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Dr Caligari
Mats LARSSON-GOTHE (b. 1965)
Dr. Caligari
(1991) [14:35]
Albert SCHNEIZER (b. 1972)
(1999) [6:38]
Stefan KLAVERDAL (b. 1975)
Dual Chant
(2003) [13:31]
Benjamin STAERN (b. 1978)
The Lonely One
(2000/2005) [11:33]
Albert SCHNELZER (b. 1972)
Frozen Landscape
(2003) [7:49]
Stefan KLAVERDAL (b. 1975)
The Longing of Eurydice
(2005) [13:54]
Daniel HJORTH (b. 1973)
Modal Move
(2003) [5:36]
Björn Kleiman (violin); David Wärn (piano)
rec. Malmö, Sweden, 8-9 April, 11-12 August, 9 October 2006. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was one of the first and most influential of German films, injecting expressionism into the cinema for the first time in the 1920s. The derived movies and related works have always kept a sense of the surreal as well as references to the somnambulist world the characters propagate and inhabit. This recent recital by Björn Kleiman and David Wärn is no exception, though only connected to the movie in the most tangential of ways.
The pieces are all related by their themes of existing on the line between reality and dream. Occasionally grating and harsh harmonies stand opposed to beauty and virtuosity. Even a quote on the booklet states that “To sleep is a pleasant way to kill time. As if we could.”
There are few truly pleasant dreams on this album however. It tends to careen from the interesting surreal scene to a mild nightmare. Dr. Caligari is virtuosic, expressive and punctuated with brief sonic explosions of vocal and instrumental sound. It takes the listener on a trip through a dystopia and only at the end allows some respite, as if suddenly the subject awakes to find himself recovering from electroshock therapy. Solitude is a work for solo violin that finds a variety of modern bowing techniques designed to make the instrument cry and howl in loneliness and solemn desperation.  It is moving and deep, and very beautiful, but not a quiet, easy listen.
Dual Chant is among the more innovative works on the album with solo violin and synthesizers combining to great effect. The synthetic sounds are of the goblins/hollow bells/synth voice/synth strings varieties that are often used in fantasy and sci-fi movie soundtracks. This would be the one piece of respite on the album where the listener looking for simple beauty may find calm. Even so, with the synthesized sounds so abundant, there is something mildly disconcerting here in the midst of the rest of the album. It is as if the only way for us to find any peace in our dream-state involves us fleeing any other humanity and relying solely on soulless technology.  This may not be the intended effect, but it is difficult not to find irony in the fact that all of the natural sounds on the album reflect the darker side of dreams and night.
As soon as we leave the cocoon of synthesized sound we find The Lonely One - another work for unaccompanied violin drawing the listener into the realm of quiet pain and loneliness. This is again deeply moving and outstandingly performed, and it leads directly into Frozen Landscape, a duet with the piano. The piano begins the work with a stark few notes that serve as disjointed melody. The violin provides effects evoking the barren winter lands that would lead to the sense of the monumental loneliness that is so brilliantly evoked in the previous piece.
The piano and violin are joined by some electronic effects and punctuations in The Longing of Eurydice, which is less hopeful than our previous electronically-softened respite. This is darker, and somewhat menacing at times. In other places we have nearly romantic sounds which retain this quality despite the distinctly artificial nature of the electronica. As the work culminates the violin moves to more traditional virtuosity while the synthesizers project an alien sound drawing us to the work that concludes the album.
Modal Move is a violin sonata built on a work by Mozart. The original is transformed into a Dorian modal harmonic progression with a myriad chord extensions and color tones bringing Mozart’s melody deep into the 20th century. The effect is very pretty, but fragile sounding, and somewhat sad.
This album is masterfully programmed, with each piece leading into the next. The violin work is exquisite. The piano complements the solo instrument well and the electronic elements are very tastefully deployed. There is a great deal to recommend this collection which is skilfully executed, and should appeal to most classical music fans who are open to new music.
Patrick Gary


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