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Several notable CDs of Swedish contemporary music have been received following attendance at the Stockholm New Music festival 2005, and short reviews will be added as time allows:

CARL UNANDER-SCHARIN: Figures in a Landscape
Song cycle for radio (1996-1997)

Ingamaj Beck, The Poetess;
Dalila da Silva Costa, Heart of the Stone;
M.A. Numminen, The Climbing Baron;
Karl-Magnus Fredriksson, Cave Bear;
Lisa Gustafsson, The Messenger;
Erik Saeden, Stone Oak;
Marika Lagercrantz, Caged Bird;
Jorgen Lantz, Ariel;
Rogelio de Badajoz Duran, The Man with the Scythe;
Carl Unander-Scharin, The Mountain.

Electronic Opera Records EORCD 001 (Sweden) Purchase mailto:infor@electronic-opera.com

In this uniquely personal project Carl Unander-Scharin (who had his Vocal Chorder, pictured, installed at Stockholm New Music) sets poems by Ingamaj Beck for voices of many vocal types representing different worlds of music. There are trained singers (including the composer himself) as well as a samba singer, a flamenco singer, and some actors.

Beck's questing texts are accompanied by electronic music built from a tone row ranging through two octaves (D,B,F#,B,G#,D#,G#,F,C,F). Those notes, one recorded by each singer, are combined to create the final laudes movement.

There is a certain naivety and welcome simplicity about the effect of the composed electronic accompaniments, which succeed effortlessly in combining the disparate vocal expression. Each song has its special character; Lisa Gustafsson's stratospheric soprano contrasts with the veteran Erik Saedén's sonorous and perfectly controlled baritone, capturing the timeless calm of an ancient oak, Rogelio Duran's flamenco is ideally suited to the reaper, The man with the scythe, and Carl Unander-Scharin, viewing history from a mountain peak, stretches his own tenor voice upwards to conclude Beck's meditations on death, existence and identity. Delightful !

See also review of Unander-Scharin's opera King of Fools. Purchase @ 272 SEK

Ivo Nilsson Trombone con forza

Olofsson Treccia for trombone solo
Larson Toile tournée
Marina Vae
Mellnäs Rendez-vous 4
Perder Vocuna II
Sandberg Med ett visst sjungande uttryck
Nilsson Rotor II for trombone and percussion

Nilsson, Ivo trombone/ Pettersson, Jörgen saxophone/ Axelsson, Jonny percussion

PhonoSuecia PSCD 132

The PhonoSuecia Con Forza series puts a spotlight on different instruments and instrumentalists. The works here are also dedicated to Ivo Nilsson, artistic director of Stockholm New Music 2005, and were written in close collaboration with the composers. The epithet con forza is figurative; Nilsson is not especially concerned with quick, extroverted virtuosity, although capable of that when needed.

Previously a cellist, and now a versatile free-lancer specialising in contemporary music, he is acutely responsive to colour and the links between the trombone and the voice. A high proportion of the music is calm and inward looking. Besides solos, there are duets with saxophone and percussion; in Toile tournée it is sometimes hard to distinguish betwee the alto trombone and the tenor saxophone, playing in the same register.

A unique trombone CD which celebrates the expressive and musical qualities of one of my favourite instruments (my younger son was a trombonist in the UK National Youth Orchestra).

Anders Hillborg Concertos

Violin Concerto
Clarinet Concerto (Peacock Tales)
Liquid Marble for Orchestra

Anna Lindal (violin) & Martin Fröst (clarinet)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen

Ondine ODE 1006-2

Anders Hillborg (b.1954) is an experimental, omnivorous Swedish composer, very open minded and given to revisions - (an eight minute slow middle section was added after the first performance of the violin concerto in 1992 and the clarinet concerto went through numerous changes). Hillborg was suspicious of ordinary, virtuoso concertos but he compromised pragmatically to make his music playable by those who would perform it; and there is no shortage of virtuoso demands upon soloist and orchestra too. Worth knowing that the violin concerto starts sounding fairly normally, then goes wild after five minutes; at twelve minutes there is a bird chorus with the violin accompanying.

There are exquisitely beautiful passages of singing melody (at around 15') and 'banally brutal' passages, 'surreal - almost never sentimental', the sudden shifts and juxtapositions welcomed by the conductor, who has been closely associated with this composer.At c.20' there is a strange passage for strings alone, sounding aleoteric, then something a little like V-W's lark, savagely pushed aside by playful grotesqueries, Soon a moto perpetuo with Berio-like tremolo, dizzy slithering glissandi, petering out at the end over sustained chords for the strings - a fine, unpredictable invigorating mix which somehow works, and certainly keeps you wondering what's next for its 25 minutes unbroken span.

Liquid Marble is a powerful study drawing on thoughts of 'eruptions, flowing magma and lava' which, at its Proms premiere in London, fortuitously became for the audience a moving memorial meditation; the Swedish Orchestra's concert that evening was the only entertainment in the capital not cancelled, because their plane was already on the way when the news broke of Princess Diana's death.

No programme notes are supplied with this otherwise excellent CD, just a rather indulgent interview between composer and conductor, with mutually congratulatory reminiscences, ' the doorbell rang and I was standing in my underwear ' (E-PS) - that sort of thing. We are told nothing about the clarinet concerto except for its several versions, and a 'scream' which is 'reserved to Leif Segerstram'. So I will leave it for all the fine music to work on you on its own terms!

Peter Grahame Woolf


© Peter Grahame Woolf