Divertimenti - TrondheimSolistene
2L 2L-050-SABD (2 discs)
Britten: Simple Symphony Op. 4, Bacewicz: Concerto for String Orchestra, Bjorklund: Carmina, Bartók: Divertimento for Strings
The divertimento as a musical genre dates back to the nineteenth century. Divertimenti were composed for various social occasions and were intended to be light, uncomplicated and cheerful. Such pieces were often scored for small string ensemble. Over the years this effortless, elegant form has appeared in many different musical styles and, to a large extent, set the standard for the virtuosic chamber music we know today. A number of the most prominent composers of our age have engaged with this most fascinating musical style and have contributed to its further refinement as a chamber-symphonic showpiece.
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Review by John Miller - May 31, 2008
A carefully thought-out and beautifully matched programme of string divertimenti, perfect for showing off the musicianship of the Trondheim Soloists. There are many recordings of most of these works, but the careful preparation of the Trondheimers and the time taken over 2L's recording sessions combines to give a disc which is at once entertaining, enriching and thought-provoking. An important feature of this recording is that the strings truly surround the listener, with the players sitting in a double-row circle. This enhances the sheer tonal weight that the ensemble produce, and the resulting spatial separation of the players opens up the scores quite thrillingly for the listener. Switch to the Stereo layer and the collapse of the rich acoustic space comes as a palpable shock; this disc is certainly a fine example of how a creative producer can use the 5.1 system to best effect.
Britten's Simple Symphony stands comparison with Britten's own RBCD recording with the ECO strings. The Trondheim Soloists adopt tempi which are very similar to the composer's own, and their smaller numbers mean that the precision of their ensemble is often superior to that of the ECO's fuller sounding string complement. This is demonstrated particularly well in the Playful Pizzicato, where there is razor-sharp playing from the Norwegians. One hardly misses the mass sound of the LSO, except perhaps for the weightier bass section, but the bass boom of Britten's venue muffles the plucking sounds in the lower frequencies. There is, however, plenty of clean low bass in 2L's recording. Thankfully, the Trondheimers do not make a tempo change in the stamping rhythm of the Playful Pizzicato's Trio. The Kiev Chamber Orchestra (Britten: Les Illuminations, Simple Symphony - Hirzel / Kofman) ignore the score completely at this point and put the brakes on drastically. Elsewhere, as well as embracing the tongue-in-cheek nature of Britten's outer movements, the Soloists invest the lovely Sentimental Saraband with all the tenderness and intensity of a lullaby.
From the relatively open string writing of the Britten, we are plunged into the very different and highly dense string writing of Bacewicz. Her very fine Concerto for Strings is given the most full-blooded and intense reading I have encountered. The soloists have rich, dark colouring for the soulful but sometimes astringent melodies, and yield to no-one in the joyful passages such as the wonderful hocketing effect of tossing chords back and forth from the corners of the room at the end of the first movement. The stunningly realistic recording captures every detail of the textures, including hollow sul ponticello and delicate spiccato effects, shivery tremolos and rich muted passages. A tour-de-force of playing and reproduction.
I have never heard Terje Bjørklund's Carmina before, and it has made an indelible impression on me. A piece of glowing beauty and emotion, alternating slow lyrical sections of Mahlerian intensity and faster sections with shimmering Reichian rhythmic cells expressing simple joy. Near the end, the insistent four-note rhythm from the opening of Beethoven's Fifth takes over briefly, followed by a vigorous string tremolo passage of which Vivaldi would have been proud. A deeply moving and engaging work which will bear frequent repetition. I cannot imagine it being played with more skill and sympathy than here.
The disc ends with Bartók's Divertimento for Strings, a fiendishly difficult piece to play both technically and interpretively. Here again the spatial separation of musical strands adds enormously to the impact of this piece, especially in the slow movement, one of the composer's famous portraits of the great Central European plains at night. Erie and full of fearful night-creatures, all the details of this marvellous score are revealed as if on a first hearing.
So, another triumph for 2L and the indefatigable Norwegian Soloists; a programme in which each work relates to and illuminates its fellows, and suggesting all sorts of allusions and similarities. This is a stunning piece of engineering, demonstration worthy in surround, and has playing which is often astonishing in the sheer weight of glorious tone and dynamic range which this group achieve. A musical feast which goes well beyond a mere collection of divertimenti.
Copyright © 2008 John Miller and HRAudio.net
Review by Graham Williams - June 9, 2008
With this release 2L has certainly established itself at the forefront of hi-rez recording. It comes packaged in a Blu-ray case as a two-disc set for the price of one. One disc is a Hybrid SACD recorded in DXD while the other is a Blu-ray disc encoded with:
Linear PCM Stereo +5.1 Surround 24BIT/192 kHZ
dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround 24BIT/192 kHZ
Dolby TRUHD 5.1 surround 24 BIT/192 kHZ
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround 48kHZ
This review refers to both the Blu-ray and SACD discs.
From the photographs of the recording sessions in the booklet and on the 2L website, it is possible to see that the orchestra is arranged in a circle with the microphones placed both at its centre and around its circumference. The multi-channel mix places the listener in the middle of the players so, in a well-balanced surround set up, the ear can focus with ease on the individual string voices, yet the overall sound remains at all times coherent and blended. However, as with all the 2L releases that I have heard, advanced recording technology is never allowed to take precedence over musical values - quite an achievement.
The choice of music is typical of 2L’s imaginative programming and, when played through from start to finish, makes a satisfying and well-balanced concert.
The disc begins with an energetic and fresh sounding performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Simple Symphony’. The Trondheim Soloists choose tempi that are fractionally faster than those on Britten’s own recording of the work with the English Chamber Orchestra and seem perfect for this delightful work.
Next comes a real find, the ‘Concerto for String Orchestra’ by Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969). This three-movement work, composed in 1948, is one of many works for string instruments written by this very talented and little known composer. Two dynamic, concertante-like, outer movements frame a glowing and richly textured Andante that encompasses a wide range of moods. This beautifully crafted concerto ought to be as well known as the Britten.
The stately beauty of ‘Carmina’ by Terje Bjørkland contrasts well with the two earlier pieces, although within its 13 min span it too has lively interludes, and allows us to appreciate the rich sonorities of the Trondheim Soloists playing in its sustained lines and at times minimalist overtones.
Finally, in Bartok’s ‘Divertimento for Strings’, the longest and most substantial work on the disc, the Trondheim Soloists bring terrific vitality and bite to their performance. Their playing of this masterpiece is exemplary and puts the seal on what is, by any standard, an outstanding release.
Copyright © 2008 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net