BBC Music Magazine on UK-DK
BBC Music Magazine
04 December 2010
BBC Music Magazine

Michala Petri, fondly remembered by many as a child prodigy on the recorder, has formed a duo with the Iranian-born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. Their second disc, as its title suggests, consists of music from Esfahani's adopted country, the UK, and Petri's native Denmark – nearly all of it written in the later 20th century as part of the recorder revival. The exception is a recent piece by Daniel Kidane Tourbillon, which is named after a component of a watch and moves with mechanical precision before running down at the end. Britain is also represented by Malcolm Arnold's well-crafted Sonatina of 1953, Gordon Jacob's fluent Sonatina  (and an Encore for Michala exploiting her ability to sing one tune while playing another), and an arrangement of Britten's unassuming Alphine Suite. The Danish works are Henning Christiansen's fresh and lively It is Spring, with hints of birdsongs on sopranino recorder, Vagn Holmboe's Sonata, idiomatically written for both instruments, and Axel Borup-Jørgensen's Fantasia, mildly modernist in its texture and gestures.
Throughout the programme, well recorded in a Copenhagen Church, Petri plays with immaculate tuning and finger technique, crisp tonguing and well-shaped melodic line; Esfahani matches her with well-judged colours and phrasing. Anthony Burton, April 2015 BBC Music Magazine
Performance 5 Stars
Recording 4 Stars
BBC Music Magazine

Great 10/10/10 review on UK-DK in Klassik Heute
Klassik Heute Magazine
29 November 2010
Was für eine schöne Idee, dänische und britische Werke des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts für Blockflöte und Cembalo miteinander zu kombinieren!
Seit einiger Zeit konzertieren die dänische Blockflötenvirtuosin Michala Petri und der in London lebende, persische Cembalist Mahan Esfahani zusammen als Duo. Ihre Debüt-Veröffentlichung als Ensemble mit Corelli-Sonaten fand sogleich größte Beachtung und einmütigen Beifall in der Fachwelt. Für beide Musiker war und ist die Zeitgenössische Musik ein essentieller Bestandteil ihres Repertoires. Im Laufe ihrer bereits über fünf Jahrzehnte währenden Musikerkarriere ist Michala Petri vielen bedeutenden Komponisten begegnet und konnte viele von ihnen für ihr Instrument begeistern. Eine enge Zusammenarbeit und persönliche Freundschaft verband sie auch mit zwei großen dänischen Komponisten der Gegenwart: Vagn Holmboe und Axel Borup-Jørgensen, dessen komplette Blockflötenmusik sie kürzlich ebenso auf dem Label OUR Recordings veröffentlicht hat.

Stilistisch präsentiert sich die vorliegende Einspielung äußerst vielseitig. Der große britische Komponist Sir Malcolm Arnold schrieb einige Werke eigens für Michala Petri. Die hier eingespielte Sonatine aus dem Jahr 1962 jedoch entstand noch bevor sich beide kennengelernt hatten. Ursprünglich für Blockflöte und Klavier gedacht, präsentieren Petri und Esfahani das Stück in einer vom Komponisten ausdrücklich angeregten und gutgeheißenen Version für Blockflöte und Cembalo, die ihren eigenen klanglichen Reiz entfaltet. Als ganz zauberhaftes kleines musikalisches Juwel entpuppt sich Henning Christiansens It is Spring. Der Komponist, ein Freund der Familie, schrieb diese humorvolle Frühlingsmusik mit kapriziösen Appoggiaturen im Jahr 1970. Gordon Jacob komponierte schon früh auf Anregung des englischen Blockflöten-Enthusiasten Carl Dolmetsch für die Blockflöte. Seine bekannte Suite zählt inzwischen zu den meistgespielten Klassikern des Blockflötenrepertoires. Ein Jahr vor seinem Tod schrieb er – 88-jährig – eigens für Michala Petri eine Sonatine und ein Encore, die hier zu hören sind, Musik von herrlich lyrischer Kantabilität, die Michala Petri mit ihrer warmen Tongebung zum Blühen bringt. Auch Vagn Holmboe, der große dänische Sinfoniker, schrieb einige Werke für Michala, u.a. ein Konzert, ein Trio für Blockflöte, Cembalo und Violoncello sowie die vorliegende Sonate aus dem Jahr 1980. Dieses Werk setzt die musikalischen Mittel und die Klangwelt des wenige Jahre zuvor entstandenen Trios fort und integriert auf betörend natürliche Weise auch besondere Effekte wie etwa das gleichzeitige Singen und Spielen, ein wunderbar idiomatisches und musikantisches Werk! Tourbillon, der Beitrag des jüngsten Komponisten der CD, des 1986 geborenen britischen Shooting Stars Daniel Kidane, ist eigens für Michala und Mahans CD entstanden, ein teils verstörend monomanisches, um sich selbst kreisendes, teils fragmentarisches Werk von hohem virtuosem Anspruch, aber auch mit durchaus lyrischen Momenten. Zwar hat Kidanes berühmter Landsmann Benjamin Britten ursprünglich kein Werk für die Duobesetzung komponiert (obwohl ihn der bereits eingangs erwähnte Carl Dolmetsch mehrfach darum gebeten hatte), Michala und Mahans Idee aber, Brittens 1955 während eines Skiurlaubs in den Schweizer Bergen entstandenes kleines Blockflötentrio Alpine Suite für Blockflöte und Cembalo einzurichten, ist überaus gelungen. Den dänischen Gegenpart zu Kidanes Tourbillon stellt Axel Borup-Jørgensens überaus anspruchsvolle Fantasia aus dem Jahr 1988 dar, eine Komposition von ureigener klanglich-musikalischer Ästhetik, deren Schönheit sich dem Hörer erst ganz allmählich erschließt. Gordon Jacobs Encore for Michala beschließt das Programm rührend und versöhnlich.
Petri und Esfahani ergänzen einander musikalisch auf das Schönste. Tonmeister Preben Iwan gab dem Duo ein auch klanglich perfektes Ambiente, die informativen Booklettexte von Joshua Cheek und das geschmackvolle Artwork lassen keine Wünsche offen.
Eine fabelhafte Produktion, die ebenso vergnüglich wie mit Gewinn zu hören ist. Auf eine Fortsetzung darf man gespannt sein!

Heinz Braun
(25.05.2015)

Wertung 10 / 10 / 10

Klassik Heute Magazine

Great UK-DK review in Gramophone
Gramophone Magazine
12 November 2010
This is not the first time Michala Petri has juxtaposed recorder works from Britain and her home country, Denmark. A quarter of a century ago she combines soloes, duos and trios – with other Petri family members (RCA, 5/89,- long out of print) – by Arnold, Asger Christiansen, Holmboe, others from Germany and Norway, plus the wonderful Sonatina Gordon Jacob wrote for her in 1983,- also included here. None of the other works has been repeated from that earlier disc and of the composers only Britten did not write especially for her.
Although Malcolm Arnold wrote several pieces for Petri, ironically she and Esfahani play the engaging Sonatina (1962, with piano accompaniment originally). As with Britten's Alpine Suite (1955), written as a recorder trio for an injured friend on a skiing holiday but given here in an arrangement by the performers, this is lighter music emphasising the recorder's brightness. It is the Jacob Sonatina that hints a greater depth, while Henning Christiansen's charming vernal diptych avoids the inconsequentiality of the Britten. Daniel Kidane (b. 1986) and Axel Borup-Jørgensen take the instruments into a different tonal dimension. Kidane's horological  fantasia Tourbillon – comminisioned for this CD – was written to a requirement for "a very exciting and demanding piece" and pushes boundaries very differently to Borup-Jørgensen's more radical Fantasia (1988).
The warm heart of this superbly played programme is the Sonata (1980) by Holmboe, who, like Arnold and Jacob, wrote several works for Petri. Like all late Holmboe, light and peace are the pervading features of the three movement. A wonderful advert for this instrumental pairing and for virtuosity in general. Superbly engineered sound. Guy Richards, Gramophone May 2015
Gramophone Magazine

Australian Daily Classical Music on UK-DK
Australian Daily Classical Music
30 October 2010
www.dailyclassicamusic.com

Imaginative Programming
Music for recorder and harpsichord from Denmark and the UK -recommended by GEOFF PEARCE
'... this partnership works very well musically ...'   

First looking at the instrumentation, I imagined that this disc would consist of somewhat astringent neo-baroque music, so I was surprised by the range of styles portrayed. It was really good to see this representation of Danish composers known by recorder player Michala Petri, and much of the music here was written for her. She is very ably partnered by Mahan Esfahani on harpsichord, and this partnership works very well musically — one could not ask for better.
The first work, a Malcolm Arnold Sonatina, is uncomplicated, full of charm and contains the best of Arnold's lyricism. Its three movements are a very happy Cantilena, followed by a Chaconne, a little darker in character, and ending with a cheerful rondo. The artists' partnership here is exemplary.
Henning Christiansen was not known to me, but his work it is Spring, written for six-year-old Michala Petri, is absolutely charming. The opening 'Allegretto', redolent with birdsong, is evocative, quite beautiful and suits the sopranino recorder very well.
The very short closing second movement, derivative of the first, almost seems an afterthought. It ends abruptly, almost in an interrupted or unfinished way.
In the last year of his life, Gordon Jacob wrote a lovely work for Michala Petri — a four movement Sonatina. The opening Allegro, even though quite virtuosic, is never flashy, but always lyrical and joyous.
The second movement, a minuet, begins with a flourish, is quite florid in places, and is, I believe, a homage to yesteryear. The writing is crystal clear and the artists' partnership here is very inspiring.
The third movement is an Adagio which speaks directly to the soul in a heartfelt way, and the last movement is a virtuosic Gigue.
The prolific Vagn Holmboe, composer of some 370 or so works, provides a Sonata written for Michala Petri. The first movement is happy, uncomplicated music, at times reminding me a little of Hindemith. The second movement surprised me with an almost Japanese flavor, reminiscent of shakuhachi and koto. The final Allegro was lovely and evocative.
There are some interesting effects too — at one point I thought I heard singing, and Petri was vocalizing at the same time as she was playing.
The next piece, Tourbillon, by Daniel Kidane — not someone I was familiar with — depicts a watch escapement movement as it counters the effects of gravity. It is somewhat mechanical, but also beautiful at the same time, and interesting to listen to. To quote the cover notes: 'Both instruments take on the idea of breaking away from gravity, but at the same time, they are constrained by moments of tranquility'. Repeated hearings will help you uncover what you will not pick up the first time through. Persevere!
Whilst on a skiing holiday in Switzerland, Benjamin Britten (a keen recorder player) wrote a suite of pieces, originally conceived for three recorders. This is easy listening, and I particularly enjoyed Swiss Clock and Nursery Slopes.
Axel Borup-Jørgensen wrote a quite substantial Fantasia for Michala Petri. It is the most challenging work on this album for the listener (and possibly also for the performers). Unlike anything else I have ever heard, it will require repeated listenings, but is interesting, both melodically and texturally. The two complementary instrumental parts are often quite independent of each other, the more melodic phrases of the recorder contrasted with muted harpsichord.
The final little work, a ballad by Gordon Jacob, was again written in the last year of his life. It is quite folky, and has a section where Michala Petri vocalizes whilst playing — something that intrigued the composer.
I recommend this wonderful disc, and I know that I will dip into it quite often. Hats off to both performers for their commitment to partnership, imaginative programming and the feeling of completeness.
Copyright © 21 March 2015 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia


Australian Daily Classical Music

Classical Ear on UK-DK
Classical Ear
30 October 2010
Classical Ear (UK)

UK DK – Works for recorder and harpsichord by Arnold, Borup-Jørgensen, Britten, Christiansen, Holmboe, Jacob and Kidane
Michala Petri (recorder), Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
OUR Recordings 6.220611 (SACD) ****(*)

What at first glance seems like an unlikely pairing with which to play contemporary music turns out to provide a wealth of interesting new sonorities – or rather old sonorities in new and unfamiliar guise. The idea here is to juxtapose Danish and British composers, most of whom have written or arranged works specifically for Michala Petri over the years (the only exception being Britten, whose Alpine Suite was originally written for a recorder trio). As the pair have already established in more traditional baroque repertoire, Petri and Esfahani are not afraid to experiment or push boundaries. Here boundaries are forcibly shoved aside and fascinating new/old sonorities are revealed, notably in the modernism of Daniel Kidane's restless Tourbillon and Axel Borup-Jørgensen's unabashedly avant-garde Fantasia, where any old-fashioned ideas of soloist and accompanist are entirely abandoned. An album for aficionados, certainly, but one that also shows these instruments need not be treated as museum pieces.
–Mark Walker (Classical Ear, 3 April 2015)
Classical Ear

Ronald E.Grames great review in Fanfare on UK-DK
Fanfare Magazine
21 October 2010
Fanfare Review 2
Collections: Instrumental

UK DK    Michala Petri (rcr); Mahan Esfahani (hpd)    OUR RECORDINGS 6.220611 (SACD 66:27)

ARNOLD Sonatina for Recorder and Piano, op. 41. H. CHRISTIANSEN It is Spring. JACOB Sonatina for Recorder and Harpsichord. An Encore for Michala. HOLMBOE Sonata for Recorder and Harpsichord. KIDANE Tourbillon. BRITTEN Alpine Suite. BORUP-JØRGENSEN Fantasia

Hard on the heels of the marvelous Arcangelo Corelli sonata CD from this duo, featured in Fanfare 38:4, is this delightful fraternal twin of a release. Where the Corelli release explored the expected estate of harpsicord and recorder, this release turns its attention to the less well-known 20th-century revival of the instruments in new music. Central to this has been the advocacy of contemporary music for the recorder by virtuoso Michala Petri. Benjamin Britten is the only composer here with no connection to Petri, and in fact he left no solo work for recorder and harpsichord, though he played the baroque wind instrument and used it in several opera scores. Alpine Suite (1955) is a set of short impressions of a skiing trip to Switzerland. One of the trio of travelers injured an ankle and Britten wrote—and joined in the performance of—a suite for recorder trio to pass the time. That version has been recorded by the Flautadors for Dutton Epoch, and it also appears in the Decca Britten Complete Works. This is an arrangement by Esfahani and Petri which, while it creates a very different effect than the original with its close-harmony homogenous trio, is still quite charming.
The other piece not written for Petri is the Malcolm Arnold Sonatina, op. 41. Composed in 1953 (not 1962 as cited in the track listing) it is the last of a set of four sonatinas written for colleagues and friends. Piano provided the original accompaniment. Played with harpsichord, a change sanctioned by the composer for Petri and her harpsichordist mother Hanne, the plucked sound of the harpsichord adds an eerie background to the arcadian recorder and a lighter feel to the Chaconne. Both work, with little to choose in the Rondo finale, though it must be said that hearing again Jill Kemp's recording (MMC)—the only one with recorder and piano—makes me appreciate all the more Petri's remarkable breath control and the flawless intonation it supports.
Several of the pieces here date from when Petri played in a trio with her mother and cellist brother David and some were written by family friends. Avant-garde composer Henning Christiansen wrote It is Spring (1970) for Petri when she was 12. It is the antithesis of Darmstadt-inspired radicalism: tonal, unsophisticated, inspired by nature, it evokes the longing for birdsong and warmth at the end of a long Northern winter. Similarly accessible, though not so purposefully naïve, the Sonata, op. 145 was the third work written by another family friend, Vagn Holmboe, for the Petri ensemble. It is also inspired, as are many of his works, by the beauty of nature, and is notable for the restrained emotionalism of the writing, especially in the haunting Andante. The Allegro scherzando final movement appealingly requires Petri to vocalize as she plays, a skill that amused and impressed another composer, Gordon Jacob. Jacob was not a family friend, but so struck was he by Petri's playing of his Suite for Treble Recorder and String Quartet that he agreed to write a piece for her and her mother. The result was this Sonatina for Recorder and Harpsichord, completed in 1983 when Jacob was 88. It is a four-movement work of great charm, very much in Jacob's warmly idyllic neo-Classical style. Its lovely melodies and perfectly shaped structure show no diminution of his powers. Neither does the lovely An Encore for Michala, sent along with the Sonatina. It includes a segment in which she again hums the melody accompanied by her own playing. Petri has recorded both of the Jacobs works before, the first with her mother in 1987 and the later in 1993 with Lars Hannibal on guitar (both RCA). I suspect the latter was written for Hanne's harpsichord, but I actually like the guitar a bit better in this gentle work. There is no denying, though, that Petri has gotten better, in the intervening years, at vocalizing and playing while maintaining the core tone of the instrument. I also like the softer ictus and longer ring of Hanne Petri's instrument in the Sonatina, though if pressed, I have to say that Esfahani is the more imaginative partner and Petri's approach has matured, most telling in the Menuetto.
The remaining two works both have a connection to friend and student Elisabet Selin. Axel Borup-Jørgensen was Selin's father and the Fantasia, op. 75 (1975, rev. 1988) was written for her and Petri to perform. In fact, Selin recorded the work in 1988 for Danish Radio, and that recording appeared on OUR Recording's early 2014 release of all of the Danish composer's works for recorder (Fanfare 37:5). Her reading, with mother Ingrid Myrhøj, underlines the fantasy, the lyric elements of the score, and its connection to birdsong and nature. Petri and Esfahani emphasize the modernity, and the silences between the bright, spiky statements of the sopranino recorder and its dialog with the harpsichord. Both illuminate this fascinating work.
The other piece, and the newest (2014), was commissioned by Elisabet Selin from English composer Daniel Kidane specifically for Petri and Esfahani. Titled Tourbillon, it is inspired by the device added to mechanical escapements to make the watch more accurate by countering the effects of gravity. The work is, as the composer describes it, "intricate and virtuosic" and meant to suggest an attempt to escape structural gravity. The word means whirlwind in French, and certainly that is an apt description of parts of it. It is a challenging work for performers and listener.
I've gone on at some length without referring, except in passing, to the performances themselves. Perhaps that is because it goes without saying that anything this superstar pairing puts its hands to will be extraordinary. They are favored by state-of-the-art engineering, recorded in DXD ultra-high resolution in a supportive acoustic. The result is beautifully clear, present sound in both layers. The booklet is quite attractive, and, an error or two aside, the notes informative, though not, perhaps, to the same degree as the earlier Corelli and Borup-Jørgensen releases. One small annoyance: There is not enough spacing between works. A few more seconds would have been much appreciated.
Recommended? Without a doubt! It is a wonderful program, imaginatively presented. I just hope that Esfahani's exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon will not preclude further silver-disc meetings of this dynamic duo. Ronald E. Grames March 2015



Fanfare Magazine

Great 5 Star review in Pizzicato on UK-DK
Pizzicato Magazine
21 October 2010
Blockflöten-Höhenflüge  21/03/2015 

– Rezension von Remy Franck 

Dieses britisch-dänische Programm der dänischen Blockflötistin Michala Petri und des iranisch-amerikanischen Cembalisten Mahan Esfahani beginnt mit
Malcolm Arnolds Sonatina in einer frischen und verspielten Aufführung. Es folgt das lustige 'It's Spring' von Henning Christiansen, von Michala Petri mit überschäumender Energie gespielt. Die elegante Sonatina von Gordon Jacob und die flatterhafte Sonate von Vagn Holmboe geben den beiden Interpreten weitere Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten, in denen sie ihre stimulierende und sich gegenseitig befruchtende Partnerschaft unter Beweis stellen.

'Tourbillon' des 1984 geborenen Daniel Kidane ist neben Axel Borups 'Fantasia' das modernste Stück der Sammlung und vielleicht auch das im Ausdruck ernsthafteste. Sehr stimmungsvoll und charakteristisch ist die überaus reizvolle 'Alpine Suite' von Benjamin Britten, die hier ganz evokativ gespielt wird.
Insgesamt also eine überaus attraktive Zusammenstellung, die einmal mehr von Michala Petris exzeptionellem Talent für Blockföten-Höhenflüge zeugt.

This is a delightful release, with partly very playful, partly more serious music which allows Petri and Esfahani once more to join their talents for highly expressive and characteristic performances.
Pizzicato Magazine

Great Raymond Tuttle review Fanfare (1) on UK-DK
Fanfare Magazine
30 September 2010
Fanfare Review 1

UK DK ● Michala Petri (rcr); Mahan Esfahani (hpd) ● OUR 6.220611 (SACD: 66:27)
ARNOLD Sonatina, Op. 41. CHRISTIANSEN It is Spring. JACOB Sonatina. An Encore for Michala. HOLMBOE Sonata, Op. 145. KIDANE Tourbillon. BRITTEN Alpine Suite. BORUP-JØRGENSEN Fantasia, Op. 75
First, a few words about this disc's title. The composers represented here are either Danish ("DK") or British ("UK"). As for the performers, Michala Petri is a Dane, and Mahan Esfahani, although he is Iranian-American, has the large letters "UK" appearing next to the booklet's biographical note about him. That is because he has been very active in England, and currently makes London his home. Petri, as the saying goes, needs no introduction. Esfahani, who was born in 1984, probably is about to become much better known, because he signed with Deutsche Grammophon last year, and his first solo release for that label should be on the "shelves" (if one can continue to use that term) by the time you read this review. He's already released a Corelli disc with Petri (also reviewed by me in this issue), and a couple of very well-received releases for Hyperion.
All of these works were composed specifically for Petri. The two exceptions are Britten's Alpine Suite (a work he composed in 1955 while he and Peter Pears were on a skiing holiday in Switzerland) and Malcolm Arnold's Sonatina, which dates from 1962. Both are played in arrangements. It was Arnold himself who suggested to Petri that she might perform the Sonatina with harpsichord accompaniment. Britten's suite was composed for three recorders; the arrangement for recorder and harpsichord that is heard here is by the performers. One notes that Petri should be very used to playing with a harpsichord, not just because of her Baroque repertoire, but also because her mother Hanne is a harpsichordist. (Furthermore, her brother David is a cellist.)
This is an enjoyable release, although much of the music is feather-light, not just in texture but also in importance. Weight is added, however, by the Daniel Kidane's Tourbillon and Axel Borup-Jørgensen's Fantasia. Kidane, who was born in 1986, has composed an interesting work not based on a whirlwind, as the title might suggest, but on a watch mechanism that bears that same name. In horology, a tourbillon counteracts the effects of gravity on a watch's escapement. Kidane writes, "Both instruments take on the idea of breaking away from gravity but at the same time are restrained by moments of tranquility." The recorder and the harpsichord are equals in this work, which, while lacking the rhythms of jazz, has something of modern jazz's spontaneity and jaggedness. I'm glad that it was included on this disc because, among all the sweets, it gives listeners something meaty on which to chew.
The Fantasia by Axel Borup-Jørgensen, who died in 2012, is less restless than Kidane's Tourbillon, and less a piece of clockwork, if you will, but it also treats the two instruments as equals. Although its language is seldom consonant, and it is not easy to discern what the composer is trying to communicate, one senses the presence of a personality, and so one's attention remains engaged.
Petri plays four recorders on this disc—sopranino, soprano, alto, and tenor—and Esfahani plays a Dowd harpsichord from 1981. The OUR Recordings engineering team has balanced them against each other perfectly, but the success really is Petri's and Esfahani's, because they clearly are in synch with each other. Petri's wonderful, genial skill remains unchanged since she first appeared on the international scene in the 1970s. Esfahani is an unusually expressive, colorful player, and I look forward to hearing him in a solo role—I probably will check out those Hyperion releases, now that I have heard him here.
UK DK is a nice outing for two talented musicians, and furthermore, the repertoire is surprising and sometimes demanding, and always worth the listener's effort. Raymond Tuttle February 2015
Fanfare Magazine