Kleiberg: Concertos - Thorsen, Ringstad, Sjölin, Szilvay
2L 2L-166-SABD (2 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Violin Concerto No. 2
DOPO for Violoncello and String Orchestra
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Marianne Thorsen, violin
Eivind Ringstad, viola
Fredrik Sjölin, cello
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
Peter Szilvay, conductor
Ståle Kleiberg’s concertos unfold in the space between poetry, passion and playfulness. This is contemporary music with which listeners can easily engage, but which does not for one moment compromise artistic quality. “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,” says Kleiberg about himself and his music.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - August 20, 2021
In a highly competitive field, labels have to look for new avenues to satisfy classical music lovers’ appetite having already umpteen versions of Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concerto on their shelves. Many ripe and green examples have passed my SACD player. Some interesting, some less so. In fact, on the road to searching for new, contemporary music seems to be riding high.
However, new is not always better. Being inventive, joggling with sound, attract listeners’ attention with a profusion of strange noises, may hit the moon, but one mustn’t forget that remaining with the eternal wisdom of the stars, new music using conventional tools can still evoke much emotion amongst traditional souls like me.
Answering the question of whether the musical means of the past have now become obsolete, as some claim, I’d respond that there is still so much more to say with the ‘old’ language. Ståle Kleiberg proves my point. The vocabulary with which he impresses his audience, be it to elicit nostalgia or to convey deeply moving sorrow, remains in the melodiously tonal, neo-classical realm.
Kleiberg was, for some time, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra’s composer-in-residence. Choosing (members of) this orchestra for this recording is, therefore, a logical and above all, a greatly gratifying one. The musicians are clearly familiar with his style and obviously willing to let the music develop as best as they can. But that isn’t all. To illustrate the overall standing of this provincial Norwegian orchestra, it ought to be taken as a clear indication of excellence that the American conductor, James Gaffigan, has just signed a two-year contract to become its next music director. Moreover, the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra work closely together with the ‘Trondheim Solistene’, notably in the field of chamber music, sharing 10 string players.
Norway has indeed more to offer to classical music lovers than the orchestras of Bergen or Oslo (and don’t forget Stavanger). Trondheim is “a town thriving on music”, says Daniel Hope, a South African-born violinist, now living in Berlin, in a BBC article ‘Musical destinations: Trondheim, Norway’ on the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival.
Living in the Northern Hemisphere, the month of August is a crucial moment for me and maybe others. With a loss of 2 hours of daylight, it feels as though it begins in the Summer to end in Autumn. Foreboding that leaves will soon start turning red or yellow depending on where you live. Nostalgia creeps in.
Not to worry, though. It has its positive side, too. It means having more time to catch up with preferred or to listen to new music. For these moments of autumn blues, Ståle Kleiberg is the perfect antidote. The many colours of his music have a soothing effect allowing the listener to come to terms with what was and cherish whatever is still in store. Enjoy!
So, what exactly do we get. Marianne Thorsen, a child of Trondheim, widely appreciated by connoisseurs for the purity of her playing, recorded to great acclaim Kleiberg’s first violin concerto, glowingly reviewed by John Miller (Kleiberg: Treble & Bass - Thorsen, Sjölin, Reuss) saying: “It is hard to imagine a better performance of this piece; her purity of tone, strength and control of line, vibrant expressiveness and formidable technical ability make for a gripping and moving interpretation”, to which I have nothing to add.
With the second, she is once more best placed to interpret the meticulously coloured score of which Kleiberg evidently holds the secret. Despite having been composed as recently as 2017, it follows a traditional pattern of mostly restrained and beautifully shaded harmonics that fall pleasantly on the ear but are nonetheless models of ingenious construction.
Dedicated to, and premiered on the 22nd of December 2017 to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Norwegian painter, Kjell Parr-Iversen, it is a transcription into music of his visual art, described as ‘The light of sunlight’ because of his vivid colour settings with lots of yellows and reds. And although the music is not vivid to a similar degree, the bright colours of the painter and the considerate palette of Kreiberg do have something in common, which can be associated with that hard to define feeling of nostalgia, the longing for something that has gone, or is in scarce supply, like during the extensive wintertime of Norway: Daylight.
Miraculously, Mme Thorsen’s eloquent performance, emphatically supported by the warm strings of the TSO, gives the listener ample opportunity to wallow in nostalgia, enjoying her sensitive reading of a broadly brushed colour scheme drawn in honour of a notable Norwegian painter. What a gift!
According to Ståle Kleiberg’s excellent notes, and, therefore, coming from the ‘horse's mouth’, his Viola Concerto (2019) is based upon “Edvard Munch’s variants on the Dance of Life theme provided the inspiration for this work, which unfolds somewhere in the space between poetry, passion and play”. Notwithstanding having to take his word for it, this absolutely wonderful and smartly designed composition has, in my view, also a typical Norwegian pastoral ring around it. Be that as it may, written for Eivind Ringstad, prize winner of the 2012 European Broadcasting Union (EBU) competition for young musicians, and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, one could not have wished for a better teamwork performance, the more so because Peter Szilvay’s - Mariss Jansons one time assistant at the Oslo Philharmonic - inspirational orchestral grip, efficaciously harmonizes the varying input from the soloist as well as the individual instrument groups of the orchestra.
In my view, the most emotionally gripping part of this release is the Cello Concerto. Written almost three decades ago, it bears witness to atrocities committed during the Balkan wars. A desperate reminder that so many years after the Second World War ‘ethnic cleansing’ has not disappeared (and most probably won’t in the future either). Many do not so easily associate such feelings of grief with reserved Norwegians. A mistake. Solo cellist, Fredrik Sjölin, educated at Trondheims School of Music, gives ample expression to Kleiberg’s dramatic score. Passionately supported by the strings of the orchestra the listener is drawn into the sadness of time. A sweeping (In my first draft I wrote ‘weeping’, which, after all, is probably what I felt at that moment) performance that will stay with you long after it is over.
For those who don’t know: Fredrik Sjölin is a member of the Danish String Quartet and plays on an F. Ruggieri (1688) cello, loaned through the Anders Sveaas Charitable Foundation, which is - no doubt, though only partly - responsible for his authentic and admirably developed tone.
Although some, like me, would rather sit in the hall than on stage, lovers of full sound around get preferential treatment. In keeping with 2L’s usual soundstage (“Recorded music is no longer a matter of a fixed one-dimensional setting, but rather of a three-dimensional enveloping situation”), and provided your play-back equipment allows it, the listener is put in the royal ‘immersive’ seat, well in the middle of all the action.
Needless to say, that Marten Lyndberg, 2L’s sound wizard, has spared no effort to get the full frequency spectrum across without any hint of distortion. So, don’t spare your speakers. Listen to the music and forget about the neighbours. They might actually like it as much as I did!
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France
Copyright © 2021 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net
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Comment by Marcus DiBenedetto - August 20, 2021 (1 of 6)
The SACD and Blu Ray Audio discs will be released in September. Native DSD has the download available now. Thankfully, Native DSD is now offering DXD to its customers. In this case, the original recording format is 24/352.8 DXD which I downloaded in multichannel surround and stereo. Personally, I am developing a preference for DXD. I’m not sure why, but it sounds better to me.
I am a Kleiberg fan ever since the release of his “Treble & Bass” album. This new offer is called a follow-on to it. Kleiberg never disappoints with adding lots of bass instruments to provide his music with power and depth. These concertos are no exception. I've listened to the recording many times now. Each time, I come away with the feeling that maybe I can listen to it one more time.
All three solo instruments, Violin, Viola and Cello are given plenty of music to play with a wonderful accompaniment by the Trondheim Symphony. Thorsen comes through again with sweet melodies. It’s wonderful how she can hold a single note for seemingly an eternity allowing the listener to dwell on the music’s deeper meaning. She follows up with a strong and aggressive play which will keep you paying attention. Ringstad’s viola playing is also first rate. Like Thorsen, he commands the instrument, even through strong orchestra accompaniment. Horns are added to provide thrilling moments in all three tracks. Lastly, Sjölin’s cello brings you to that sad awareness of man’s inhumanity through ethnic cleansing. All in all, the entire album is powerful yet melodic giving the listener an emotional connection.
The 2L sonics are excellent. In multichannel surround, it is truly enveloping with a wide and deep soundstage. Side surrounds are used to help you feel right in the middle of it. I listened to the stereo version as a comparison which gives you more of that "sitting in the hall" feeling. For me, multichannel is the way to go.
Las Vegas, NV
Comment by hiredfox - August 29, 2021 (2 of 6)
You say that DXD sounds better to you, better than what? As most DSD recordings (but not all) are edited in DXD it is a moot point what is being compared with what.
Comment by Marcus DiBenedetto - September 1, 2021 (3 of 6)
You are likely correct, resolution is largely unimportant for playback. I prefer multichannel surround which is normally not available on CD (16/44.1). Therefore, I have generally gone with higher resolution surround formats. So many formats are available now, my decision has been to download in the original recording format. In the case of this album, it is DXD. A recording/Mastering engineer I have come to appreciate is Brendon Heinst of TRPTK. He recently released a video on this topic: High-resolution audio – SHOULD YOU CARE? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB4j3HOB7ZU&t=4s). At the 5 minute mark, he switches from discussing recording formats to playback formats. Great information.
I do have a highly resolving multichannel DAC and speakers for 5.0 or 5.1 music. Up until now, I've downloaded DSD (64-256) and PCM (24/96-192) files, whichever was the original recording format. Recently, I've purchased a few DXD 24/352.8 surround albums. For me, DXD just sounds better than DSD or PCM. Subtle differences, for sure. And it is entirely possible, maybe even likely, that I am experiencing the "placebo" effect. But, with so many format choices, I am sticking with my decision to download in the original recording format (Native DSD and most album liner notes include this recording format information).
I hope this answers your concern. As an aside, I have a few 2L albums on BluRay to try out Auro 3D and Dolby ATMOS. Personally, I have not gotten a better listening experience using these formats.
Las Vegas, NV
Comment by hiredfox - September 7, 2021 (4 of 6)
Worth noting that DXD is a form of PCM, 24 bit but at a much higher sampling rate than is used by most recording houses.
Chandos & BIS decided long ago for example claim that there are no aural benefits for a listener in recording above 96kHz sampling rate whilst others such as RCO Live and SFS use 192; the odd few including Ondine use 384 (or DXD). For me it is a shame that they have not moved on to DXD as a standard for PCM recording but then again these companies remain amongst the best supporters of SACD.
It is almost beyond dispute that the higher the sampling rate at recording the more realistic a recording can sound on playback so you are absolutely correct to download your music at the highest resolution available. Whatever the sampling rate used, information from the original sound is lost in PCM recordings in the sampling so we can never hear 100% of the source music. Also timing errors become super critical in re-constructing the analogue waveform within a DAC. These approximations show up to a listener as a lack of 'air' and loss of inner detail.
DSD is a continuous and therefore quasi-analogue signal which in the best DACs needs no D/A conversion with huge benefits for SQ. Problem is that only Channel Classics as far as I know can edit in DSD the others rather 'spoil' the show by editing in DXD so compromising the original DSD recording.
In the end you must trust your own ears. I attend live concerts almost weekly here in the UK and in The Netherlands (pre-Covid) which can act as memory training when comparing recordings to live music.
Comment by Ben Leggett - October 5, 2021 (5 of 6)
This is a great recording of a great work by Kleiberg. It's wonderful in surround. This is my first experience with any Kleiberg works.
SACD is a Hybrid, with MQA-encoded 44.1 on the CD layer (I'm not a fan of MQA personally but it's there), and stereo and surround layers.
The Bluray has lossless 192khz/24 TrueHD 5.1 surround and stereo presumably downsampled from the DXD source, as well as the original DXD stereo FLACs as data files on the disc - so the discs have pretty much All The Formats you'd ever want(unless you wanted proper, non-MQA RBCD or Atmos), covering everything 2L sells as a digital download and then some.
Comment by Marcus DiBenedetto - May 9, 2022 (6 of 6)
I listened to this recording this morning for the millionth time. It is definitely one of my top 10 albums to play regularly. I want to revisit my earlier comments. I've switched from side surrounds to rear surrounds. This was on the advice of Brendon Heinst (Mastering Engineer from TRPTK) who masters surround recordings in the ITU format which uses rear surrounds rather than side surrounds. 2L makes great use of surround speakers and I can attest to the full sound enveloping the listener.
I also want to revisit the format conversation. After many months of fussing with my system, I have settled on DXD or PCM for playback. This is despite the fact that my multichannel DAC (exaSound S88) with it's ES9028PRO DAC chip should resolve DSD better than PCM/DXD. I use JRiver as my media player. Since I bypass my pre/pro and go direct from DAC to amplifier, JRiver is set to adjust speaker distances and crossovers. However, it won't apply corrections to DSD files. ROON will but I prefer JRiver. Thus, recently, I decided to let JRiver convert DSD files to PCM and apply corrections. I've listened to many recordings in both DSD and PCM/DXD. To be honest, I can't tell a difference at 24/96 and above.
Sorry to get technical. This album is one of a few that will provide sonics that will help you position and setup your speakers for superb playback.