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English Recorder Concertos

, G: Suite for Recorder and Strings
Arnold: Recorder Concerto, Op. 133
Harvey, R: Concerto Incantato

Michala Petri (recorders)
City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong/Jean Thorel

OUR Recordings: 6220606

This is possibly the best of Michala Petri's many recordings, especially so for British collectors. There is something to be said for playing them in chronological order as listed above.

Gordon Jacob (1895-1984), a highly respected composer with many commissions for recorder, was prominent during the Dolmetsch era, when I was learning to play the recorder with Walter Bergmann. This Suite, in seven short movements, is one of the best of them.

Malcom Arnold's late concerto for Michala Petri (1988) is more searching, with changing moods and some acerbity - an important addition to the Arnold discography with has been celebrated by Musical Pointers.

For many of our readers, Richard Harvey's major offering (near 30 mins) will be the big surprise.

A highly successful composer of music for movies and TV, he is too a recorder player, and this ebullient concerto for Hong Kong (2009) is lavishly conceived and spiced with references to the Chinese xiao and North American flute. Quick switching between recorders of various sizes is called for, and this major addition to the repertoire deserves much wider exposure.

I leave the best to last.

The production of this CD is exemplary. There are five distinctive portrait photos of Petri by Tom Barnard (one cunningly hidden behind the booklet) and others of her in action; collages with Stonehenge and English countryside in the Peak District, together with superb photos of the world premiere concert in Hong Kong and of the orchestra holding up the traffic!

With overall production by Lars Hannibal and artwork etc by Charlotte E.Z.B.Petersen this is a model booklet, a collector's piece - rather as have latterly become some covers for old vinyl discs, now in vogue with collectors.

All that is missing from the CD is a recording of the "duo encore" for recorders given by Michala and Richard Harvey at the Hong Kong premiere - but no worry, it is here on YouTube for your delectation.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also English Recorder Music (Piers Adams)


21st C. Recorder Concertos

Steven Stucky (b. 1949)
Etudes (2002)

Daniel Börtz (b. 1943)
Pipes and Bells (2002)

Joan Albert Amargós (b. 1950)
Northern Concerto (2005)

Michala Petri
& Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui

OUR recordings: 6.220531 [57 mins]

An exemplary production which brings back to notice the virtuoso recorder player Michala Petri, who used to be heard a lot in UK when she burst onto the scene in the already distant past. Now there are many dedicated soloists, who have raised the standard for this once humble instrument to dizzy heights (q.v. http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/festivals/uk/Greenwich%20%20EMF%202005.htm).

These three ambitious concertante works composed for her are ideally contrasted and show Michala Petri now at the height of her powers. I have listened through twice, the second time in reverse order, which I prefer and adopt here.

The American Steven Stucky's Etudes are sharp, clear and effective, with instrumentation which sets off the solo instrument perfectly. Initially concerned that its range of expression and dynamics would be limiting, he was soon persuaded otherwise, and this is a highly viable work, live or recorded, which deserves widest currency.

Daniel Börtz is a significant Swedish composer who sets the variously sized recorders, using their extended techiques possibilities, against spare but highly effective backgrounds, carrying considerable emotional force. This is the piece I shall return to most often.

Amargós' Northern Concerto is eclectic and colourful, the skilled musician's "aesthetic multiplicity" tending towards the populist, but far from simplistic. A relaxing, hedonistic work that is ideal for ending a listening session. Questionable whether the fragile solo instrument would make itself heard live against the orchestral density - but does that matter? Concert performances are likely to remain infrequent and most listening nowadays is to recordings.

The folding-type packaging (far more attractive than jewel cases) is enhanced by beautiful and intriguing paintings (Lars Physant) and good graphic design. Recording quality and balance can be taken for granted and this is a CD which should enjoy great success.

Do consider it in conjunction with Petri's Thomas Koppel disc (with two recorder concertos composed for her) and Dan Laurin's equally innovative and successful 21st-century music for recorder.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Also enjoyed:


Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos etc (Michala Petri with Lars Hannibal, guitar)
OUR recordings 2007



Chinese & western music (Chen Yue (bamboo flute with Lars Hannibal, guitar)
OUR recordings 2007


These two restful compilations go well taken in tandem. The recorder and the Chinese bamboo flute both have a coolness which gives an attractive slant on the popular music covered in these anthologies. Chen Yeu gives traditional European tunes, but also the Air on the G string and Winter from The Four Seasons. Lars Hannibal partners them both and takes a few solos in the Chen Yue Spirits disc.


Michala Petri at 50

Two more CDs to celebrate Michala Petri's exploration of ever new repertoire for her instrument. She has previously worked with the Chinese traditional flutist Chen Yue, and this disc Dialogue - East meets West brings together a dozen commissions for the duo, half of them by young Chinese composers, the others by young Danish composers.

Some of these are challenging to players and listeners alike. For those of us unfamiliar with the Xiao & the Dizi. It is not always easy to be sure which player is giving which line... A video would help.

The cover image reflects their pleasure in this association; you can also see them playing together (but not this programme) on several short YouTube videos.

The other disc is a live recording with Gidon Kremer's Kremerata Baltica/Daniil Grishin at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, a celebratory birthday concert on the actual date, July 7 2008. It includes a Vivaldi concerto for sopranino recorder, the work Michala has played most frequently throughout her career.

Representing her indefatigable promotion of new music, an interesting work for recorder and string orchestra by Russian composer Artem Vassiliev, not easy listening, well worth getting to know. Michala's interest in Eastern music is represented here by a concertante work The Ancient Chinese Beauty by Chen Yi.

These are both attractive discs, recommended to recorder players and everyone interested in the recorder, as are the others in this expanding series.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Chinese Recorder Concertos
by four contemporary Chinese, Chinese-American and Taiwanese composers:

Tang Jianping’s Fei Ge;
Bright Sheng's Flute Moon;
Ma Shui-long’s Bamboo Flute Concerto; and
Chen Yi's The Ancient Chinese Beauty

Michala Petri with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra/Lan Shui

OUR Recordings 6.220603

All these items are of important musico-historical interest.

Each of the composers, born in 1939 and the '50s respectively, suffered under the ravages of Mao's CUltural Revolution, and their various rapprochments with the West are certainly worth hearing from that perspective.

But the only woman composer amongst them, Chen Yi, who studied composition at Columbia University and became a professor of composition at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, is the one whose concerto (and other music of hers) would likely find a welcome place on the European concert scene.

The performances, recording and background information are all splendid and, with those caveats, the disc is to be warmly welcomed.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Petri & Hannibal at Cadogan Hall