Birmingham Record Company
BRC

BRC01 front coverMichael Wolters: Kathryn and Peter play the recorder

Kathryn and Peter play the recorder by Michael Wolters proves that the recorder is much more than an “annoying instrument for children”, with 25 pieces in which the composer casts his questioning eye over music history, technical virtuosity and cultural customs. Woltersʼ relationship with the instrument began over 20 years ago when he met the extraordinary recorder duo Kathryn Bennetts and Peter Bowman. Their exceptional skills and their enthusiasm for research into undiscovered areas of sound made them ideal collaborators for Wolters, whose music so often focuses on dismantling established boundaries.

 

It wasn’t just the sound of the instrument that inspired the composer, it was also its status as a former staple instrument of the music world now fallen on hard times. “The recorder is looked down on, pushed to the sidelines and ignored. I find it much more interesting to work with something that has a questionable reputation, rather than a refined high status,” Wolters explains. Modern wind instruments use complex key mechanisms, meaning the holes are either open or closed. In contrast, recorder players can use their fingers to find the pitch nuances in between. “Thereʼs a lot more between C and D than just C-Sharp, and writing for recorder allows me to explore that. Microtonality also doesn’t have the best reputation (people think it’s sounds wrong and out of tune), so again that stimulates me. I am particularly excited by the idea of introducing microtones into pop music harmony.”

 

The first CD in this two-disc collection sets the recorder in a variety of contexts: with voice (7 Shakespeare Songs), voice and harpsichord (My own step-song), as an ensemble of 11 recorders (in the Cultural Olympiad commissioned

12-minute opera The Voyage) and amplified mixed ensemble (German Folk Tunes). CD2 is entirely dedicated to the monumental 40-minute Antarctica duet: Kathryn und Peter durchqueren die Antarktis (Kathryn and Peter cross the Antarctic). This is a journey through a cross-section diagram of the Antarctic, entirely composed of eighth-tones. One recorder follows the surface of the ice while the other traces the contours of the bedrock below. This haunting soundscape formed the basis for a radio play (commissioned and broadcast by DeutschlandRadio) and a stage show, both produced in collaboration with German theatre artist Marcus Droß. The piece was described as “powerfully evocative” and “spellbinding” by American Recorder magazine.

 

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Disc 1

1 The Voyage
2 She Stays
3 My own step-song
4 Shakespeare Songs: Measure for Measure
5 Shakespeare Songs: Midsummer Night's Dream
6 Shakespeare Songs: Hamlet
7 Shakespeare Songs: Antony and Cleopatra
8 Shakespeare Songs: Romeo and Juliet
9 Shakespeare Songs: Macbeth
10 Shakespeare Songs: Lear
11 Shakespeare Songs: Deutsche Volksweisen (German Folk Tunes)

Disc 2

1 Antarctica Duet: Kathryn und Peter Durchqueren Die Antarktis

 

Artists: Kathryn Bennetts recorder | Peter Bowman recorder | Suzie Purkiss voice | Various Artists | Dan Watson conductor | Decibel

 

Cat # BRC001

 

Release date: 28 June 2019
 
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
 
Michael Wolters
Michael Wolters has maintained an outsider position in the world of contemporary music with works which deconstruct and question the traditional concert situation or which are designed for performance outside the concert hall. He has written music for traditional ensembles like Birmingham Contemporary Music Group but prefers to challenge conventional set-ups and concert rituals. This has resulted in pieces with unusual instrumentations (like his twelve-minute-long opera The Voyage, produced with theatre company Stan's Cafe for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad written for mezzo-soprano, eleven recorders and double bass), performances in unusual places (wahnsinnig wichtig on ice took place on and around an ice rink) or projects of unusual duration (his Spring Symphony: The Joy of Life is the shortest symphony in the world and lasts around 17 seconds while the performance of Wir sehen uns morgen wieder lasted for a month).

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