With two highly contrasting album releases already under her belt this year (the premiere recording of Sean Hickey’s recorder concerto The Pacifyng Weapon, and ‘Brazilian Landscapes’ with guitarist Daniel Murray and percussionist Marilyn Mazur), the only thing you can absolutely guarantee with Michala Petri is that whatever she does next she’ll be doing very soon; the rate at which she brings out new recordings is nothing short of prolific and every one is entirely different to the last. As is ‘Garden Party’, a recital of nature-themed ‘character pieces’ recorded with her regular duo partner, the Danish guitarist Lars Hannibal, in celebration of what is now their 25-year performing relationship.
Rather fittingly for a disc honouring this collaborative ‘home’, the lion’s share of its repertoire also lands Petri solidly on geographical home ground; the Garden Party of its title is a birdsong-inspired suite written in 1992 by her fellow Dane Asger Lund Christiansen, the programme opens with their compatriot Carl Nielsen’s originally-for-piano Humoresque Bagatelles, and there are even two dreamily lilting vignettes by Hannibal himself. In fact, there’s often a faintly dreamy, gentle quality to this programme, even in its perkier moments such as the ‘Leaping Dance’ and ‘Elves’ Dance’ from Grieg’s Five Lyric Pieces (neighbouring Norway being the other Nordic nation that gets a good shout). Combine that with the effortless symbiosis of these two veteran collaborators, and the fluidity and naturalness of Petri’s playing itself, and it’s all too easy simply not to register how virtuoso so much of this music is, even amid the swirling acrobatics of the Presto from Lalo’s Fantaisie norvégienne or the dizzily whirling figures of Nielsen’s ‘The Spinning Top’.
Ultimately, I suspect you’ve got to be pretty signed up to the recorder per se, and in the market for something gentle and ‘mood music’-esque, to genuinely fall for this album. However, it’s beautifully played.