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Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908-1986)
The Twelve Concertinos (1955-1957)

Concertino for flute and orchestra [10.33]
Concertino for oboe and string orchestra [8.52]
Concertino for clarinet and string orchestra [12.45]
Concertino for bassoon and string orchestra [10.03]
Concertino for horn and string orchestra [13.03]
Concertino for trumpet and string orchestra [10.33]
Concertino for trombone and string orchestra [10.33]
Concertino for violin and string orchestra [12.53]
Concertino for viola and string orchestra [13.11]
Concertino for cello and string orchestra [9.42]
Concertino for double bass and string orchestra [12.02]
Concertino for piano and string orchestra [16.59]
Göran Marcusson (flute); Mårten Larsson (oboe); Urban Claesson (clarinet); Anders Engström (bassoon); Per Göran horn); Bengt Danielsson (trumpet); Lars-Göran Carlsson (trombone); Jan Stigmer (violin); Per-Ola Lindberg (viola); Bjørg Værnes (cello); Ingalill Hillerud (double bass); Joakim Kallhed (piano)
Camerata Roman
rec. Påskallavik Church 1994
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 030 [74.36]

vol 1: fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, trumpet, trombone
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 031 [65.32]

vol 2: vn, va, cello, double bass, piano


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Larsson is here at his lightest but for this Swedish composer nothing trite or kitsch is allowed in. The Concertinos aim to entertain. Rather like Mozart's cassations, serenades or suites they have no grand pretensions, no pomp, no obese tendencies and little that you could call epic. The music-making here is nevertheless irresistibly melancholy, philosophical, delightful and buoyant.

The flute concertino is flighty and romantic with a melancholy central movement. The vigorous music sounds faintly like Holst as in the string writing in Brook Green and St Paul's. The oboe work has a notably jaunty finale which sounds a little like a cross between Moeran's Serenade and the string writing of Arnold Rosner. Urban Claesson's clarinet is given slightly caustic melodic material like Rawsthorne perhaps though things are sweetened in the finale rather like Arnold Cooke. The ten minute bassoon concertino saunters along in winning form with a nostalgic andante. At 13.03 the horn concertino is almost as long as the viola work. The morose central movement takes us into Hindemith territory but such negative feelings are banished by a positive, almost aggressively stepping out and wonderfully buoyant finale. The trumpet concertino (only 6.14) romps along like a modern counterpart to the famous Haydn or Hummel concertos. The last movement is perhaps rather pedestrian after two much more inventive movements. The trombone leers, muses and serenades like a louche Lothario becoming morose in the central movement and regaining his appalling self-confidence in the finale.

The five string concertinos are on the second volume. The violin work has a more ecstatic feel than the others. It broadly inhabits a land between Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra and Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending. True to one of its characters the viola concertino is ominously rhapsodic and seems even darker given the husky timbre of Bjørg Værnes and this darkens further for the adagio and is hardly dispelled by the Shostakovich-influenced finale. The barely ten minute cello concertino is very similar is effect. The adagio of the double bass work has a rocking string orchestral accompaniment that evokes Nystroem's Sinfonia Del Mare as does the same movement in the flute work. It is actually a very attractive movement rather in contrast to the academic finale. The piano concertino glitters, swaggers and scorches along with recollections of Shostakovich in the outer movements while the middle movement is more crystalline and pristine in quality - touching - even sentimental. String writing that can evoke Vaughan Williams' Concerto Grosso contrasts with motoric though not heartless patterning from the piano. Then when the final strait is in site the athleticism evaporates for a reflective conversation between string solo voices and the decorative piano before such tender musings are chased away.

Only the flute concertino is with full orchestra. The other eleven use a body of strings. All of the concertinos are grouped under Opus 45. The Flute Concertino is Op. 45 No. 1. The Piano Concertino is Op. 45 No. 12. The others are numbered sequentially as above. All are in three movements. The longest is 16.59 (piano) and the shortest (trumpet) 6.19. These are terse little pieces with strong internal contrast across the time span of a concert overture.

The two discs are available separately so you can pick and choose, experiment and only buy the other if the one you have tried appeals to you. Volume 1 covers Op. 45 Nos. 1-7 - all the works for woodwind while Vol. 2 has the remaining works for various forms of string instrument. All very systematic and rounded.

The notes are really scanty (about 300 words) although they give you the essentials of the cycle and about the conductor-less orchestra. They are identical for the two discs. There is a good photographic study of Larsson and plates for each soloist.

I have not heard the BIS (BIS-CD-473/474) but I expect it to be good. That said I cannot fault this production which is a fully enjoyable and will not disappoint you if you have a taste for concise little concertos that demand and reward you attention. They do not sound like Malcolm Arnold but their layout and intentions are surely similar. Beautifully recorded. Thoroughly recommendable.

Rob Barnett



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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