These are all world premiere recordings and feature the combination
of Michala Petri’s flute, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble
directed by Stephen Layton, and some enjoyable new music from
Swedish composer Daniel Börtz, Latvian Ugis Praulins, the Dane
Peter Bruun and Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen.
Praulins’ 2010 The Nightingale takes a text after Hans
Christian Andersen (in English) broken down into nine sections,
or eight tableaux and a reprise to be strictly accurate. It’s
better known as The Emperor and the Nightingale. This
is directly communicative, aurally piquant music, so different
from the sterile, audience-denying academism still sometimes
to be found. Startling glissandi and rich contrast animate the
music, so too antique-sounding airs, and succinct evocation
and romance. Rasmussen utilises Petri’s technical adroitness
at fast tonguing, and there are plenty of opportunities for
bird imitation, whether real or mechanical – in the latter case
adding mechanical, rhythmic, jagged qualities too. He takes
the recorder up high, infiltrates troubadour warmth and has
constructed a rich, warm, avid setting, clearly responding to
Andersen’s texts with imagination and flair.
Nemesis divina was written by Börtz in 2006. The text
is by Carl von Linné, better known as Linnaeus (1707-1778),
the botanist and physician. Petri employs, as instructed, multiple
recorders from tenor to sopranino, and this vests the music
with plenty of colour. Fortunately Börtz is a subtle colourist
and his richly voiced choral writing works well. The recorder
lines perhaps evoke Messaien but there is a strong and questioning
independence in the writing, and a sense of things remaining
incomplete in the final lines of the text.
An equally well structured work is Rasmussen’s “I”.
The recorder’s often incessant commentary adds to the density
of the solo and choral writing, leading to a visionary and raptly
beautiful recorder meditation as the work draws to a close.
Finally Bruun’s Two scenes with Skylark takes two poems
by Hopkins — as with all the other texts, they are set in English,
a tribute to the linguistic superiority of the vocal ensemble.
In The Sea and the Skylark the lark ascends against
the crash of the sea, a vehemence conveyed with precise calibration;
so, too, the rather dour interpretation of the stark last lines
of the poem. Bruun vests The Caged Skylark with a stuttering
rhythm, and this proves effective.
Each of these composers has his own strong voice and his own
way of reconciling the recorder, or recorders, with choral and/or
solo voices in these settings. There is variety here, an exploration
of a precise sound-world, a sensitive exploration of text and
sonority, and a — never simplistic — wish to communicate with
fellow performers and with listeners.