligt er nu, met als titel ‘American Recorder Concertos’, een nieuwe met concerten van de Amerikaanse componisten Roberta SierraSteven StuckyAnthony Newman en Sean Hickey.
‘Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion’ heet het stuk van Sierra, dat hij oorspronkelijk in 2006 schreef voor blokfluit en gitaar en in 2016 bewerkte voor blokfluit en orkest. Direct in de ‘Prelude’ krijgt Petri de kans te schitteren met een vederlichte melodie, terwijl de Tivoli Copenhagen Phil, onder leiding van Alexander Shelley een feeëriek klankpalet hanteert.Een sfeer die zich doorzet in ‘Habanera’, maar nu aangevuld met een subtiele vorm van ritmiek. De ritmiek bereikt een hoogtepunt in ‘Perpetual Motion’, met als bijzonderheid het energieke en aanstekelijke duet blokfluit – slagwerk. Stucky voelde aanvankelijk die hierboven genoemde weerstand tegen de blokfluit, tot hij Petri hoorde spelen en besloot om het driedelige ‘Etudes’ te schrijven, waarin Petri wordt begeleid door een al even vederlicht spelend Danish National Symphony Orchestra, onder leiding van Lan Shui. Het eerste deel, ‘Scales’ laat goed horen welke mogelijkheden de blokfluit biedt. Langgerekte klanken en vrolijk gekwetter, of we hier een vogel horen, zet Stucky af tegen een abstract klanklandschap. In ‘Glides’, het tweede deel horen we de invloed van Béla Bartók en Witold Lutoslawski, twee door Stucky zeer gewaardeerde componisten. Maar het is het derde deel, ‘Arpeggios’ dat Petri de beste kans tot schitteren geeft, middels melodische patronen die verwijzen naar de Barok.
Met ‘A Pacifying Weapon’ verwijst Sean Hickey naar de blokfluit, die het opneemt tegen een heel blaasorkest, versterkt met percussie, hier The Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band, onder leiding van Jean Thorel. Niet alleen een leuk gegeven, Hickey verwijst hiermee wel degelijk naar het kruitvat dat de wereld is. Reeds in het eerst deel valt de weldadige toon op van de blokfluit, regelmatig flink contrasterend met het tumult van het concert. In het tweede deel gaat het er een stuk harmonieuzer aan toe. Noem het gerust de stilte voor de storm, die middels golven slagwerk het begin van het derde deel kenmerkt. Maar ook in dit deel blijft de klarinet fier overeind en helder van klank zijn vreedzame boodschap verkondigen, als tegenwicht tegen de duistere ensembleklanken.
Anthony Newman is een vooraanstaand clavecimbelist, gespecialiseerd in de muziek van Bach. Het mag dan ook niet verbazen dat zijn concert voor blokfluit, clavecimbel en strijkers het minst modern klinkt. Er wordt mooi gemusiceerd door zowel Petri als door Newman en het Nordic String Quartet maar de vraag is toch wel een beetje wat zo’n stuk nu echt toevoegt. Newman komt hier toch vooral over als de uitvoerder die ook eens een stuk wil componeren.

Bekijk hier een live opname van ‘Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion’:

Dansk oversættelse 
Blokfløjten er et undervurderet instrument. Det vil være på grund af brugen på skoler, at ikke alle ser det som et fuldt ud værdigt instrument. Nonsens, naturligvis, bare lyt til en af ​​disse blokfløjekoncerter fra barokken. Italienerne har især skrevet mange virtuose koncerter. Blokfløjten er dog mindre godt repræsenteret i den moderne komponeret musik, noget den berømte Michala Petri har forsøgt at ændre på i årevis.

Med succes, fordi der efter tidligere albums med blokfløjtekoncerter, der blev udgivet af Petris eget label OUR Recordings, fra Danmark, England, Tyskland og Frankrig og Kina, nu er en udgivelse, med titlen 'American Recorder Concertos', et ny album med koncerter af den amerikanske komponist Roberta Sierra, Steven Stucky, Anthony Newman og Sean Hickey.

"Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion" kaldes det stykke af Sierra, som han oprindeligt skrev i 2006 til blokfløjte og guitar og i 2016 arrangerede for blokfløjte og orkester. Umiddelbart i 'Prelude' får Petri chancen for at brillere med en fjerlys melodi, mens Tivoli Copenhagen Phil, under ledelse af Alexander Shelley, anvender en eventyrligt klangpalet. En atmosfære, der fortsætter i 'Habanera', men nu suppleret med en subtil form for rytme. Rytmen når et højdepunkt i "Perpetual Motion" med den energiske og smittende duet blokfløjte – perkussion. Stucky følte oprindeligt den førnævnte modstand mod blokfløjten, indtil han hørte Petri spille og besluttede at skrive den tredelte "Etudes", hvor Petri ledsages af et lige så let-spillende Dansk National Symphony Orchestra, ledet af Lan Shui. Den første del, "Scales", viser tydeligt de muligheder, som blokfløjten tilbyder. Langstrakte lyde og munter snak, som om vi hører en fugl her, kontrasterer Stucky med et abstrakt lydlandskab. I "Glides", den anden del, hører vi indflydelsen fra Béla Bartók og Witold Lutoslawski, to højt respekterede komponister af Stucky. Men det er den tredje del, "Arpeggios", der giver Petri den bedste chance for at brillere gennem melodiske mønstre, der refererer til barokken.

Med "A Pacifying Weapon" henviser Sean Hickey til blokfløjten, der tager det op med et helt vindorkester, forstærket med perkussion, her The Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band, ledet af Jean Thorel. Ikke kun en sjov kendsgerning, Hickey henviser faktisk til den smeltedigel, der er i verden. Allerede i første del er den beroligende tone af blokfløjten slående, som en gennemgående kontrast til koncertens tumult. I den anden del er det meget mere harmonisk. Du kan snildt kalde det stilheden før stormen, der markerer begyndelsen på den tredje del gennem bølgende slagværk. Men også i denne del står klarinetten stolt oprejst og forkynder klart sit fredelige budskab, som en modvægt til det mørke ensemblets lyde.

Anthony Newman er en fremtrædende cembalo-spiller, der er specialiseret i Bachs musik. Det burde derfor ikke komme som nogen overraskelse, at hans koncerter for blokfløjte, cembalo og strygere lyder mindst moderne. Der spilles smuk musik af både Petri og Newman og den nordiske strygekvartet, men spørgsmålet er lidt, hvad et sådant stykke virkelig tilføjer. Newman optræder her hovedsageligt som den kunstner, der også ønsker at komponere et stykke.

Se en liveoptagelse af "Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion" her:
 
 
Ben Taffijn, Neuwen Noten

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Danish recorder doyenne Michala Petri turns to America for the latest instalment in her international concerto series, and it’s a stylistically varied quartet of recent works.
Gramophone October issue 2019, Charlotte Gardner
06 September 2019
Gramophone (UK)
Danish recorder doyenne Michala Petri turns to America for the latest instalment in her international concerto series, and it’s a stylistically varied quartet of recent works. First up is Roberto Sierra’s Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion, a 2018 expansion and development of a 2006 composition for recorder and guitar, for which Petri is ably joined by the Tivoli Copenhagen Philharmonic under Alexander Shelley. The recorder occupies centre stage from the off; and with its ornate melismas circling over a pizzicato-strong accompaniment of ghostly harmonies, it’s the perfect vehicle for Petri’s clean, smooth, precise sound. Likewise the final bongo-accompanied ‘Perpetual Motion’, whose shrilly ducking and diving virtuosities are a reminder if any were needed of Petri’s capacity to get her fingers around absolutely anything, no matter how fast, and make it sound like liquid mercury.
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Lan Shui join her for Steven Stucky’s Etudes for recorder and orchestra (2000, written for Petri herself), whose trio of movements – ‘Scales’, ‘Glides’ and ‘Arpeggios’ – explore the orchestra’s palette of colours in a variety of interesting directions, all of which are attacked with artistic gusto by the DNSO. We then switch ensembles once more, as Anthony Newman himself takes the harpsichordist’s part for his 2016 Concerto for recorder, harpsichord and strings: a perkily inventive old-meets-new celebration of the recorder’s Baroque heyday. We wind up with Jean Thorel conducting the Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band in Sean Hickey’s A Pacifying Weapon for recorder, winds, brass, percussion and harp: a 2015 work which has the recorder playing the role of an ancient, gentle protester against the menacing, harsher forces of the contemporary world.
This is a multicoloured, multi-textured, multi-ensemble presentation of interesting, little-known repertoire, casting the recorder in all sorts of different stylistic and emotional guises – which makes it all the more surprising that the actual listening experience has ended up being so very samey throughout. Certainly Petri’s phenomenal technique is as polished and en pointe as ever, and her sound as clear and sweet. However, perfection alone does not make a performance, and there’s a lack of emotional fire and conviction from her here, which has had an anaesthetising effect on the whole. As a result, none of it has grabbed me sufficiently to warrant continued listening once the metaphorical ink has dried on this review.
Gramophone October issue 2019, Charlotte Gardner

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Kudos to all involved.
Grego Applegate Edwards, classicalmodernmusic.blogspot.com
11.July 2019
The recorder saw a peak popularity in the Classical music world with the advent of the Baroque period. The Modern era by contrast has not found the instrument entering the repertoire much at all. But if Michala Petri and the composers represented on American Recorder Concertos (OUR Recordings 8.226912) have their way that could be changing.

Our current phase of Modernity does not have the same attitude about tonality and the lack that the Dodecaphonic composers may have had, not to mention the latter's stylistic need to unveil chromatic non-continuity that in some ways is not inherently idiomatic to a recorder. What that means is that the recorder's ordinarily contiguous diatonicism is no longer necessarily a drawback to the contemporary idiom, provided that composer and player situate the possibilities of the instrument in an adventurous and imaginative use of sequencing and create anew a virtuosity fitting to our times. That means something,

Happily one hears such things on the music of this program. As one gets to know these pieces one does not feel that there has been undue compromise either on the composer's freedom or the player's musicality. The four works we hear in fact sound very much of our time yet too sound very idiomatic to the beauty of the instrument in timbre, intervallic grace, and lyrical earthiness.

Recorder virtuoso Michala Petri has everything to do with the existence of these four works for she specially commissioned them, happily, to redress the general scarcity of recorders on the Modern American compositional scene, especially as full-blown concerted statements.

And so between 2000 and 2016 the four works featured on the program came to being. And now with this release we get to hear all of them in near-ideal conditions with well prepared ensembles and Michala Petri's considerable artistry.

What strikes me about it at first consideration is just how contemporary it all sounds, yet too how each composer has gone forward with each a distinctively original step ahead.

For example harpsichord virtuoso Anthony Newman's "Concerto for recorder, harpsichord and strings" for Michala, Newman on harpsichord and the Nordic String Quartet has a more Neo-Baroque element in play but in no case would you confuse this music with that of the earlier period. It is a delightful romp with some rather incredible recorder pyrotechnics and a Baroque brightness coupled with a Modern freshness.

Roberto Sierra's "Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion" gives Michala and the Tivoli Copenhagen Phil under Alexander Shelley a widely expansive Latin feel as it is a refiguring of a work Sierra originally scored for recorder and guitar. We feel the presence of the initial instrumentation yet also a pronounced color palette coming out of the new timbral possibilities.

Steven Stucky's "Etudes," a concerto for recorder and orchestra, started this series of works in 2000 and grounds our sensibilities in a series of interplays between Michala and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra (under Lan Shui) that show a masterful compositional hand and help spell out for us a new sensibility for the recorder in our contemporary world.

Finally we have at nearly 30 minutes the longest and perhaps most ambitious of the four works in Sean Hickey's "A Pacifying Weapon" for recorder, winds, brass, percussion and harp, this time Michala Petri joining forces with the eminently capable Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Band under Jean Thorel. It is a tour de force with twistingly, fiendishly difficult recorder heroics
against a firebranded windband backdrop contrasted by meditatively ponderous reflective moments.

The promise of the recorder concerto for today has in this way presented itself to us and we find in all ways a virtuoso heroism coupled by a discerning contemporary stance on what constitutes a concerto. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is the unforced outflowing of this music as a natural give-and-take between the instrument, its widened capabilities in the hands of a master performer and the considerable forward leaning imaginations of the four composers and their memorable art on display for us in this program.

I am happy to recommend this album for anyone interested in the instrument and so also in the contemporary concerto as it is evolving in our times. Kudos to all involved.
Grego Applegate Edwards, classicalmodernmusic.blogspot.com

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
As always, Petri´s playing is exemplary
Andrew Mayes, The Recorder Magazine (UK)
20 June 2019
Petri´s unfailing commitment to performing and commissioning new music continues with the recent series of recorder concertos from different countries. All the works here are written for her and the Concertos by Roberto Sierra and Anthony Newman are world premiere recordings. The Newman is really a chamber work – scored for recorder, harpsichord and strings and feels very retrospective. The Steven Stucky was by far the most interesting and successful work for me. Compositionally more complex, the playing and sound quality in this recording with the Danish national Symphony Orchestra stand out. Also includes Concertos by Sean Hickey for recorder and Wind band. As always, Petri´s playing is exemplary. 
Andrew Mayes, The Recorder Magazine (UK)

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
And of course enthusiasts of guitar music will be enthralled as well.
Allan J. Cronin, NEWMUSICBUFF
19 June 2019

OUR recordings (Lars Hannibal, producer) continues its survey of the inexplicably little known Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012).  I first encountered this composer when I received for review the earlier disc of his percussion music (reviewed here) and later when I received the CD/DVD of his orchestral music (reviewed here).  He belongs to a lineage of Danish composers whose work dominated the Danish music scene of the mid to late twentieth century and just a dip in the water of the twenty first.

The lucid liner notes by my esteemed colleague Joshua Cheek put the composer in context where his reputation lives among his contemporaries Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996), Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000), and his students Per Nørgard (1932- ), Ib Nørholm (1931- ), and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (1932-2016).  Indeed these are the names to know if you want to learn about post 1950s classical music in Denmark.

This disc focuses on his guitar music and features the fine young Danish guitarist Frederik Munk Larsen who studied with Erling Moldrup for whom the composer wrote some of his music.  His virtuosity, passion, and commitment to this music are evident in the careful readings of this somewhat diverse music ranging from the Preambula, Op. 72 (1974-76) to the Floating Islands, Op. 169 (2000-2), a series of pieces which, appropriately, float in amongst the other tracks (in non-adjacent tracks).

The recording, as seems to be the standard of this label, is quite excellent and lucid.  This is not a complete recording of the guitar music but a representative selection which will  hopefully lead to another volume of guitar works and a recording of his Guitar Concerto “deja vu”, Op. 99.

There are 19 tracks with most  lasting 5 minutes or less (he is not afraid of brevity when it suits his compositional needs) but the early Preambula, Op. 72 and the Für Gitarre, Op. 86 each take some 15 minutes in performance.  All of the music comes across as carefully crafted and the briefer pieces contain worlds unto themselves as do the longer ones.  No electronics, maybe just a few extended techniques, mostly just good music for the competent guitarist (worthy of note is that the producer, Lars Hannibal is a highly accomplished guitarist himself).

The music is enjoyable but this is also a very important historical document (with excellent documentation) which nicely fills a gap in the historical record of the story of classical music in Denmark.  As a result I will leave it to the listener to peruse the very useful liner notes as they learn of this unique composer’s oeuvre.  And of course enthusiasts of guitar music will be enthralled as well.

Allan J. Cronin, NEWMUSICBUFF

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
A SUPERSONIC Review This is a coherent, stirring program, splendidly played and very well recorded
Remy Franck, Pizzicato
09 May 2019
 
Four modern, but rousing and quite accessible recorder concertos in superb interpretations: Michala Petri's latest CD production delivers excitement in a program of world premieres!
 
'Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion' by composer Roberto Sierra, born in 1953, is a really great piece, immensely well done and exciting, with ample opportunities for Michala Petri to showcase her talents.
Steve Stucky’s Etudes (1949-2016) are a little more modern, but very effective in their own atmospheric way. Michala’s sensitive interpretation draws out each movements hidden beauties! With three highly virtuoso movements (Toccata, Devil's Dance, Furie) and a Lament, Anthony Newman’s (* 1941) neo-classical concerto takes a look over the shoulder at the recorder’s Golden Age. Once again, Michala’s advocacy brings each movement excitingly to life.
Sean Hickey's Concerto for recorder, brass, brass, percussion and harp, 'A Pacifying Weapon', is the most modern piece on the CD and is a personal response by the composer to contemporary but unspecified world events. This may give the music a somewhat threatening character, but it is above all the musical construction and the resulting harmonies that fascinate. Hickey has many ideas and can add them very well to a whole that is effectively presented.
Verdict: This is a coherent, stirring program, splendidly played and very well recorded. 
Remy Franck, Pizzicato

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
A beautiful display of surprisingly rich modern recorder repertoire
FP BBC Music Magazine
01 May 2019
A beautiful display of surprisingly rich modern recorder repertoire. Petri delivers dynamic concertos with crystal-clear tone and perfectly-judged spikiness and lyricism. 
FP BBC Music Magazine

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Any serious collector of contemporary concertos would be foolish to pass this one up
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare USA
05 April 2019
Michala Petri has been playing recorder for all but the first two of her 61 years, and has had about the most distinguished career I suppose it is possible to have short of playing an instrument such as piano or violin that possesses a huge repertory. Her recording career extends well back into the LP era, and she has been presented on major labels such as Philips and RCA. Petri has not been content with the relatively limited concerto repertory for her instrument and has commissioned, performed, and recorded dozens of works from major composers all over the globe. James Altena and Raymond Tuttle, for instance, both reviewed a disc of English recorder concertos in 36:1, and there are at least 90 other reviews of her playing to be found in the Fanfare archive.
This Danish artist has turned to four American composers for the present recital, three of whom have written music I’ve known and loved for years. Only the fourth, Sean Hickey, is a new discovery for me, and an important one. The disc opens with Prelude, Habanera, and Perpetual Motion, a recorder concerto by Roberto Sierra, a composer who is increasingly becoming one of my favorite living composers. The work began its life originally in a version for recorder and guitar, a combination particularly favored by Petri. In fitting the work in its present orchestral garb, the composer has retained a quasi-guitar feeling through significant use of pizzicato in the strings and certain effects in the percussion. Its light scoring allows the recorder to shine in prominence throughout the work. The opening movement calls for many melismas, and is followed by a dark and mysterious habanera that takes the recorder up into the piccolo range on occasion. I had rather forgotten that the instrument (in its soprano family member) could play that high. The last movement features a constant stream of notes from both soloist and ensemble structured into groups of 3+3+2, a grouping commonly found in Latin American music. Throughout the work, Sierra’s imaginative sonorities and harmonies are on full display, and his writing always carries the listener inexorably forward to an exciting conclusion. Along the way, some extremely quick double-tonguing is demanded from the soloist.
The harmonic language of Steven Stucky in his recorder concerto, Etudes, is similar to that of Sierra, but the two pieces do not at all resemble each other on textural or structural grounds. The Stucky work is conceived in rather improvisatory fashion, eschewing much in the way of formal structure. It also features fairly wide use of special effects such as pitch bends, flutter tongue, mutes (in the orchestral instruments: I doubt it is possible to mute a recorder), and the like. Given the pitch bends, the work bears a good bit of resemblance to music I’ve heard (and written) for Native American flute, where such things are the norm rather than the exception. These also serve to give the piece a haunting quality that is usually absent from most recorder works. The Concerto concludes with a frenetic movement, featuring irregular sequences of notes from both solo instrument and ensemble, punctuated by interjections from instruments such as xylophone and temple blocks. This may be my favorite movement on the disc, and is certainly one of the most intricate and tricky to execute.
Anthony Newman’s Concerto eschews all but five instruments in the ensemble, as he restricts the accompanimental forces to a harpsichord (played by the composer) and string quartet. Readers with good memories will recall my very positive reviews of this composer’s (not quite) complete works, and subsets thereof (including a set of his Symphonies) in several reviews. The present work lives up to the high standard he demands of himself, and this ebullient and bubbly work is sheer delight from beginning to end. Newman has carved out his own niche in the American music scene, in that no one else is writing (and likely could write) music like this. He is, in short, the sui generis neo-Baroque composer of our time, and this work is a classic example of this style. Its four movements include “Toccata,” a note-infused busy exercise, “Devil’s Dance,” a tongue-in-cheek bouncy affair, “Lament,” in which Newman bridles his jocularity in favor of a simple and direct soulful song, and the zany “Furie.”
As I mentioned earlier, Sean Hickey is the new discovery for me on the present CD. His music is colorful, extremely well-orchestrated, and full of imagination and life. His A Pacifying Weapon, a substantial (half-hour) concerto for recorder and ensemble of winds, percussion, and harp, is the first combination of such forces I can recall encountering. Because this very performance has been reviewed in previous issues of Fanfare by Ronald Grames, Robert Carl, and Raymond Tuttle, all in 41:1, and by Colin Clarke (twice: also in 42:5), I need not re-invent a wheel that has so capably been created and treated (why is one of those words three syllables and the other only two?) by my colleagues. Suffice it to say that Hickey does an exceedingly good job in keeping forces that could easily overpower a recorder from doing so, and writing a work for a solo instrument that sounds like none other I’ve heard. I was greatly impressed by it and will be on the lookout for more music by this Detroit-born composer.
Michala Petri’s playing on this recital gives ample evidence why she is nonpareil in the recorder world. I simply cannot imagine these works any better performed. If there is another recorder player out there that could even match her pitch and tonguing accuracy, her musical expressiveness, and her ability to vary the very timbre of her instrument, in fact, I’m unaware of whom that might be. Her playing is superbly supported by the four different ensembles utilized in this concert. Any serious collector of contemporary concertos would be foolish to pass this one up. 
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare USA

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Petri is, of course, a genius
Rick, CD HotList - New Releases for Libraries (US)
05 April 2019
 
Petri is, of course, a genius
As the press materials point out, “it is one of the great ironies of the recorder´s long historie, that despite being ubiquitous in nearly every American public school program, few composers ever explored writing for it.” Be that as it may, luckily we have the international treasure that is virtuoso recorder player Michala Petri, who has commissioned for showpieces of contemporary classical recorder music: each of them written as a concerto… from Roberto Sierra´s and Steven Stucky´s work for recorder and orchestra to Anthony Newnan´s piece for recorder, harpsichord and string quartet and Sean Hickey´s for recorder with winds, brass, percussion and harp. Most of these pieces (two of which are presented here in world-premiere recordings) are bracingly modernist, though Newman´s hark back very explicitly to the recorder´s glory days during the baroque period. Petri is, of course, a genius.
Rick, CD HotList - New Releases for Libraries (US)

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
10/10/10
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute, Germany
13 March 2019
Seit nunmehr 12 Jahren veröffentlicht das kleine dänische Label OUR Recordings eine bislang beispiellose Anthologie zeitgenössischer Blockflötenkonzerte, die im Auftrag der vielfach preisgekrönten Blockflötenvirtuosin Michala Petri entstanden sind. Fürwahr eine Herkulesaufgabe und wahre Heldentat für das vielfach immer noch unterschätzte Instrument, das nicht zuletzt dank Michala Petri inzwischen auch die großen Konzertsäle der Welt erobern konnte. Mit einer Einspielung von amerikanischen Blockflötenkonzerten geht die Serie vorerst zu Ende, und wieder ist dem Team um Lars Hannibal und Michala Petri ein wahres Juwel gelungen: Vier Konzerte wie sie unterschiedlicher nicht sein könnten und doch alles Meisterwerke sui generis. Zwei der vier Kompositionen sind tatsächlich Wiederveröffentlichungen: Steven Stuckys 2000 entstandene Etudes, ein sich mit vertrackten Rhythmen, rasanten Skalenbewegungen, Glissandi und sich über Orgelpunkten und Ostinati entwickelnde athmosphärischen Klangflächen entfaltendes Werk ganz eigener Art. Ein schöner, lohnender Rückgriff auf Movements, die erste CD der Serie aus dem Jahr 2007. Sean Hickeys 2015 entstandenes dreisätziges Konzert A Pacifying Weapon (sinngemäß übersetzt: ein Werkzeug des Friedens) für Blockflöte, Bläser, Schlagzeug und Harfe war bislang nur auf Vinyl greifbar. Das Stück erhielt übrigens die Goldmedaille der Global Music Awards 2017. Für ein zeitgenössisches Blockflötenkonzert ganz sicher eine Premiere und eine „große Bühne“ für das Instrument!
Die beiden anderen Konzerte der CD entstanden eigens für diese Zusammenstellung. Zwar handelt es sich bei Roberto Sierras Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion um die „Bearbeitung“ eines bereits früher für das Duo Petri/Hannibal komponierten Kammermusikwerkes für Blockflöte und Gitarre, doch gewinnt das Stück in dieser völlig neuen Fassung enorm an Charakterschärfe und Ausdruckskraft, deren atmosphärische Dichte sich im Live-Mitschnitt der Uraufführung aus dem Kopenhagener Tivoli vom Sommer vergangenen Jahres widerspiegelt und sich geradezu magisch überträgt. Anthony Newmans Konzert für Blockflöte, Streicher und Cembalo aus dem Jahr 2016 (hier in einer Version mit begleitendem Streichquartett) erfüllt mit seiner neoklassizistischen Grundhaltung, Zugänglichkeit und Spielfreude alle Voraussetzungen, ein viel gespieltes Werk des Gegenwartsrepertoires zu werden, zumal es besetzungsmäßig ein treffliches Pendant zu barocken Solokonzerten darstellt.
Heinz Braun, Klassik Heute, Germany

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
The recorder is now a full-fledged citizen of the 21st century.
Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare USA
11 March 2019
My first impression of American Recorder Concertos was that it might be a sequel to Michala Petri’s Movements, a disc which I very favorably reviewed in Fanfare 32:2. However it’s actually the most recent of a tantalizing series devoted to recorder concertos from around the word, including Chinese Recorder Concertos, English Recorder Concertos, Danish & Faroese Recorder Concertos, with Pacific Recorder Concertos, South American Recorder Concertos, and Middle East Recorder Concertos still to come. Assuming these meet the standard set by Movements and American Recorder Concertos—and there’s no reason to presume otherwise—these discs must comprise a fascinating introduction to international contemporary recorder concerto repertoire. This newest release presents an inspired program of colorful, imaginative, and highly individual music that beautifully complements Petri’s phenomenal mastery. Just a portion of what so impressed me would include Sierra’s delightful second movement, Habanera, his third movement Perpetual Motion’s inviting 3+3+2 rhythm that prolongs the Latin ambiance, and the same movement’s conga and recorder cadenza; Stucky’s ingenious, high-flying recorder figures, superb orchestration, and sense of humor; Newman’s backwards glance at Elizabethan music that retains all the vitality and melodic appeal of the originals; and Hickey’s full-blown, almost brutal fanfares balanced by dream-like recorder solos, the numerous dance-inducing passages, and the last movement’s unexpected toe-tapping Scottish Highland reel. As Movements stunningly demonstrated previously, the recorder is now a full-fledged citizen of the 21st century and should no longer be pigeonholed as a Renaissance or Baroque holdover. Enthusiastically recommended
Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare USA

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
Has anyone done more to expand the recorder's repertory than Danish musician Michala Petri?
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare USA
04 March 2019
These four works are further proof that there is no need to “Make America Great Again.” Any country that can produce four concertos that are so different, and yet so consistent in terms of their quality, must already be great, even without any help from the nation's leaders!
                             Of course it helps when you, the composer, are working with a first-class soloist. Has anyone done more to expand the recorder's repertory than Danish musician Michala Petri? The booklet note states that more than 150 works have been composed especially for her. All of the concertos on this CD were written for her in 2015 or more recently, with the exception of Steven Stucky's Etudes, which date from 2000. (One notes with sadness that Stucky passed away in 2016, a victim of brain cancer.) Stucky's work is in three movements whose titles (“Scales,” “Glides,” and “Arpeggios”) are the only introduction that the music really needs, other than to say that the music is not about developing the soloist's technique; these are not exercises any more than Swan Lake is an evening at the barre! Stucky's work is rich in affect, and the central movement, in particular, creates a fascinating, open-ended emotional space.
                             The title of Roberto Sierra's three-movement work also is a more than adequate description of its contents. The first two movements are cloaked in mystery. The third bursts into the daylight, and with its Latin rhythms and turns of phrase, reminds us that Sierra was born in Puerto Rico. The original version of this work was for recorder and guitar; even so, Sierra's expert and colorful use of the orchestra perfectly complements the recorder's timbres.
                             The Concerto for Recorder, Harpsichord, and Strings is one of Anthony Newman's most successful works. Newman built his career as a sometimes unconventional performer on keyboard instruments, and mostly in the Baroque repertory. His latter-day activity as a composer has sometimes been so personal that I am unsure how to approach it. The present work, however, is very inviting in the way that it integrates looking back and looking forward. Once again, the movement titles (“Toccata,” “Devil's Dance,” “Lament,” and “Furie”) just about speak for themselves, and for the concerto as a whole.
                             I reviewed Sean Hickey's A Pacifying Weapon as an mp3 download in Fanfare 41:1. I liked it, with minor reservations, then, and like it no less now. The title is taken from a song by the Indigo Girls, but for us older farts, think of the film The Day the Earth Stood Still and you'll have a frame of reference. Given the use of multiple recorders, and an ever larger percussion instrumentarium, this piece, because of its theatrical tone, probably works better experienced live. Hickey, born in 1970, is by far the youngest composer here, and is more than a decade younger than Petri herself. He doesn't embarrass his elders, however, and, to mention another science fiction classic, we will treat A Pacifying Weapon as a promise of Things To Come.
                             The material on this CD was recorded over a period of 12 years in four different venues. Despite that, there is no variability in the awesomeness of Petri's talents, and there are no jarring differences between the recordings themselves, or between the accompanying musicians. I would have liked it if Petri's instruments had been identified because, as you probably know, a recorder is not a recorder is not a recorder; it is not atypical for a piece she plays to call on more than one of them. That said, the booklet is certainly adequate, and the performances are fare more than that. 
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare USA

Michala Petri, recorder
Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
American Recorder Concertos
The indefatigable Michala Petri continues her championship of the recorder repertoire in this beautifully recorded and annotated disc.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA
18 February 2019
The indefatigable Michala Petri continues her championship of the recorder repertoire in this beautifully recorded and annotated discComposer Roberto Sierra’s Prelude, Habanera and Perpetual Motion develops a 2006 piece for recorder and guitar. It is precisely this sort of piece that allows us to rethink what the recorder means (what we associate it with) and what it can achieve. The dark Prelude leads to an habanera that is more like an outline of an habanera; shadowy, elusive and slinky in a specter-like way, it leads to a Perpetual Motion that does exactly what it says on the can, with the underpinning of characteristic Afro-Caribbean rhythms. I very much enjoyed an Albany release of cello music by Sierra played by John Haines-Eitzen (Fanfare 41:5); the sheer vivacity of this “Perpetual Motion” finale reminds us of how alive his music can be. Needless to say, perhaps, but worth restating, that Petri is the nonpareil of recorder players and she is faultless here; the Tivoli Copenhagen Philharmonic is in fine, responsive form under the baton of Alexander Shelley (the son of Howard Shelley, incidentally).
Steven Stucky (1949—2016) was once known mainly as an authority on the music of Lutosławski (I personally remember an excellent lecture he gave at King’s College London to grad students in the early-mid 1980s); now, more and more, we can enjoy his own music. Stucky’s Etudes (Concerto for Recorder and Chamber Orchestra) is a more expressive piece than the title might imply. Each movement has a descriptive title (Scales, Glides, Arpeggios), none of which does justice to the delights inside, particularly in the case of the creeping (and creepy) night music of the central panel. The playing is simply remarkable. All players, not only the soloist, need their full wits about them in the scampering finale: cheeky, glittering, agile, this is magnificent, its virtuoso ed guaranteed to raise a smile. A great follow-up would be Stucky’s Album Leaves and Little Variations for David heard on Gloria Cheng’s Telarc recital (which rightly made it to two critics’ Want Lists in 2008).
The name Anthony Newman needs no introduction to Fanfare readers, surely. His huge output is consistently refreshing, in neo-Baroque style and marked by clarity of line and texture, all features of the little packet of delight that is his Concerto for Recorder, Harpsichord and Strings. Newman himself plays harpsichord. The opening Toccata is busy and expert both from composer and performers (the ripieno is performed by a string quartet) while “Devil’s Dance” has Old Nick in circus mode rather than nightmarish visions. The lower end of the recorder invites us into more interior spaces in the “Lament”; the finale is a proper romp, but listen to how Newman’s harmonies have a magnificent unpredictability about them.
Sean Hickey’s A Pacifying Weapon (2015) has already been issued on an all-Hickey OUR disc reviewed in Fanfare 41:1 reviewed as a download by myself. Interestingly enough, that disc had a neo-Baroque piece also, but that
time by Thomas Clausen (and accompanied by the Lapland Chamber Orchestra). Hickey’s piece’s immediate achievement is to ensure we can actually hear the soloist against such a barrage of wind and brass, but his keen ear and ability to work in plateau of different dynamic levels ensures the soloist more than makes her mark. Reacquainting myself with Hickey’s meditation on contemporary disquiets which uses the solo recorder as the “pacifying weapon” confirmed the stature of Hickey’s utterance. There is a real ear here for finely judged sonorities, and the work sustains its length well via the soliloquizing power of the recorder.
Both the Sierra and the Newman are World Premiere recordings; like the Hickey, Steven Stucky’s piece was released previously by OUR on a disc entitled Movements, there sharing space with music by Joan Albert Amargós and Daniel Börtz. A lavish booklet and detailed notes complete a high-class release.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare USA

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar music is seldom pretty in any conventional sense of the word
Raymond Tuttle
17 January 2019
To me, it is remarkable, given the difficulty of this music, that is has been only a little more than a year since several Fanfare staffers reviewed a different CD devoted entirely to Axel Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar music. That one featured guitarist Leif Hesselberg (joined, in some works by a second guitarist, Maria Camitz), and was released on the Paula label. Surprisingly, these is very little duplication of repertory between that disc and the new one reviewed here, so if you enjoyed the first one, little should hold you back from exploring the second.
Borup-Jørgensen, who died in 2012, composed extensively for the guitar. That, in large part, is because accomplished guitarists wanted music from him—not just Hesselberg, but also Ingolf Olsen, Erling Møldrup, Maria Kämmerling, and Per Dybro Sørensen. All of the works on these CD were written for one of those individuals. Frederik Munk Larsen was a student of Møldrup, so he has a connection with at least one of Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar muses. While he looks young (he was born in 1974, though—I guess Scandinavians don’t age like the rest of us!) Larsen has the maturity required to give this music sufficient space in which to breathe.
The composer frequently used natural harmonics in these works. Natural harmonics are produced by “lightly placing a finger in the middle of the string while plucking, resulting in a very high, pure sound.” In fact, the 10 pieces in “floating islands” (we hear just four of them here) use nothing but natural harmonics, which creates a very ethereal sound.
But let’s not confuse “ethereal” with “pretty.” Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar music is seldom pretty in any conventional sense of the word. In his later works, melody and a clear sense of pulse disappear entirely. Given the brevity of pieces such as “floating islands” and the four sections of Tristrophoni, perhaps it is natural to think of Webern, but filtered through a stripped-down, Scandinavian purity of thought and economy of gesture.
However, two earlier works on this CD, praeambula and “für gitarre,” are relatively lengthy—both just over 15 minutes—and less minimal in style. Structurally, they are easier to grasp, but they are more confrontational. The latter, in particular, frequently asks the guitarist to execute violent “Bartók” snaps,” in which the guitar’s strings are pulled back so hard that they rebound against the fingerboard when they are released. At times, the acoustic guitar is made to sound like its electric cousin. At other times in Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar music (not just in the two longer works), the guitar actually ceases to sound like a guitar at all, but more like a new type of electronic instrument.
For me, this uncompromising music inspires more respect than affection, but perhaps the latter will come in time. It’s pretty serious, intense stuff. I don’t doubt the composer’s integrity, nor his mastery of alternate guitar worlds. Frederik Munk Larsen plays this music with fierce concentration, even when the dynamics are quiet, quieter, and quietest, as they often are in the later works. 

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
Interview with Frederik Munk larsen
Martin Andersson
16 January 2019

Although this is the third Fanfare interview I have conducted to talk about the music of the Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924–2012), all triggered by recordings of his music on OUR Recordings, he probably remains an enigmatic figure, even to Fanfare readers. A brief characterization of his music may therefore be useful. Perhaps the composer closest to him among familiar names is Webern and, like Webern, what initially appears to be Modernism is in fact an intense lyricism—brittle, even fractured at times, but still essentially lyrical.

In 40:2 I talked to Erik Kaltoft about the piano music (released on 6.220616), and in 40:4 Jens Christensen spoke to me about the organ music (on 6.220617). Now the spotlight falls on Frederik Munk Larsen, whose album of guitar music by Borup-Jørgensen has come out on 8.220672. Four larger works—Tristrophoni, op. 163 (2000), praeambula, op. 72 (1974–76), the five morceaux that constitute op. 73 (1974–75), and “für gitarre,” op. 86 (1978–79)—are framed by five of the ten aphoristic “floating islands” which make op. 169 (2000–02). I gave Munk Larsen a Skype call at his home in Århus to talk about this sphinx-like music.

Erik Kaltoft told me that he had known Borup-Jørgensen for some 40 years; you are from a younger generation, although you reveal in the booklet that you, too, knew him personally.

Yes, Erik knew him more intimately than I did; he knew him for a bigger span of years. I knew him roughly for 10 years, and during that time I collaborated with him maybe five or six times, on different works, both chamber music and solo works. So I didn’t work with him on all the solo works that I have recorded here.

It’s my suspicion that all the major composers were somewhere on the autistic scale: Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Alkan, Janáček, Prokofiev—take almost anyone you want, and there’s a degree of social dysfunctionality. And Borup-Jørgensen seems to fit that profile pretty convincingly, too.

Well, he could appear shy, but he also had a strong will. And when you played a concert in the Copenhagen area, he was always there, you would always see him, always dressed in the same white clothing. And in his music, too, he seems to be somewhat stubborn. He doesn’t stop using his material; instead, all the time he finds new ways of dealing with it. He’s adventurous in the way that he uses those building blocks, but he tried to put them together in different ways; and so in that sense I feel that his music is personal. He cared about the music, he cared a lot about the language he had found, and then he stayed with it for at least a number of years. You will see in some of the music for the guitar—like praeambula, which is one of the first works, or in morceaux, and in another work which I didn’t record, Praeludien, which is a kind of condensed version of praeambula—he doesn’t use the material up in one piece; he re-uses it and refines it in various ways.

One of the particular characteristics of Borup-Jørgensen is that, whereas almost all the traditional composers—Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Sibelius, Nielsen, say—take their basic building blocks and expand from them, Borup-Jørgensen seems to burrow into his material, as if he were putting it under the microscope.

Yes, he was interested in more sparse music, you could say that. Some of the pieces I was almost afraid to record were these “floating islands,” because the material is only natural harmonics, and at first when you start to work on them, it’s difficult to find a structure. But for me these were the pieces that grew the most on me—and a few of them I really find hauntingly beautiful.

One can imagine this music being conceived on a calm summer night—it has an essential stillness about it, but that makes it so much more exposed than something which is more energetic.

Yes, the intimacy in the music is something closer to how I see him as a person, even though I knew him only when he was quite aged. But that was when he also wrote this music. He was really devoted to the guitar—well, to a number of instruments, but including the guitar. As a singular composer, he was not so easy to influence. He was a singular voice on the musical landscape of Denmark, at least, and I don’t find many like him in general. He seems to be both knowledgeable and coherent about what he does, and at the same time writing in a way that is distinctive.

There’s a quotation from Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen in Josh Cheek’s booklet notes which set me wondering: “He has a Swedish quality in his music, and one can almost hear the Swedish forests and the special melancholy which is found in Swedish art”—but I find the music so pared down that I can’t find that kind of local color in it at all.

Maybe it’s because when you go to Ystad, you find these landscapes that are quite bare! Of course, it’s difficult for me to know what Pelle meant. Pelle’s music is also sparse, and he was also a special character and composer, of course. But they shared the same kind of qualities, even if Pelle was working in the orchestral mainstream much more than Axel was. Of course, we can’t now ask Pelle what he meant [he died in 2016], but for me it is more an absolute music. Axel really has this music inside that he wants to express, and he has this well of given material that he is dealing with to make it work even better. But even though I feel that he really knows what he wants to say, some of the things he writes are very ambiguous, like forward, but not too much; still, but with movement, that kind of thing.

The booklet notes mention one instruction: quasi un poco crescendo—how do you play that?

Yes, there are a lot of things like that. He wants something, but on the other hand you have to be careful. It’s not like someone saying I want it but I don’t want it; it’s more like he wanted it but you should be aware. There’s a carefulness. He was a neat, little man, and the way he spoke was very precise and accurate.

Did he have any kind of regional accent in his Danish? Could you tell that he had spent part of his childhood in Sweden, for example?

Yes, he had a peculiar accent, actually—he was very singular also in that sense! But I think he liked that; I think he liked to stand out a bit, since his habits were as they were.

It strikes me that, for all the qualities of the piano and the organ works, music of this intimacy is suited to the guitar best of all, because of the delicacy it can offer.

Yes, he was certainly very intimate with the guitar. You’ve probably seen the images of him with his own kind of fretboard that he worked with. He really loved the guitar, and this kind of static, soft, intimate soundworld that subtly evolves, at least in the later music—there it really fits the instrument.

Well, one can’t imagine Fabergé working with steel or concrete.

No, that’s for sure! I was very happy to be asked to make this recording, and both to rediscover and to discover some of the works I had heard briefly but I hadn’t played before. So it has been great for me to take on this challenge for OUR Recordings.

What percentage of the guitar music is here? Is it most of it, half of it?

It’s most of it. There are a few works missing. There’s something called Fabula, but it’s very closely related to the “floating islands”; and then there’s the Praeludien, which is basically a revised (shorter, condensed) version of the praeambula. So you couldn’t say that all the opus numbers are there (there are these two that are lacking, and a few of the “floating islands” are not there), but I would say that all the material is there, so it’s about 85 percent of the music.

How much of it had you played before you took it into the recording studio?

I had studied the big one, praeambula, before, and I had played morceaux and “für gitarre,” but I didn’t play Tristrophoni or “floating islands” before. I had played Praeludien, which I didn’t record, but I thought it was more interesting to plunge into his first major attempt with the guitar, praeambula. There are a lot of qualities in the piece, though it’s also unpractical to play, and quite demanding.

A lot of composers have trouble when they’re faced with a guitar, since they’re not exactly sure how to write for it. How idiomatic is Borup-Jørgensen’s writing for the instrument?

Well, I wouldn’t say that he wrote in a very idiomatic way, but he always knew what he wanted. And he was always carefully checking that it was possible or feasible to play something on the instrument. You still have to work with it, and work with the fingering. He certainly knew the instrument, and I feel that his music is written for the instrument but it’s still his music, it’s absolute music—it’s not like he changes his way of writing because it’s for guitar, as some composers tend to do.

On my relatively superficial acquaintance with the music, I’m not sure I could identify a developmental path in these pieces if I were handed them out of chronological order. Can you hear an evolution here?

In the sense that the material is so very specific and partly identical in praeambula and morceaux, and these are the earliest pieces. Then there is some material in common with “für gitarre,” which is also an earlier work, but that’s the next step, and there he’s using other elements also. But then certainly I feel that the newer works—Tristrophoni and “floating islands”—are more related, much more softly spoken. They don’t contain the same harshness. Tristrophoni is still gestural, but it’s more controlled, it’s made with a finer chisel. Both have a lot of details and have a larger form. In that sense I feel a development. And also, like you said, maybe the most significant development is that he uses a microscope to zoom in on it. In the “floating islands,” if I recorded them all, there would be something like half an hour of natural-harmonic pieces, mainly consisting of the same elements. It might be an interesting record, but it would be quite static. So my idea was to place these pieces, well, like islands across the recording to tie it together. That was the basic idea.

In my experience, the best albums are those that maximize contrast within their basic parameters, and that can’t be so easy with this music.

Well, I did aim to get some kind of curve in the recording, some kind of linkage. I was thinking more that I should have some places where I can link pieces and some places where the stillness of the intermezzi, the “floating islands,” is cut by something very abrupt, very loud or very gestural. That was my intention.

When you get something like the Bartók snaps of “für gitarre”, in this context they come across as almost violent.

Yes, they are quite violent.

I talked before about your taking the music into the “recording studio”—but the church of Fredensborg Castle is some studio! It’s the first time I’ve seen a CD with an acknowledgement to a king or queen among the credits, and there’s Queen Margrethe II listed with everybody else.

We had permission from her personally to do it there; I was very happy about that. We needed a place relatively near to Copenhagen that would be the most peaceful. There are lots of nice halls, of course, but with many of them you are close to traffic. Then we talked about the Slottskirke [castle church] of Fredensborg; Hannibal [Lars Hannibal, co-founder of OUR Recordings, whom everyone calls by his family name, since there are rather fewer Hannibals than Larses in Denmark] simply asked them and he got permission. They [the royal family] were there at the time, and we of course had to follow protocol so as not to disturb them. It worked out, luckily, even though at one point the grass needed cutting with a lawnmower.

How do audiences react to Borup-Jørgensen’s music?

Very differently. It depends on the audience, of course, but mainly very positively.

I imagine it needs careful planning—if you were to put it on after, I don’t know, Barrios or Villa-Lobos, it’s so different that people might not know how to react.

Yes, it is very different. Maybe I would rather put it next to Bach or something more of an absolute character. You mention Barrios and Villa-Lobos, which is very good music, of course, but it is conceived very much more with the instrument. Even though I like to mix programs with older and more accessible music and modern repertoire, I’m always a little bit careful. But in general I’m not afraid to put in some of his works—of course, the miniatures and something like morceaux—and these pieces can work really well. I played them last year on a tour of Colombia, and the audience really liked it. But a piece like praeambula both takes a lot of courage, because it’s a really demanding piece, and it’s long, and the difficulty is to be clear enough to hold the attention of the listener for that long span.

When I was talking to Erik Kaltoft, I mentioned that I found the piano music had a ritual quality, and the kind of formal elegance you get in a Japanese stone garden. It’s a pity there isn’t guitar music by composers like Ockeghem—it would sit quite well with music from that late-Medieval/early-Renaissance period. It might go quite well with Bálint Bakfark, for example.

Yes, that’s true. I know that music, of course, but I never played it in concert. I was thinking about programming it with some of the fantastic music that was written for the Renaissance lute or the vihuela, or some of the fantasias by Luis de Milán—music that also has a kind of flow but that is quite still.

  BORUP-JØRGENSEN “floating islands, ” op. 120/0, 2, 5a, 5b. Tristrophoni, op. 163/1. praeambula, op. 72. morceaux, op. 73. “für gitarre, ” op. 86 Frederik Munk Larsen (gtr) OUR 6.220672 (SACD: 51:03)

 

 


Martin Andersson

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Borup – Jørgensens fantasi om havet er et hovedværk i dansk musik
Valdemar Lønsted, Newspaper Information, Denmark
09 January 2019
Information (DK)
Borup – Jørgensens fantasi om havet er et hovedværk i dansk musik
Axel Borup-Jørgensen kunne have sagt med Mahlers ord: Min tid vil komme. For det er sket inden for de sidste år, og samme profeti kunne også gælde den engang så foragtede Rued Langgaard. To markante udgivelser beviser til fulde, hvor store komponister de var.
Marin er titlen på en dobbeltudgivelse, der rummer en dvd og en cd med værker af Axel Borup-Jørgensen, og tilmed får man et smukt filmportræt af ham. Dens helt særlige attraktion er dvd´ens animerede undervandsfantasi som et visuelt parallelspor til orkesterfantasien Marin, som man kunne kalde et modstykke til Claude Debussys tre skitser til havet, La Mer. Animationen af en verden på havets bund er et eventyrligt visuelt kunststykke, som så at siger suger lytteren ind i Marin og faktisk hjælper til at følge med den uhyre komplekse strøm af klange og rytmer.
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012) var for så vidt en sjælden fugl i det danske komponistreservat, en del år ældre end triumviratet Nørholm, Nørgård og Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Han voksede op i Sverige i tæt kontakt med svensk natur og kultur, han begyndte at studerer på konservatoriet i København i 1946, gik stille med dørene og blev først for alvor opdaget af offentligheden, da han vandt DR´s komponistkonkurrence i1960. Førsteprisen førte til en bestilling af et nyt stort værk til radiosymfonikerne med sig, det blev Marin, som fik sin uropførelse i 1970 underledelse af Herbert Blomstedt. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen kaldte det siden for et enestående mesterværk i den danske orkesterlitteratur.
Stilhed og usynlige strømme
Borup-Jørgensen fik altså sit livs chance for at komponerer for det fuldt udbyggede symfoniorkester, og han lod den ikke passere. Det var bevidst, at han valgte et program til musikken, for han ønskede at komme i kontakt med publikum, og med et digt om havet-sådan kan man godt forestille sig, han tænkte om sin plan-skabte han sig et stort og udfordrende spillerum.
Han skitserede en udvikling ikke helt ulig Debussy: opvågnen før daggry, høj sø, glitren i sollyset, havblik, brænding, storm. Og for Borup-Jørgensen var det vigtigt, at ingen rytmiske mønstre eller klangkombinationer så vidt muligt skulle gentage sig, sådan som havets rytmer og farver heller ikke gør det. Intet måtte træde for tydeligt frem, der skulle være en helhed af klang, ingen egentlige temaer, men et perpetuum mobile uden begyndelse og slutning, hvor så at sige hvert instrument både spiller selvstændigt og lader sig opsluge af lyden fra de andre.
Det er så påfaldende, at animationen af Marin foregår på havets bund, hvor stilhed og usynlige strømme hersker i en verden af lyse pastelagtige farver. Det kunne ligne havfolkets habitat som hos H. C. Andersen, der er bjerglandskaber, og en by med sælsomme huse, forladte rum og korridorer, og alt går antydningsvist for sig med væsener, der bevæger sig elegant og målbevidst gennem elementet.
Med Borup-Jørgensens suggestivt omsluttende musik aner man åbenbaringen af et foruroligende mysterium, med de levende billeder fastholdes koncentrationen om musikkens nu. Det er en forunderlig dobbelthed.
Thomas Søndergård og radiosymfonikerne folder det ødsle partitur ud med en imponerende indforståethed, men måske skal den største ros gå til produceren Preben Iwan, som har indfanget de mange instrumentalstemmer i en mesterlig detaljeringsgrad. Bliv derefter klogere på den store komponist i filmportrættet, hvor han selv kommer til orde og bliver beskrevet af det før omtalte komponisttriumvirat, datteren Elisabet Selin, Michala Petri og mange andre. I 2018 modtog Marin-udgivelsen den tyske Grammy for bedste musikproduktion på dvd/blue-ray, og den er nomineret til en af DR´s P2- priser i 2019. 
Valdemar Lønsted, Newspaper Information, Denmark

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
I strongly recommend this for all who appreciate New Music for guitar. Bravo!
Gregory Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review,US
04 January 2019
Danish composer Axel-Borup-Jorgensen (1924-2012)  is one of those 20th century musical figures it takes some time to appreciate. I have covered a number of albums of his music on these pages and perhaps only now with this new album of music for guitar named Floating Islands (OUR Recordings 8 220672) do I feel like I have learned thoroughly his musical language. Nearly an hour of Borop-Jorgensen solo guitar works are the order of the day, played articulately and elegantly by Frederik Munk Larsen.

Four pieces from the"Floating Island" series are included, as well as five more works in single or multiple parts. It is generally High Modernist in its structural harmonic edginess with a syntax all his own. "Islands" is an apt description, as often the works phrase in single or short multiple units, each in itself a floating body to to speak. So they may be harmonics, staccato chords, softly-voiced simultaneities, singular notes or short phrases, you name it. Each section hangs together and poeticises a guitar sound in depth.

It is refreshingly pristine music that holds its own and continues to fascinate each time you hear it. I strongly recommend this for all who appreciate New Music for guitar. Bravo! 
Gregory Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review,US

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
10/10/10 in jeder Hinsicht Referenzcharakter besitzt. Eine großartige Produktion!
Heinz Braun
18 December 2018
 
Für den Gitarristen Lars Hannibal, spiritus rector des audiophilen dänischen Labels OUR Recordings, war die Aufnahme von Gitarrenmusik Axel Borup-Jørgensens mit seinem jüngeren Kollegen Frederik Munk Larsen, wohl eine Herzensangelegenheit. Damit reiht sich auch diese CD in die bereits bestehende, beeindruckende Liste exemplarischer Einspielungen von Werken Borup-Jørgensens auf OUR Recordings ein.
Nicht vielen Komponisten ist oder war es vergönnt, dass ihr musikalisches Erbe so intensiv, liebevoll und kompetent gepflegt und der Öffentlichkeit zugänglich gemacht wird! Insbesondere Elisabet Selin (der Tochter des Komponisten), Lars Hannibal und seinen durchweg exquisiten Interpreten und phänomenalen Tonmeistern ist es zu verdanken, dass Borup-Jørgensens Name nicht in Vergessenheit gerät, mehr noch – zu einer ungeahnten Blüte und internationalen Anerkennung gelangt ist. Erst vor Kurzem wurde die (ebenso von OUR realisierte) sensationelle CD/DVD-Produktion von Borup-Jørgensens orchestralem Hauptwerk „Marin“ mit einem OPUS Klassik ausgezeichnet. „Floating Islands“ präsentiert eine Auswahl solistischer Gitarrenmusik des Komponisten, aufgenommen in der fabelhaften natürlichen Akustik der Kirche von Schloss Fredensborg, nördlich von Kopenhagen. Für Borup-Jørgensen und seine musikalische Klangwelt, deren kompromisslose Seriosität und häufig introspektive Qualität eine stete Verfeinerung erfuhr, schien die Gitarre ein geradezu ideales Instrument zu sein. Mitte der Sechziger Jahre entdeckte der Komponist die Gitarre für sich, inspiriert vom bedeutenden dänischen Gitarristen Ingolf Olsen. In welch hohem Maße er sich die Idiomatik des Instruments zueigen gemacht hat, bezeugt nicht allein die nicht unerhebliche Anzahl von Werken, die er für und mit Gitarre hinterlassen hat, sondern auch die Tatsache, dass sie – zu Recht – heute auch international zu den Meilensteinen des zeitgenössischen Gitarrenrepertoires gezählt werden. Was den Einsatz „moderner“ Spieltechniken anbelangt, war Borup-Jørgensen zunächst eher zurückhaltend. Ab Beginn der 2000er Jahre jedoch faszinierten ihn zunehmend die klanglichen Möglichkeiten des Flageolettspiels auf der Gitarre – soweit, dass er in „Floating Islands“ (den hier in Ausschnitten quasi als „Intermezzi“ zu hörenden zehn Miniaturen) ein Werk schuf, das ausschließlich aus Flageoletten besteht und den Hörer in eine surreale, unerhörte Klangwelt entführt, in der die Zeit still zu stehen scheint. Zwischen diesen – wie es der Komponist ausdrückte – „Inseln, die auf der Stille schweben“ erklingen weitere zentrale Gitarrensolostücke Borups aus den Siebziger Jahren, an denen sich die stilistische Entwicklung und Verfeinerung seiner Schreibweise sehr gut ablesen lässt. Über die legendäre Klangqualität, die gewohnt großzügige Ausstattung des Beihefts voll wertvoller Einblicke (hier in Gestalt des hervorragenden Einführungstextes von Joshua Cheek) sowie die ebenso dezente wie exzellente graphische Gestaltung muss man keine Worte verlieren. Mit Frederik Munk Larsen hat Borup-Jørgensens Musik ihren idealen Interpreten gefunden: technisch souverän und musikalisch die in jeder Hinsicht Referenzcharakter besitzt. Eine großartige Produktion! mit großer Ruhe und Einsicht gelingt ihm eine Einspielung

Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
Frederik Munk Larsen
Floating Islands
GUITARMUSIC
Remarkable, demanding but infinitely rewarding music in impeccable performances
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
17 December 2018
 
The music of Axel Borup-Jørgensen has impressed me previously on a number of occasions. The “animated fantasy” MARIN made my 2018 Want List (it was reviewed in full in Fanfare 41:4), while a disc of recorder music shattered any ideas of expected gentilité from this instrument (Fanfare 37:5). Perhaps the most immediately memorable, though, was a SACD of organ music played by Jens Christensen (Fanfare 40:4).
So here we turn to a predominantly gentle side of the composer in the expert hands of Frederik Munk Larsen, Associate Professor and head of the classical guitar program at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark. His technique clearly knows no bounds; his performances of Borup-Jørgensen’s music speak of the highest devotion. The title of the present disc is that of the most prevalent piece, floating islands; as we contrast Borup-Jørgensen’s changing compositional voice from the earliest pieces (praeambula, 1974, revised 1976, morceaux, 1974/75 and für gitarre, 1978/79) to the later (Tristophoni, 2000, floating islands, 2000/02), we find an increased emphasis on natural harmonics in the more recent pieces. In floating islands, op. 169:0, we hear a piece verging on the audible written only in harmonics, each precisely notated (the title comes both from the idea of those harmonics as islands of sound and from the great poem The Dead Pan by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, specifically the four lines beginning at, “Can your mystic voices tell us/Where ye hide? In floating islands …”), while the Webernian brevity of the four movements of Tristophoni (heard here in its first version) speak of a remarkable concision. Natural harmonics again feature, in panels of the utmost beauty; Borup-Jørgensen revels here, as elsewhere on the disc, in the “softening” of dissonant intervals via the timbral voice of the guitar.
The 1976 revision for the first recording of praeambula is what is heard here. A quarter-hour piece subdivided into some twelve sections plus coda, the work explores a set of moods (it was originally intended to be a set of pieces but the material demanded a larger canvas). That first recording by Erling Møldrup is available on a Danacord disc entitled Early Morn; it is impossible to claim a preference between Larsen and Møldrup, as both play with full dedication and concentration. Importantly, praeambula’s material would turn up again in the op. 73 morceaux (included here), the op. 76 Preludien and the Guitar Concerto, op. 98, subtitled “déjà-vu”. Most importantly, perhaps, there is great beauty here; if the underlying story of this disc is the love Borup-Jørgensen has for the guitar and the gentleness he finds at the instrument’s core, it is perhaps in praeambula that we find its surest and clearest manifestation. The morceaux, op. 73, while taking its material from praeambula, contains maximal contrast in its brevity (the third movement is just over two minutes but the rest vary between 35 seconds and just over a minute).
The extended für gitarre uses “Bartók snaps,” wherein the guitar string is forcibly plucked so it rebounds against the fingerboard. This piece seems particularly harmonically complex, and all the more enigmatic for it. Larsen’s performance is faultless.
Many of Borup-Jørgensen’s works are published by Editions-S, and indeed Larsen gives an introduction to Borup-Jørgensen’s guitar works (in English) on the publisher’s website: http://www.edition-s.dk/media/guitarist-frederik-munk-larsen-talks-about-the-guitar-music-by-axel-borup-jørgensen. Our thanks are surely due to the Danish OUR Recordings label for its continuing belief in Borup-Jørgensen’s music. Production standards, from the intimate, perfectly judged recording to the booklet notes, are of the very highest. Remarkable, demanding but infinitely rewarding music in impeccable performances. 
Colin Clarke, Fanfare
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E-mail: hannibal@michalapetri.com
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