Chinese Recorder Concertos “East Meets West” – TANG JIANPING: Fei Ge; BRIGHT SHENG: Flute Moon; MA SHUI-LONG: Bamboo Flute Concerto; CHEN YI: The Ancient Chinese Beauty – Michala Petri recorder/Copenhagen Philharmonic/Lan Shui – OUR Recordings multichannel SACD 6.22603, 71:29 [10/26/10] *****:
Michala Petri may be the top classical recorder virtuoso in the world. She has made many recordings for RCA and EMI in the past and in 2006 formed with guitarist Lars Hannibal her own record label, OUR Recordings. She has an amazing repertory, ranging from early music to the contemporary music world, and a number of commissioned works especially for her performance. She has performed with other classical guitarists as well as Hannibal. Conductor Shui is with both the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and also the Copenhagen Philharmonic. As with some other artists who have launched their own labels, Petri believes in offering the highest fidelity to those who appreciate it, and therefore this release is a hybrid SACD.
All four recorder concertos are fascinating, most enjoyable, and quite different from one another. The three-part Fei Ge is translated Flying Song, and it was originally created for the Chinese bamboo flute accompanied by a Pan-Asian group of instruments. The composer rearranged it for recorder and western orchestra. The title comes from the melodies of the improvisatory opening section being reminiscent of some Chinese Flying Songs. Flute Moon, by well-known Chinese composer Bright Sheng, was a commission of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Its inspiration came from the Chinese unicorn, which is also known as the “dragon horse.” The first and shorter of the two movements is in a Stravinskian style. The second movement is based on an art song by a Song Dynasty poet and composer.
The Bamboo Flute Concerto, also known as the Bang Di Concerto, is the best-known composition of Chen Yi, and a successful musical synthesis of East and West. The Bang Di is the sopranino member of a family of Chinese flutes which have an extra hole drilled in the flute body, covered by a square piece of bamboo membrane to add resonance and amplify the flute’s sound. Though the melodies often come from Chinese folk music, the composer has followed the conventions of the western classical concerto. I found these three-movement concerto less tonal and melodic than the other three.
The closing concerto is a lovely work inspired by various elements of Chinese culture, including Han Dynasty clay figurines, ancient totems, and the script style of the Tang Dynasty. She specifies the use of the alto recorder for the first and third movements and the tenor recorder for the second movement. The tenor is intended to invoke the sounds of both the large bamboo flute and the Xun, an ocarina-type of instrument. The wide-range frequency spectrum of the excellent SACD surround preserves the often extended and expressive highest timbres of the various recorders, which are beautifully set off against the orchestra.
— John Sunier