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Prelude, Fnugg and Riffs
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918–1990)
1. Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1955) [7.19]
Oystein BAADSVIK (b. 1966)/Svein H. GISKE (b. 1973)
2. Fnugg Blue (2002/2003) [7.56]
Boris DIEV (b. 1924)
3. Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra (1966) [9.09]
Mark Anthony TURNAGE (b. 1960) (arr. Anders Högstedt)
4. A Quick Blast (2000)  [8.01]
Fredrik HÖGBERG (b. 1971)
5. Trolltuba [7.53]
Daniel NELSON (b. 1965) arr. Anders HÖGSTEDT
6. Metallephonic Remix [15.48]
Øystein Baadsvik (tuba) (2-6)
Christian Lindberg (trombone) (2)
Swedish Wind Ensemble/Christian Lindberg
rec. January 2006, May 2006, Nacka Aula, Stockholm.
BIS CD1625 [57.33]
Experience Classicsonline


Norwegian tuba virtuoso Øystein Baadsvik continues to forge new areas of repertoire. Having recorded two CDs of music for tuba and piano the present disc is a collaboration with the Swedish Wind Ensemble, whose chief conductor is the trombone virtuoso Christian Lindberg. We are offered a selection of contemporary works for tuba and wind ensemble, with the addition of Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs. Thanks to a slight lack of clarity in the booklet notes, I was expecting - perhaps ‘dreading’ is a better description - an adaptation of Prelude, Fugue and Riffs for tuba and wind band. Thankfully this is not what happened. Closer reading led to the realisation that Baadsvik plays in four items and the Swedish Wind Ensemble alone play the Bernstein and the Turnage.
 
The performance of the Bernstein is very creditable, with some fine solo clarinet playing from Anita Bohlin. As a whole the playing lacks a certain swing and leans closer to the Stravinskian element than to swing/jazz. On the whole the players sound as if they are having immense fun.
 
Fnugg Blue is a concertante work for tuba and wind ensemble by Baadsvik and composer Svein Giske. Originally Baadsvik wrote the piece as a tuba solo and Giske expanded it into a work for tuba, synthesizer and brass band. It uses all sorts of advanced techniques on the tuba including multiphonics - singing and playing simultaneously - and percussive effects.
 
The opening sounds as if Baadsvik is playing variants of the Rolling Stones ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ on a didgeridu. It is not the melodic material per se which is of interest but the sheer joy with which Baadsvivk manages to conjure such a wonderful variety of sounds out of the instrument. In case you are wondering, ‘fnugg’ is a Norwegian word for something small and weightless.
 
Composer Boris Diev is from an older generation and is Russian-trained. His Concerto for Tuba and Wind Orchestra was composed in 1996 and written for Baadsvik who gave the first performance in 1996. It is relatively short for a concerto, but Diev’s material is pretty tough and concentrated. The single movement work uses highly expressionistic melodic material, mixing contemporary techniques with a feeling for tonality, albeit of a more challenging type.
 
Baadsvik takes a rest in the next piece as the Swedish Wind Ensemble play Mark Antony Turnage’s A Quick Blast. This forms the first part of Etudes and Elegies which was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2002. Each of the three movements of Etudes and Elegies is written for a different combination of instruments.  A Quick Blast is scored for the wind and percussion sections of the symphony orchestra. The version played here has been slightly re-scored to suit the requirements of the Swedish Wind Ensemble. In many ways the piece comes over as a tougher version of the Bernstein. It has the same rhythmic drive and melodic verve; it is just that Turnage’s harmonic language is stronger and more complex.
 
With Fredrik Högberg’s Trolltuba I was expecting another tuba concertante work, this time based on the Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff. The CD booklet omits all mention of the fact that the work includes a narrator and a chorus. The narrator tells the story with the tuba and wind ensemble providing background material and illustrative musical interludes. The narration is in English, but the unnamed speaker’s distinctive accent might become a little annoying on repeated listening. The author of the narration is uncredited but it is a little too knowing and self-referential. Towards the end the chorus have to coax the speaker into finishing the piece. Högberg’s music is dramatic and illustrative, but tends to take a back seat to the text. I hope that Högberg has the confidence to drop that narration and rely solely on his musical and dramatic talents to tell the story.
 
Finally Daniel Nelson’s Metallephonic Remix. Nelson trained at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Chicago but currently lives in Sweden, where he has studied with Lars-Erik Rosell. He has a close relationship with the Nordic Chamber Orchestra for whom he wrote Metallephonic for tuba and orchestra, which Baadsvik premiered. For this disc Anders Hogstedt has re-orchestrated the piece for the Swedish Wind Ensemble.
 
The work arose when Nelson’s neighbour started to play heavy metal rather loudly. Nelson became intrigued by the synthesis between this and his classical music. The result is exciting and up-tempo with an emphasis on percussion. Nelson’s harmonic and musical language is complex but his manipulation of material, with its pulses and repetitions is akin to the later music by such minimalists as Glass and Adams.
 
In all of these pieces, Baadsvik’s tuba playing is dazzling. His tuba is never over-spotlit so that he is very much primus inter pares. He makes light of the extreme technical demands that the pieces make and concentrates on making music. He is well supported by the Swedish Wind Ensemble under Christian Lindberg’s fine direction. They show their true mettle in their two solo items.
 
This is very definitely a disc of wind music for people who think they don’t like wind ensemble. The dazzling playing and fearless approach to contemporary idiom mean that this is a disc to enjoy and to challenge.
 
Robert Hugill
 


 


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