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Rehnqvist, Liljeholm & Karkoff

Karin Rehnqvist:
To the Angel with the Fiery Hands

for women’s choir, soprano and four instruments (fl, ob, 2 vc)
Contains: I dina ögons klara morgonljus, The Raven himself is hoarse, Mätarlarven, Ingenting, Det mörknar över landet, Triumf att finnas till and more

St Johannes chamber choir / Backa Katarina Eriksson, oboe / Karin Oldgren, conductor LA CAPPELLA / Jenny Hülphers, oboe / Sarah Lindloff, flute / Anna S Wallgren, Leo Svensson, cello / Helena Ek, soprano
Karin Eklundh, cond/ Svante Grogarn, director

Intim Musik IMCD 110

A new year's eve selection of a dozen CDs arrived from Sweden includes this remarkable compilation of works which can be performed separately, but together make an absorbing and unique poetically based whole programme which works well. Some of the others will be noted in the following weeks.

Readers will know that we have reviewed extensively deserving works from Scandinavia that have not made it across Europe and the English Channel; many can be found by Googling Musical Pointers.

Karin Rehnqvist (b. 1957) is a versatile leading composer of her generation with a special interest in involving folk music in her art music. She enjoys working with unusual, cross-genre forms and ensembles in her works, as exemplified in this production. The choirs, adullts and children sing with persuasive intensity and the instrumental contributions and recording are excellent.

There is an unfortunate confusion in the presentation of the commentary and texts which takes a little sorting out, but is worth the effort. The sung texts need to be studied,dealing with light and darkness reciprocally, with the sun a life-giving and destructive force. They start on the fifth of the green-printed pages of the booklet, and are given in Swedish and English, parallel at first which makes for convenient listening. A passage from Macbeth, about the impending murder of Duncan, is sung in Shakespeare's original English, but accidentally duplicated, with the Swedish following and thereby throwing out the parallel pagination from thence onward.

The work and its recording are warmly recommended and worth seeking out.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Thomas Liljeholm Portrait

, for bass clarinet and piano (1998)
Base and Pendulum
, for orchestra (1999/2000)
Origo, for eight instruments (1996, version for string orchestra, clarinet, horn and bassoon)
Bifraction, for string quartet (2001/2002)
Interaction, Tulegatan 53 (2005)

Bo Pettersson, bass clarinet; Mats Persson, piano
Musica Vitae and Royal Swedish Navy Band/Niklas Willen
Musica Vitae Ragnar Amberg, clarinet/bass clarinet; Philip Foster, horn; Sebastian Wagner, bassoon/contrabasson/Thomas Liljeholm
Aniara String Quartet
Stockholm Saxophone Quartet

Chamber Sound CSCD08038 [TT 70:00]

A new name to UK collectors, and a very serious composer of individuality in accessible modernism. Swedish composer Thomas Liljeholm was born in 1944 in Gothenburg but grew up in Malmö. In 1980 he also initiated the forming of Musica Vitae Chamber Orchestra in Växjö, of which he is Managing Director. From 1987 onwards, Thomas Liljeholm has mainly composed chamber music, but he has also written musical dramas and pieces for orchestra and choir as well as electro acoustic music. In recent years his music has gained in repute.

The toughest work here, best not tackled first where it is placed on the disc, explores the possibilities of the bass clarinet, both low and exceptionally high, with numerous playing techniques.

Most of the pieces are fairly new, very much of this century. The last, for saxophone quartet treated as a unity ("not for four instruments") is a striking creation for unfavourite instruments of mine.

The others range through a variety of instrumental resources making a good programme of works which need to be heard more than once.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Maurice Karkoff Piano Music

Op 39 Miniatyrsvit
Op 99 Monopartita
Op 152 Ballata, Intermezzo e Leggenda
Op 193 Fantasia for the left hand
Op 205 September
Fantasia nr 2 for the left hand
Op 219 Ekelöfiana
Petite Valse Melancolique
Första mötet med Gunnar Ekelöf
Valse fantastique
Petite Valse Melancolique
Op 238 Tranströmeriana IV

Olof Höjer, piano
Intim IMCD 108

A prolific composer, who has a distinctive piano style, spare, economical and harmonically strong and with a melancholy bent. Maurice Karkoff (b.1927) is reckoned one of the strongest Swedish symphonists and he is also a noted vocal composer.

These pieces impress with their concentration and inner strength.

The documentation with the disc is thorough and quotes some of the composer's letters. Many of the works included here appear to require only moderate pianistic skills, and are concentrated and serious. A wayward Fantasia for the left hand composed for a pianist friend who had lost the use of his right hand quotes favourites from the piano literature.

We have also had an opportunity to review music by Maurice's son Ingvar, about whom our Evis Sammoutis has written: Ingvar Karkoff’s Gelland Suite comes as a very welcome change of character with its playfulness and almost “humorous” character. Karkoff composed this piece using traditional principles, but - - it is crafted very skilfully and cleverly, challenging areas of perception and memory, and proves that many formal and technical processes of the past can still be used today very effectively whilst simultaneously acquiring a new meaning."

Peter Grahame Woolf

Gunnar Bucht chamber music

Annika Skoglund, Soprano
Love Derwinger, piano
Duo Gelland, violin duo
Members from Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
(conducted by Jan-Lennart Höglund)
Aguéli-kvartetten (Jan & Marie Stigmer, PO Lindberg, Torbjörn Rapp)

nosag CD 127 [79 mins]

Gunnar Bucht (b 1927 - pictured: Mats Möller) is "most known as composer of gigantic orchestral pieces" but I am not aware that any of them have made it from Sweden and across the English Channel?

This disc seems destined to compound that problem, as the English notes are brief and unhelpful (hear him talking briefly on a clip at the above link) and there is no translation for the group of Swedish language songs.

However, it is well packed so even if you ignore those there is a good selection of well wrought and interesting instrumental music, piano pieces, violin duos by the marvellous Duo Gelland, a strong string quartet which holds the attention and an instrumental septet.

Bucht tends towards the conservative, and something of a tradionalist, but I have been glad to make the acquaintance of some of his decidedly personal way of constructing his music.

Peter Grahame Woolf