Henrik HELLSTENIUS (b.1963)
Like Objects in a Dark Room for orchestra (2007, rev. 2014) [9:38]
In Memoriam (Violin Concerto No.2) (2012, rev. 2013) [21:58]
Ørjan MATRE (b.1979)
Violin Concerto (2014) [24:12]
preSage for orchestra (2013, rev. 2015) [13:01]
Peter Herresthal (violin)
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Rolf Gupta
rec. August 2014, April 2015, Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway
BIS BIS-2152 SACD [74:20]

Two of today's Norwegian composers each have a violin concerto and one orchestral work showcased on this BIS disc.

Hellstenius was a composition student of Lasse Thoresen in Norway but continued his studies with Gérard Grisey in Paris. His Like Objects in a Dark Room is a work of modernistic brilliant clarity. Its energetic imaginative energy spits and startles. It progresses by impacts rather than by melody. The 22-minute Violin Concerto No. 2 is in one movement and is laid out for string orchestra, percussion and solo instrument. It too is a construct of miniature incidents juxtaposed rather than long lines: a capricious spider's web of crafted fragments and fine graphene fibres. The effect is right out of the eloquently virtuosic avant-garde.

Matre is of a sufficiently younger generation that Hellstenius was one of his teachers in Norway. The older and younger composers here shared Lasse Thoresen as a teacher. Matre's two-movement violin concerto is by contrast with the Hellstenius a work founded on melody. The parallels are there with Szymanowski - melody twisted from dissonance but melody all the same. The music suggests a form of sultry genetic manipulation with the listener witnessing the process. The spectrally diaphanous delicacy of preSage reminded me of those 1970s lava lamps in constant but evolutionary motion. The music becomes more animated, indeed warlike, towards the end.

Peter Herresthal is a brilliant musician and his musicianly qualities are called on and tested by both composers. He has already recorded for BIS: Thommessen, Nordheim and Adès. His sense of adventure and supremacy over stimulating challenges of technique and style stand him the lineage of Paul Zukofsky and Peter Sheppard Skaerved.

The excellent and contextually useful note is by Tom Service and is in English, German and French.

This is definitely for those who prefer their modern music pointillist and testing rather than long-limbed and neo-romantic. The Matre makes for an easier way through the maze than the Hellstenius. The performances are fluent and sympathetic as far as one can tell. The sound seems highly apt to meet the needs of the music.

Rob Barnett

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