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Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, June 2016

THE SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO…Hans Christian Andersen

This vision by Uģis Prauliņš (b1957) of Andersen’s story about a Chinese emperor who prefers a blinged-up mechanical nightingale to a real bird capable of genuine song (another prescient tale) is brimming with imagination and harmonic wonderment. The Latvian composer weaves Michala Petri’s tweeting recorders around his singers as an ever-present, uncannily natural evocation of the nightingale itself. © 2016 Gramophone

Lawrence Schenbeck
Choral Journal, November 2012

The…disc reveals the stunning variety and vitality of North European choral music today.

Praulins’s The Nightingale rightly leads off the program. The composer’s background in progressive and heavy-metal rock bands, Latvian folk music and ritual, film and television scoring, and Renaissance counterpoint has enabled him to produce a continuously changing tapestry of sound that nevertheless hangs together remarkably well, effortlessly expressing the fancy in the Andersen fragments.

The other…selections more than hold their own in this distinguished company. Börtz’s Nemesis divina, based on philosophic writings by the eighteenth century botanist Carl Linnaeus…

Everything was recorded in the resonant space of Copenhagen’s Christianskirken, but fortunately the acoustic enlivens the sound of the twenty-voice choir and the soloist rather than swamping them in sonic mud. The vocal soloists are drawn from the choir and do a superb job, as did conductor Layton. This was probably the single most enjoyable choral recording I encountered in 2011. One can only hope that the music will be more widely performed… © 2012 Choral Journal

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, August 2012

This new album by the ever-inventive Michala Petri and the spectacular Danish National Vocal Ensemble that collects four commissioned world premieres is nothing short of astonishing…

…the cleverness with which each of these composers integrates the instrument into the textures of their music, each with a specific design in mind, is most impressive.

The surround sound on this disc is resonant and spectacular, with the voices soaring over your head. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, March 2012

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. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Heinz Braun
Klassik heute, March 2012

I find no words that are adequate to describe the magic that emanates from this brilliant and poetic disc, a recording featuring only music for choir and recorder, composed by four Scandinavian composers for Michala Petri. Lucky composers! One cannot imagine a more ideal pair of interpreters than Petri and the phenomenal Danish National Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Stephen Layton. They execute their sometimes ludicrously virtuosic parts with a professionalism and palpable emotional commitment that is second to none.

Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal…seem to have an unerring sense of quality and originality.

…OUR Recordings audiophile-quality recording is lovingly complimented by a booklet containing the complete song texts, photos and biographical sketches of composers and artists as well as excellent, helpful introductions. One of the most atmospheric, deeply moving and at the same time most novel recorder recordings of recent years! © 2012 Klassik Heute

Todd Gorman
American Record Guide, March 2012

The performances here are phenomenal.

Lush, sonorous chords are sung with just the right timbre to blend, then fade out with truly phenomenal decrescendos. The skylark accompanies the choir, animating the smoothness below. This is the balm for the preceding two, with moments of hypnotic repetition. You’ll swoon!

Michala Petri’s bass recorder is woody and earthy, the other instruments she uses are superb, and the recorded sound is marvelous. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Brian Morton
Choir & Organ, March 2012

…DNVS tackles challenges like these with energy and confidence. Latvian Ugis Praulins comes out of progressive rock music, and his settings of Hans Christian Andersen in The Nightingale call for and receive sustained lyricism in complex time signatures and considerable harmonic complexity. There’s a nice folkish tinge too, reflected in Michala Petri’s virtuosic recorder playing. Other pieces are by Sunleif Rasmussen…Peter Bruun…and Daniel Böertz, who sets Carl van Linné/Linnaeus in sustained and darkly enigmatic Nemesis divina. A wholly satisfying hour of music. © 2012 Choir and Organ

Malcolm Riley
Gramophone, March 2012

This new disc reinforces the extraordinary strengths of the Danish choral tradition. Here are voices of mature suppleness and agility…stirring from a deep wellspring of creativity and all sung in English.

…Stephen Layton steers his peerlessly virtuoso musicians through this eclectic and innovative mix with his customary polish and dramatic energy. Also running through it all like a golden thread is Michala Petri’s iridescent playing. This is an unequivocal treat for connoisseurs of fine choral singing and recorder lovers alike. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2012

I don’t think it is going too far to say that more than half of the record’s success is due to Layton’s greatness as a choral director…He really knows how to get the best out of a choir, not only the usual things like good blend and phrasing but also the unusual things like rhythmic acuity, flawless diction, and a deep knowledge of how to get the most and best out of all of his singers.

I am…mesmerized by much of the music on this CD as well. Highly recommended. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, March 2012

The latest release by Michala Petri, masterminded by Lars Hannibal, is in many ways her best. An extraordinary selection of Nordic commissions, each one is completely riveting in its unique way.

Tremendous texts and marvellous music for each one. 2012 Musical Pointers Read complete review

Graham Rickson
The Arts Desk, February 2012

Veteran Danish virtuoso Michala Petri joins forces with a crack Danish choir in a fascinating selection of new works. The delight lies in hearing just how well the unadorned clarity of Petri’s tone blends with the vocals. The main attraction here is Latvian composer Ugis Praulins’ English setting of Andersen’s The Nightingale. Praulins’ eclectic compositional style is readily accessible, encompassing fierce dissonance, speech-like chant and warm diatonic simplicity, over which Petri’s lyrical nightingale song can effortlessly soar, contrasting with the shrill staccato squeaking of the bird’s mechanical replacement. Wonderful stuff, with a radiant conclusion. © 2012 The Arts Desk Read complete review

Graham Rickson, February 2012

You don’t find many discs of music for recorder and a capella voices. Veteran Danish virtuoso Michala Petri joins forces with a crack Danish choir in a fascinating selection of new works. The delight lies in hearing just how well the unadorned clarity of Petri’s tone blends with the vocals.

Stephen Layton directs with style, and the disc is spectacularly engineered. © 2012

Howard Smith
Music & Vision, February 2012

OUR Records has captured this winning release with striking fidelity, and recorders with the vocal ensemble are a rarity, realized here with consummate artistry. This is pure magic seemingly bathed in the glow of an aurora borealis. Unmatched recorder; deliquescent choruses. Don’t miss it. © 2012 Music & Vision

Karsten Blüthgen
Sächsische Zeitung Dresden, January 2012

For Danish recorder player Michala Petri, nothing seems impossible. Here, she sings like a Nightingale, with all the brilliant sound technology to capture that moment perfectly.

When Michala Petri begins to play a phrase, you immediately take notice and want to listen.

Definitely worth listening to! Digital Audio rarely achieves this sense of being right in the middle of the action with Michala Petri, Lars Hannibal and the singing Danes. © 2012 Sächsische Zeitung Dresden

James Manheim, January 2012

Veteran Danish recorder virtuosa Michala Petri gets the top billing here, but the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of British conductor Stephen Layton, deserves at least equal billing. The combination of recorder and choir is unique, and the concept, a collaboration between Petri and U.S. producer Joshua Cheek…merits praise for sheer originality. But the best audience for this release might lie among those who enjoy the British choral sound and are looking for something connected but completely different. © 2012 Read complete review

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