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Ståle KLEIBERG (b. 1958)
Do You Believe in Heather?
String Quartet No. 3 (2018) [16:13]
Trur du på lyng? (2018) [18:38]
Trio Luna (2016/17) [18:11]
Lussmeden (1984, rev. 2017/18) [16:49]
Atle Sponberg (violin), Anders Larsen (violin), Ole Wuttudal (viola), Øyvind Gimse (cello)
Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo soprano), Ole Christian Haagenrud (piano)
Annika Nordstrøm (flute), Jan Petter Hilstad (viola), Ruth Potter (harp)
Ida Kateraas (clarinet)
rec. 2018, Sodienberg Church, Norway
Reviewed in SACD stereo.
2L RECORDS 2L-152-SACD [69:51]

Ståle Kleiberg is becoming quite a feature of the 2L record catalogue, with his Mass for Modern Man (review) and a previous release of chamber music Mezzotints (review) which reviewer Brian Reinhart considered excellent music, especially “for those who are ‘afraid’ of contemporary music.” We are of course surrounded by contemporary music whether we like it or not, but these days when it comes to serious concert repertoire it is more often than not a case of making its acquaintance in the first place that creates much of the difficulty. There is plenty to like out there, and Ståle Kleiberg’s craftsmanship and admirable ability to create musical narrative makes his work easy to appreciate.

The Third String Quartet is a richly textured and substantial work without a particular theme, other than that it “speaks of summer, and is imbued with joie de vivre.” In three movements, the first has an open-air, pastoral quality in the lyrical nature of its rising opening motiefs and lilting rhythms. The second is more reflective, “dreamlike, nocturnal” but by no means melancholy. There is a lovely flautando effect amongst the strings in this movement over which a melody is spun, a resonance that returns in the finale as an ecstatic resolution in what opens as quite a dramatic Animato.

Trur du på lyng? or Do You Believe in Heather? is a setting of poetry by Helge Torvund, a friend of the composer whose work he has followed from its earliest days. The texts are all given in the booklet in Norwegian and translated into English, this particular set exploring subjects such as nature and our relationships to it. Marianne Beate Kielland’s expressive voice has a restrained and by no means ubiquitous vibrato, and the clarity of her diction is perfect for those who understand Norwegian. These are songs which a full of colour and luminosity, with the darkness to light journey of the third song Kjærleik o gliding emblematic of the whole.

Trio Luna opens with the magical sound of the harp, and is connected to the Third String Quartet in its warmth of expression. Kleiberg talks about it being “intended to capture the mood of three dissimilar outer and inner landscapes”, this time under the light of the moon rather than the sun. The three movements take us from evening, through night to morning, the character of the moon being dictated by the light of its surroundings and the different effect its appearance has depending on the daily cycle. There is plenty of lively action in the first movement, as if the moon is reflected on quite turbulent water. The ‘nocturne’ of the second movement is pensive and quiet, with the flute and violin leading over a gentle harp accompaniment, while the finale fizzes with anticipation of daybreak.

Lussmeden or ‘The Light Smith’ is a cycle of five songs that “exudes the spirit of spring. Everything is bursting into life – cautiously and discreetly, but at the same time intensely.” Those of us who live in more temperate climates have less of an appreciation of the arrival of spring after the long, dark winters of countries much further north. This conjoined with the evocation of the flatlands and endless ocean vistas of Jæren is the key to this cycle, with subtle nuances of colour, light and sound from the sea, land and sky expressed eloquently and with considerable profundity with the clarinet a special second voice alongside the vocal soloist.

This is an attractive and desirable programme, recorded with 2L’s usual hyper-realistic but beautifully balanced SACD recording and performed with palpable affection by the musicians involved.

Dominy Clements

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