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Mats Larsson GOTHE (b.1965)
Autumn Diary (2013-14) [22:28]
Apotheosis of the Dance (2012-13) [10:12]
Symphony No. 2 ...sunt lacrimae rerum... (2009) [31:50]
Västerås Sinfonietta (Autumn; Apotheosis), Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Fredrik Burstedt (Symphony)
rec. June 2015, Västerås Konserthus; September 2015, Helsingborgs Konserthus

Swedish composer Larsson Gothe studied at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm, where his teachers included Sven-David Sandström. He also spent time working with Kalevi Aho at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy. His worklist includes operas and chamber music alongside concertos: Trombone (1995, for Christian Lindberg), Trumpet (1996) and Piano (1997). Add to these Cello Concerto (1999, for Torleif Thedéen), Violin Concerto (2000-01, for Nils-Erik Sparf) and Sisyphus Dreams (2011) for violin, cello and orchestra, composed for Cecilia Zilliacus and Torleif Thedéen. His operas have also registered with the music critical world: Poet and Prophetess (2008), Blanche and Marie (2014) and Silverfågeln (2015) which is about Jussi Björling.

Autumn Diary has a chromium silvery sound with Pendereckian slides in play. The sound, as with all three of these scores, has plenty of punch and subtlety. In general these pages find their eloquence in quiet groves. There's no shouting here. The music becomes bleak and Sibelian towards the end. It's pressurised but still quiet, and this is reflected in both string writing and fluttering woodwind. Several times it made me think of Tapiola, but viewed through the alembic of slow motion. There's even a redolence of Pärt's Cantus.

The Apotheosis of the Dance clearly refers to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and does so repeatedly and very frankly in a series of dream transformations. This collage effect arrives complete with wailing and howling brass. The music often takes on the sense of a hunt rather than a dance. It's surreal - approximating to a piece of free-form surgery that mixes the familiar and the unfamiliar, all transformed in a Daliesque landscape. It finds quiet at its centre. The original was commissioned by the NorrlandsOpera orchestra and is dedicated to Rumon Gamba. This is the version for a smaller orchestra, but at no point does it feel diminutive.

There are three Gothe symphonies, two of which are related to his operas. The first, which is dedicated to Kalevi Aho, is from 1990-92 and carries the title Mixing memories and desires. It, too, runs for about half an hour. His Third Symphony … de Blanche et Marie… has been nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize 2016. The Second Symphony was commissioned by the NorrlandsOpera Symphony Orchestra and is dedicated to that orchestra and to Marco Feklistoff. Its premiere was given by the NorrlandsOpera orchestra conducted by Rumon Gamba in January 2010 in Umeå, Sweden. The title is drawn from a whole phrase, which can be translated, according to Rolf Haglund, as "The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart." These words refer to the battle for Troy. The music is in a single continuous movement. Haglund writes helpfully that the work is shaped: "in a single arc, but, like the sonata form, with a main theme, second theme and development." The writing is very serious but is not immune from statements of airy sylvan beauty (12:00). The solo violin several times carries the burden of the music's progress. The occasional episodes of thunderous rhythmic battering recall Hilding Rosenberg in kinetic mode in his Third and Sixth Symphonies. Some of the music carries a catastrophic weight on its shoulders, like the more oppressive paragraphs in Pettersson's Ninth and Thirteenth symphonies. It pretty frankly evokes a savage battlefield of antiquity, yet brings it into today's foreground. When the dust has settled and the blood dried, the music in its last three minutes sinks exhausted calando, desolato: "despairing extinction", as Haglund has it. Gothe finds his quiet again, but it has intense value, as it has been won through appalling experience. I am not sure that the music reflects despair; tenderness is what I hear.

The liner essays, in English only, are by the composer, by Rolf Haglund and by Erik Nilsson of DB Productions.

Three challenging Swedish scores from the last decade: with chastening brutality but a predominance of inwardness and quiet.

Rob Barnett



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