Arne MELLNÄS (1933-2002)
Passages for orchestra (1989) [16:55]
Labyrinthos – Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra: (Moderato; Lento; Vivace) (1999) [19:30]
Symphony No 1: Ikaros (The Labyrinth; Away; And; Next; Now) (1986) [25:38]
Swedish RSO/Esa-Pekka Salonen; Jörgen Pettersson (sax), Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Marcello Viotti; Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Imants Resnis
rec. Berwald Hall, Stockholm, 15 Dec 1992 (Passages); Concert Hall, Gothenburg, 1 Sept 2000 (Labyrinthos); Great Hall, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvian Radio, 19 May 1989. DDD

Mellnäs was a native of Stockholm who studied there with Erland von Koch, Lars-Erik Larsson and Karl-Birger Blomdahl. He later extended this foundation with Boris Blacher, Max Deutsch and György Ligeti. His work-list abounds in work titles that are not ‘symphony’, ‘concerto’ or ‘sonata’. Typical are the orchestral works: Chiasmos (1961), Aura (1964) and Capriccio (1978). There are concertos including ones for clarinet (1957) and Intimate Games which is a flute concerto (1992). He had a fling with electro-acoustics in the 1960s and a small clutch of these works numbers: Intensity 6.5, Edgar Varèse in memoriam (1966), Eufoni (1969), Monotrem (1969) and Far Out (Portrait of Laura Nyro) (1970). There are four operas: Erik den helige, a church opera, Spöket på Canterville (The Canterville Ghost) (1980), Dans på rosor (1984) and Doktor Glas (1990). His works have appeared on CDs from Finlandia, Caprice, Bis, Phono-Suecia and Swedish Society Discofil. All-Mellnäs discs have been thin on the ground.

Passages for orchestra is an angry or at very least tightly coiled dissonant piece – just what you may expect from a delegate at Darmstadt summer schools. Contrast comes from a proclivity for the sort of slippery ululation typical of 1960s Penderecki and his Hiroshima Threnody. No trace of the new melodics here. Labyrinthos is from a decade later. It was written for the saxophonist heard here. Those angry expostulations beat out and break in with interdictive fire of William Schuman. They stand alongside mercurial, cantabile from the soloist. Even so the sax writing is not terribly relaxed. The Vivace finale is irate and flares with volatility. Ikaros is the oldest piece here. It too sports those oily sliding string figurations whether as part of an active sound-quilt or as rhetorical devices. There’s no doubting the 1970s style modernity of this music and its groaning and pained embrace with angst. The recording by Latvian Radio is diaphanously clear and packs a punch as indeed do all the inscriptions here.

The notes are in Swedish with fluent English translation.

Rob Barnett

A Swedish Darmstadt scion’s take on dissonance.