Breathtakingly beautiful
Oliver Smith, Spring issue 2016
23.March 2016
This CD is an intriguing partnership of the well-established and renowned Danish recorderist Michala Petri, with the young Iranian harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahani. They both work fantastically together as a team on this CD and yet it is amazing to read in their detailed programme notes that they had only first performed together a year before this recording. This is most appearent in the Allegro second movement from Corelli`s Sonata in G-Major (op.5 no.11) Here both performers seem to be having fun with the vibrant virtuosity and precision. This contrasts with the next movement in the sonata, Adagio, where the coulor and mood change immediately with the discordant suspended chords from the harpsichord under an emotionally raw and passionate recorder part. Here Petri is at her finest with fluid trills and scales swopping to high suspended notes with the Harpsichord which is breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, the ornamentated slow movements on the CD display Petri and Esfahani`s virtuosity and teamwork just as much as the flashy and seemingly more difficult movements. The Sarabande-Largo of the Sonata in G minor (op. 5 no.7) is exquisitely played with piercingly simple recorder line that is hauntingly sonorous and melancholic, accompanied by contrasting rich and Spartan spread chords that are so carefully placed and together with Petri that Esfahani seems almost telepathic with her.

There is something for everyone in this recording such as raucous and mad La Follia to the joyous and song-line optimism of the opening Prelude-Largo of the Sonata in C Major (opus 5 no.9). Petri and Esfahani are certainly a “dream team” and I look forward to more collaborative recordings from them in the near future. Oliver Smith, Spring issue 2016
Oliver Smith, Spring issue 2016

Muskicalisher Intelligenz und detailreicher Gestaltung
Reinmar Wagner, Musik & Theater, Germany
18.January 2016

Die originale Violine kann sich zwar nicht ganz vergessen Machen, aber Michala Petri beweist mit viel muskicalisher Intelligenz und detailreicher Gestaltung, dass Corellis Sonaten auch ihrer Blockflöten besten passen. Historish korrekt übrigens: Dises Stücke haben sich teils in den wildesten Arrangements bis nach Amerika und Indien verbreitet. Viel trägt auch das variantenreiche Cembalospiel von Mahan Esfahani zum hervorragenden Eindruck bei
Reinmar Wagner, Musik & Theater, Germany

Great review in US Magazine Fanfare on Corelli!
Fanfare Magazine
26 March 2015
It seems as if Michala Petri has been performing at a high level for almost my entire adult life, and indeed she has. Now, at 56, she still sounds as fresh, imaginative, and accurate as she was when she was a young virtuoso first establishing the recorder with the general public as an instrument to be taken seriously.
Arcangelo Corelli's set of 12 sonatas for violin and continuo that comprises his opus 5 concludes with the famous "La Follia." The second half of that set, nos. 7–12, were transcribed for recorder by an anonymous assortment of composers in the 18th century. Corelli wrote and published his sonatas in 1700, and the undated manuscript used for this recording is titled: "Six solos for a flute and a bass by Archangelo [sic] Corelli, being the second part of his Fifth Opera, containing preludes, allmands, corrants, jigs, sarabands, gavotts with the Spanish folly. The whole exactly transpos'd and made fit for a flute and a bass with the approbation of several Eminent Masters."
It is that grouping that Petri and her harpsichordist (who also wrote very helpful notes) presents in this recording made in Garnisons Church in Copenhagen in May of 2014. The playing is as brilliant, infectious, and imaginative as we have come to expect from Petri. Her tone is sharply focused but always appealing, with a roundness surrounding its pointed center. She and Esfahani bring an extraordinarily lively rhythmic flair to this music, clearly reveling in its dance roots. Petri's virtuosity is always placed at the service of the music; no matter how complex the ornamentation, you never have the feeling that it is there for purely display purposes. The musical shape of each movement is always maintained.
Petri plays with wit throughout. One feels a smile in the gavottes, allemandes, and correntes, while the sarabandes retain their dignity and elegance. Her tone remains even from top to bottom, and her sense of phrasing is impeccable. The music is always going somewhere, it always has momentum and a sense of direction. Esfahani is a true partner in this effort, taking a lead role where the music calls for it (the opening of the Gavotte from op. 5/11, for instance), and applying the same degree of imagination to phrase-shaping and to ornamentation as Petri does.
While much praise deserves to go to Petri and Esfahani, their talents would be less important were this second- or third-rate music. But throughout one is caught up in Corelli's consistent level of inspiration and his musical imagination. Corelli lived a generation before Bach and Handel, and he influenced them as well as Vivaldi. In his day (1653–1713) he was famous throughout the world of music, both for his violin playing and his compositions (limited though they were to six opus numbers). This group of sonatas, even arranged by others for the recorder, is music of real imagination, music that rises well above the standard of its day with a vivid presence.
Natural recorded sound and a lovely booklet with not only excellent notes but lovely photos of the church where the recording was made round out this truly delightful production. Henry Fogel
This article originally appeared in Issue 38:4 (Mar/Apr 2015) of Fanfare Magazine.
Fanfare Magazine

5 star review in German Magazine Ensemble on Corelli-La Follia
Ensemble
15 March 2015
Dass Arcengelo Corelli seine unter Opus 5 zusammengefassten 12 Sonaten für Violine und Begleitinstrument schreib, steht ausser frage, denn immerhin war der Komponist einer der besten Violinvirtuosen seiner Zeit. Doch die Blockflöte war auch schon im 17.Jahrhundert immerhin ein weit verbreitetes Instrument für das häusliche Musizieren. Und da Corellis Musik (und gerade diese Sonaten) schon früh eine immense grosse Verbreitung erführen, ist es zuvollziehen, dass sie auch mit Blockflöte interpretiert wurden. Hier nun habe sich die Grand Dame des Blockflötenspiels, Michala Petri, und der iranishe Cembalist Mahan Esfahai darangemacht, die letzen sechs Sonaten van Opus 5, die durchweg van Tanzrythmen beseelt sind, zu interpretieren. Und wenn man dem Spiel dieser Beiden Musiker lauscht, fragt man sich, ob der klang der Violine oder der Blockflöte nun besser zu diesen Sonaten passt, die sich vierbis fünfsätzig in Suitenform darstelln. Denn Michala Petri is nicht nuer eine bemerkenswerte Blokflötistin, sondern vermag auch die klangliche Ebene den musikalischen Aussagen anzupassen, indem sie auch unterschiediche Flöten benutzt. Sie will gar nicht - wie die meisten Geiger - die virtuose Ebene in den Vordergrund stelln, sondern folgt genauestens dem verlauf der Musik mit Emphase. Und Esfahani ist ein wunderbare Cembalist, der mit ebenso viel geschmack und Selbstbewusstsein seiner Partnerin folgt. Carsten Dürer, November 2014
Ensemble

Supersonic Pizzicato review on Corelli-La Follia
Pizzicato Magazine
06 March 2015
Symbiotisch  20/02/2015 

Arcangelo Corelli: 6 Sonaten op. 5, Nr.7-12; Michala Petri, Blockflöte, Mahan Esfahani, Cembalo; 1 CD Our Recordings 6.220610; 5/14 (66'22) – Rezension von Remy Franck 

Arcangelo Corellis Violinsonaten sind auch ohne Violine ganz tolle Kompositionen. Zum Beispiel, wenn die Blockflöte die Rolle der Geige spielt. Michala Petri führt den Violingesang zurück in den Mund und singt bezaubernd auf ihrer Blockflöte, sie koloriert und verziert nach allen Regeln der Kunst und schöpft so die ganze Bandbreite ihres Instrumentes meisterhaft aus. Dass jedoch dieser expressive und wunderbar leuchtende Blockflötenklang richtig zur Geltung kommt, das ist auch der Verdienst des Cembalisten Mahan Esfahani. Beide Musiker gehen so in ihrem Darstellungsdrang auf, dass ihre Instrumente einen perfekt und symbiotisch ausbalancierten Klang erzielen, in dem alles passt. Grandios!

Danish recorder player Michala Petri and Iranian-born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani collaborate in the most appealing way to let the listener experience the beauty of Corelli's sonatas. Petri's singing sound is marvelous, and together with Esfahani she takes full advantage of the work's opportunities for supple phrasing and added embellishments.
Pizzicato Magazine

10/10/10 review in Klassik Heute on Corelli-La Follia
Klassik Heute Magazine
01 March 2015
Selbstverständlich bleibt eine ganze Menge auf der Strecke, wenn man die Violinsonaten op. 5, das kammermusikalische Hauptwerk Arcangelo Corellis, von der Violine auf die Blockflöte überträgt, und den, der die Stücke kennt, wird sicher irritieren, wie oft die Melodie aufgrund des eingeschränkten Tonumfangs in die Gegenrichtung springen muss, und natürlich besonders die wunderschönen Doppelgriff-Passagen vermissen. So schön das alles ist, ist es doch nicht das Wesentliche am Corelli'schen Tonsatz, der auch dann in ungeminderter Charakteristik und Pracht zum Tragen kommt, wenn die Ausdrucksmittel auf jenes geradlinige Minimum fokussiert werden, welches die Blockflöte in höchster Konzentration und Reinheit verkörpert symbolisiert.
Wenn dies trotz aller Verluste eine der schönsten Corelli-Aufnahmen der Geschichte ist, so hauptsächlich dank der grandiosen Präsenz von Michala Petri, der weiterhin unangefochtenen Maestra assoluta der Blockflöte. Ihr Spiel wurde jahrelang von den Konkurrenten aus den diversen Alte-Musik-Lagern oft harsch kritisiert: zu kühl perfekt, zu wenig affektbetont, zu klinisch präzise… Nichts davon ist auch nur ansatzweise wahr. Petri lässt ihr Instrument einfach das sein, was es ist, und versucht nicht, mit extremen Tonschwellungen oder waberndem Vibrato ein behindertes Streichinstrument zu imitieren. Ihre Kunst liegt jedoch in der subtilen Verwendung der Ausdrucksmittel und in einer höchst ungewöhnlichen energetischen Konzentration, und ohnehin in einer technisch-tonlichen Makellosigkeit und Schönheit, die immer wieder staunen machen. Ihr Partner ist der exzellente iranische, in London unterrichtende Cembalist Mahan Esfahani, der hier den 1992er Nachbau (Alain Anselm) eines italienischen Instruments der Corelli-Zeit spielt und mit seiner Lebendigkeit, sowohl spontan zierreichen als auch unmissverständlich pulsierenden Artikulationsweise und intelligenten Brillianz weit mehr als ein wendiger und wacher Begeiter ist.
Schade finde ich hier lediglich, dass die langsamen Sätze allzu flüchtig und geschwinde genommen werden und so nicht der Zauber entfacht wird, der potenziell enthalten ist. Und kritisieren, wenn auch mit Einschränkung, muss ich allenfalls gelegentlich die Art der umspielenden Verzierungen, die Michala Petri zwar meist mit viel Geschmack und Einfallsreichtum anbringt, wo es mir jedoch immer wieder so geht, dass die noble, pure Melodik des unverzierten Corelli'schen Originals schlicht mehr Größe hat und Weite atmet. Hier wäre oft weniger viel mehr. Andererseits ist es jedes Mal interessant, bei Wiederholungen die umfangreichen Wandlungen zu verfolgen, die Petri dem melodischen Rankenwerk angedeihen lässt.
Der Klang in der Kopenhagener Garnisonskirken ist ausgezeichnet eingefangen, voll, rund und klar, wobei es nicht einfach ist, unter solch halligen Umständen einen durchweg funktionierenden Ausgleich zwischen Blockflöte und Cembalo herzustellen. Dazu gibt's einen kompetent informierenden Booklet-Text von Esfahani selbst.
Dies waren also nun die Sonaten Nr. 7-12 aus dem wundervollen Opus V von Corelli, und es steht zu hoffen, dass die ersten sechs Sonaten noch folgen werden. Die wenigen kritischen Einwände können nicht darüber hinweg täuschen, dass es sich hier um Musizieren höchsten Karats handelt, dem zu lauschen nicht nur den zahlreichen Fans der Blockflöte und Liebhabern des italienischen Barock empfohlen sei, sondern überhaupt jedem ohne Scheuklappen Interessierten.
Christoph Schlüren [02.03.2015]
Klassik Heute Magazine

Great Eurodisc review on Corelli
Eurodisc Magazine
17 February 2015
Europadisc UK
Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has been making rather a name for himself over the last year or so, especially since the release of his Gramophone Award winning disc of CPE Bach's Wurttemburg Sonatas on Hyperion. Since then, there has been a very well received live recital from the Wigmore Hall and a brand new set of works by Rameau, again on Hyperion. However, our review this week actually moves away from his solo work and looks at a collaboration he has made with virtuoso recorder player Michala Petri. Featuring sonatas (transcribed) by Corelli, it is entitled La Follia and features six of the Opus 5 Sonatas, including the famous set of variations from which the disc gets its title. It is beautifully played and recorded (in Hybrid SACD format by OUR Recordings) and comes highly recommended as our disc to buy this week. See below for the full review.
Incredibly, it's almost thirty-five years since Danish recorder player Michala Petri burst onto the international music scene with her first recordings for Philips. Yet on this latest disc from her own OUR Recordings label her playing is as fresh and sparkling as ever. Here she teams up with the young Iranian-born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani – already something of a star in his own right – for a splendidly invigorating disc of sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli.

Published in 1700, Corelli's twelve Opus 5 Sonatas for violin and continuo were among his most popular, appearing in no fewer than forty-two editions (including various re-arrangements) during their first century of existence. The second half of the set comprises six sonatas taking their inspiration from the baroque dance suite, and it is little wonder that they proved such a success, for they combine Corelli's own unique cantabile style of melodic invention with a wondrously uplifting sense of rhythmic buoyancy.

These performances are based on an eighteenth-century edition by John Walsh of London, 'The whole exactly Transposed and made fitt for A FLUTE and A BASS with the aprobation of severall Eminent Masters'. With changes in figuration to accommodate the recorder, they work brilliantly as an instrumental showcase, designed for the growing market in home music-making. Esfahani's insightful booklet note explains how he and Ms Petri have consulted extensive contemporary editions in their choice of ornamentation and continuo realisation, and their performances are sublimely engaging. Slow movements (notably the Sarabandes) are beautifully expressive without being over-indulgent, while the faster ones are nicely sprung and alert – the Gavottes of Sonatas 9 and 10 turn into wonderfully agile tours de force.

The highlight, however, is certainly the twelfth Sonata, a kaleidoscopic set of variations on the celebrated La Follia theme (advertised by Walsh as 'the SPANISH FOLLY') that proved so popular in the baroque period and even influenced Liszt, Rachmaninov and Tippett. Here, Petri and Esfahani are ideally responsive to the changing character of each variation, and Ms Petri's command of the various figurations is dazzling.

The recordings, made in the sympathetic baroque surroundings of Copenhagen's Garrison Church, strike exactly the right balance between spaciousness and focus, with the the harpsichord quite rightly less closely miked than it would be for a solo recital, yet no detail is lost, and Esfahani's brilliant harpsichord playing is a perfect match for Ms Petri's seemingly effortless virtuosity. A dream team, then – and, with a lavishly illustrated booklet, an easy recommendation for this endlessly charming and inspiriting music. November 2014
Eurodisc Magazine

BBC Music Magazine gives 2 times 5 star (Max) and CHAMBER CHOICE to Corelli La Follia
BBC Music Magazine
17 June 2012
BBC Music Magazine
CHAMBER CHOICE February 2015
Performance 5 star (maximum)
Recording 5 star (maximum)

A vivacious partnership

Mahan Esfahani and Michala Petri play with captivating directness
Paul Riley enjoys Michala Petri and Mahan Esfahani's take of Corelli.

A decade after Corelli's Op.5 Violin Sonatas were introduced to England, writer and musician Roger North observed, "It is wonderful what a scratching of Corelli there is everywhere – nothing will relish but Corelli". The set represented the defining moment of the early Baroque violin sonatas, and it wasn't just violinists doing the relishing. Recorder transcriptions abounded, and Michala Petri addresses the "sonata de camera" leg of Op.5 in the company of a harpsichordist fast turning into a serial and lively collaborator: Mahan Esfahani. Not since Richard Egarr teamed up with Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi) has op. 5 enjoyed such vivacious and inventive continuo realisation.
Petri and Esfahani's is an invigorating ensemble effort, each sparking off the other to foster a captivating directness whether sparkling or soulful. Nothing is safe and reverential,- and yet there's no iconoclastic agenda either. Preludious are ideally urbane; an almost Bachian dialogue invades No.8's Giga, while La Follia emerges beautifully paced, artfully embellished and vividly characterized. Compared to the violin, there's an inevitable chaste innocence to the liquid sound of Petri's recorder – which Esfahani is able to subvert with sly humour. If the violin (as wielded by Manze) remains Op.5's true home, the perspective provided by this newcomer undoubtedly relishes
BBC Music Magazine