Dedicated to Trio ZilliacusPerssonRaitinen
Sven-David SANDSTRÖM (b. 1942)
Five pieces for string trio (2008)
1. I [2:08]
2. II [3:37]
3. III [2:58]
4. IV [2:37]
5. V [2:22]
Fredrik ÖSTERLING (b. 1966)
Lundi for recorder and string trio (2008)
6. I [3:53]
7. II [4:55]
8. III [4:29]
Tebogo MONNAKGOTLA (b. 1972)
Five pieces for string trio (2007)
9. I [3:53]
10. II [1:37]
11. III [3:08]
12. IV [3:44]
13. V [3:56]
Fredrik HEDELIN (b. 1965)
14. Akt (2005) [16:33]
Mirjam TALLY (b. 1976)
Winter Island (2009)
15. Part I [8:52]
16. Part II [6:58]
Cecilia Zilliacus (violin), Johanna Persson (viola), Kati Raitinen (cello), Dan Laurin (recorder)(tr. 6-8)
rec. Swedish Radio Studio 12, Gothenburg, 10-12 May, 14-15 June 2010
PHONO SUECIA PSCD 189 [75:48]
The ZilliacusPerssonRaitinen String Trio was formed in 1999. Since then they have – parallel with individual careers – established themselves as one of the leading chamber music groups in Sweden. They have received the Grammis Prize for their first CD with Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s arrangement for string trio of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2005) and Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio KV 563 (2011). On the present disc we are in a totally different world, 21st century works by Swedish composers. This is music that they have played at festivals and a concert series, Äntligen måndag (Monday at Last), that they have hosted since 2007.
The oldest and best known – also to an international public – is Sven-David Sandström. Since the early 1970s he has been one of the foremost Scandinavian composers. Though he will turn 70 in October he is still restlessly productive. A few years ago his opera Batseba was premiered at the Royal Stockholm Opera, followed by his setting of Messiah, the same libretto that Handel set in the 18th century. Then, in the footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach, he was commissioned by the Stockholm Cathedral Parish to write music for every Sunday of the ecclesiastical year. See also interview here.
In all his works Sandström’s goal is to communicate with the listener and the 5 pieces for string trio is no exception. All the pieces are short and contrast with each other. The opening movement is rhythmic and fast, followed by a slow, elegiac piece. The third is binary: fast and playful – and highly entertaining – and then a slow beautiful melody with violin solo. The next is kaleidoscopic and full of surprises and the finale is fast, intensive and virtuosic. The whole composition is a wonderful addition to the rather meagre string trio repertoire. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a standard work.
Mondays may be problematic to some people and Fredrik Österling’s aim with Lundi seems to be an analysis of this. Here Dan Laurin is the featured guest soloist. I imagine that this is another candidate for the standard work list. After a fast, virtuosic opening movement – lucky those who wake up on Monday morning in such high spirits! – the second movement introduces us to a person with quite opposite inclinations. He moves slowly, like someone laboriously trying to climb a mountain, step by step, slower and slower, on the verge of giving up altogether. I have met this person! Maybe the third and final portrait is the most common Monday person: he starts out filled with energy, but soon relapses into half coma, then he recovers, then – after another cup of coffee – a bout of energy ... It goes without saying that Laurin is superb here – as are his three string playing companions.
Tebogo Monnakgotla’s Five pieces for string trio, commissioned by the Swedish Radio, felt more anonymous, but may grow in stature on repeated hearing. A slow opening, played by the cello in the lowest register, then, after a long pause, it moves up in the air, pause again and a new start, fluttering about up there, down again ... This is struggling music that fascinates but leaves question marks. A rhythmic second movement with hammering sounds and two slow movements one elegiac, one intense, and then a fast, repetitive motoric, ‘Rite of Spring’ movement that gradually dies away.
Fredrik Hedelin’s Akt is a single ‘movement’ with fascinating sounds emanating from very sparse material of gestures, as the liner notes say. It is very slow moving – mostly – and for long stretches seems to go nowhere at all. I have listened to it three times now and though I can admire parts of it, the inventiveness, it makes me impatient. The fault is probably mine.
Estonian born Mirjam Tally’s Winter Island in two parts introduces the listener to a quite strange world of sounds, where unorthodox playing techniques are interwoven with vocal sounds. After a while the seemingly unstructured piece relaxes in a steady pulse that could be borrowed from, say, Indian music. It is fascinating and great fun. Part II is more powerful and dramatic. Suddenly, towards the end, there is a melody, folk-song like, appearing in the cello. Finally it dissolves into fragments, like a group of people chatting without listening.
All in all this is an interesting and in many instances deeply fascinating disc that gives insight into the state of affairs in contemporary Swedish chamber music. The recording is as always from Phono Suecia first class and the playing ditto. Orthodox ears may react to sounds that are ‘ugly’ but that has nothing to do with technical shortcomings. That’s what the composer intended.
Personally I feel that Sandström’s and Österling’s compositions have that little extra that makes me want to hear them again soon. Tally’s Winter Island (which is the Island of Gotland where she has been living since 2006) also communicates with a personal language. The target group for contemporary chamber music is narrow but inquisitive readers shouldn’t miss this opportunity to get updated.
The target group for contemporary chamber music is narrow but inquisitive readers shouldn’t miss this opportunity to get updated.