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Martin Anderson
International Record Review, April 2010

My interest in football is pretty well zero; but when George Best died and a TV news programme showed a clip of him apparently unchallenged by gravity as he seemed to dribble the ball both through and around an opposing player as fleet-footedly as a Mariinsky prima ballerina, I was gobsmacked: this was true virtuosity, a supreme achievement in its own way. I found unexpected pleasure in this release for the same reason: it’s a project perfectly realized. From the outside, a CD of ten contemporary duos for recorders and their Chinese equivalents is not the kind of release to set the pulse quickening; it was respect for Michala Petri’s musicianship that led me to investigate further, and I’m delighted I did.

Petri and her instruments will need little introduction to western audiences; Chen Yue and hers might. She plays variants of two instruments thousands of years old in their design: the xiao and the dizi. The recording ‘is the result of several years’ planning’, as the Introduction in the booklet by Joshua Cheek explains (Cheek is an expert on contemporary Chinese music): ten young composers, five Danish and five Chinese, were commissioned to write a duo for Petri and Chen. The results, all written in 2007, are very different: some of the composers wrote ‘locally’ for each instrument, others drawing their performance techniques into a more abstract framework, but all of them show a striking alert ear in responding to the colours they are working with—although you’ll have trouble following which is which as they whirl around each other like tumbling doves. It’s far from obvious to the innocent ear which composers are Danish and which Chinese: it struck me that the fourth track has something of the formal elegance of the courtship rituals of Manchurian cranes and so was probably by one of the Chinese; no—it was Butterfly-Rain by Pernille Louise Sejlund (b.1979). The next track, The Greetings from Afar by Gang Chen (b.1969), dances along with the light-footed good humour that informs many of the other tracks.

The performances are immediately engaging, and the sound (the recording was made in a Danish church) couldn’t be bettered. The booklet, too, is a model of what such things should be, with Cheek’s Introduction followed by a page on each composer and then by presentations of the musicians and their instruments; and the design has been beautifully done. I looked for some fault, to moderate such fulsome praise, but could find none.



Michael Church
BBC Music Magazine, March 2010

Performance:
Recording:

In Dialogue-East meets West Petri teams up with a Chinese player on the xiao and dizi flutes to perform pieces specially written for this East-West instrumental combination by five young Chinese composers and 5 young Danish ones. The real interest of this collaboration lies in the contrast between what the Western and Eastern instruments can do, with the latter capable of an amazing variety of tricks.



James Reel
Fanfare, June 2009

Contemporary Chinese pieces alternate with works by young Danes on this recording that teams the European recorder family with its Chinese analogs, the xiao and dizi. All of these pieces were written, mostly by composers under 30, in 2007 especially for this project spearheaded by the two performers. Most of the Chinese pieces sound distinctly Chinese, through the composers’ choice of scales and use of note-bending and other Asian playing techniques. A couple of them quote Chinese melodies, but none of this is travelogue music. Peng Zhuang, for instance, sounds like an extract from Orff’s Schulwerk. The Danish pieces, I suppose, are also typical of their culture, yet the greatest interest here is not hearing who uses a pentatonic scale and who does not, but how the various composers cause the two wind instruments to interact. Rong, for example, has Michala Petri and Chen Yue engage in independent but parallel play, whereas Stream establishes a closer, more interdependent relationship between the two lines. The Greeting from Afar by Gang Chen (not the composer by the same name responsible for the “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto) is a playful piece calling for the highest instruments from the dizi and recorder families, while Circonflexe requires the players to switch among the full range of their instruments. Some of the pieces, like Cascades, are lovely, rippling, and fluid, while others are a bit more thorny. This is certainly not New Age meditation music, but neither is it strenuously avant-garde. Both artists play superbly, and the audio quality is notable for what it lacks—there’s no high-frequency distortion, no extraneous noise, no strange coloration, nothing but the natural sounds of the instruments recorded in the flattering acoustics of a Danish church.



Uncle Dave Lewis
Allmusic.com, May 2009

Our Recordings’ Dialogue: East Meets West features an unusual collaboration on a unique combination of instruments as Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri joins Chen Yue, a Chinese virtuoso on the Chinese xiao and dizi, both flutes, although the xiao is end-blown, whereas the dizi is more like a transverse flute; they are likewise made of different kinds of bamboo. As literature for this particular instrumental combination has been heretofore nonexistent, Petri and Chen have commissioned 10 pieces for the album, 5 each from Danish composers and Chinese composers. They have obtained a very interesting slate of results; in some cases the Chinese composers have turned up pieces, such as in Ruomei Chen’s Jue, that are a tad more readily recognizable with avant-garde styles than the Danish ones, making clear that in China experimental composition has a bit more cachet and perceived freshness than in the West, where it is seen in some circles as being a little played out. Not so Mette Nielsen, whose lovely Stream incorporates well-adjudged elements of improvisation, whereas Chinese composer Li Rui’s Peng Zhuang and Siqin Chaoketu’s Yan Gui are strongly rooted in traditional Chinese folk idioms; Butterfly-Rain by Pernille Louise Sejlund is a beautiful wash of flute texture that has a programmatic sense of organization and belongs to neither side of the divide; this and the Chaoketu are obvious highlights.

There are no other instruments used than those played by Petri and Chen; no piano accompaniment, traditional Chinese instrumental group, use of percussion, or anything else. As a result, Dialogue: East Meets West is a bit of a tightrope walk—the high-pitched instrument players are on their own in putting across the entire 68-minute disc. And for that it never gets boring, although one may want to listen to Dialogue: East Meets West in two halves in order to ingest it more easily. One thing that is striking about the music of Harry Partch is that he built his own instruments and devised his own harmonic building blocks, and therefore created a kind of music from scratch that has no easy reference to other kinds of music. Petri and Chen have done much the same thing here; after awhile one moves away from the idea that these instruments are members of the flute family and into an area of listening that is of its own character and consisting of relatively light, distinctly feminine qualities. Dialogue: East Meets West is a disc that definitely rewards repeated exposure as details gradually reveal themselves, and while the composer commissions provide variety, there is no one piece that dominates the whole puzzle; it is a singular and pleasant, but by no means altogether unchallenging, musical journey that is an ideal offering for taking in the season of spring.






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10:26:59 PM, 23 September 2014
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