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Marcus PAUS (b. 1979) Odes and Elegies
A Portrait of Zhou, Concertino for Flute and Orchestra (2012) [10:34]
Marble Songs [11:39]
Shostakovich In Memoriam (20060 [10:02]
Vita (2014) [4:25]
Love’s Last Rites [6:16]
Tom Ottar Andreassen (flute), Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Ingar Bergby (A Portrait of Zhou).
Jan Bertelsen (oboe d’amore, Marble Songs)
Ole Eirik Ree (cello), Oslo Camerata/Leader, Stephan Barratt-Due (Shostakovich In Memoriam).
Bjarne Magnus-Jensen (violin, Vita)
Henning Kraggerud (violin), Arctic Chamber Orchestra (Love’s Last Rites)
Rec. Stor Studio, NEK, Oslo (A Portrait of Zhou); Strype Audio, Oslo (Marble Songs and Vita); Ris kirke, Oslo (Shostakovich In Memoriam); live at Verdenstreatret, Tromsø (Love’s Last Rites). Recording dates not given. SHEVA CONTEMPORARY SH174 [43:18]
Marcus Paus is described as “one of the most active and sought after Norwegian composers of his generation” in the booklet for this release, and with numerous fine recordings including this one and the accolade of the Norwegian Music Publishers’ prize as Composer of the Year 2016 he can certainly be considered ‘established’ at the very least.
The concertino A Portrait of Zhou plays with the influence of Chinese music, referring as it does to its origins as music originally written for a dance company that included Kung Fu monks. Zhou himself was the youngest of the troop, then a boy of 10 who had a vision that he would become a Kung Fu master. This work is a cinematic narrative of Zhou’s progression from reverie and longing, though a heroic Wudung Dance and final enlightenment. Paus is open about his childhood exposure to martial arts films in the 1980s, and this compact and inventive piece certainly has that ‘retro’ feel to it, sailing close to sentimentality but winning us over through the superb solo playing and an orchestration that is both rich and transparent at the same time.
Marble Songs was written in response to the work of Norwegian sculptor Håkon Anton Fagerås. The oboe d’amore in this recording is set in a suitably vast acoustic, the spatial feel of the music reflecting both the stillness and dynamism in Fagerås’ figurative pieces. There are five movements that create a contrasting but still deeply connected feel, the various lines tied together in a retrospective finale. Paus describes the contradiction between static stone and the illusion of movement as “poised restlessness”, creating music that works around tonal centres and is essentially lyrical – certainly ‘figurative’ rather than abstract.
Shostakovich in Memoriam is, as one might expect, immediately darker in tone to the previous two works. This was originally the first movement to Paus’s Symphony No. 1 written for Shostakovich’s centenary in 2006. Using the famous DSCH motief, the melodic structures are tightly bound with grimly close intervals, underpinned by pedal tones or sustained chords that are firmly nailed into our consciousness with their at times intensely accented attack. The mood dissolves for a time more into one of mystery and atmospheric poignancy before returning to the character of the opening, finally leaving us with an anguished fragility.
Vita for solo violin was originally written to be performed in the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum in Oslo, a part of the famous Vigeland Park which was the life’s work of his brother Gustav. This remarkable space has an acoustic that meant this pensive and gently eloquent four-minute piece became an eight minute one at its premiere. What we have here from within the satisfyingly resonant Ris kirke is considered a ‘studio’ version.
The final work, Love’s Last Rites has Henning Kraggerud as soloist, the piece seeking to explore his cantabile skill. As “one of [the composer’s] most personal and confessional works” this is indeed a beautiful work, though alone amongst these otherwise fine recordings, it suffers from a rather thin sound and gives the impression of having had a heavy bout of post-studio tweaking in an attempt to rescue a poorly produced master. Still, this is a recording of the world première, and we can just about hear what is going on in the string orchestra at the end of its acoustic drainpipe.
As I say, aside from this final work, which surely deserves and will no doubt be given a decent studio recording at some stage, this is a superbly performed and produced disc of some very fine music indeed. The programme is something of a ‘portrait’ in its mixture of instrumentation, but as such it should attract us to seek out more of Marcus Paus’s music.