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Jan SANDSTRÖM (b. 1954)
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [4:30]
Fredrik HÖGBERG (b. 1971)

Music for Strings [12:33]
Anders HULTQVIST (b. 1955)

The queen went into the parlour eating bread and honey [11:51]
Jan FERM (b. 1963)

Norbotten Rhapsody [19:15]
Bo NILSSON (b. 1937)

Wiesenblümchen [9:00]
Arctic air [4:14]
J.P. Nyströms (folk chamber ensemble) Göran Eriksson, volin and bass; Markus Falck, violin and organ; Svante Lindqvist, violin; Mats Olausson, violin and percussion.
Norbotten Chamber Orchestra/Petter Sundqvist
Recorded December 17-19, 2001 and January 11-14, 2002 in Aula Aurora at Luleå Tekniska Universitet. (Composition dates are not listed)


For a disc of such interesting music, the booklet notes are painfully sparse and do little to help us understand the composers, their music, or even their connection with the Norbotten Chamber Orchestra. The only obvious link is that all the works presented here were commissioned by same. Thus, we are left to hear the music, judge it on its sound alone and come up with our own ideas about its merits or detractions. On the whole, these works speak very well for themselves, and in spite of the scant information provided, this recording gives us a pleasant hour of rather interesting if somewhat conservative new music.

Jan Sandströmís Brian Eno-esque setting of Praetoriusís famous Christmas carol gets this program off to a rather new-agey start. The ambiguous rhythms and dreamy harmonies are reminiscent of the aforementioned Mr. Enoís treatment of Pachelbelís Canon from his ambient days in the seventies.

Fredrik Högbergís Music for Strings is an object lesson in contrasts. The outer movements are far more rhythmic and energetic in tone, and considerably more jarringly dissonant. The slow and rather lush middle section sounds like the kind of tormented film music one might encounter in a psychodrama, the kind that intensifies a dramatic scene by its subtle but very real building of tension and release.

Anders Hultqvist contributes a rather fascinating study in effects with The queen went into the parlour eating bread and honey. Tonally ambiguous, this work makes very effective use of col legno (playing with the wood of the bow on the string) and of very high harmonics. At times rhythmic, at others eerie, this piece is memorable for the composerís ability to get unusual sounds out of the orchestra.

Without question, the highlight of this program is Jan Fermís Norbotten Rhapsody. A marvelously worked out piece, the addition of a strong folk element, ably and even masterfully played by the folk group called J.P. Nyströms, this composition combines both classical and popular elements for a simply delightful result. The longest work here, it holds the listenerís attention from beginning to end, and the colorful surprises that are added in by the folk band are simply wonderful. This piece alone justifies the purchase.

Two works by Bo Nilsson round out the concert. One is a delightful set of miniatures, and the other, an expressive miniature tone poem about the Arctic that certainly sets the right tone and mood.

Overall this is a worthy effort, and an excellent testament to the musical efforts of the good folk up in Norbotten. Long may they live! Recommended.

Kevin Sutton


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