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Lasse THORESEN (b. 1949)
To the Brother Peoples (En Broderfolkskonsert) for hardanger fiddle, nyckelharpa and orchestra op. 37 (2005) [35:24]
Emergence (Luohti Boađe!) op. 28 (1998 rev. 2004) [14:02]
The Sun of Justice (Rettferdighetens Sol) op. 12 (1982) [15:50]
Arvid Engegård (hardanger fiddle); Hans Björkroth (nyckelharpa)
Rune Hannisdal and John Arild Suther (trombones in Op 28)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Ingar Bergby
rec. Grieghallen, Bergen, 11-14, 18-19 June 2007. DDD
AURORA ACD5058 [65:31]
Experience Classicsonline

Here is a very welcome disc which fills an important gap in the catalogue and in our - or at least my - knowledge of Scandinavian composers.

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 condition”.

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 music.

John Sheppard 

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 whistle.

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 to Thoresen.

Thoresen’s website is at

Rob Barnett



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