Michala Petri / Chen Yue DIALOGUE East Meets West
Our Recordings' Dialogue: East Meets West features an unusual collaboration on a unique combination of instruments as Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri joins Chen Yue, a Chinese virtuoso on the Chinese xiao and dizi, both flutes, although the xiao is end-blown, whereas the dizi is more like a transverse flute; they are likewise made of different kinds of bamboo. As literature for this particular instrumental combination has been heretofore nonexistent, Petri and Chen have commissioned 10 pieces for the album, 5 each from Danish composers and Chinese composers. They have obtained a very interesting slate of results; in some cases the Chinese composers have turned up pieces, such as in Ruomei Chen's Jue, that are a tad more readily recognizable with avant-garde styles than the Danish ones, making clear that in China experimental composition has a bit more cachet and perceived freshness than in the West, where it is seen in some circles as being a little played out. Not so Mette Nielsen, whose lovely Stream incorporates well-adjudged elements of improvisation, whereas Chinese composer Li Rui's Peng Zhuang and Siqin Chaoketu's Yan Gui are strongly rooted in traditional Chinese folk idioms; Butterfly-Rain by Pernille Louise Sejlund is a beautiful wash of flute texture that has a programmatic sense of organization and belongs to neither side of the divide; this and the Chaoketu are obvious highlights.
There are no other instruments used than those played by Petri and Chen; no piano accompaniment, traditional Chinese instrumental group, use of percussion, or anything else. As a result, Dialogue: East Meets West is a bit of a tightrope walk -- the high-pitched instrument players are on their own in putting across the entire 68-minute disc. And for that it never gets boring, although one may want to listen to Dialogue: East Meets West in two halves in order to ingest it more easily. One thing that is striking about the music of Harry Partch is that he built his own instruments and devised his own harmonic building blocks, and therefore created a kind of music from scratch that has no easy reference to other kinds of music. Petri and Chen have done much the same thing here; after awhile one moves away from the idea that these instruments are members of the flute family and into an area of listening that is of its own character and consisting of relatively light, distinctly feminine qualities. Dialogue: East Meets West is a disc that definitely rewards repeated exposure as details gradually reveal themselves, and while the composer commissions provide variety, there is no one piece that dominates the whole puzzle; it is a singular and pleasant, but by no means altogether unchallenging, musical journey that is an ideal offering for taking in the season of spring. (Uncle Dave Lewis)