> THORESEN Illuminations [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Lasse THORESEN (born 1949)
Illuminations (1986)a
Symphonic Concerto (1984)b
Liv Opdal Eggestad, Aage Kvalbein (cello)a; Stig Nilsson (violin)b; Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Marcello Viotti
Recorded: Oslo Concert Hall, March 1998
AURORA ACD 5008 [78:46]


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The very title of Thoresenís Symphonic Concerto for violin and orchestra makes it clear that this ambitious and substantial work is much more than a mere virtuoso showpiece. The soloist does not stand out on his own, but rather has a complex and varied relationship with the large orchestral forces. The violinís role varies considerably throughout this long piece: once a leader, then a follower but always a committed partner, a real primus inter pares. It nevertheless has its moments of virtuosity and cadenza-like passages, but most of the time it is deeply involved in musical discourse, often of real symphonic proportions. The concerto is in three sizeable movements, of which the first one acts as a long introduction stating some basic material, whereas the other two develop most of the initial material. Thus, the second movement, predominantly slow, presents lyrical variants while the third is of a much more dramatic character. Another notable feature of Thoresenís Symphonic Concerto is the use of electronically generated sounds at the start of each movement. In the second movement, though, the electronic sounds have a more important role adding a new dimension to the musicís often impassioned lyricism. As already noted, this is a long and weighty piece, though it is Ė to me at least Ė a bit too long for its material and a bit uncertain of its aims and means, which results in some eclecticism. I for one regret that Thoresen did not develop the electronic material, which would have considerably enlarged the musicís emotional range. As a whole, however, and in spite of some eclecticism, the Symphonic Concerto is a large-scale impressive achievement in its own right.

In comparison, the beautiful Illuminations for two cellos and orchestra is more compact, though with as much variety as its companion. Again, this is a powerfully lyrical utterance often exulting in mighty, almost ecstatic climaxes. From the stylistic point of view, it is much more coherent, though it obviously is from the same pen; and it never outstays its welcome. We are told that in 1971 Thoresen converted to the Baháíi Religion, which apparently exerted some lasting influence on his musical thinking. Now, I must confess that I do not know what this religion may be; but, even ignoring this, one feels some overtly mystical intent in this beautifully gripping work which moreover is a most welcome addition to the limited repertoire of double cello concertos. (I can only think of the late Tristan Keurisís concerto for two cellos and orchestra, that Ė unfortunately enough Ė I have never heard so far.)

In short, two substantial and ambitious works in a clear 20th Century enlarged expressionistic, but very communicative and eloquent idiom which vastly repay repeated hearings, especially in such fine performances and recordings as these. A most welcome release, well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot

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