Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto for Harp, Recorder, and String Orchestra
Helen Davies (hp); Michala Petri (rcr); Palle Mikkelborg (tpt); Henrik Vagn Christensen, cond; South Jutland SO
OUR RECORDINGS 6220607 (SACD: 55:10)
If you are looking for a recording to relax you after a hard day at work, this one, entitled
Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart,
is it. The title comes from a book by Mark Epstein, MD. A psychiatrist and a practicing Buddhist, Epstein combines
tenets of psychology with Buddhist teachings. When Palle Mikkelborg was asked to compose a work for two soloists and string orchestra, he found his inspiration in the title of Epstein’s book, which he saw in the window of a bookstore. He opens with “The Dawn Chorus, a Morning Raga,” and “Sunrise,” which bring to mind the soft sky tones of the beginning of a warm, sunny day. It could be the start of a beautiful daydream. While the recorder plays piquant textures, the harp joins the orchestra in providing the tonal underpinnings for this picture of the waking world. Mikkelborg likes repetition and he uses it as a symphonic tool much as Philip Glass does. We might meet his “African Girl” wearing native dress while walking softly across the savannah. We could remain on that continent for “Nightfall” and the stealthy arrival of its many animals. The echoing of Petri’s recorder makes it seem to be a distant call heard while the orchestra plays the
approach of darkness.
The orchestra comes in full voice as we leave Africa to join a group of “Monks Chanting” on another continent, Asia. The “Gentle Summer Rain” begins as single drops that become more frequent as the piece goes on. The pace and the dynamics increase and the orchestra has one of its infrequent chances to play
. The “Spiritual Carousel” begins with a dissonant sound that wakes the overly complacent spirit. It continues as harp and orchestra maintain the melody of a waltz. The recorder plays a cleansing obbligato over them as the tempo increases and imaginary dancers whirl across the floor. Mikkelborg tells us that the bright eyes of the demure “Chinese Girl” show her hope for a bright future. She takes small, discreet steps as her body reflects the bright lights of a Hong Kong side street. What do babies think of adult conversation? We are their only security, but since they do not communicate with language, we may not always understand them. Perhaps the music of “Lullabies While the Adults are Talking” offers more comfort than words can. “Shadow Waltz,” the 12th and final section of the original Concerto, presents a gentle dance that features the low tones of the recorder, as the harp plays glissandos and the orchestra provides a cushion of strings to end this wonderfully atmospheric work. In
the composer finally lets us hear his famous trumpet play a solo. The orchestra enters with low blended tones punctuated by the raindrops we heard earlier. The ensemble comes to life with huge sounds that dissolve into rain. The trumpet plays snatches of melody and the orchestra responds in kind as they play together for the finale. On this disc, Michala Petri plays the recorder with her usual virtuosity and Helen Davies proves to be a splendid harpist. Conductor Henrik Vagn Christensen often keeps the orchestral sound down, but when he lets loose, the result is magnificent. I really enjoyed this recording and suggest it to anyone who likes to daydream. The sound on this SACD is pristine with each of the solo instruments well in front of the orchestra.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart, concerto for harp, recorder & string orchestra by Palle Mikkelborg
Helen Davies (Harp),
Michala Petri (Recorder)
Henrik Vagn Christensen
Venue: Alsion Concert Hall, Sonderborg, Denmark
Length: 44 Minutes 2 Secs.
Afterthoughts, for trumpet by Palle Mikkelborg
Palle Mikkelborg (Trumpet)
Date of Recording: 01/2013
Venue: MyRoomStudio, Osterbro, Denmark
Length: 9 Minutes 1 Secs.
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