Ensemble Ernst plays MATRE, NORDHEIM & SCIARRINO, Lawo Classics

Ensemble Ernst plays MATRE, NORDHEIM & SCIARRINO, Lawo Classics multichannel SACD LWC-1055, 1:05:44 (7/1/15) [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

This CD by Ensemble Ernst, its first release on the LAWO Classics label, was inspired by the musicians’ wish to record music that has meant a lot to them. The idea originated when they premiered Arne Nordheim’s “Tenebrae” in a transcribed version for viola and sinfonietta during the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival 2012, with soloist Ellen Nisbeth. They decided then to record the work, and it seemed natural to them to include works by Ørjan Matre and Salvatore Sciarrino, composers with whom they have been closely associated. What these composers have in common is that they blend innovation and the exploration of new tonal worlds.

This collection of music by and played by Norwegians is modern and dissonant, so it’s going to appeal to the listener who is willing to walk down some unpaved musical roads.

Specifically this SACD features Brian Matre’s Atem; Arne Nordheim’s Tenebrae; Matre’s But I must have said this before, and Sciarrino’s Da un Divertimento.

Ensemble Ernst was established in 1996, an offspring of the contemporary music ensemble at the Norwegian Academy of Music. The ensemble has specialized in recent contemporary music, and it is well-known for its frequent commissions of new Norwegian music. Thomas Rimul has been conductor from the start, and most of the musicians have been Academy members from the very beginning. Although the musicians now have leading positions in orchestras and are much sought after in the freelance market, they continue to prioritize Ensemble Ernst.

I liked the collection, while finding it a challenging listen. the recording is quite good, recorded in multiple venues that let the richness of the locale swirl around the listener in 5.0 surround. The music is well played, and the musicians need to be very precise in works like this, with odd syncopations and rhythms.

Lawo has turned out a variety of interesting SACDs and this collection is no exception.

—Mel Martin

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