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Nalen Anthoni
Gramophone, November 2008

The nimble Petri makes the recorder sound so right in Mozart—delightful!

Mozart’s Flute Quartets played on recorders? Unusual but not improbable; and Michala Petri, who uses recorders in three different pitches, is likely to disarm resistance or hostility. She chooses a sopranino instrument for K298. But no shrill piping, no phlegmatic phrasing. The first movement is a theme and four variations, the overall marking Andantino implying a single tempo. But as Mozart offers each musician an individual role in each of the four variations, Petri treats the components as separate facets of a single entity. She relaxes or tightens the pace as necessary without compromising unity; and no one hogs the limelight. These artists know when to blend, separate or step forward without upstaging one another. The return to the theme at the end, not in the score and therefore “unauthorized” is, nevertheless, a thoughtful interpretative touch.

The sound on this disc (in SACD) is alluringly recorded—call the shots.

Uncle Dave Lewis, November 2008

Recorder virtuoso Michala Petri is a big proponent of performing certain early transverse flute literature on her chosen instrument, and in a way, she has a point—when it comes to Mozart’s flute chamber music, the recorder is closer to the wooden flute favored in Mozart’s day than a modern flute, with its many keys and metal body. The question is to whether one might develop a preference for the recorder over a modern flute in these often recorded, generally familiar works; not a likely scenario for most flute fanciers. The answer is once you hear Petri play them on recorder, you might not go back to the flute. Our Recordings’ Mozart: Flute Quartets is that good—Petri’s tone seems effortless and is pristine and pure, but never whistle-like, and Petri’s legato on the recorder is seamless and smooth. Accentuating such positives is the ad hoc chamber group supporting Petri on this disc, undeniably beauteous young ladies from Germany, Lithuania and Latvia respectively, violinist Carolin Widmann, violist Ula Ulijona and cellist Marta Sudraba. They are responsive to both Petri and to Mozart’s subtle shades of dynamics in this music, which is excellently well recorded onto the SACD format. The sessions were held at a studio on the Danish island of Bornholm during the summertime, and the recording is of such quality as to bring the tincture of warm, northern sea air into the room through one’s speakers. Our Recordings’ Mozart: Flute Quartets is recommended, and should appeal to those who enjoy exceptionally well-recorded, attractive and life-affirming chamber music; chances are, once the listener is into this disc for a while, they will soon forget that they are listening to a recorder rather than a flute.

Steven E. Ritter
Fanfare, October 2008

Can anyone believe that Michala Petri is now 50 years old? Time is certainly beginning to pass me by more rapidly than I’d like to admit, but I was taken aback when reminded that she made her debut all the way back in 1969, and the career ever since has certainly approached legendary status.

Her playing doesn’t seem to have suffered much either, judging by this new SACD of stunning Mozartian revelry and extraordinarily rich surround sound. But why the recorder? I supposed one could be flippant and answer, “Because she is Michala Petri and wants to do it.” But even as the notes to this deluxe release admit, the recorder was well on its way out the door when these quartets were written, and the transverse flute had already replaced the instrument as the primary home wind instrument, fairly easy to play and featuring a more luxurious and subtle sound than the more piecing recorder. But, using the model that Mozart himself was a practical man and would have approved playing the pieces on recorder if there were a Thaler involved, we now have this very interesting and well-played (if not really definitive, only because of instrumentation) release.

It is not probable that these works were written either for commission or for initial publication, but for Mozart’s friends and colleagues. But the question remains as to the choice of solo instrument here. I must say that Petri does her dead level best not to remind us that this is a recorder by playing with a softer sound and using a variety of instruments. Nonetheless, for those who know the works well it will come as a slight shock to hear them played this way, though by the end you will have long forgotten about it and been completely swayed by the stunning musicianship and excellent rapport among these sterling colleagues…—this is a remarkable and enchanting disc of exceptional attributes.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, September 2008

Among recorder players, Michala Petri is something of a Holy Grail. She is so very versatile, she could even make the Declaration of Independence sound good if she chose to play it. But Mozart never composed anything for recorders—not even that famous scale in the "Magic Flute". Recorders in the late 18th century were definitely on the way out as the premier woodwind instrument. The four pretty

faces on the cover of this CD are an attraction in itself, and the  playing beyond cavil. Yet even though Petri sails through the music effortlessly, the recorder sound is thin and strained because the tessitura is so high. Within their normal range, recorders can sound sweet and richly mellow. But they don't like to be pushed.

Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, August 2008

…they are given loving performances which make convincing the use of recorders, rather than the more usual modern flute in many of the recordings available. Michala Petri rings the changes with several instruments and finishes K285b on sopranino, which I doubt she would claim as in any way authentic, but no matter, it makes for an effective finish…The disc is a high quality SACD recording (if you have the equipment to appreciate its niceties) but the music sounds fine on a variety of ordinary players. It should inspire recorder players to bring the quartets into their chamber music repertoires.

Gramophone, August 2008

Whether to pick Mozart Flute Quartet in Galway’s modern flute version or Michala Petri’s authentic and pure performance is quite a difficult choice for the audience—the former version has been known for a while but the latter has more unique tunes.

Mozart composed these quartets during the time when recorders were historically being replaced by flutes. The recorder, invented as early as the guitar, gradually disappeared from the music scene and was replaced by the “grandfather” of modern flutes: the transverse flute. No doubt that at least two (D major quartet, K.285 and A major quartet, K.298) of the several pieces in the release were composed for transverse flutes. After all, the composer noticed chamber music’s newest member. But there is no way to be sure of the composer’s original choice of instruments.  It would be difficult to determine their difference if it was not Galway’s distinctive mouthpiece control techniques.

Then what was the intention of the composer? Transverse flutes are absolutely better in tuning balance but the recorder is especially outstanding for the emotional responses emphasized by the special singing-like feature—the G major quartet (K.285) first movement in Adagio seems more touching.

Even in the comparatively faster parts, recordist Michala Petri keeps the sound clear and clean, even with Galway’s advantages. To determine which instrument Mozart was thinking of when he composed these pieces by judging the music or by reading the score is still too difficult a job.

We should appreciate recorder players for providing us with this option. In fact, to most listeners, it’s not important at all to determine which instrument Mozart chose when he composed these flute quartets. Recorder or transverse flute? Even if it was transverse flute, we still cannot restore the real tune by the adapted Boehm System. Therefore, Historically Informed Performance Practice can only help us to approach the cultural background and music appreciation of the olden days; nowadays, the orchestra configuration is fixed and the music appreciation is formed, techniques are more “modern”—one wonders if the proficient Mozart would be willing to compose contemporary music in a more aggressive way?

Audiophile Audition, August 2008

The four smiling women on the cover of this new edition of Mozart’s flute quartets have much to be happy about. They’ve compiled a winner. For a start, search and discover these wondrous samples of their craft from K285 alone: in the Allegro, there’s a graceful diminuendo at the conclusion of first theme’s opening statement; at the conclusion of the Adagio two tantalizingly long rests; then there is the keen attention the ensemble gives to subtle shadings between repeats; and of course the pure hardwood tones of the recorders…what? Recorders?

That’s right. Michala Petri plays these four sublime “flute” quartets on a variety of recorders: alto, soprano, even the birdlike sopranino. The first two may have originally been played on such instruments. However, this unorthodox programming choice works gloriously for all four pieces. She may dazzle us, but never do we get the impression that she’s showing off her virtuosity (of which there is plenty). She is merely revealing this music in its best light. In fact, these quartets just happen to sound better than when played by most modern flute players.

The sonics of this SACD seem perfectly balanced, with tones warmer than a comforter in March. The three string players are extraordinary: their instruments complement the recorders the way balsamic vinegar does virgin olive oil. These performances are not only smooth, they are entertaining. The Tema con variazioni of K285b recalls affective moments from Mozart’s serenades: its poignant opening melody is seasoned with tasty triplets half way through. (Catch Petri’s deft witty switch to sopranino at the conclusion.) There are many such high points on this CD. You will have to pick out the best for yourself, so listen close. This is music that may inspire you to curl up next to a fire, cat, or lover and forget the world’s colossal disarray.

Michala Petri performs on the Mollenhauer Modern Alto recorder and the Moeck Rottenburgh Soprano and Sopranino recorders

David Vernier, June 2008

You could easily make the case that the recorder—not the modern orchestral flute—should be the preferred instrument for Mozart’s so-called “flute quartets”. At least, you could after hearing Michala Petri’s lovely, fluid, timbrally congenial, eminently entertaining—and yes, virtuoso performances. The virtuoso description must be applied here because the facility of technique, the miraculous control of breath and phrasing, the affecting attention to even the smallest nuance of articulation (all embodied in the opening minutes of K. 285) are in a league by themselves among today’s recorder soloists.

As such, Petri’s playing—accompanied by a very capable string trio with the rapport and ensemble awareness of seasoned chamber musicians (listen to the delicate phrasing in the Menuetto of K. 285a)—allows her lines their “solo” character while achieving a more gratifying integration with the strings than is possible with the modern flute’s more assertive, metallic voice. The warm, ebony-timbre of the three different recorders Petri uses (alto, soprano, and sopranino) actually has a closer affinity to the quality of the stringed instruments, and thus to the flute of Mozart’s day. Although even in the hands of a master like Petri the recorder’s intonation challenges can’t be absolutely solved, the few slightly under-pitch moments are just that—momentary—and will be unnoticed by all but the most keen-eared, attentive listeners.

Petri’s impressive technical command of these instruments—supported by gorgeous, natural, ideally balanced sonics—allows her complete musical/expressive freedom, and in pieces that are not among Mozart’s most notably sophisticated creations, she and her responsive partners make music that’s both eloquent and entertaining—just what Mozart would have wanted. Highly recommended!

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