It was back in 1996 that I went over to Norway ostensibly to hear a brief work of my own but
also to go to a concert a night later. That concert included what
the Norwegians rather quaintly titled ‘Work of the Year’; Oh,
if only we had such an award in Britain! It was won on that occasion
by Magne Hegdal with his’ Grande Symphonie’. I was very
impressed by it as I am by the piece which represents him on this
CD. In between times I have no idea what he has been up to. I
remember either a programme note or a pre-concert talk and I noted
in my diary the composer talking about a “time–continuum, in which
distant past, near past and present could all be musically combined
into a convincing whole”. “This,” he went on, “could be a future
for composition and certainly is for me.” This work is described
by the composer as a ‘Time Structure’. So I went onto the internet.
I quote his website ‘His style has developed into a greater stylistic
openness and with a more varied and direct expression”. He had
been a pupil of Finn Mortensen from whom he learned how to use
controlled improvisation in orchestral works.
work under consideration, simply entitled ‘Form’ here quotes
a brief passage from Biber’s ‘Battalia’ written in the 1680s,
I should think. The music leads towards it and after it the
rhythm of the Biber takes over the musical argument leading
it elsewhere. One feels its presence, as he says, in a sort
of time continuum: past and present fuse. The effect is direct
and the expressive nature of the music is clear. It all combines
into a fascinating piece which, like much music, does not
reveal itself at one or even two hearings.
Olav Anton Thommessen’s ‘Corelli machine’ which gives
this disc its title is, as its title suggests, from the same
stable as the Hegdal. It uses a concerto from Corelli’s Op.
6. In the composer’s words he is constantly “enlarging and
expanding the original material which opens the work for the
first one and a quarter minutes. But as it progresses the
Corelli becomes at times a gesture or even just an articulation.
The piece is more about “chords, sequences and rhythm than
about melodies” and the whole is put into a “machine” which
regurgitates these chippings into a concerto grosso for our
own times. Incidentally it was Thommessen’s opera ‘The Glass
Bead Game’ which caused quite a stir in the early 1980s.
you call a work, ‘Serenade for strings’ you are also angling
yourself back into an earlier age, to be precise, probably
the classical era. That said, Ketil Hvoslef, a pupil
of that fine Swedish symphonist Karl Blomdahl and perhaps
the best known of these three Norwegians, does not quote older
music. There is a 21st century sort of neo-classicism in the
structure and dynamic of its continuous flow and it radiates
a generally friendly atmosphere.
work by Xenakis ‘Aroura’ does not fit, either musically
or geographically, into the disc's profile. Nevertheless it’s
good to hear it. It begins aggressively with clusters and
glissandi. I often feel with this unique composer a sense
that he is filling in architectural space with sound-blocks.
The sounds create the form, not a conventional one but with
careful listening the form is heard as a series of blocks.
You might think of these as pillars which in this work are
marked by loud passages with unisons and clusters. These are
split off, in the spaces between the pillars as it were, by
very quiet and reflective passages. These actually take up
more time much as the gaps between the pillars would take
up more space in a building. Xenakis started life as a trainee
architect so my comments are not as random as they might appear.
The whole work consists of vast, violent, catastrophic explosions
divided up by near-silences and complete silences. This is
virtuoso music, carried off with great conviction and understanding.
These players are each soloists in their own right as well
as being superb ensemble players. The church acoustic is excellent
and adds a halo to the clarity of the sound. Terje Tønnesen
shows complete understanding of how to get the best out of
the music and of the performers.
disc comes in the nowadays quite common cardboard case with
a useful booklet in Norwegian and English. This covers a short
essay on each piece by the composer, biographies of them and
of the performers and a ‘happy holiday’-type photo of the
three Norwegian composers in shorts and T-shirts.
interesting disc and well worth exploring although you may feel
somewhat short-changed at well under an hour of music.