Rasmussen: Motion/Emotion - Chamber music
Dacapo Records 6.220643
Classical - Chamber
Sunleif Rasmussen: Motion/Emotion (2010/11) for wind quintet; Four Gardens (2003) for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, piano, violin, viola and cello; Cantus Borealis (1995) for wind quintet
Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Lapland Chamber Orchestra Wind Quintet
John Storgårds (Storgards)
The Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen (b. 1961) lets the melodies of national songs become the musical DNA in powerful sound-evocations of nature; either latently as a basis for ingenious constructions of great sensuality, or quite directly, so that anyone in the North Atlantic islands can hum along. Interpreted by members of Lapland Chamber Orchestra under the baton of John Storgårds, Rasmussen’s music is in strong fellow Nordic hands on this recording.
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Recorded in Korundi-hall, Rovaniemi, on 13-14 April 2012
Review by Mark Werlin - October 8, 2020
Music can project the sounds of distant, unfamiliar lands into our imaginations. The chamber music of Sunleif Rasmussen evokes the windswept landscape of his birthplace in the Faroese Islands, but the inner landscape of his compositions draws on a broader range of experiences in the wider territory of Nordic musical culture.
In our present era of immediate global interconnection and access to vast media resources, it can be difficult to imagine the experience of an aspiring musician raised without access to musical institutions. Rasmussen, born in 1961, did not hear a symphony orchestra perform live until he relocated to the Oslo region in the late 1970s. Some of that sense of the ‘newness’ can be heard in his compositions. The selection of chamber works included in this program spans 20 years of Rasmussen’s production, and provides a worthy addition to the superb recording of his prize-winning Symphony No. 1 on Rasmussen: Orchestral Works - Lintu.
“Motion/Emotion”, a suite of five short segments that opens the album, begins with dance-like sprung rhythms and permutations of the basic melodic statement traded between the lower- and higher-range winds of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. Rasmussen‘s label “motion” conveys the movement of notes and themes through a linear progression; the label “emotion“ signals a turn inwards, a deepening development of the themes expressed through long-held French horn and bassoon low notes and descending flute, clarinet and oboe lines. The alternating movement between faster, staccato, and slower, legato passages sustains a balance between cerebral and emotive content throughout the work’s nearly twenty-minute length.
“Four Gardens” opening movement marked furioso, for unaccompanied piano, suggests the solo improvisations of one of Rasmussen’s early musical inspirations, Keith Jarrett. There is a folk melody half-hidden in the furious onslaught of notes. Further melodies emerge and submerge in the surging espressivo ensemble movement, played by flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, piano and strings. As a final furioso is transformed into an espressivo, it is as if dark clouds have parted and the gale winds subsided, allowing the distant sounds of church bells to be heard.
“Cantus Borealis” for wind quintet makes the impression of wind explicit through an instruction in the opening measures for the players to blow directly into their instruments; breath as the source of woodwind sound. In “Winter Pictures”, more evocation; the squall of sea birds, waves crashing against the rocks… The listener’s imagination is drawn into these programmatic sound images, yet the music stands on its own melodic merits. Rasmussen is a masterful orchestrator and tone colorist; he hears into the instruments, encouraging the musicians to focus as much on tone production as on note realization.
The three duo pieces, “Andalag” 1, 3, and 11, transmute regional folk melodies into mathematically precise essays; the intersecting ascending and descending lines that resolve into unison restatements. The word itself is a portmanteau conveying the meanings of breath and spirit (‘anda’), layer and melody (‘lag’). In many languages, ‘spirit’ or ‘life’ is the ur-meaning for ‘breath’. In the music of Sunleif Rasmussen, this equivalence has been given musical form.
Dacapo Records’ chief engineer Preben Iwan recorded the Lapland Chamber Orchestra members in DXD resolution with a complement of DPA and Neumann microphones, in Korundi-hall, Rovaniemi, Finland. A notable example of contemporary architecture that expanded and repurposed an old transit depot, the culture hall is home to the ensemble and a space for visual art exhibitions. A description from the hall’s website:
"The concert hall was conceptualised as a minimalist “music box” – the low number of seats (340) enabled the entirely rectangular shape, the acoustic properties of which have been fine-tuned with wall and ceiling materials and textures as well as glass sound reflection sheets. The warm-toned space divided by panels and battens is reminiscent of the interior of an aged string instrument."
The perfect space for a chamber ensemble recording of new music that has travelled a long distance from tradition, to conception, to realization.
Copyright © 2020 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net