Glass - Bjerkestrand - Patientia. Sara Övinge, violin; Edward Gardner, conductor; Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. © 2023 LAWO Classics

CD Spotlight

A Common Thread

Music by Kjetil Bjerkestrand and Philip Glass, heard by GERALD FENECH

'... a must for contemporary music lovers ...'


Kjetil Bjerkestrand was born in Kristiansand, Norway, on 18 May 1955. As the son and grandson of organists, playing the organ came naturally to the young Kjetil, and he started to compose very early on in his life. He wrote music for several films and television series, and by time he mastered the art of arranger and also became a record producer, arranging music for artists such as Ray Charles, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ute Lemper. With these and other singers he participated in recordings which later became big hits.

Along with the saxophonist Tore Brunborg he has released two albums with Christmas music and hymns. In 2010 he successfully released his first solo album Piano Poems, which was very well received.

The American composer Philip Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 31 January 1937. He is considered one of the most influential music makers of the late twentieth century. His music is also often controversially described as minimal, along with the work of other major minimalists such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Glass has distanced himself from the minimalist label, describing himself instead as a composer of 'music with repetitive structures'. Though his early mature music shares much with what is normally called minimalist, he has since evolved stylistically.

Currently he describes himself as 'classicist', pointing out that he is trained in harmony and counterpoint and studied such composers as Schubert, Bach and Mozart with Nadia Boulanger. Glass is a hugely prolific composer and his output runs into hundreds of works. Apart from writing for his ensemble, which he founded, he composed symphonies, concertos, operas, solo works, chamber music including several string quartets and instrumental sonatas, and a number of film scores for which he was nominated for an Academy Award on three occasions. To his chagrin he never won the coveted prize.

This release marks a musical homecoming for Sara Ovinge, a stunning violinist who has chosen a slightly more convoluted path than most violinists. Indeed, Sara has sought out and immersed herself in contemporary music, Iranian music, composition, improvisation and art-pop, amongst several other musical pursuits. Her entire modus operandi points to a strong and intrinsic need to be a co-creating musician, one who leaves her mark on the musical expression in a more comprehensive way than simply playing the notes on the stand.

Meeting Bjerkestrand in 2019, Sara found something she was looking for. He is the epitome of the symbiotic musician, drawing on experience and inspirations from a wide range of musical styles, from rock to pop through to the contemporary. He describes the composition process as one part search for fixation that points to a series of possible events, and one part exploration of friction caused by the union of the elastic and the mechanical.

Listen — Kjetil Bjerkestrand: Ascent & Descent (Violin Concerto No 1 - Patientia)
(LWC 1255 track 11, 2:34-3:31) ℗ 2023 LAWO Classics :

A theme that Sara aimed to pursue in the project was the juxtaposition of the electronic and the organic. Glass's Second Violin Concerto is arranged for synthesizer and strings, a kind of updated version of Vivaldi's string orchestra with continuo. But where previous recordings have gone for an electronic sound resembling the baroque harpsichord, Sara wanted to create a more electroacoustic soundscape, thus achieving a common thread between the two works.

Listen — Glass: Movement 1
(Violin Concerto No 2 - The American Four Seasons)
(LWC 1255 track 2, 5:14-6:11) ℗ 2023 LAWO Classics :

This music is not a walk in the park but a challenge to one's efforts to try and decipher what are the composers' intentions. Convincing performances and excellent sound quality complete a disc that is a must for contemporary music lovers ... otherwise proceed with great caution.

Copyright © 21 August 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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