Niklas SIVELÖV (b.1968)
Piano Music
24 Preludes (2010-15) [48:31]
Due Notturni (1989) [6:38]
Toccatina Feroce (2014-15) [3:06]
Two Impromptus (2015) [6:53]
Jeux de Cordes (2015) [2:00]
Niklas Sivelöv (piano)
rec. May 2014 and February 2015, Concert Hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music
TOCCATA TOCC0271 [66:24]

The Swedish pianist and composer Niklas Sivelöv has recorded quite actively, notching up some fifty discs: this is his inaugural one for Toccata, though one senses it won’t be his last. He has focused on music written very recently, and added a Golden Oldie, the Due Notturni from 1989, composed when he was 31. The jewel case blurb promises a range of influences from Bach to Jazz, always a tempting stylistic span, though I would put expectations of neo-Classicism meets Milhaud and Monk to one side for the moment.

The major work here is the series of 24 Preludes, written between 2010 and 2015. Consciously seeking to write a cycle in the tradition of Chopin, Scriabin and Debussy is one thing but aligning, as Sivelöv says, with the influence Bach and jazz is another entirely and presents quite a potentially potent stylistic pottage.

Some of the Preludes bear the patina of an earlier scheme which was to write a combined Prelude-and-‘figura’ – a figura being the composer’s own word for a fugue-inspired form that doesn’t strictly adhere to fugal procedure. Thus there is polyphony in this cycle. Maybe one day Sivelöv will get around to the set of Preludes and Fugues that he’s been wanting to write for years. There’s a tangy bite to some of these preludes – a brusque little March theme, a loquacious cantilena, a barbaro that suggests Bartók, virtuosic panache, terse romanticism in miniature, the use of the forearms to play clusters in a misterioso mood, harmonic wanderings, atmospheric quasi-improvisatory passages, and even the introduction of a French Overture [No.20] that has the effect of a similar contextual moment in the Goldberg Variations. As if all this wasn’t enough we find a few Arabic-inspired phrases in the penultimate Prelude and a fittingly dramatic conclusion. The composer is his own best executant but I hope pianists pick up on this cycle or cherry-pick from it.

The first of the Due Notturni shows the dreamier side of the composer’s muse whilst its companion gravitates to active intensification of material shared between the hands. There’s a brief Toccatina Feroce that certainly lives up to its name, and two Impromptus from 2015. The first is deliberately Satie-like though soon moves away from that rather stifling atmosphere. The second is rather quiet and showing once again the quasi-improvisatory qualities that must have been gleaned from jazz. Jeux de Cordes is all dynamism and rhythm. He plays with the mallet on the strings of the piano with one hand whilst the other takes a more conventional route via the keyboard. Exciting. The studio acoustic has been well judged and the notes, by the composer, are unstuffy but meticulous.

Jonathan Woolf

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