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Unheard of - Again Seven Swedish Composers

Strindberg Timeline
Rehnqvist Tentative
Zivkovic Le cimetière marin
Borisova-Ollas Behind the Shadow
Frid Déjà-vu, over and over again: Thin Air; Tip of the Tongue; Arc-en Ciel; War Against Error
Lysell Gilded Splinters
Staern The Deep Violoncello of the Night

Sonanza dir. Jan Risberg, with Anna Larsson (mezzo)

Phono Suecia PSCD 180 [60 mins; recorded summer 2008]

We have maintained a close interest in new Swedish music since attending the New Music Festival in Stockholm, 2005. This is a great new disc by contemporary composers, some newish, others well established, all of whose names deserve to be familiar away from their own culturally rich country - Henrik Strindberg, Pär Frid, Djuro Zivkovic and Benjamin Staern*; Karin Rehnqvist, Victoria Borisova-Ollas and Mattias Lysell.

Sonanza is a pioneering chamber ensemble that retains half of its 12 members since its foundation twenty five years ago, since when it has introduced some 250 new works. These seven composers each have distinctive voices, all intriguing and none of them likely to offend. I am reluctant to try to characterise them or to paraphrase the succinct descriptions by the commentator Erik Wallrup. Background about each composer can be found via Google.

There are two notable vocal items with the excellent Anna Larsson, in Zivkovic's Valery settings (French/English texts supplied in parallel) but Staern's evocative setting of a poem by Karin Boye has the original Swedish widely separated from its English version, making it harder to follow the sung text.

Possibly the most innovative and delightful of all is Per Frid's work for septet, laptop solo and electronics, celebrating actual birdsong from species in danger of extinction.

All this music is accessible, strongly individuated and warmly recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Stockholm New Music Festival 2005: - - the ebullient Benjamin Staernstaern
broke the mould for polite acknowledgement of applause for his Through air and noise by thundering down to the platform, bowing deeply to his peers on stage and then to us, spreading his arms, leaping into the air and whooping with delight like a footballer who'd scored a goal.

There's a model for our staid British composers!