The incredible opening bars of Leif's majestic Organ Concerto have you imagining
gigantic glaciers and devastating avalanches in the Norther latitudes as
the orchestra thunders fortissimo through the music accompanied by the memorable
sounds of the organ. This twenty-minute piece receives its premiere recording
here and I doubt if it can sound any better with the Bis sound absolutely
stunning in every respect. Bjorn Steinar Solbergsson plays like a man possessed
and no technical difficulty is beyond him, double-stops, toccatas, fugues,
he is in command of the whole lot.
En Shao's direction is also commendably vivid and involving especially in
the heinously difficult central Passacaglia, which is the kernel of the work.
After such breathtaking music, the simple Variations on Beethoven's Pastoral
Symphony may seem small beer but the charming re-working of that memorable
tune is beautifully done with the ISO strings particularly involved. 'Fine
2' is another curious piece which is scored for vibraphone and strings, thus
creating a meditative atmosphere very far removed from the blustering Organ
Concerto but still typically Nordic in its sense of glacial intensity.
Bis choose to end the disc with a shattering premiere of 'Dettifos', a choral
work of great spiritual power and one that makes you stand up and take notice.
It is not unlike Nielsen's 'Hymnus amoris' in its intensity but Leifs' style
is far removed from anyone and his music contains contours that are very
personal. Loftur Erlingsson is a masterly baritone and the Hallgrim Church
Motet Choir is extremely involved throughout. Notes are detailed and informative
and as already mentioned earlier, the sound is of demonstration quality.
Fans of Scandinavian music should not hesitate to acquire this splendid disc;
the only quibble is its short timing but that probably could not be helped!