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Unheard of – again
Henrik STRINDBERG (b. 1954)
Timeline (2008) [8:59]
Karen REHNQVIST (b. 1957)
Tentative (Part II) from Beginning (2003) [5:51]
Djuro ZIVKOVIC (b. 1975)
Le Cimetière marin (2008)a [9:42]
Victoria BORISOVA-OLLAS (b. 1969)
Behind the Shadows (1998) [7:76]
Pär FRID (b. 1977)
Déjà-vu, over and over again (2008) [12:04]
Mattias LYSELL (b. 1971)
Gilded Splinters (2007) [7:14]
Benjamin STAERN (b. 1978)
The Deep Violoncello of the Night (2008)a [7:40]
Anna Larsson (alto)a
Chamber Ensemble Sonanza/Jan Risberg
rec. Studio 2, SR, Stockholm, 17-18 May 2008 (Rehnqvist, Borisova-Olla, Lysell), 15-16 June 2008 (Strindberg, Frid) and 9-10 August 2008 (Zivkovic, Staern)


Experience Classicsonline

As can be seen from the above details many of the composers featured in this curiously-titled compilation of recent works are quite young. In fact Henrik Strindberg is almost the Grand Old Man here, although he is represented by a very recent work composed in 2008. His Timeline is in three sections separated by short “tone-less” intermezzos, the music being repetitive, but by no means minimalist. The whole roughly amounts to a short set of variations, the three movements apparently sharing common material. The final section, however, is characterised by layering of different patterns.

Karen Rehnqvist is represented here by the second movement of her piano trio Beginning recorded complete on BIS-CD-1396 - reviewed here some time ago.

Le Cimetière Marin by Belgrade-born Djuro Zivkovic sets three strophes from Valéry’s celebrated eponymous poem. There also exists a setting by Fartein Valen. The one by Zivkovic is for alto and ensemble. It evinces considerable instrumental imagination and invention while the voice is straightforwardly laid-out - quite a nice piece of music.

Victoria Borisova-Olla is now making quite a reputation. This has been reinforced by her Wings of the Mind (now on Phono Suecia PSCD 171) which won second prize in the 1998 Masterprize Competition. Her Behind the Shadows for strings and percussion is indirectly based on episodes from Zelda Fitzgerald’s autobiographical novel Save Me the Waltz, although the music is clearly neither programmatic nor descriptive. It is more about suggesting moods reflected in various parts of the novel. The overall mood is predominantly uneasy, ominous and dark-hued.

Pär Frid’s Déjà-vu, over and over again is scored for small ensemble and electronics. I am not quite sure what the first three movements are about. I eventually found it a rather disturbing work in that the music seems unable to decide where to go in spite or – maybe – because of the many calculations made by the composer before writing the piece. A sense of goal, however, is eventually reached in the last section. As I said, this is a curious work that left me wanting in spite of some nice ideas. As Vaughan Williams once said about his own appreciation of Schönberg, “I suppose it’s all my fault”. I will anyway live in faith till I hear more of Frid’s music.

Gilded Splinters is based on material drawn from a cantus firmus by Palestrina to which Lysell applies compositional techniques also used by the Italian composer. The most remarkable thing about this beautiful work is that it never sounds like a pastiche or parody, but rather serves as a sincere homage to Palestrina. This is one of the finest works here, as is Staern’s The Deep Violoncello of the Night, a very fine setting for alto and ensemble of a similarly titled poem by Karin Boye. The cello has an appropriately more developed part. The music at times reflects words from the poem in an almost graphic way. In this short dramatic scena, the composer successfully and resourcefully draws considerable strength from a small mixed ensemble.

Collections such as this are inevitably uneven with the composers having different musical and aesthetic horizons. Sonanza’s performances are excellent, carefully prepared and fully committed. Such a cross-section is well worth more than the occasional hearing for it includes some appealing works such as the Strindberg, Borisova-Olla, Zivkovic and Staern. My sole regret about this otherwise worthwhile release is that Rehnqvist is represented by a movement from a work that has already been recorded rather than by another work of hers.

Hubert Culot


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