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This is quite an astounding hybrid SACD, showcasing the considerable talents of Rick Stotijn, who I assume is a member of the illustrious family that have been such an important feature of the Netherlands music scene for so long. It also introduces to me for the first time to Britta Byström (born 1977) whose music impressed me a great deal.
The first work on the disc is by Britta Byström and is entitled A Walk To Schubert (2015) for viola and double bass. The composer has written twenty such walks and the three presented on this disc are for viola and double bass. This first one extensively quotes the opening of Schubert's Fifth Symphony in recognisable form as it meanders along at an easy pace. The performers are also required to whistle. It is a deliciously quirky little piece and works very well.
Listen — Britta Byström: A Walk To Schubert
(track 1, 1:30-2:14) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
As a result of the second world war, Eduard Tubin (1905-1982), a fine composer born in Estonia, migrated to Sweden, where he stayed for the rest of his life. I have heard some of his symphonies but this was the first time I had heard the Concerto for Double Bass, dating from 1948, four years after the composer arrived in Sweden.
The enclosed booklet gives a good layout of the form of this work, which is in four interconnected movements. The first movement is robust and rhythmic. The solo part shares the spotlight with the orchestra most of the time as the orchestral writing is extensive. The calmer sections show what an expressive instrument the bass can be: Rick Stotijn is a most impressive player and the orchestra is brilliant.
Listen — Eduard Tubin: Allegro con moto (Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra)
(track 2, 4:09-4:49) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
The second section is a brief and lyrical song and the bass is more to the fore, again showing the expressive nature of the instrument. The third section starts calmly but gradually becomes more animated and spirited, and the orchestra plays a greater role until there is a cadenza after about a third of this section that encompasses the whole range of the instrument and is quite virtuosic. This takes up the rest of this section.
The final section is an enjoyable quirky march. This is as much an orchestral piece as it is a vehicle for the soloist. It is arresting music and there is something interesting at every turn.
Listen — Eduard Tubin: Allegro non troppo, poco marciale
(Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra)
(track 5, 2:45-3:30) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
This is followed by the second walk, A Walk to Bruckner, which references the Third Symphony. This is a heartfelt piece and again the two performers are required to whistle.
Britta Byström's Infinite Rooms is a concerto for violin/viola, double bass and orchestra. It was written in 2016 and was inspired by an art installation of the Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama. In each of the seven rooms, a different aspect is reflected an infinite number of times by mirrors. This is a quite outstanding work.
In this music, the first room is entitled 'Leggiero' and to me has the impact of a refracturing of beams of light - melodic fragments - bouncing from one point to another.
Listen — Britta Byström: Leggiero (Infinite Rooms)
(track 7, 4:04-5:02) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
The second room, 'Grazioso', is quite playful, yet graceful at the same time. The two soloists intersect each other and the orchestra provides more of a backdrop most of the time initially, but later becoming more prominent before disappearing and leaving the two soloists to themselves.
Listen — Britta Byström: Grazioso (Infinite Rooms)
(track 8, 2:33-3:18) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
'Calmo' is a shimmering movement, and there are some very florid passages underlying the calmer pulse. The orchestra is required to whistle at certain points.
Listen — Britta Byström: Calmo (Infinite Rooms)
(track 9, 2:18-3:12) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
This is followed by 'Energico' which grows out of the previous movement, but is much more joyous and energetic. There are times where the energy seems to dissipate or come at short bursts.
The next room is entitled 'Calm, Cantando' and one can hear traces of a chorale by Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel and the soloists and orchestra are joined by a musical saw to provide an atmospheric touch.
Listen — Britta Byström: Calmo (Infinite Rooms)
(track 11, 1:56-2:54) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
'Ritmico' is a taut, lively movement that is colourful and rhythmic, and melodic patterns are bounced all around the 'room'. This gives way to a calm and lyrical section which contains the closest thing to a cadenza before the music livens up with a dancelike, almost jazzy section that ends the movement.
The final room, 'Dolce', combines some of the elements found in all the other rooms. It is short and is almost a coda to the previous rooms.
This is followed by the final 'Walk' in the series, A Walk to Strauss, which references several themes from Don Quixote. In this walk the soloists are not required to whistle.
Jesper Nordin (born 1971), an interesting composer and new to me, is known for fusing several genres of music together. An important element is Swedish folk music. His Piano Trio is an arrangement of the 2003 Concerto for violin, cello, piano and orchestra. It is here modified and arranged for violin, double bass and piano. The music is inspired by a Swedish folk wedding march. This is perhaps the most challenging work on this disc for the listener and lasts about seventeen minutes. It is well worth persevering with, and is quite unlike anything else I have heard before. The texture is quite dense initially and the writing would be a challenge for the performers, but the artists here clearly love this work and give it their fullest attention to detail. I have no idea how some of the sounds produced here have been achieved, but the journey one takes listening over the course of this work makes it well worthwhile - particularly the extensive slow section.
Listen — Jesper Nordin: Piano Trio
(track 15, 13:42-14:21) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :
A transcription by Rick Stotijn of a brief work for solo soprano by Carin Malmlöf-Forssling (1916-2005) provides a poignant ending to this most enjoyable disc.
I have always been fascinated by the double bass and the possibilities that a fine player like Rick Stotijn can draw from it. The quality of all the performers here is such that it takes my breath away, and there is some fabulous unfamiliar music on this album to whet one's appetite. Enjoy!
Copyright © 31 August 2021