All Music America on Cafè Vienna
All Music America
25 July 2010
Café Vienna is an interesting departure for Our Recordings, the label run jointly by guitarist Lars Hannibal and recorder virtuoso Michala Petri. Usually the focus, apart from the outstanding artistry of these musicians, is on contemporary and/or Baroque music, but this collection is centered in the early nineteenth century -- an important period for Hannibal's instrument -- and in Vienna's coffee culture which was raging at the time. For this program, Petri takes advantage of the busker's long tradition of adapting music not written for her instrument, such as the flute or violin. However, in some cases the pieces here are written for instruments even more arcane than the recorder, such as the Csákány in the work by Ernest Krähmer, therefore Petri and Hannibal succeeds in reviving music that would normally not be revived anyway.

North American listeners will take great interest in Carulli's Fantasie sur un air National Anglais, Op. 102, as the "air National Anglais" happens to be "God Save the King," also the tune of an official national anthem in the USA, "America." Variation sets on this tune are numerous in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but as this is a fantasy, once the theme is stated the music goes its own direction in a very attractive way. Another standout is the Beethoven Sonatina in C major, WoO 44a; it's a relatively simple and pleasant tune that fits very well on the recorder and Petri plays this little Beethovenian bon bon with obvious enthusiasm and joie de vivre. There really isn't any weak material on this CD; the only thing that seems to stick out from the rest is the Krähmer as the recorder seems recorded a bit more closely and it's an exceptionally bright track. But the disc as a whole has a wonderfully rounded feel to it that suggests the gently relaxed atmosphere of the coffee house and its special blend of aromas, the musicianship is top flight and Our Recordings' Café Vienna would make for a great counterpoint for Saturday afternoon gardening and other relaxing activities that require some measure of concentration -- the music is as warm and agreeable as a cup of coffee, but will not compete with one's train of thought
All Music America

Interview with Michala Petri and Chen Yue in AllMusic Blog
AllMusic Blog
14 April 2010
Michala Petri & Chen Yue: A Dialogue Between East & West
May 1st, 2009 | 7:11 am est | Uncle Dave Lewis

Recorder virtuoso Michala Petri is a long established phenomenon in the classical music world, and as a performer she is quite astounding. While the average enthusiast would be happy to get a decent tune out of the recorder, Petri can pull off ripping glissandi that can make one's hair stand on end or find shades of dynamics on the instrument one would not think possible. While many of the classical music ingenues who first appeared circa 1980 have moved on to other pursuits, Michala Petri remains busier than ever. In recent years, she and her husband, classical guitar virtuoso Lars Hannibal, have been running a label called OUR Recordings, which has swiftly established itself as one of the world's premier artist-led recording concerns. Petri and Hannibal travel the world as a performing duo, and in China, Hannibal discovered Chen Yue, who is to Chinese bamboo flutes what Petri is to the European, wooden variety. To record Chen Yue and Michala Petri together, an entire repertoire had to be created, as there was no standing literature combining recorder and Xiao or Dizi. Nevertheless, the association has thus far produced two outstanding discs, Spirits and Dialogue. In our dialogue with Michala Petri, AMG's Uncle Dave Lewis spoke with Michala Petri and Chen Yue via phone from Denmark.

AMG: Michala, you have been quite busy lately, releasing both the Dialogue CD with Chen Yue and this in-concert album with Kremerata Baltica celebrating your 50th birthday. Not all women — particularly among classical music artists — are quite so forthcoming with their ages. What led to you to come forward with that information in such a public forum?

Michala Petri: I always enjoy having a reason to celebrate something, especially when it involves celebrating along with musicians I like very much, like the Kremerata Baltica. I'm very down to earth, and I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind accepting things they way they are — so I'm 50 years old, that's just the way it is! I would never try to put across myself to be something that I'm not, and actually, in all things possible I feel honesty is best. It gives more room for experiencing real life.

AMG: Previously on your OUR Recordings label you have done an album with Chen Yue entitled Spirits, which is largely made up of melodies drawn from both Danish and Chinese traditions. Where did you get the idea for Dialogue, which consists of contemporary music from both Denmark and China?

MP: The idea was Hannibal's, and we also got some help from Joshua Cheek in Ann Arbor, who wrote the lovely notes used in the album. Hannibal had from the start the idea in mind to ask many composers from each country to each write a short piece for the two flutes — but was told that the Chinese needed more than three minutes to get into a mood of a piece! But ultimately it ended up being a program of ten compositions — five from each country: five Chinese and five from Denmark. Then we contacted the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and they assisted us in selecting the ten composers.

AMG: How did you meet Chen Yue?

MP: That was through Hannibal. He had met her at a concert he played in China and he had also made the resolution that — even though we play different instruments — that we essentially had the same style and it would match. The concept of East-West cooperation, which is the motivating principle behind both Spirits and Dialogue, is all Hannibal's. Chen Yue and I didn't meet until we both played a concert, with me and a lot of other musicians, in Beijing in a special occasion commemorating 100 years of cooperation between Denmark and China, the longest uninterrupted cooperation China has had with any country. I have learned to trust Hannibal's judgment in these things. He has an excellent sense of what might be unique to offer on classical recordings, yet he also knows how to measure the amount of risk involved in a given project. Moreover, I have learned very much in this project from Chen's way of playing; we learn a lot from each other. The idea of time in European music is very strict. You learn to be very precise in your attack and in holding notes for only so long. But playing with Chen I have learned to be more in the moment without stretching towards the goal.

AMG: Well Chen, that sounds like a good lead-in for bringing you into the conversation.

Chen Yue: Thank you, and you will need to excuse me, Uncle Dave, I am still learning English. But I, too, have learned a lot from playing with Michala. I think she is a wonderful musician. In playing together, Michala learned to be freer — and I learned to more strict rhythmically.

AMG: Have you had any reaction yet to Dialogue in China?

CY: I think it was a very interesting experience with both albums, showing the different cultures and different ways of thinking. With Spirits, we didn't know if it would work, but people back in China were very pleasantly surprised. They love Spirits very much and it can move listeners in China to tears, it is so emotional. With Dialogue, not so much, but they understand that it is a professional album, that it is more exclusive. It is for people who know and love classical music already.

AMG: When I was ready to listen to Dialogue, I was wondering how I would be able to get through more than an hour of what is essentially unaccompanied flute music, all in a high range, but in the end the album didn't have any trouble at all holding my attention. It seemed like the two of you were striking out on your own path, creating your own music from scratch with fresh instrumental combinations, like Harry Partch did.

MP: I read your review and was very glad about it, because with reviews that is the one thing that is important to me. It is not so important to me whether you like the album or not, but I do care as to whether a reviewer understands what it is that I am doing. You managed to enter our way of thinking.

AMG: How do you feel the music on Dialogue is different from the standard Western repertoire for high instruments, such as, say, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's flute duets?

MP: I haven't heard those, I am ashamed to say, but I know what you mean. Some that I know well and play are the Sonatas en Canon of Georg Philipp Telemann. I would say that the difference is that in the absolutely traditional European literature you try and make the two instruments sound as similar as possible. The idea here — and we were not sure that it could succeed — was to emphasize the different instruments from the different cultures and not to want to make them sound similar. It is a little like my interest in comparing the approach of other opposites, like theology and psychology. They are very different fields, but I am interested in both, and by understanding them I can better express what I can feel.

AMG: Of course, the idea of collaboration is not new to you. I remember back in my days of classical retail selling the fine discs you made for BMG in collaboration with pianist Keith Jarrett. However, now you and Lars Hannibal are now running your own label, OUR Recordings. How is this different from your experience working as a major label classical artist?

MP: It is naturally very different in recent years. Back when I was at BMG — and with Philips before that — there was one A&R person that I would deal with, and when I had something that I wanted to do I would take it to them and see if there was interest. That wasn't a bad system, but there were natural limits to it and sometimes, disappointments. Now it is very different. I am completely free in my creativity and do not have to think around another person in order to get something done, although we do have to find a way to get the money up for it. Otherwise, it's wonderful being so free, and very inspiring.

AMG: Any word about future projects?

MP: Nothing in the coming months, but in the fall we will have an album called Café Vienna, which is music for recorder and guitar from Mozart's time. You will be surprised. There is quite a lot of nice music for these instruments from that era — we found a beautiful set of variations on the national anthem, God Save the Queen and the French Marseillaise. For next year, I have some very exciting plans for a recording, though I am not going to say anything specific about that right now! It is a project done only from my own wish to make it — a great luxury!

AMG: We haven't been seeing a lot of European touring artists here in the States lately. Michala, is there any chance we'll be seeing you on these shores?

MP: Oh yes! I am appearing in New York City with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on December 9, a pure Baroque concert with popular recorder music. I am looking forward to meeting up with several musician friends that I haven't seen in years. And I will also be playing at a music festival in Minneapolis next summer.

AMG: I will direct the same question to you, Chen Yue — any prospects for an appearance in the U.S.?

CY: Well, you know I have played in the United States, back in 2006 with the China National Symphony Orchestra on tour. I travel quite often in other countries and maybe I will be able to come back — I don't know, but it may come.

Michala Petri & Chen Yue - Pernille Louise Sejlund: Butterfly Rain

Michala Petri & Chen Yue - Siqin Chaoketu: Yan Gui (The wild goose comes back home)

Michala Petri, Kremerata Baltica - Mozart: Andante in C major, K. 315

Michala Petri, Kremerata Baltica - Vivaldi: Flautino Concerto in C, RV 443

Chen Yue - Three Variations on Plum Blossom

Posted in Classical Corner
AllMusic Blog

Review on Cafe Vienna in Musikeren
23 November 2009

Review on Cafe Vienna in Gramophone!
Gramophone Magazine
14 November 2009
Attractive melody abounds on this charming and amiable disc!

In the booklet accompanying this delightful disc, Joshua Cheek ends his brief notes on the origins of the Viennese coffee culture by telling us that the recorder and guitar have formed an imaginary "house band" in order to recreate the experience of enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon Kaffeeklatsch in Vienna circa 1800. And indeed the programme is as light and frothy as the cream on a Vienna coffee - though with fewer calories. Mauro Giuliani's "Gran Duetto Concertante" was orriginally written for flute or violin and guitar, and is typical of that composers's penchant for attractive melody and idiomatic arpeggio
figures; fellow Italian guitarist Fernando Carulli's set of variatios on a tune familiar to all makes similarity few demands on the listener.
These are followed by another set of variations; this time by composer who was as prolific as he is obscure, one Joseph Küffner, two Beethoven sonatinas without opus number, originally written for mandolin and piano, and three more variations on the variation theme, originally tor the now-obsolete alto recorder-like csakan, by the accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Ernest Krähmer. Joseph Mayseder, virtuoso violinist and intimate of Beethoven, and Carl Scheindienst.
The latter three works are the more overtly virtuoso; but it's to the credit of the considerable musicianship of this amiable duo, who even the most tired compositional device commands attention. This is lightweight fare, to be sure, but Petri and Hannibal don't pretend otherwise, and as a result a good time is had by all. More sugar please?
William Yeoman, April 2010
Gramophone Magazine

Excellent review of 'Café Vienna' in The Schubertian 66 (January 2010).
The Schubertian 66
17 June 2009
(2) Café Vienna: 19th-Century Café Music performed by Michala Petri (recorder) and Lars Hannibal (guitar). OUR Recordings 6.220601 (2009)                         
All who have been to Vienna will recognise the importance of the coffee-house in the social ambience of the city, perhaps not as significant now as it once was yet still a vibrant part of its culture. 'Café Vienna' is an imaginative reconstruction of a typical café concert. As Joshua Cheek observes in the most interesting CD booklet, in this particular programme "recorder and guitar have formed the imaginary 'house band' in order to recreate the experience of enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon Kaffeeklatsch in Vienna c.1800." While Schubert is not represented there is almost certainly some music here that Schubert would have heard. All are arrangements of compositions originally written for other instrumental combinations. The most substantial work is Mauro Giuliani's three-movement Gran Duetto Concertante op.52 for violin or flute and guitar. As Giuliani (1781-1829) was the official concert artist for the celebrations of the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) that marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, this piece, with its final Rondo Militaire, may have been performed frequently at the time. The Fantaisie sur un Air National Anglais op.102 by the guitar virtuoso Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841), originally for violin and guitar, takes the form of a slow introduction followed by the British national anthem as the theme for a set of variations. The material is more or less equally distributed between recorder and guitar and each has an opportunity to shine. In the Fantaisie sur des Airs Nationaux Francais op.226 by Joseph Küffner (1776-1856), the French national anthem has pride of place. In 1795, two years before Schubert was born, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote six pieces for mandolin with keyboard accompaniment. Only four of these have survived, including the Sonatina in C minor WoO 43a and the Sonatina in C major WoO 44a. The three final items – the Introduction, Theme and Variations op.32 by the wind-instrument virtuoso Ernest Krähmer (1795-1837), the Potpourri on Themes of Beethoven and Rossini by the violin virtuoso Josef Mayseder (1789-1863) and the Variations on an Austrian Folk Tune by Carl Scheindienst (c.1800) - were written for the csakan, a folk instrument with the same range as the alto recorder. The Danish duo of Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal give sparkling performances of all the pieces and admirably recreate the atmosphere of an early 19th-century Viennese coffee concert.
The Schubertian 66

Review on Cafe Vienna in Music Web International
Music Web International
18 May 2009
The booklet has an interesting note about the history of Viennese coffee houses. The listener is invited to imagine being present on a leisurely Sunday afternoon in one of these houses sometime around 1800 and listening to these players as the "house band". I have no idea whether such a band might have comprised recorder and guitar - the sound and pitch of the recorder might tend to make conversation difficult in a small room, but for the non-scholar this is probably no matter when the result is as enjoyable as it is here. I note that none of the works on the disc were in fact written for this combination - most were for flute, violin or "csaken" (a folk instrument similar in size and range to a recorder) and guitar, but the arrangements are convincing and there is no feeling that the music has been given a inappropriate face-lift.

Only Beethoven and to a lesser extent Giuliani are familiar names as composers, and even then the former is represented by two of his least characteristic works, originally for mandolin and piano. They are charming miniatures which do sound better in their original and more tangy scoring but the arrangements are tasteful and do no great harm to the style and character of the music. The Giuliani is a bigger work in every way, in three movements ending with a Rondo Militaire. It is essentially a sunny piece full of Italianate melodies and charm. Most of the other pieces draw on other works to some extent. The Carulli for instance is based on "God save the Queen" and the Küffner includes variations on the Marseillaise. Both are entertaining and the latter is especially comical in the indignities it imposes on the tune.

Nothing on this disc is of any great musical consequence but everything is full of charm. For the most part the players simply present the music for what it is, without affectation or obvious showmanship but with considerable style, panache and, especially as far as the recorder is concerned, virtuosity. Taken in excess it might seem like an excessively sweet cup of coffee, but taken in judicious quantities it provides rare delight. The recording is clear and the booklet full and interesting - just the way to present unfamiliar material.

John Sheppard 

Music Web International

5 out of 5 stars for Café Vienna in BBC Music Magazine
BBC Music Magazine
05 May 2009
BBC Music Magazine

Performance 5 stars, recording 4 Stars

Michala Petri has done great things for the recorder, helping to bring it back centre-stage after its 19th-century eclipse by the flute and clarinet, and here she takes the process on further. However, "Café Vienna" is a misleading modish title for her collarboration with Lars Hannibal; what she have done is to bring a chamber-music genre out of the shadow, and also to extend-through new arrangements- the extremely narrow repertoire for their unusual instrumenttal combination, with Beethoven's unassuming little pieces in their collection being actually the least interesting. Far more noteworthy are the gravely spacious Fantasise sur un air national Anglais-" God save the King", that is by Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841), the intricate Introduction, Theme and Variations by Ernest Krähmer (1795-1837), and the "Variations on an Austrian Folk tune" by Carl Scheindienst. Some of the works were written for violin and guitar or mandolin, and some for a rare Hungarian instrument called the csakan. . Michael Church March 2010
BBC Music Magazine

Great new review in American Record Guide on Café Vienna
American Record Guide
02 May 2009
Chamber Music (19th Century) - GIULIANI, M. / CARULLI, F. / KUFFNER, J. / BEETHOVEN, L. van / KRAHMER, E. (19th Century Cafe Music) (Petri, Hannibal)
Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, March/April 2010

Though Lars Hannibal spends much of his time arpeggiating on the tonic, subdominant, and dominant, he does it with tremendous finesse; and Petri, who can make the homeliest melody sound enchanting (and this recording has its share of homely melodies) floats, flies, and jumps into places I never knew the recorder could go.

The "menu" at this cafe includes music written for violin and guitar: Mauro Giuliani's Gran Duetto Concertante, Opus 52; Ferdinando Carulli's Fantasie sur un Air National Anglais (the ever-popular 'God Save the King'), and Joseph Küffner's Potpourri sur des Airs Nationaux Francais, which includes an amusing set of variations on 'La Marseillaise'.

I love the transcription and performance of two little-known pieces that Beethoven wrote for mandolin and fortepiano. The C-minor Sonatina, WoO 43a, is simple and lovely; and the C-major Sonatina, WoO 44a, might be the most light-hearted piece Beethoven ever wrote. These pieces sound completely natural on the soprano recorder and the guitar.

Ernest Krähmer wrote his Introduction, Theme and Variations for the csakan, an instrument that has the mouthpiece of a recorder, a very narrow bore, and five keys that eliminate or reduce the need for cross-fingerings. Perhaps the keys also make it possible to navigate the gymnastic writing in the high register. The instrument went out of fashion in the first part of the 20th Century, so Petri plays the csakan pieces on the recorder. I imagine that she switches instruments from alto to soprano for the sections of the pieces that go into the very high register. Joseph Mayseder's Potpourrie on Themes of Beethoven and Rossini was also written for the csakan and the guitar, as was Carl Scheindienst's Variations on Gestern Abend war Vetter Mikkel da, a pseudonymous work (Scheindienst translates as "imaginary servant") that was published in 1815.

I have been a devotee of Michala Petri since I first heard her play back in the 1970s. She is the wind-player's wind player. I have discussed her brilliant musicianship and impeccable technique with principal wind players in several major American orchestras, who hold her playing in the highest regard. I think what she does on the recorder is simply remarkable, and she continues to amaze me with her brilliant transcriptions. I hope that one day she will make them available to other recorder players, particularly since there is a dearth of original material for the soprano recorder.
American Record Guide