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A Swedish Trombone Wilderness
Lars Karlin (trombone)
rec. 2014, Jesus-Christus-Kirche (Dahlem), Berlin; Bethanienkirche, Leipzig, Germany
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.

Göran Forsling
Track listing

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]
Christian LINDBERG
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) (1936) [6:07]
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



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