Dedications: Music for String Orchestra = NORDGREN: Solemnity-Euphony for 19 Strings; VASKS: Musica appassionata per orchestra d’archi; ELIASSON: Sinfonia per archi – Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra /Juha Kangas – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 245 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Anyone interested in string music of the twenty-first century will want to listen to this disc. Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008) wrote twenty-six works for his friend and fellow Finnish countryman, Juha Kangas, and his Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, before his death in 2008. Solemnity-Euphony, composed in 2002, is “a combination of ‘festive ceremony’ and ‘beauty of spirit,’” the composer wrote. This fourteen minute work is pregnant with tension and drama, some of it created by an extensive use of string tremolos. An acerbic, dissonant but catchy melody is repeated, leavened by a somewhat creepy melody over throbbing counterpoint. At the end, Nordgren quotes two bars from Schumann’s Traumerei, albeit in dissonant garb. The melodic contrast between this ending and the previous music makes it the emotional center of Solemnity-Euphony. This is an impressive work and the Ostrobothnian’s perform it with verve and passion.
Latvian composer Peteris Vasks (b. 1946) also has a history of writing many works for the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra. Focusing on compositions that express passionate feelings about life, nature, the environment and the suffering of the Latvian people under Soviet rule, Vasks views himself as a “voice of conscience for society.” However, his music contains optimism and idealism that is life-affirming. Musica appassionata alternates moments of intense upheaval with meditative interludes. Vasks sustains a tension that never loses its grip on the listener. Slow passages yearn for a more humanistic world; others shriek and protest. It ends with a tone of quiet and grateful acceptance.
Swedish composer Anders Eliasson (b.1947) has discovered a new tonality that program annotator Christoph Schluren (translated into English by Dr. J. Bradford Robinson) describes as “free floating, continually-flowing and never arriving, one that produces no inherent field of gravity.” Eliasson’s Sinfonia per Archi, is the longest work on this CD, lasting 37 minutes. Its slow-fast-slow structure begins with a lengthy meditative section that gradually generates tension through the use tremolos. The middle section thrusts violent bolts of jagged sounds that transform into a texturally intriguing tapestry. The finale is a tension filled dirge that gradually fades into oblivion.
The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra perform with energy and passion. The sound is very close, but in SACD it widens out and the added depth mitigates the acidity of the high strings, so prevalent in these compositions. A disc for discerning listeners who want to hear something contemporary and new.
— Robert Moon