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Ståle KLEIBERG (b. 1958)
Violin Concerto No. 2 (2017) [18:48]
DOPO for Violoncello and String Orchestra (1993) [15:07]
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1019) [24:06]
Marianne Thorsen (violin)
Eivind Ringstad (viola)
Fredrik Sjölin (cello)
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra/Peter Szilvay
rec. June & August 2020, Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway.
2L 2L-166-SABD [58:08]

Ståle Kleiberg’s concertos have a romantic flavour that is very easy to engage with, but which also has an individual identity and idiom that is concerned with human emotions and values. Kleiberg has said of his music, “I try to form the musical expression so that it corresponds with my experience of life; or, to put it another way, to form it so that it is in accord with my conception of what it means to be a human being.”

This recording is one of those that was due to be made as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020. 2L recordings often show seating arrangements and microphone set-up, and you can see where the orchestra is spread out into an almost complete circle. This setting allowed space between the players, but also makes for a fascinating surround-sound experience. Of the sessions, the website text tells us that everyone “experienced a personal presence and greater attention to detail than ever before, rather like recording chamber music with the sonic palette of the full orchestra.”

The Second Violin Concerto has slow outer movements and a dramatic Alla marcia at its centre. The slower music has a lyrical, wistfully yearning quality, and each movement has a title that refers to a painting by Kjell Pahr-Iversen, for who’s 80th birthday the work was written. Searching online for some impressions of Pahr-Iversen’s work and you wouldn’t necessarily associate the contemplative aspects of these outer movements with such vibrant, rhythmically emphatic art, but the passion is certainly also present, and I can’t imagine any artist protesting at having such a beautiful work inspired by their images.

DOPO for cello and string orchestra was composed in 1993 in a period in which war and atrocities were happening in the Balkans. Deeply affected by this situation, “the music is a testament to the grief and pain of this bleak re-treading of earlier pathways.” The cello part is an extended lament with some long solo passages, the strings of the orchestra at times illustrating the angst of the time. ‘Dopo’ means ‘after’ in Italian, perhaps a reference to the emptiness and despair one can only feel once these events have taken place and the horrors have been uncovered - always ‘after’, and too late for those who lost their lives.

The Viola Concerto has as its inspiration Edvard Munch’s paintings on the Dance of Life theme, the cover art for this recording being his Dance on the Beach. As with other works by Kleiber, the contrasts between the three movements maintain a kind of organic unity through the use of specific intervals that act like a golden thread throughout the piece. Instrumental virtuosity is less a characteristic of Kleiberg’s music than some, though there is certainly some muscular writing for the soloist in the first movement, including a cadenza. The central movement is a gorgeous but also restless Adagio, Kleiberg’s rich harmonies creating a bed of string sound over which the viola can float, diving and soaring like a seabird. The programme closes with this concerto’s final Allegretto scherzando, the uneven low accompanying figures of the first movement being reprieved and the music pushing forward to a suitably crowning close.

Ståle Kleiberg’s first Violin Concerto can also be found played by Marianne Thorsen on the 2L label, 2L059SACD, alongside his Double Bass Concerto. All of these works are superbly crafted, expertly performed and recorded, and are highly satisfying to the ear. The package includes both SACD and Blu-ray discs, with just about every digital variant you could wish for in terms of sound reproduction.

Dominy Clements

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