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B Tommy ANDERSSON (b. 1964)
1. Satyricon, Choreographic poem for large orchestra (2000) [17:53]
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck
2. Sonnet XVIII, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day, for mixed choir a cappella (2002) [4:11]
Swedish Radio Choir/Peter Dijkstra
3. Reflections, for soprano saxophone and orchestra (2003) [12:26]
Anders Paulsson (soprano saxophone); Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/B Tommy Andersson
Pieces for Pontus, for piano solo (2007) [9:37]
Magnus Svensson (piano)
7. Kyssar vill jag dricka (I Would Drink Kisses), for mixed choir a cappella (2004) [6:35]
Notus Ensemble/Olof Boman
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (1985/1993) [20:42]
Sören Hermansson (horn); Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/B Tommy Andersson
rec. live, Berwald Hall, Stockholm, on 23 April 2004 (1); live, Oscar’s Church, Stockholm, 29 September 2007 (2); Concert Hall, Helsingborg, 16-17 December 2008 (3), 10-12 September 2008 (8-10); Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm, 2 October 2008 (4-6), 1 October 2008 (7)
The poems for the choral pieces enclosed
PHONO SUECIA PSCD178 [71:43]

 

Experience Classicsonline


In April this year (2009) the Stockholm Concert Hall arranged a Composer Weekend devoted to B. Tommy Andersson. It was a fine tribute to ‘one of Sweden’s most animated composer voices of today’ as Sofia Nyblom wrote in her review in Svenska Dagbladet.

He may be better known as a conductor. According to his homepage a complete list of his conducted works would comprise 873 works including 132 first performances. A great number of operas, ballets and even operettas reveal a deep interest in music theatre and I think it is right to say that theatricality is an important ingredient in his own composing.

He started writing music at an early age and the first work performed in public was a Prelude and Fugue in F major, for organ in 1979 when he was fifteen. Since then his work-list has expanded rapidly in various genres, but during the first half of the 1990s he composed very little due to his intense conducting activities. The last decade has, on the other hand, been very productive.

Not surprisingly his oeuvre includes an opera – William, a fantasy on William Shakespeare, commissioned by the Vadstena Academy and premiered in 2006. The three piano pieces on this disc are based on musical material from the opera and refer to different episodes in the libretto. It is dedicated to the choreographer and dancer Pontus Lindberg and the degree of difficulty is adjusted to Lindberg’s capacity as a good amateur pianist. The first piece, Secret Theatre, is rhythmic and the third, Seductive Games, is lively and energetic, as is proper for a dancer. In between Ganymede is a moment of repose with the sounds of soft bells.

Satyricon is also related to dance, though not originally intended to be so. It is inspired by a novel by Gaius Petronius, an ancient Roman author who died in 66 AD. It is not exactly programme music, rather as Andersson puts it in his commentary ‘a concert piece in the spirit of Petronius’s novel’. The subheading ‘Choreographic Poem’ has to do with a growing feeling Andersson had during the composition process that it would be suitable for dancing. He dedicated it to the memory of choreographer and dancer Per Jonsson (1956–1998) whose work he had always admired. Satyricon is in one movement but is divided into four clearly differentiated parts. It opens with airy, transparent music, lyrical and melodious, which grows in intensity. Then follows a part that is rhythmic and energetic, repetitive but stirring and suggestive. The third episode is soft and restrained and rather melancholy, while the final segment is aggressive but full of vitality. Not having read the novel which the notes tell us is a ‘rather indelicate story [consisting] of several amusing, passionate and odd episodes’, I can sense the composer’s will to communicate. Without resorting to seductive melodies and sweet harmonies his music is accessible and captivating.

His setting of what is probably Shakespeare’s best known sonnet, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day with its high-lying cantilena for the sopranos is truly beautiful. It is worthy to set beside Nils Lindberg’s setting of the same text some twenty years ago, a work that quickly established itself as a standard among Swedish choirs. The Swedish Radio Choir under Peter Dijkstra retains the high standards we have been used to for so many years. For the other choral piece, Kyssar vill jag dricka, settings of some verses from The Song of Songs, Andersson has used Arabian scales to underline the Oriental background of the texts.

Influences from another direction are met in Reflections, with references to both John Dowland and Benjamin Britten. The melodic material is based on Dowland’s song Wing’d with Hopes. The piece is a vehicle for the superb Anders Paulsson and his soprano saxophone. After a soft opening the solo part becomes ever more intricate and Paulsson has few seconds of rest during the twelve minutes playing time.

The longest and also the earliest composition is the Concerto for horn and orchestra, composed in 1993 but based on material from an even earlier sonata. The first movement opens with a theme that is very similar to Shostakovich’s famous ‘motto’. It returns throughout the movement, which is rather romantic. The beautiful Lento also has room for some virtuoso flute solos. However the movement is predominantly a melancholy soliloquy for the horn soloist. In the concluding Vivace the ‘motto’ from the opening is heard again. Sören Hermansson has long been a champion of the contemporary scene and has premiered numerous works. His playing here is as spotless as ever and with the composer conducting, as he also does in Reflections, the authenticity cannot be questioned.

This varied and communicative disc should win Andersson many new friends. With its broad spectrum of styles and influences it should appeal to listeners from various cultures. The technical standard is admirable.

Göran Forsling

And Rob Barnett writes:

B. Tommy Andersson's name will be well known to Scandinavian music enthusiasts as an repertoire-intrepid conductor. For example, he directs the orchestra for the Bis recording of Nystroem's last two symphonies and also the Sterling disc of Atterberg’s concertos for piano and for violin. Here he is also revealed as a composer.

Reflections is Andersson's 2003 Concerto for soprano saxophone and orchestra. The soloist Anders Paulsson plays only the soprano saxophone. The concerto is less romantic and more reserved than the Horn Concerto. We are told that it is based on the Dowland song My Thoughts are Wing'd with Hopes (1597). Despite a speckle of key clatter one can appreciate this mercurial and flighty work: Ariel at play in light and shadow - an elfin supernatural.

Pieces for Pontus are for Magnus Svensson's solo piano and are dedicated to Pontus Lindberg on his 30th birthday. Secret Theatre is a jerky volley of notes while Ganymede is marked out by its starry slow-descending note pattern like Urmis Sisask. The music is extracted from Andersson's opera William based on the life of William Shakespeare.

I Would Drink Your Kisses is a choral piece on words from the Song of Solomon and redolent of the original locale in the use of Arabian scales. It is not at all avant-garde, just rich and strange. Speaking of Shakespeare again we come to his Sonnet XVIII, Shall I compare thee which is also for mixed choir. Over a sweetly-hummed murmur this is almost Bantock-luxuriant and certainly sentimental. Very Edwardian.

The surgingly romantic Horn Concerto began life as the 1985 Horn Sonata. It was largely rewritten as a Concerto in 1993. It's a stirring and turbulent work with no small insurgency of truculence. The pregnant rainy tension of the Lento is carried over into the Vivace which is bluffly Falstaffian, furiously full of barbed euphoric character and rousingly confident.

The supportive notes are by Magnus Hagland with a substantial note by the composer in relation to Satyricon. Speaking of which, Andersson's conjuring of the atmosphere rather than the incidents of the Petronius novel is phantasmally done. The score is delicate and luxurious with super-rich harmonic tissue comparable at one moment with Ravel's Daphnis at another with Bax's Springfire and then again with the most densely sybaritic Szymanowski. This almost expressionistic forest strikes an accommodation with dissonance. At 5.33 there is an irruption of magnificent Barber-like melody. ‘Choreographic poem’ so we must not surprised by the possessed dance at 6.30 or the riptide rhythmic ‘stings’ at 8:40 which keep things moving. In the clinkery of anvil and the eruptive wildness this music recalls Barber's Medea's Dance of Vengeance. Ripping rhythmic brass figures and howling deep brass cut through the textures. There is then a long melting falling away with a profusion of solo lines which begin to be disrupted by rhythmic explosions from 15:00 onwards. These blast and pulsate while rolling brass fanfares rip and rap. Diaghilev would have loved this: Dukas’s La Péri on steroids.

Rob Barnett

 


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