Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

AVAILABILITY

Daphne Records

Rolf MARTINSSON (b. 1956)
Kalliope (2004) [25:21]
At the End of Time (2002) [14:15] *
A.S. - In Memoriam (1999) [9:44]
Dreams (1999) [22:39]
Jacques Werup (recitation and lyrics) *
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Christoph König (except *)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Markus Lehtinen *
Rec. Malmö Concert Hall, 7-11 June 2004; live 31 Dec 2003 *
DAPHNE 1022 [72:36]

 

Martinsson at last enjoys a disc dedicated to his orchestral music. It comes his way just two years short of his fiftieth birthday. All praise again to the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs and to Daphne’s guiding genius Björn Uddén who made the disc possible.

Martinsson has his own website at: http://www.rolfmartinsson.com/ where you can find out more about him. The key facts are that studies at Malmö (1981-85) were with Sven-David Sandström, Sven-Erik Bäck, Hans Eklund and Sven-Eric Johanson. He now teaches composition and arrangement at the same Malmö Academy. He is the Malmö orchestra’s composer-in-residence. Martinsson has upwards of eighty compositions to his name.

The lengthiest piece here is the nine movement, 26 minute, Kalliope, a dance suite for string orchestra. Each movement celebrates a particular muse. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was reviewing Cyril Scott’s Third Symphony The Muses but that elusively exotic work, written in an idiom very different from that of Martinsson, portrays only Melpomene, Thalia, Erato and Terpsichore.

A few words about the muses. The Muses are the goddesses of culture and the arts. The Greek legend has it that Zeus lay with Mnemosyne ("Memory") for nine days. She gave birth to the Muses who then inhabited Mount Helicon -- "nine voices united in one song." Their companions are the Graces. Their leader is Apollo, the god of music and harmony.

The nine Muses are: Calliope, the fair of voice; Clio, the proclaimer; Euterpe, the giver of pleasure; Melpomene the maker of songs; Terpsichore, the dancer; Erato, the muse of love poetry; Polyhymnia, the goddess of many hymns; Thalia, the comedic muse; and Urania, the heavenly muse. A good site with more detail is: www.eliki.com/portals/fantasy/circle/define.html

Kalliope’s dance movements are Kalliope (transparent, cool yet fervent); Urania (use of pizzicato, a swooning allusion to La Valse and a sweetly singing solo violin); Terpsichore (hysteria and whirling activity); Euterpe; Polyhymnia (a massed string orchestra ‘in flight’); Melpomene (a melancholy solo violin over trembling confiding strings); Clio (poignant, muscular and assertive writing); Erato (music that emulates the passage of time - a ticking clock and searching string tone); and Thalia (as in Terpsichore and Polyhymnia, a sense of the unrelenting hunt, the music whirling, twisting and turning; episodes of Shostakovich-like bleakness). Each concise episode vividly sketches in moods and spiritual states. There is a typical Scandinavian chill or coolness in the marrow of this very adept and sensitive tonal string writing.

At the End of Time (Vid tidens slut) is a piece for narrator , flute, oboe, clarinet and strings. The narrator, towards the end (10:22), becomes the singer. The words are spoken by their author Jacques Werup. This recording is taken from a live performance on New Year’s Eve 2003 - there’s the occasional muted cough in the background. There is no bombast in this music; nothing of the parade ground. Instead we get a burning sincerity delivered through the gently underpinning music and Werup’s wondering narration. This is a deliciously melancholic meditation on love and death and into the piece is woven a candid quotation from Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto (7:20). It is a roundedly sentimental soliloquy. The accompanying booklet includes an English and German translation of the text.

The overture-length A.S. in Memoriam leans on the full, expressive warmth of the Malmö Strings. This is said to be ‘perhaps the best-loved of Martinsson’s compositions’. A.S. is none other than Arnold Schoenberg and the work Martinsson celebrates is Verklärte Nacht written in 1899 with the Martinsson written in 1999. The music has a piercingly intense and rolling quality alternating in style between Schoenberg and Scriabin. The piece ends in a smooth and suave breath.

Dreams is a tone poem for full orchestra. The piece was inspired by, reflects and interprets the composer’s experience in seeing Kurosawa’s film Dreams during the early 1990s. It is for me the least impressive work here. Martinsson portrays a sequence melting kaleidoscopically between idyll and nightmare. The idiom is decidedly 1970s modern with volleys from percussion, riotous violence, stabbing little mottos, and goblin thudding (12.39). The writing is very allusive with Straussian moments crowding into Ravel’s La Valse and gorgeous Scriabin-style sighs (1.40). From 9:00 onwards the music settles into Sargasso dreamland with static held string chords and harp whispers. There is a remarkable bleak solo violin passage at 21:20. As the piece ends there is a modest heartbeat from the strings - a gesture familiar from as in Erato in Kalliope.

The Malmö Symphony Orchestra performs under its Principal Guest Conductor Markus Lehtinen for At the End of Time and for the other pieces Principal Conductor Christoph König.

This is a very welcome new arrival in the Daphne catalogue which you can inspect at http://www.daphne.se/ Other highlights from that Björn’s roll-call include the upcoming Wirén string quartet series, the Nystroem songs, the Rosenberg piano concertos and two volumes of Rosenberg’s solo piano music.


An intelligently assembled collection with Kalliope and At the End of Time standing strongly in the string orchestra and melodrama stakes.

Rob Barnett



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