Mantra - Aalberg, Norderval, Bo, Myra
Classical - Orchestral
Lindquist: Concerto for Gamelan and Sinfonietta 'Mantra'
Sørensen: Minnelieder - Zweites Minnewater
Norderval: Chapel Meditation
Espen Aalberg (gamelan)
Kristin Norderval (soprano)
Else Bo (piano)
Kai Grinde Myrann (conductor)
On this disc, the Trondheim Sinfonietta, founded in 1998, has gathered four works from the three decades encompassing the ensemble’s existence. All four seem to be haunted by an even deeper past: Bent Sorensen’s Minnelieder is the composer’s third version of a work originally sparked-off by a book about the 14th century, while Toshio Hosokawa’s Drawing, from a decade later, was inspired by the very start of life. Kristin Norderval’s Chapel Meditation began its existence as an improvisation, but looks back to music from centuries earlier, while the most recent work, Mantra by Ellen Lindquist, also mines a venerable musical tradition, that of the age-old Indonesian gamelan orchestra that for over 100 years has had an influence on Western composers such as Debussy, Britten, Steve Reich et al. Set for varying forces and numbers of performers, the four works together form a fascinating picture of the kaleidoscopic possibilities open to composers around the turn of the millennium.
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Review by Mark Werlin - September 6, 2020
New contemporary music can be difficult to navigate. Many composers are pursuing directions in sound production and compositional form that listeners may find baffling on first hearing.
In this selection of new music for varying chamber ensembles of woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion, four composers invite the listener to enter into a meditative state of mind, to listen in the moment, without reliance on familiar musical referents. The composers speak of their works in relation to time and place, and a willingness to consider the music in that light—and to read the illuminating liner notes that accompany the release—can enable listeners to connect more closely to these unfamiliar works.
Toshio Hosokawa describes his 2004 piece “Drawing” for eight players as an imagining of the primordial emotions preceding one’s birth into the world. In the work’s 12-minute performance, he explores the instrumental timbres of the ensemble through tranquil passages of sustained long tones, and furious exchanges of dissonant phrases. Returning to a steady state of restored calm, the dying tones fade into the distance, like the passing of clouds.
Danish composer Bent Sørenson’s “Minnelieder - Zweites Minnewater” dates from 1994. The piece has a tapestry-like feeling in which the weave is looser or tighter throughout the work’s performance. In some sections, the individual players carry on in separate monologues all at the same time; in others, instrumental groupings perform unison phrases. It is perhaps the most harmonically and texturally complex of the four works, and is rendered in a vivid, incisive performance by the Sinfonietta players under the direction of Kai Grinde Myrann.
The longest and most recently completed work on this release is “Mantra”, a concerto for gamelan soloist and sinfonietta by the Dutch-American composer Ellen Lindquist. The word “gamelan” refers to the musical theater of Bali/Indonesia and to the array of percussion instruments that comprise a gamelan ensemble. Lindquist directs the orchestral instruments to tune to the gamelan’s overtone series, which results in a more consonant relationship between the strings, woodwinds, brass, and gamelan instruments. There is a devotional character to the music, which, as its title suggests, is intended to function as a mantra, or object of sustained focus, for the listener.
Kristin Norderval’s “Chapel Meditation” for piano and voice is the closing and briefest work on the album. The piece was inspired by the composer’s participation in a Renaissance music choir at the Bowdoin College Chapel in Brunswick, Maine, and by the acoustics of the chapel space. Functioning as a kind of coda to the preceding works, it invites the listener to experience the feeling of clarity that can arise after a period of meditation or prayer.
The superb audio recording was done in December 2017 at Kimen kulturhus, Stjørdal, Norway, by producer Jens Braun and sound engineer Stephan Reh, at 24/96 resolution. A session photo included in the album notes depicts the Sinfonietta and gamelan soloist in a high-ceilinged concert hall with a hardwood stage and interlaced wood panels on the back wall.
Highly recommended to listeners whose taste runs to new directions in contemporary classical music.
Copyright © 2020 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net