a degree in music education at the Norwegian Academy of Music,
with the flute as his main instrument. Later he studied composition
with Finn Mortensen. A Fulbright scholarship allowed him to
go to State University of New York at Buffalo where his composition
teacher was Morton Feldman. The flute concerto Possible
Selections was Slettholm’s final work during his Ph.D.
studies in Buffalo.
was composed before his time with Feldman. It already displays
considerable formal and orchestral mastery, and the music exhibits
many characteristic features further displayed in the later
works recorded here. The work is cast as a single-movement arch-form
that opens quietly, almost unnoticed. True to its title, the
music unfolds by piling-up layers of fragments, while varying
the density of the ensuing “aggregations”, so that livelier
and more static episodes alternate in wave-like motion, building-up
to massive passages or receding into deceptive tranquillity.
The music moves towards a weighty, heavily hammered outburst,
after which it quickly tumbles back into nothingness.
As already mentioned
earlier in this review, the flute concerto Possible Selections
was composed when Slettholm was studying with Feldman in Buffalo.
One might be tempted to compare this work to Feldman’s Flute
and Orchestra (1977/8); but one soon realises that the
this is rather different. For one, the Feldman moves at a fairly
slow tempo, with dynamics rarely rising above piano and
pianissimo. Climaxes of a sort are achieved by brief,
fortissimo outbursts quickly silenced. In Slettholm’s
work, the solo part is built on sparse material, such as single
notes, trills or fragments of limited intervallic ambit, much
in the same way as in Feldman’s piece. The tranquil, almost
otherworldly ritualistic character of the flute’s part strongly
contrasts with ever-changing orchestral textures, sometimes
of considerable contrasting energy.
The alto saxophone
concerto Nettene finnes (“The Nights Exist”) is
a much more recent work, completed in 2000. It stands in sharp
contrast to Aggregations and Possible Solutions,
in that the music is characterised by “active melodic lines”
completely at odds with the relatively limited material on which
the earlier works are built. The music again moves in waves,
calm or turbulent, providing for much contrast throughout the
piece. The soloist is in the front line almost from first to
last; but the solo part calls for supple musicality and agility
rather than outright brilliance. That said the music has its
share of tricky bits.
As far as I can
judge, these performances are excellent, well served by soloists
whose immaculate playing is superb throughout. Very fine recorded
sound and there are detailed insert notes even if they are inclined
to be verbose.
This was my first
– and I hope not the last – encounter with Slettholm. One thing
comes clearly through these three works, that is the composer’s
ability to think in long paragraphs sustained with imagination
and invention. I look forward to hearing more of his music soon.