Michala Petri / Danish National Vocal Ensemble / Stephen Layton

Ugis Praulins: The Nightingale; Daniel Börtz: Nemesis Divina; Etc.

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Veteran Danish recorder virtuosa Michala Petri gets top billing here, but the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of British conductor Stephen Layton, deserves at least equal billing. The main attraction is The Nightingale by Latvian composer Ugis Praulins, a work related to Pärt's minimalist style but with a more expansive and varied treatment of the choir. It's called upon to produce a variety of odd effects, dissolve in conversation, and execute smooth notes at extremes of range. Petri's recorder plays a variety of roles, introducing a medieval tinge but also a cool, almost electronic-flavored sound, and also embodying the Nightingale of the text: the one from Hans Christian Andersen's texts that have been so often set. It's a pleasing, slightly haunting work. The other three composers, Daniel Börtz, Sunleif Rasmussen, and Peter Bruun, are from Sweden, the Faroe Islands (an amazingly fertile place musically, all things considered), and Denmark; they are more systematically structured than the Praulins work. The combination of recorder and choir is unique, and the concept, a collaboration between Petri and U.S. producer Joshua Cheek (who wrote the informative booklet notes), 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.

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