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Viola con Forza – Henrik Frendin
Daniel NELSON (b.1965)

Romantatronic for solo viola, string orchestra, celesta and percussion (2000)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
Jörgen DAFGÅRD (b.1964)

For the Sleeping: Dream Sonata for viola and tape (1997-98)
Kent OLOFSSON (b.1962)/Henrik FRENDIN

Alinea variations for viola and tape (1999)
Kent OLOFSSON (b.1962)

Nepenthe for viola d’amore (2003)
Fredrik SÖDERBERG (b.1966)

Wrong Music for Electric Viola Grande, Chamber orchestra and tape (2002)
The Gageego Ensemble/B. Tommy Andersson
Henrik FRISK (b.1966)

Drive for Electric Viola Grande and live electronics (2003)
Henrik FRENDIN/Fredrik EMILSON (b.1971)

Soft Christ for Electric Viola Grande and tape
Henrik Frendin (viola, Electric Viola Grande, viola d’amore with accompaniments as above)
Recorded in Studio 2, Radiohuset, Concert Hall, Helsingborg and Studio 12, Radiohuset, Gothenburg, February-October 2003

I recently reviewed Trio con Forza, a bracing selection of contemporary works performed by HOT3, a group composed of viola, guitar and flute. Hot on its heels comes this disc of works almost all of which are dedicated to the viola protagonist Henrik Frendin and which sports the title Viola con Forza. One intriguing aspect is that the works have been written with him in mind or in collaboration with him. Frendin becomes, in the notes’ words, co-creator of these pieces due to the latitude for improvisation inherent in them, as in the case of Henrik Frisk’s Drive in which fragments are infinitely variable and buildable upon.

Daniel Nelson’s Romantatronic has a fair deal of romantic keening and occasional granitic orchestral interjections. In the main though there is a slow moving rather threnody-like aspect to the work that is astutely judged. Later on the viola subverts the original schema and disrupts the orchestral statements with interjections of its own. The second movement is elegant and rhythmic with considerable elasticity of material and a genuine aspiration to the condition of song. Jörgen Dafgård’s For the Sleeping: Dream Sonata is for viola and tape. The sonorities generated are intensely "swoony" with the viola mining some viscerally onomatopoeic sounds, whilst the tape mixes things up in the channels to create a slightly disorientating feeling. Some stridency and drama is there but so too is a dream lightness and a drizzle of ambient voices.

Kent Olofsson and Frendin have collaborated on Alinea Variations and it’s built on the foundations of a similarly titled piece for string quartet and computer. It manages to fuse string simplicity with tempestuous and sinuously tough writing. Olofsson’s own Nepenthe for viola d’amore – a new use for an old instrument – shows his ruminative side and is very attractive. With Wrong Music we are introduced to Fredrik Söderberg, whose ambition was to create with it a "chill-out in a modern music context." I’m not sure what this means but we have a rather ceremonial whiff of Japanoiserie, ceremonial bells and powerful brass, playing repeatedly in alt and a lot of bent notes. Henrik Frisk shows distinct affinities with the Second Viennese School with Drive (for Electric Viola Grande and live electronics), a short five-minute piece. The EVG is a specially-designed five stringed instrument, electrically amplified, which nevertheless still tries to retain the acoustic principles of the conventional viola. Frendin also teams up with composer Fredrik Emilson for Soft Christ, which, since the notes speak of an ultimate convergence in a "sacred epilogue," must have some religious or spiritual significance. Static sounding taps and hoarse exploratory lines lead to an ascent into an almost flute-like register.

There are some strong imaginations at work in these disparate works, majorly inspired by the violist-hero Frendin. But what are we to make of the fact that Soft Christ is dedicated to ‘Siegfried and Roy, Masters of the Impossible and somewhat mangled intimates of domestic White Tigers’?

Jonathan Woolf

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