Ferry Tales Øystein BAADSVIK(b.1966) Ordner seg (It’ll Be All Right) [4:38]
Erlend SKOMSVOLL(b.1969) Prince Igor – Fantasy on a Theme by A. Borodin [3:33]
Øystein BAADSVIK Dancing on a Blue Ribbon [5:00]
Erlend SKOMSVOLL Vise (A Simple Melody) [3:10]
Harold ARLEN(1905-1986) Somewhere Over the Rainbow (arr. Erlend Skomsvoll) [6:32]
Øystein BAADSVIK Tango [4:30]
Erlend SKOMSVOLL Salme i g-moll (Hymn in G minor) [5:03]
Bjarne AMDAHL(1903-1968) Slipesteinsvalsen (Grindstone Waltz) (arr. Erlend Skomsvoll) [4:47]
Erlend SKOMSVOLL Uten tekst (Without Words) [4:49]
Ketil BJØRNSTAD(b.1952) /Erlend SKOMSVOLL Sommernatt ved fjorden (Summer Night by the Fjord) - Fantasy on a theme by Ketil Bjørnstad [5:22]
Knud Vad THOMSEN(1905-1971) Jeg plukker fløylsgræs (Picking Velvet Grass) (arr. Erlend Skomsvoll) [4:04]
Erlend SKOMSVOLL Sangen (The Song) [3:42]
Øystein BAADSVIK Ordner seg II (It’ll Be All Right II) (arr. Erlend Skomsvoll) [4:05]
Déjà vu (arr. Erlend Skomsvoll) [3:17]
Øystein Baadsvik (tuba), Erlend Skomsvoll (piano), The Trondheim Soloists
rec. Jan.2005 and April 2009, Studio 13, NRK Tyholt, Trondheim, Norway. DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1875 [63:58]
What do most people know about tuba? That it is that huge hippo
that makes those raspy grunts three or four times during a symphony.
Well, what most people think about the tuba is wrong. Indeed,
it can reach to the lowest places where no other instrument
can go, and it's in this capacity that orchestral composers
use it most frequently. But the tuba is more than this. It is
a full-ranged instrument with a pleasant baritonal voice in
the upper register. Personally, I would prefer an hour of listening
to a solo tuba than to a solo French horn: the tuba's voice
is clearer, without the snuffling nasality of the horn. The
tuba is also endowed with a full virtuosic ability. In the right
hands it can be a brilliant soloing instrument. The problem
is, the right hands are few and far between.
Øystein Baadsvik is one of today’s leading tuba players. He
is allegedly the only one that maintains a successful solo career,
without keeping a chair in a major orchestra. He has premiered
some fifty solo works, many of them composed for him. He has
issued a number of excellent recordings characterized by attractive
programming and highest level of quality. It will not be an
exaggeration to say that in the last few years he has done as
much for the emancipation of this unjustly obscure instrument
as Vaughan Williams and Hindemith did in the Fifties with their
pioneering tuba concerto and sonata.
On the present disc, as on his earlier ones, Baadsvik amazes
with his virtuosity and gentle touch. In his hands, the tuba
is light and agile. In fact, it rarely descends to the dark
low places which are considered its designated realm. It mostly
sings in the warm baritonal register, but sometimes soars even
higher. There it does not get the comic look of a flying elephant,
a basso buffo that risked to go too high; instead it
sounds calm and natural.
This disc is unusual in several ways. First, it is not tuba-centred.
The piano has an important role, as well as the strings. It's
usually the combination of some two of these three voices that
you hear. The pianist is the composer, arranger and conductor
Erlend Skomsvoll. The third voice comes from the Trondheim Soloists,
a Grammy-nominated chamber string ensemble. They are resonant
and delicate. Baadsvik's virtuosity is far from being offered
as the main attraction of the disc: the tuba is silent for long
stretches of time. The focus is on the music itself, and the
tuba player just happens to be a virtuoso. Such unselfishness
Second, the music is not mainstream classical. It's more of
the James Galway's "popular" style: sweet and mostly
undemanding. This similarity is enhanced by the string envelope
in which it is wrapped. However, Skomsvoll's piano brings in
attractive jazziness, which does not let the music roll into
smooth "easy listening". Skomsvoll worked with Chick
Corea, and indeed there is something from this jazz master in
his technique. There are only two internationally known tunes
on the disc: Borodin's Fly Away on the Wings of the Wind
from Prince Igor, and Arlen's Somewhere Over the Rainbow
from The Wizard of Oz. The remaining pieces are either
by Baadsvik, by Skomsvoll, or are Skomsvoll's arrangements of
pieces by other Scandinavian composers. The compositions are
short: 3 to 6 minutes long. The arrangements are diverse and
inventive, and maintain interest over the disc’s span.
One musical presence that I felt was the "New Age Music"
of groups such as Secret Garden. However, without the
electronic component and repetitiveness of the conventional
"New Age", there is none of the feeling of "cheapness"
that so often comes with such music. Do not get me wrong: Ferry
Tales is not music for pure relaxation and meditation. It
is inspired and calls for active listening. The mood of optimism
and harmony prevails, although some pieces are darker and more
dramatic - such as Baadsvik's own Tango, or the Prince
Igor arrangement. My favorite is the Grindstone Waltz:
it is a mini-story that starts poignantly nostalgic, but then
the strings become angry. Picking Velvet Grass is just
a great tune for a song. Déjà vu and Dancing on a
Blue Ribbon have the light-footed airiness of a folk dance.
The liner-note contains a reminiscence by Baadsvik on the album's
long gestation, and brief descriptions of each piece by Baadsvik
and Skomsvoll, as well as the biography of the performers -
all this in English, Norwegian, German and French. The recording
quality is at the BIS level that we are accustomed to, catching
well the three voices.
You don't need to be a tuba enthusiast in order to listen to
this disc: but you'll probably become one at the end. The music
has warmth and depth, and is presented with love. On the other
hand, you won't encounter serious musical experiences here.
This is good for evening ambience and wears well over repeated
listening. It's not boring. It's not a must, but it is nice.
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