“In Memoriam Pehr Henrik Nordgren” = NORDGREN: Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and String Orch. with Gong; ARVO PART: Fratres; ASKELLMASSON: Quatrain; KALEVO AHO: In memorium Pehr Henrik Nordgren – Rascher Saxophone Quartet/ Lapland Ch. Orch./John Storgards (+ violin soloist in Aho) – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 322, 64:06 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Finnish composer Nordgren was originally to have composed the work for unaccompanied violin which closes this program, but he died in 2008 before being able to complete it, and Kalevo Aho stepped in with the memorial work, which also led to the assembly of this entire disc program.
Nordgren was big on writing concertos, and this was a major part of his output. Shostakovich was a spiritual influence and Ostobothnian and Ingrian folk music is often quoted in his works. Echos of his time in Japan are heard in some of his works from the 70s. The Rascher Sax Quartet is one of the most prestigious in the world, and Nordgren’s concerto here was dedicated to them. In one movement, it is quite avant but retains a fairly tonal character. The use of the gong in the work is most interesting, and the sax quartet is asked to play micro-tonalities—especially in a dream-like section near the end of the work.
Part’s Fratres may be the most-performed piece of contemporary music today. Its compelling slow harmonic simplicity might be part of its appeal—seemingly suggesting the passage of fate—but another reason might be that the composer has arranged it for a variety of different instruments and ensembles. The composer of Quatrain is Icelandic, and the work uses a folk melody from 17th century Iceland. The ten-minute closer to the program is the Memorium to composer Nordgren. For solo violin, it is performed by conductor John Storgards, and makes use of musical letters from Nordgren’s name.
Excellent hi-res surround draws the listener into these works—which except for the familiar Fratres are on the cutting edge—and makes it easier to get into their complexities.
This is a delightful holiday collection.