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William Yeoman
Gramophone, April 2010

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 originally 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 to 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?



Michael Church
BBC Music Magazine, March 2010

Performance:
Recording:

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 collaboration 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 instrumental 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.




Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, March 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 Français, 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.



Schubertian, January 2010

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.



John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, January 2010

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.



Patric Standford
Music & Vision, November 2009

Anyone who has sat in Vienna’s expansive and elegant Café Central with a kleiner Brauner or Einspänner and portions of delicious Sachertorte will know how important the coffee houses were—and still are—to the Viennese. Their history, which goes back some four hundred years, tells of a genesis at the exodus of the Turks and subsequent generous imports of rich coffee beans. They were for a long time the exclusive territory of men only, but by the early nineteenth century families were welcomed and there were lady’s rooms. They were meeting places for artists, writers and composers, and the recorder player Michala Petri and guitarist Lars Hannibal celebrate this particular period with a recital of music that might well have been heard by the leisured city folk as they relaxed with newspapers or gentle conversation.

There are some attractive musical novelties assembled here. The guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) was also a cellist—he played in the first performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. His Gran duetto Concertante Op 52 is among his best pieces, originally written for violin or flute and guitar, and sounding well in a recorder transcription in which, occasionally, the guitar is allowed some rewarding moments.

Ferdinando Carulli (1770–1841) was one of the many composers to be attracted to writing variations on the English national anthem and Joseph Küffner (1776–1856), a German violinist and bandmaster whose formidable output reached 289 works and included several operas, seven symphonies and a mass of orchestral and chamber music, was attracted to French national songs for his Potpourri Op 226, in which he enjoys elaborating La Marseillaise in the style of a Viennese ländler.

Beethoven apparently wrote a group of pieces for mandolin with piano accompaniment of which four survive, and two are arranged for this recording, the second being a brief and particularly good vehicle for some of the distinctive Petri virtuosity.

There is also music by Ernest Krähmer, Joseph Mayseder and Carl Scheindienst about whom little is known, and whose Variations on an Austrian Folk Tune may be the only extant piece recorded. It is just possible that his name is an invention, perhaps to hide the identity of an obviously adept composer.

It brings a most engaging recital to an exciting close.



Allmusic.com, November 2009

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.






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11:50:03 PM, 18 September 2014
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