Unlike the other landmark collections that came from Bach’s pen, the six ﬂute sonatas all appear to have been “one offs” with no particular plan for publication as a set. Further, in contrast to the collections for solo strings, Bach’s chamber music for ﬂute was written comparatively late in his career, the earliest, the Sonata in E minor BWV1034, probably a product of Bach’s early Leipzig years (mid-1720s) and the latest, the Sonata in E major for ﬂute and continuo BWV1035, is believed to have been written during the last decade of composer’s life for Frederick the Great.
In honour of OUR Recordings’ 40th Release, Michala Petri could scarcely choose a more exciting program than a return visit to Bach’s Flute Sonatas; Michala’s famous 1992 recording with Keith Jarrett has long since attained legendary status. Just as her collaboration with Jarrett unveiled a ‘new-born’ approach to Bach, this new recording is likewise revelatory and… transcendent. Joining Michala on this journey is an early music dream team: harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, rightly regarded as one of the ﬁercest of the younger generation of clavecinistes, playing his new Jukka Ollikka harpsichord, and Hille Perl, one of the world’s leading and most beloved viola da gambists rounding out the continuo unit.
As we’ve come to expect from OUR Recordings, the sonics and packaging are extraordinary, thanks to the producer Preben Iwan and booklet notes by Mahan Esfahani. This new recording of the Bach “Flute” Sonatas is destined to become a reference edition of this famous works
For 50 years, Michala Petri has been one of the most universally recognized and beloved recorder players in the world. She has performed almost 5.000 concerts and has a discography of more than 70 critically acclaimed and award-winning recordings. Michala Petri was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 7, 1958 to musical parents. A child prodigy, she ﬁrst picked up a recorder at the age of three and by the time she was ten, she made her concerto debut in Tivoli Concert Hall and began her formal studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover, Germany, with Professor Ferdinand Conrad.
Her repertoire spans the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras and extends into contemporary and improvised music and multi-media. This versatility, together with a ﬂawless technique, an insatiable curiosity, and the ability to make an emotional connection with her audiences has contributed to her special appeal as an artist. Her list of collaborators reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of late 20th century classical music, including such legendary artists as Sir Neville Marriner, Claudio Abbado, Sir James Galway, Gidon Kremer, Heinz Holliger, Henryk Szeryng, Pinchas Zukerman, Maurice Andre, Joshua Bell, Mahan Esfahani, Hille Perl and Keith Jarrett.
From her youth, Petri was fascinated with the musical potential of her chosen instrument, however, at the time of her studies the recorder was considered mainly an instrument for Early Music. But gradually, contemporary composers began taking interest and through Petri’s prompting – and virtuosity – started composing works for her. The ﬁrst work dedicated to her when she was just 6 years old, was “To Play for a Child” by the multi-faceted Danish Fluxus artist Henning Christiansen. Petri has constantly sought new ways to expand her musical horizons and explore creative musical dialogues with other genres and cultures, often performing with musicians outside the Baroque and Classical music scene such as her longstanding relationship with many of the ﬁnest members of the Scandinavian jazz and improvised music scene. Her innovative collaboration with famed composer/trumpet player Palle Mikkelborg, “Going to Pieces – without falling Apart” for recorder, harp (Helen Davies) and strings was a major statement as a Crossover/World Music/Indie album.
Hille Perl is widely regarded as one of the leading exponents of the seductive arts of viola da gamba performance. Born in Bremen Germany into a musical family already predisposed to early music, her decision to play the gamba after attending a Wieland Kuijken concert when she was 5 years old is hardly surprising. She studied with Niklas Trüstedt (Berlin) and with Pere Ros and Ingrid Stampa (Hamburg), earning her degree in 1990 at Bremen’s Academy for Early Music, where she studied with Sarah Cunningham and Jaap ter Linden.
Following her graduation, Perl steadily built her career and reputation throughout Europe, and soon began appearing on recordings. Among the earliest was a 1997 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CD, “Retrouvé & Changé”, a program of works by the mysterious Sieur de Sainte-Colombe. Perl’s rich, warm tone and attention to “rhythmic interest on an instrument whose deep sonorous voice can result in rather monochromatic listening” set her apart from many of her gifted colleagues. Around this time Perl and Lee Santana (who plays the lute, theorbo, chitarrone, and Baroque guitar) released several projects as part of harpist Andrew Lawrence-King’s Harp Consort, including the classic “Spanish Dances.” Inspired by the opportunity to explore Latin aspects of early music performance, Hille and Santana formed their own performing unit “Los Otros” (The Others) in 2001. Their ﬁrst recording, “Tinto”, a collection of works by Kapsberger, Corbetta, and others, appeared on RCA Special Imports in 2003. In 2004 Perl released one of her most acclaimed recordings, “Marais’ Pour La Violle”, with Santana, on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (DHM). Perl and Santana also formed another ensemble, the Age of Passions with violinist/conductor Petra Müllejans and ﬂutist Karl Kaiser joining them. She has made two recordings of gamba concertos with the Freiburger Barockorchester and recorded two solo CDs of the Sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. The adventurous Perl has also recorded on an electric viol featured on the 2014 album “Born To Be Mild” in 2014 and two CDs of ancient and contemporary music about the “Elements” in 2015 and “The Four Season” in 2016 with her daughter Marthe, a talented gambist in her own right.
Hille Perl’s busy concert schedule includes appearances at many of Europe’s major Music festivals. Her recordings for DHM Sony have earned wide critical acclaim and many prizes, including 4 German ECHO Klassik Awards and a Deutsche Schallplattenpreis. In 2017, Perl had her on-screen acting debut in Academy Award-winning Austrian director’s grim family drama/social commentary ﬁlm, “Happy End.”
Since 2002, Hille Perl has taught viola da gamba at the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen. When not on tour Perl lives on a farm in northern Germany with her family and some sheep, geese, chickens, three cats and two dogs, lots of trees and grows vegetables.
Harpsichordist, organist, scholar and musical gadﬂy Mahan Esfahani stands in the vanguard of the new generation of performers liberating instruments previously regarded as the provenance of the early music specialists and bringing them into 21st century concert halls with music to match.
Esfahani was born in Teheran in 1984 and raised in the United States. His ﬁrst exposure to the sound of the harpsichord came from a bunch of cassettes an uncle had given him. Esfahani remembers: “One was of Karl Richter [the German conductor and harpsichordist] playing Bach. Well, I listened to it, and I thought: ‘This is what I’ve got to do.’ True to his word, he studied musicology and history at Stanford University and later, travelled to Boston where he studied harpsichord with Peter Watchorn before completing his artistic apprenticeship under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková.
Following his tutelage, Esfahani travelled to London to perform at a private event. This performance would be the ﬁrst in a series of fortunate events moments for the young artist, for as it would happen, a staffer from the BBC was there and was impressed enough with Mahan to set the wheels in motion. In 2008 Esfahani became the ﬁrst harpsichordist to be named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (2008-2010). Following a three-year stint as Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, Esfahani continued to cultivate his academic associations, becoming an honorary member at Keble College, Oxford, and receiving a professorship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, but it is Esfahani’s work as performing artist and commentator that propelled him to the forefront of the classical music world. His creative programming and advocacy of new works have drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America, earning him numerous accolades including the Borletti-Buitoni prize (2009), and thrice a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017).
Esfahani has performed solo recitals in most of the world’s major series and concert halls, amongst them London’s Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Berlin Konzerthaus, Zurich Tonhalle, Wiener Konzerthaus, San Francisco Performances, the Edinburgh, Aspen and Aldeburgh Festivals, and the Leipzig Bach Festival. As satisfying as solo performances are, Esfahani takes particular pride in showcasing his instrument in the concerto repertoire and has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orquesta de Navarra, Malta Philharmonic, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was an artistic partner for 2016-2018.
His richly-varied discography includes three critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion – the C.P.E. Bach Württemberg Sonatas, a 2014 Gramophone Award winner, and the Complete Pièces de Clavecin of Rameau which was both nominated for a Gramophone Award and included on the New York Times Critics’ List of Top Recordings of 2014. His ﬁrst album for DG, Time Present and Time Past, earned a ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, while his 2016 release of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was named to the long list for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and won the BBC Music Magazine 2017 Instrumental Award. Esfahani’s work as a chamber music partner have proven equally magical, his 2016 recording of Corelli’s Op. 5 Sonatas in period arrangements for recorder with the legendary Michala Petri – a particularly important duo to his own heart – was awarded an ICMA Award in 2016.
The many ongoing developments of the recorder as an instrument (also) of today for modern music gives the performer equally many choices. One option when playing Bach is of course to use exact copies of Baroque instruments, another is, with the Baroque sound in mind, to use instruments developed for doing bigger dynamic changes, adaptive for the larger concert halls, contemporary music and the generally louder level of life today.
For this recording Michala chose the following instruments – Tenor recorders Moeck Ehlert tenor, developed by Ralf Ehlert, in Grenadill or Maple. Mostly for the slow movements with wish for variations in tone-colourings and dynamic changes. Two different Moeck Rottenburgh in Grenadill (the ﬁrst tenor recorders she bought as a young student) for the fast and more light running movements. Alto recorders Moeck Ehlert in Boxwood and Grenadill Mollenhauer Modern Recorder in Ebony and Palisander.
The Viola da Gamba, Matthias Alban 1686 was discovered in 1952 in an Austrian Convent. It came into the hands of an amateur viola da gambist who had it restored by Ingo Muthesius, a well-known luthier specializing in old viols. While not catastrophically damaged, Muthesius replaced the neck, retaining the original lion’s head scroll and peg box. The body is completely original, even though the original apple-wood back and sides have acquired a few minor cracks over the centuries. The instrument is unique in that to date, no sister instrument has been found, unusual since viols were often produced in consorts or multiples, but research has found the top-wood corresponds with surviving violins from the Alban workshop in Bozen, where he had his workshop together with his two sons until the year 1712. The instrument was bequeathed to Hille in 2004 by the owner. The instrument currently has a new bridge and ﬁngerboard, made by Claus Derenbach in Cologne.
The harpsichord has been designed and constructed by Jukka Ollikka in Prague 20172018. Compass: EE-f3. Disposition: 2 x 8’+ 4’+ 16’. Buff stops on lower manual 8’ and 16’. Inspired by the Michael Mietke instrument signed ‘Berlin 1710’, this harpsichord has a carbon ﬁbre composite soundboard which increases the tuning stability and makes it louder than an instrument made with traditional materials, and thus more suitable for modern concert halls.