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Åke ERIKSON (b. 1937)
Fanfar/Fanfare for brass sextet and timpani (1986) [0:38]
The Linné Quintet
Där himme och hav befaller/Where Heaven and Sea Command (1982) [8:10]
Academy Chamber Choir of Uppsala, Stefan Parkman (conductor)
Regnskog/Rain forest for piano (1972-75) [6:34]
Mats Persson (piano)
Colours in Play for Omnibus (2003) [8:01]
Omnibus Wind Ensemble
Nocturne (1976) [5:07]
Orphei Dränger, Robert Sund (conductor)
Straight Out for brass quintet (1987) [7:09]
The Linné Quintet
Ur Skapelse utlämnad/from Creation betrayed (1986): Skapelse/Creation [10:26]; Re-paration – Rediviva [13:20]
The Royal Academic Orchestra and Academic Chamber Choir, Uppsala. Uppsala Musikklasser/Carl Rune Larsson
rec. 1. Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm, 26 February 2004; 2. Theatre, University of Uppsala, 25 November 2004; 3. Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm, 18 January 2004; 4. Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm, 3 May 2004; 5. Theatre, University of Uppsala, 24 April 2004; 6. Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm, 26 February 2004; 7. Theatre, University of Uppsala, 26 March 2004; 8, 9. Recorded live, Theatre, University of Uppsala, 22 May 1986.
PHONO SUECIA PSCD 162 [71:33]

 

Åke Erikson became known in Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical composer and pianist, becoming involved in the organisation of, and composing for the Uppsala League and ‘Fylkingen’, societies which concentrated on new music. He worked as a jazz pianist in his early career and has made a great number of arrangements of jazz music, but this influence barely shows in the works in this collection. This is an album of serious, substantial and well-crafted work, which will prove a great deal more attractive to a wider public than several other issues one might encounter on the Phono Suecia label.

The opening ‘Fanfare’ is compact and concise, and is apparently played every summer from the towers of the Cathedral of Uppsala. ‘Straight Out’ was commissioned by the Linné Quintet, and is by turns sonorous and moody; rhythmic and punchy. Both of these pieces are well played, and I like the Linné’s rounded tone.

‘Where Heaven and Sea Command’ is for a cappella choir, and was awarded first prize at a choral competition in Pardubice. The piece makes use of vocal layering, building tidal movements of sound while the text, from poems by Elisabet Hermodsson, is sometimes stretched beyond comprehension. This is highly effective choral writing which reminds me a little of the Estonian ‘sound’: moving, shifting tonalities, a reluctance to overdo modernist ‘special effects’ but nonetheless creating a superbly fresh and ‘new’ sounding piece.

The Academy Chamber Choir re-appears in ‘Creation Betrayed’, this time from within the substantial orchestral context of what the booklet describes as a ‘grandiose ecological oratorio’. This is part of a series of works using texts by Hermodsson, and Eriskon has been inspired to create an atmospheric, dramatic evocation of the Creation, with grimly knocking percussion, low strings and clusters, and the added colours of harp and piano. The second part, ‘Re-paration’, starts with a faux-naif children’s choir singing over a sub-Fauré orchestral accompaniment. Spoken texts in Swedish usher in a return to some of the stresses and tensions of the ‘Creation’ movement, and there are some beautifully lyrical moments. Fortunately, all texts are translated into English. As a live performance this lets the side down a little as regards comparison with the quality of the other recordings, and as a composition it is a good deal less structurally tight and logical than most of the other pieces on this disc. In spite of out-of-tune pianos and one or two dodgy choral moments there is however a great deal to discover here.

‘Rain forest’ is said by the composer to build largely on his own associations with the sounds of nature. The piano is indeed used to rumble over a fairly serial sounding series of note patterns, later bursting out in extremes of range, but not making a huge impression. ‘Colours in Play’ for wind ensemble is more memorable, including some fun Bernsteinesque rhythms. There is a strange contrast between the banality of some of Erikson’s material, and the energetic expressiveness of other moments. It is an eclectic mix, but not an unattractive one.

In many ways the central work on this disc is ‘Play’ for orchestra. Orchestral mood and gesture appear in a number of guises, sometimes treading a fine line between hackneyed film-music stereotype, but always maintaining an edge-of-the-seat pitch of creative movement, building expectation and wrong-footing the listener at the same time.

This is an interesting and stimulating issue, which serious collectors should consider adding to their shopping list. In the end however, I was left feeling that Erikson’s undoubted technical expertise might here and there be covering for some creative weaknesses. The pieces are individually far from weak, but Erikson’s personal fingerprints prove more elusive the more one tries to pinpoint them, and there is almost always a kind of open-ended structural question mark which leaves the listener with less of a ‘wow!’ than a ‘huh?’

Dominy Clements

 

 

 

 



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