A Swedish Trombone Wilderness
Lars Karlin (trombone)
rec. 2014, Jesus-Christus-Kirche (Dahlem), Berlin; Bethanienkirche, Leipzig,
GENUIN GEN15337 [61:58]
Swedish trombonist Lars Karlin has for some years now been
active in Germany as a freelance musician, composer and arranger. For
his debut solo disc he has chosen an all-Swedish programme. It's
mainly contemporary or near-contemporary music but also includes a genuine
modern classic — from a Swedish perspective that is — and
some arrangements of his own brand of popular Swedish music. Much of
this is virtuoso stuff or technically challenging, and having heard
Karlin live in various constellations I was well aware of his credentials
as a player before even opening the jewel case. I had no reason to be
disappointed – on the contrary we hear marvellously assured playing
throughout and there are true musical jewels hidden away on this disc.
The opening piece, Hautposaune for Trombone and Tape was written
with Christian Lindberg in mind. Lindberg, the world-renowned Swedish
trombonist is also represented here by three works. Hautposaune
is a short piece, rhythmically vital with a singable middle section.
The combination of pre-recorded sounds and live solo playing is fascinating.
The virtuoso aspect is breathtaking.
The modern classic I mentioned is Lars-Erik Larsson’s Concertino
for trombone and strings. Larsson ought to be fairly well-known internationally,
primarily for his Pastoral Suite and the lyrical suite Förklädd
gud (God in Disguise). In the mid-1950s he wrote twelve concertinos
for solo instruments and strings. The string parts were relatively simple
and not insurmountable for amateur musicians, while the solo part is
a vehicle for professional virtuosos. Larsson’s idiom is also
accessible for the general public, which all those years ago ensured
that people flocked to hear this music played by their local orchestra.
With a soloist like Lars Karlin this trombone concertino can’t
avoid making its mark. His playing of the pompous prelude is powerful.
This is matched by his wonderful legato in the aria and the spirited
reading of the joyous finale, which dances – elegantly but powerfully.
There is more than a few drops of Shostakovich here.
Christian Lindberg contributes with three pieces. Joe Jack Binglebandit
is a showpiece for Lindberg’s onetime student, colleague and friend
Jonas Bylund, today professor in Hanover. He was also an important inspiration
for Lars Karlin who studied with him in Hanover. This piece, says Lindberg,
is “also a portrait of the wonderful, boisterous little rascal
Jonas Bylund”. Here he explores the instrument’s possibilities
in many different ways: growls, big leaps and glissandos. The latter
something that Lars Karlin fell in love with very early, at age twelve,
when he discovered the instrument. The title Kinky Creatures
for 4 trombones makes one wonder whether trombonists are kinkier than
other creatures but they definitely are able to produce stranger noises
than most other instrumentalists. Four of them here give an impression
of Bronze Age horns but there are roots in both late Renaissance polyphony
and jazz. Land of the Rising Sun, which is a world premiere
recording, may refer to Japan or Anatolia – the peninsula between
the Black Sea and the Mediterranean (today’s Turkey) – or
Biafra in south-east Nigeria - it was the title of their
National Anthem. It was written for trombone and the occasional foot-stamp.
There's a slow beautiful opening, a middle section with fast
chit-chat and some excursions down in the lowest register. Then there
is a beautiful finale, played with exquisite legato.
The other world premiere recording is Benjamin Staern’s Humorous
Monologue, written for Lars Karlin as part of an opera, premiered
in 2014. This reminds me that some years ago he did a whole concert
with songs and opera arias from Jussi Björling’s repertoire, arranged
for trombone and piano. His trombone really sang. Staern’s monologue
is great fun and I imagine that it’s even more fun to see as well.
Folke Rabe was a pioneer for improvisation and graphic notation in contemporary
art music. He was himself a trombonist and wrote Basta in 1982
for Christian Lindberg who was a student at the Royal College of Music
in Stockholm. Here Rabe introduced chords that are produced when the
player sings and plays at the same time. This is a technique that is
employed elsewhere on this CD as well. Asked whether there is a story
or programme behind the music Rabe says: Not exactly, but he could imagine
the player as a kind of messenger rushing in, delivers his message and
then – BASTA! – rushes away. Basta in Italian means Enough!
A feeling of stress and haste is notable, especially towards the end
when the player so to speak stumbles over the phrases.
Four arrangements by Lars Karlin are also included. The first is Vallflickans
dans (Dance of the Shepherd Girl) from the ballet Bergakungen
(The Mountain King). In the original it is a tour de force
for the strings. It serves as a favourite encore for Swedish orchestras
on tour to show off the virtuosity of the string section. Played on
trombone, a much slower and heavier instrument, at the original speed
is a feat that seems almost unbelievable. Karlin has both the agility
and the clean intonation to make it all sound effortless.
The three other pieces are less of virtuoso show-offs than beautiful
melodies in tasteful arrangements. All three have connections with the
province of Dalecarlia, Karlin's home territory. Koppången
is a song inspired by the wilderness in the northern part of the province
- hence I suppose the title of the CD. It was composed by one of the
foremost folk fiddlers in the region, Per-Erik Moreaus. Håkan Norlén
was not from Dalecarlia but had many connections with the province.
Visa vid midsommartid is a setting of a poem that was also
inspired by the Dalecarlian wilderness. Gammal fäbodpsalm is
a traditional folk melody that has become immensely popular in the organ
setting by Oskar Lindberg. He was born in Dalecarlia, even though he
spent most of his adult life as an organist and composer in Stockholm.
These arrangements for trombone ensemble are true declarations of love
from Karlin to his home district.
Well-known pianist Roland Pöntinen was only 18 when he penned Camera,
a lyrical reflection with some swing feeling.
Hats off to all involved in this enormously enjoyable production and
most of all for Lars Karlin’s brilliant musicianship and virtuosity.
A must for all trombone enthusiasts and all lovers of entertaining and
thrilling music off the beaten track.
Anders HILLBORG (b. 1954)
1. Hautposaune for Trombone and Tape (1990) [3:38]
Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908 – 1986)
Concertino for Trombone and Strings, Op. 45 No. 7 (1955)
2. Preludium: Allegro pomposo [4:35]
3. Aria: Andante sostenuto [3:10]
4. Finale: Allegro giocoso [3:47]
Christian LINDBERG (b. 1958)
5. Joe Jack Binglebandit for Solo Trombone (2004) [6:19]
Benjamin STAERN (b. 1978)
6. Humorous Monologue for Solo Trombone (2014) [6:57]
Folke RABE (b. 1935)
7. Basta for Solo Trombone (1982) [4:19]
8. Kinky Creatures for 4 Trombones (1998) [4:00]
9. Land of the Rising Sun (2011) [4:39]
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872 – 1960)
10. Vallflickans dans (Dance of Shepherd Girl), from Bergakungen
(The Mountain King) (1916 – 1923) [3:53]
Three Swedish Songs for Solo Trombone and Trombone Ensemble:
Per-Erik MOREAUS (b. 1950)
11. Koppången (1996 – 1997) (Koppången is a
wetlands area in the province of Dalecarlia in central Sweden and also
a nature reserve) [4:01]
Håkan NORLÉN (1917 – 2003)
12. Visa vid midsommartid (Song at Midsummer) (1941) [2:17]
Oscar LINDBERG (1887 – 1955)
13. Gammal fäbodpsalm från Dalarna (Old Chalet hymn from Dalecarlia)
Roland PÖNTINEN (b. 1963)
14. Camera per trombone e pianoforte (1981) [4:09]
List of performers
Lars Karlin (trombone) Katarzyna Wieczorek (piano) (tr. 10 & 14);
Trombone Unit Hannover: Tomer Maschkowski (bass trombone) (tr. 8, 11
– 13), Yuval Wolfson (bass trombone) (tr. 11 – 13), Karol
Gajda (tenor trombone) (tr. 8, 11 – 13), Mateusz Sczendzina (tenor
trombone) (tr. 11 – 13), Tobias Schiessler (tenor trombone) (tr.
11, 13) (alto trombone) (tr. 12), Angelos Kritikos (tenor trombone)
(tr. 8, 12) (alto trombone) (tr. 11, 13), Michael Zühl (tenor trombone)
(tr. 11), (alto trombone) (tr. 12, 13); Strings (tr. 2 – 4): Meesun
Hong Coleman (concert master), Michiko Iiyoshi, Julita Forck, Marit
Vliegenthart, Katharina Landsberg, Kim Jung-Hyun, Katharina Paul (violins),
Tal Riva Theodorou, Ekaterina Sinitsyna (viola), Gal Nyska, Shaul Kofler
(cello), Johannes Ragg (double bass).
Tracks 10 – 13 arranged by Lars Karlin