The Swedish composer Johan Hammerth (see website
confesses that he cannot stop writing Piano Preludes. By December
2010 he was working on his 48th
. His creative compulsion
can be traced to his hearing the Shostakovich preludes and fugues.
He tells us that in 1999 he wrote 24 preludes and that these “emanate
from four basic moods, with six different expressions. Some of
them have an affinity with each other.” Numbers 25-32 are for
the left-hand and are dedicated to the poet Thomas Tranströmer.
Hammerth’s idiom accommodates gently-stated dissonance and does
so within unadorned resounding textures. He presents his often
obsessive and repetitively patterned ideas in subtle mesmeric
monochromes. The element of repetition and the bare landscape
allows the listener more easily to appreciate these very serious
pieces most of which run between 3:30 and 6:00. A good example
is No. 3 which has a nagging carolling note-cell around which
other cells are steadily swirled. The writing can be assertive,
protesting and driven. And when it is not following this path
Hammerth tracks his concentrated way through dreamy nocturnal
territory as in the Chopin-reminiscent Nos. 25 and 28. It may
be that there is more dynamic variation in this music than we
hear in this recording. Despite the Shostakovich exemplary fugal
activity is not part of Hammerth’s armoury - at least not here.
The romantic Russian piano tradition means a great deal to him
and you can hear this at the start of Preludium 11 and the truly
breathtaking and slow-babbling 31.
He was born in Kalmar and educated at Stockholm's Royal College
of Music (1982-1990) where his teachers included Sven-David Sandström,
Pär Lindgren, Daniel Börtz, and Lars-Erik Rosell. His Piano Concerto
(1989-1990) was dedicated to Sven-David Sandström. His Piano Concerto
No. 2 (1993-1995) was premiered by Bengt-Åke Lundin. While the
piano is at the core of his creativity he has said that string
instruments are his "musical lungs". His catalogue includes
three string quartets (1989, 1995, 2003), Symphony No. 1 (2000),
(1987) and Confront
(1985) for orchestra and a series of concertos for violin
(1987, 1994, 2002), cello (1998), percussion (1995), Flute (1992)
and bassoon (1986).
Pianist Stefan Lindgren, who is also a composer, here plays 17
of the preludes (here termed ‘Preludium’) and does so with every
appearance of total absorption in these substantial pieces.. It’s
a liberal assortment with the disc running close to capacity.
We are told there will be more to come in a further CD later in
The second disc will be worth looking out for and I hope soon
to hear his orchestral concert music.
This is music that weaves a hypnotic spell. It is deeply romantic
and seems to speak of losing the self in contemplation.