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Yngve SLETTHOLM (b. 1955)
Aggregations (1984) [17:53]
Nettene finnes (2000)a [21:46]
Possible Selections (1988)b [25:36]
Vegard Landaas (alto saxophone)a; Tom Ottar Andreassen (flute)b
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Eggen
rec. Oslo Concert Hall, August 2004
AURORA ACD 5030 [65:16]

 

 

Slettholm completed 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.

Aggregations 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.

Hubert Culot

 





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