Sean HICKEY: A Pacifying Weapon/Concerto For Recorder, Winds, Brass, Percussion And Harp – Michala Petri (recorder) – Our Recordings/Nordsco Records

Sean Hickey – A Pacifying Weapon/Concerto For Recorder, Winds, Brass, Percussion And Harp – Our Recordings/Nordsco Records OUR-LP001 audiophile vinyl, 41:50 ****:

Modern classical music with a global perspective!

(Sean Hickey – composer; Michala Petri – recorder; Jean Thorel – conductor Royal Danish Academy Of Music Concert Band; Clemens Schuldt – conductor Lapland Chamber Orchestra)

As a new millennium is underway, musical expression, including classical is evolving in its own way. Compositions reflect some of the changes made by 20th century composers. Minimalism (Phillip Glass,Steve Reich and PostModernism were skeptical of grandiosity and universal application. emphasizing political and social context. Postminimalism (Louis Andriessen, Gavin Byars, John McGuire) went a step further with pulse-driven music. Other genres like New Complexity and New Simplicity defined the new century of composers. Polystylism and Eclecticism exposed compositions to a variety of genres and techniques with global modalities.

Sean Hickey is an example of 21st century classical music. He studied electric guitar in Detroit and was commissioned to write chamber and orchestral works by various organizations, including Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. His current release, A Pacifying Weapon (Concerto For Recorder, Winds, Brass, Percussion And Harp) was inspired by an indie folk group Indigo Girls and was commissioned by soloist Michala Petri. It contemplates worldly socio-political matters with an optimistic outlook on world peace. Juxtaposed with the topical narrative is the utilization of the Middle Ages-based recorder (alto, soprano, bass) which has become prevalent in modern classical music. Petri is accompanied by the Royal Danish Academy Of Music Concert Band (all students), conducted by Jean Thorel. The first movement (“A Pacifying Weapon I”) hints at the instrumental dynamic. The lone “voice” of the recorder (actually three different ones) establishes its individual presence in union with smaller reed/woodwind ensembles (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon) or in contrast to punctuated orchestral climax. In the second movement, (“A Pacifying Weapon II”) there are wistful, yet menacing statements that frame Petri’s unwavering instrumentation. The chameleon-like moods are reflected in hushed interludes and subtle intensity shifts. A seemingly aspirational finish is intriguing.

Michala Petri

The third movement embraces complexity. A swirling percussion intro leads into ominous  brass shadings. There is a deliberate tempo that is offset by sprightly recorder runs. A middle section bass recorder/metal percussion segment (nearly all improvised per the Hickey liner notes) is captivating. Eerie percussion and expanded orchestra adds to the overall texture. Another highlight is the inclusion of a Scottish Highland segment which features the military imagery (that includes a march-time snare drum) but reinforces an upbeat sentiment. Petri’s instrumental mastery (across three recorders) underscores her commitment to ensemble interplay. Clocking in under 30 minutes, Hickey creates a modern take on the concerto. Fortunately, there is a significant bonus track, “Thomas Clausen Concertino For Recorder And Strings” (previously released). Accompanied by Lapland Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Clemens Schuldt), this is a more traditional concerto with contrasting movements. The initial moderato is lively and showcases the string prominence and instrumental prowess. In contrast, the largo has a stately, melancholy resonance, with a lyrical recorder solo and cello accents. Then another moderato and rondo bring a satisfying conclusion. Petri’s versatility at playing against larger and smaller instrumental formations is matched by her virtuosic soloing acumen.

This audiophile vinyl release of A Pacifying Weapon (which includes a 24-bit FLAC download) has typical analog warmth and stereo separation. The recorder tonalities and pitch are fluid and devoid of any unnecessary sharpness. Minor accents (percussion, harp) have clarity. The label has various digital versions that could enhance the overall vibrancy of the sound.

TrackList:
Side A: 
A Pacifying Weapon I
A Pacifying Weapon II

Side B: 
A Pacifying Weapon III
Bonus Track: Thomas Clausen Concertino For Recorder And Strings

—Robbie Gerson

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