Here is a very welcome disc which fills an important gap in
the catalogue and in our - or at least my - knowledge of Scandinavian
Lasse Thoresen is a native of Oslo who studied with Finn Mortensen
at the Norwegian Academy of Music where he himself became a
professor of composition in 1988. He has received awards from
the Norwegian Society of Composer for the “Work of the
Year” three times. All the works on this disc have extra-musical
connections, which is hardly surprising when, as the booklet
notes, the composer believes that “the purpose of music
is first and foremost to relate to human expression. It is not
meant simply to investigate sonorous possibilities - it should
also make use of the possibilities for expressing the human
The Concerto was written to mark the centenary of the dissolution
of the Swedish-Norwegian union. The two solo instruments represent
the most typical folk instruments of the two countries. All
three movements make use of existing material, the first a Norwegian
folk tune, the last a Swedish religious folk tune, and the central
movement the Boccherini Minuet, but this is by way of
commenting on them rather than mere pastiche or nostalgia. There
are indeed many changes of musical character and much imaginative
use of a very wide variety of tone colour and manner. It is
clear from the excellent notes by Stig Jacobson that all three
works on the disc are packed full of extra-musical references
that may well be lost on the non-Scandinavian listener. It was
by no means obvious to me, for instance, why part of the final
movement is said to conjure images of the fall of man, or what
the significance is of references to the national birds of the
two countries. Nonetheless the sheer sonic imagination at work
carries the listener through the passage of the music and ensures
that there is so much to intrigue and delight that any lack
of a full understanding of all the specifically Norwegian and
Swedish references becomes irrelevant.
“Rettferdighetens Sol/The Sun of Justice” also has
strong extra-musical associations. Jacobson explains that “the
work is a musical reflection of the founder of the Bahá’i
religion, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892)
and his prophecy that life on earth will become harder before
the true sun of justice rises”. Again it draws on disparate
elements, including a melody of South American descent, “Also
sprach Zarathustra” and Bruckner’s Te Deum, but
again they are melded into a musical whole which does not depend
upon the programme to make sense. “Emergence - Luohti
Boađe!” is inspired by and partly based on the musical
traditions of the Sami people, and in particular the “joik”.
Two solo trombones were an inspired choice to imitate the structure
and sound of the latter, including their typical slides.
All three works are colourful and approachable, and, as far
as I could tell without a score, well and convincingly played
by the Bergen Philharmonic and the various soloists. With clear
and full recording and good notes this disc is very enjoyable
in itself and whets the appetite for more of Thoresen’s
And a further review - from Rob Barnett
The Norwegian composer and academic Lasse Thoresen has taught
composition, electro-acoustic music, and sonology at the Norwegian
State Academy of Music since 1975.
This is not the first CD of his music to feature on this site.
There have been discs from Simax, Aurora and Bis. The most notable
is the Aurora
CD of Chases, Cattle Calls and Charts which evidently
weaves together folk voices and contemporary classical dissonance.
The music on this disc takes a similar line.
Thoresen’s works have been numerous. The piano trio Bird
of the Heart was premiered at the Bergen Festival in 1982.
The Symphonic concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1984) has had
its share of radio broadcasts. Warsaw in 1998 saw the first
performance of a cantata Fire and Light. As the Waves
of One Sea for 230 performers was his hour-long piece written
in 1999 to mark the new millennium. His oratorio Terraces
of Light was premiered in Haifa for the inauguration of
the Bahá’í Terraces. In May 2003 St Petersburg
was the site of the performance of his triple concerto Transfigurations
as a salutation from the Norwegian State on the occasion
of St Petersburg’s 300 years jubilee.
We are told that Thoresen is influenced by Norwegian ethno-musical
voices, French spectral music and Harry Partch’s “Just
Intonation”. He has employed microtonal principles in
a number of his works since 1985.
To the Brother Peoples links the Scandinavian nations
in an extravagant kaleidoscopic folk-modernist phantasmagoria
of musical invention, mythology and allusive material. Some
of the writing is Stravinskian with touches of tangy dissonance.
Yet you are also confronted with music that seems to relate
to Berlioz’s witches. Folk dances appear but one is left
disorientated or challenged when these are juxtaposed with woody
percussive noises, scrapes and knockings. The second movement
is decorated with Mozartian sprigs and graftings.
The finale works as both a magical spell and a refraction: a
Graingerian melting pot. Some of the episodes are quite breathtaking
as in the delicate spray and scatter of slow fall-floating motes
of harpsichord pinpoints. The folk dance/song material is galvanic
and reedy-toned. confident folk voices march out of the texture
with scrape of Stravinsky and the wild resin of the autochthonous
highlands of every country across Europe and beyond. The work
ends in a tornado of chaos and drumming and a long-blown uproarious
This is the sort of music Grainger would have been writing had
he been born in the 1950s. Be warned though: this is no easily
palatable eclectic folk fusion piece.
Emergence (1997) was commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic
and its conductor Mariss Jansons for a concert tour to European
capitals. This tone poem has the chisel-edged keenness of a
score influenced by Stravinsky's Les Noces and the Symphonies
of Wind Instruments. There are warm smiling sighs from the
strings and the trombones roll and roar. This music at times
recalls Malcolm Arnold and at others the Rite of Spring yet
ends with a Bernstein-like rhythmic flourish.
The Sun of Justice contains disorientating references
to Berlioz’s Requiem, Strauss's Also Sprach
Zarathustra and Bruckner's Te Deum. It is a patteringly
active score with brassy expostulations groaning and furious
or at least feral. Again we experience a wheeling ferment of
sound. We are told that it is a musical reflection of the founder
of the Bahá'i religion's prophecy that life on earth
will become harder before the true sun of justice rises. The
Bahá'i faith has been a constant source of inspiration
Thoresen’s website is at http://www.lassethoresen.com/profile.htm