I first heard the fearless Norwegian tuba player Øystein Baadsvik in the Aho concerto (review
). I say fearless, for anyone who’s brave enough to play this instrument in a solo capacity deserves a medal of some kind. He’s since recorded several tuba discs for BIS – the Aho piece was subsequently reissued on BIS-SACD-1685 - all of which have found favour on these pages. The master of ceremonies here is the indefatigable Christian Lindberg, who has impressed me a great deal as both trombonist and conductor; in the latter role his recent Stenhammar recording deserves special praise (review
The Arctic Philharmonic, one of the world’s newest – it was formed in 2009 – also has the distinction of being the most northerly on the planet. It’s not a band I’ve encountered before, but given Lindberg’s work with diverse ensembles – most recently the Royal Flemish Philharmonic – I’d say they are in very capable hands. That’s evident in the three-movement Baadsvik concerto which although not an instant hit grows more delightful with each hearing. Directed with commendable flair and enthusiasm the piece also highlights Baadsvik the soloist’s dexterity and finesse. His secure, nicely nuanced tone us nothing short of remarkable; the essentially songful central movement and its quiet, sustained close are simply gorgeous.
What I find endearing about this concerto is that it never overworks
its material or outstays its welcome; that’s more than I can say
for the stern, somewhat lugubrious Ness piece, a Baadsvik commission.
Curiously the start brings to mind the deathly tread of Mahler’s
; not what Ness intended, I’m sure. The liner-notes
rather unhelpfully describe his current style as a blend of ‘post
punk and ambient music’. I’m bemused by such statements,
especially when they don’t offer an obvious entrée
to the music being played. The composer doesn’t help by describing
the title thus: ‘Bogey Thresher is a threshing machine for ghosts,
i.e. a machine designed to harvest spectres.’ Despite some virtuosic
playing from Baadsvik there’s rather more chaff than wheat here.
Lindberg is not at all precocious about Panda in Love
, which he explains is nothing more than a juxtaposition of personal experiences and ‘mental images’. I suspect if instruments were animals the tubby tuba might just qualify as an Ailuropoda melanoleuca
; indeed, the instrument’s full, ripe lower registers are very much to the fore and this, together with nimble rhythms, whoops and scale-like passages, makes for an inventive and witty display. The recording is equally impressive, although it does benefit from some extra ‘wellie’ — i.e. volume.
Two of the three concertos are well worth hearing; Baadsvik shines throughout.