> Larsson Twelve Concertinos IMCD030 [JF]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Lars-Erik Larsson
Twelve Concertinos (1955-56) - Volume 1 - 1-7

Flute and Orchestra Op.45 No 1
Oboe and String Orchestra Op.45 No 2
Clarinet and String Orchestra Op.45 No 3
Bassoon and String Orchestra Op.45 No 4
Horn and String Orchestra Op.45 No 5
Trumpet and String Orchestra Op.45 No 6
Trombone and String Orchestra Op.45 No 7

Göran Marcusson: flute
Marten Larsson: oboe
Urban Claesson: Clarinet
Anders Engström: Bassoon
Per Göran: Horn
Bengt Danielsson: Trumpet
Lars-Göran Carisson: Trombone.
Camerata Roman leader Jan Stigmer
Recorded at Paskallavik Church 1994
INTIM Music IMCD 030 [74.36]

The Twelve Concertinos by Lars-Erik Larsson are works that were totally unknown to me. Intim Musik have presented the first seven of them on this current disk.

Lars-Erik Larsson was born at Akarp in Sweden on 15th May 1908. He studied music at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm but later continued his musical education in Leipzig and Vienna. He was a pupil of the great Alban Berg. More interestingly perhaps within the context of the current disc is the influence of Hindemith and Schoenberg. It was through a careful consideration of styles and musical influences that the young composer developed his unique brand of neo-classical music infused with romanticism and Scandinavian folk influences. It is this, perhaps, which defines these pieces and the composer’s works in general.

Initially Larsson worked as a music teacher in Malmo and Lund; he was also musical critic of the Lunds Dagblad.

His big break into the world scene was at the 1934 ISCM festival where the first performance of his Sinfonietta was heard. He was offered a position at Swedish Radio in Stockholm as a resident composer and producer of musical programmes. He quite naturally wrote a number of works for this medium and also ventured into the film industry.

In 1947 he was appointed professor of composition at the his old alma mater - the Royal College of Music. The final appointment was as director of music at Uppsala University, where he remained until his retirement in 1971. He died at Helsingborg on Boxing Day 1986.

This is not the place to give a detailed list of his compositions. However it may be helpful to mention a few highlights to give some idea of the breadth of this composer’s industry and talent.

There was an opera – The Princess of Cyprus which appears to have been withdrawn. Perhaps his most important works are the Violin Concerto, the Music for Orchestra and the Lyric Fantasy and of course the Sinfonietta. There were two symphonies, one an early student work and the second withdrawn except for the third movement.

However it is with the Twelve Concertinos that we are concerned. In 1945 Larsson was appointed inspector of a number of amateur orchestras that were entitled to receive grants from the government. He noticed that there was a gap in their repertoire – they were playing little that could be classified as ‘modern.’ This was possibly because their technique was limited, or because there was an aversion to much that was deemed ‘avant garde’ at the time. So Larsson composed twelve short works that filled this gap. They are all designed to have an interesting and technically complex solo part however the string parts are relatively straightforward, well within the capabilities of an amateur orchestra. It is a sound idea and leads to some very fine music.

The works were composed under one opus number – Op.45 - between 1955 and 1956. The first seven concertinos vary in length - from just over six minutes to nearly thirteen minutes. Each concertino is based on the three movement form – a slow one being placed between two allegro movements. For completeness I will give a list of all twelve concertinos. They are presented in ‘score’ order.

1. Flute; 2. Oboe; 3. Clarinet; 4. Bassoon; 5. Horn; 6. Trumpet; 7. Trombone; 8. Violin; 9. Viola; 10. Cello; 11. Double Bass; 12. Piano.

If we are to situate these works within the history of music it is probably fair to relate them to the Kammermusik written by Hindemith in the 1920s. Some of Malcolm Arnold’s chamber music represent further examples of music written for very practical purposes. However it is important to make one fundamental point. This is not merely academic music. There is no way that we can say that they are studies or musical exercises. There is considerable musical achievement in these pieces; each one could well be regarded as a minor masterpiece. Larsson manages to combine workmanship with inspiration and one cannot say better than that. Furthermore, he has not been condescending to either soloist or orchestra. He has not ‘written down’ to anybody. The overall impression given by these works is of well wrought pieces full of charm delight and even depth.

These seven works are played with great concentration and understanding. Camerata Roman take these works extremely seriously and this shows well in the recording. Although these works may be relatively easy to play, they are not so simple to interpret well. They are presented here as supremely attractive miniatures that well deserve to be heard.

The name of the ensemble is derived from Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758) who is regarded by many as being the father of Swedish Music. The word ‘camerata’ implies a group of musicians meeting without a conductor. His means that all the players have to be aware of the progress and nuances of the music. This is well achieved here.

Regrettably there are no sleeve notes worth bothering about. Only the briefest paragraph about the man and this particular set of pieces. And of course this is unfortunate. Few people outside Scandinavia will be familiar with Larsson’s music. Even those who have heard some for his ‘better known’ pieces like the Winter Tale and the Pastoral Suite will require all the help they can get if they are to enjoy these fine, technically competent works. I hope that I have compensated for this deficiency by giving the potted biography above and my few remarks about the ‘Concertinos.’

This is a fine CD marred only by a serious fault in the disc surface. Where listenable it has good sound quality and excellent playing. The music is so good that it defies belief that these works are so little known. Perhaps they are more popular in Sweden. I have no hesitation in recommending this disc to all who love well written, well played and highly interesting and attractive music. I look forward to hearing the next five concertinos.

John France

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