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Steven E. Ritter
Fanfare, October 2009

I cannot remember the last time a woman touted herself turning 50! But in Michala Petri’s case, it only serves to show how this particular milestone means the woman is truly only getting better with age. Petri has had the solo recorder scene practically to herself her entire career, and just sampling this impressive live concert shows why. Technically, she remains the most dazzling artist of her antique instrument anywhere. The tempos in the Vivaldi are upbeat and flashy, with some dexterously handled staccato articulations. More lyrical in nature is the Albinoni Concerto, a work Petri has played infrequently. Mozart is a composer whom Petri has turned to only recently (and to grand effect), feeling that his centeredness and intimacy is something she should be exploring more thoroughly at this juncture in her life.

Chen Yi (b. 1953) is a “crossover” composer in that she attempts a mixture of Chinese and Western cultural traditions. Currently distinguished professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, her The Ancient Chinese Beauty has three movements: “The Clay Figurines,” “The Ancient Totems,” and “The Dancing Ink,” which are her impressions of ancient Chinese art. It was premiered in 2008 by the Beijing Philharmonic in the city of the same name, and is a fine piece, reflecting the artistic exaggeration of forms and postures, the overwhelming yet stoic fierceness of a totem, and the dancing nature found in works of ink calligraphy.

Artem Vassiliev, now 39 years old, has written a work for alto recorder called To Say Goodbye, where the composer, in his own words, wrote the piece “as if it were a personal diary” in moments of great personal sadness after the unexpected deaths of two composer friends; for once, the music amply reflects the sentiments at the time of composition. Fitting into the middle of this concert is a wonderful Concerto for Strings by Nino Rota, revised in 1977, and among his most popular works. Rounding out the concert are the quick selections from Happy Birthday Variations by Peter Heidrich, a suitable ending to a fine evening.

Petri fans—and all others—won’t be disappointed with this disc…it is a quality listening hour well spent, with sound that is amazingly transparent for a radio broadcast.

Uncle Dave Lewis, April 2009

It seems hardly possible—particularly to those fans who have followed Michala Petri since she first began to record with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields circa 1980—so much time has passed that Petri is celebrating her 50th birthday. There is something about Petri’s choice of instrument, her bright, pristine tone and preciousness, that seems in a way eternally precocious and youthful, ever the ingénue. Nevertheless, the half century mark doesn’t find Petri planning to receive AARP benefits; rather, she has organized a concert to mark the occasion and recorded it for her OUR Recordings label, which she runs with husband Lars Hannibal. Petri is appearing with a group she is especially fond of, the KREMERata BALTICA orchestra founded in 1997 by violinist Gidon Kremer. From the standard Baroque literature for recorder, Petri picks the D minor Concerto, Op. 9/2, by Tomaso Albinoni—which she recorded so winningly with Claudio Scimone and I Solisti Veneti back in 1990—and the Vivaldi C major Concerto, RV 443, another composer to whom Petri is no stranger. Add to that a searing Mozart Andante and two freshly commissioned works, The Ancient Chinese Beauty from Chen Yi and Valere lubere (To Say Goodbye) by Kazakhstan-born Russian composer Artem Vassiliev. The latter has a tension and elegance reminiscent of Edison Denisov’s Variations on Haydn’s Canon “Tod ist ein Langer Schlaf.” Chen’s work has an especially exciting third movement, “The Dancing Ink,” that snaps along with rhythmic gusto and has Petri’s instrument moving through notes that one might think would have no finger holes on the recorder to accommodate them. KREMERata BALTICA gets to show off its stuff as well; they are heard in Nino Rota’s Concerto for Strings and in some bits taken from Peter Heidrich’s popular Happy Birthday Variations; in this last segment the extremely quiet and well-behaved audience can no longer restrain itself and joins in with enthusiastic applause and laughter. It’s Michala’s birthday, a good time is had by all, and so shall you.

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