“Levitation” = EOTVOS: Levitation; NIELSEN: Clarinet Concerto; SALLINEN: Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Chamber Orchestra – Christoffer Sundqvist, clarinet/ Kullervo Kojo, clarinet (in Eotvos) /Jani Niimaki, snare drum/ Tommi Aalto, viola/ Finnish Radio Sym. Orch. /Lintu Kamu – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 314 [Distr. by Albany], 68:11 ****:
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) led the way out of the Romantic period by stripping away its excesses and returning to the precision of classicism without letting go of the Scandinavian romantic tradition. The late Clarinet Concerto (1928) merges neo-romantic orchestral composition with daring and contemporary clarinet writing, an example being the dialogue between the clarinet and the snare drum. When penned, it was difficult to perform and was not well received: the composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger infamously wrote, “Nielsen shows himself to be an ardent proponent of cacophony. He has conformed to the demands of the times and knows no better.” Clarinetest Christoffer Sundqvist easily negotiates the fragmented score with ease, emphasizing the contrast between the romantic melodies and the angrier sections through tempo variations between sections. While the rapid shifts and differences in keys between the clarinet and orchestra require more than one listening, it’s clearly one of the great clarinet concertos of the twentieth century. The close miking and small orchestra creates an intimate vivid and emotionally engaging experience that makes this a performance to remember.
Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen’s music is tonal, colorfully orchestrated, and structured by the continuous development of melodic and rhythmic cells that transform into larger statements. In his Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Chamber Orchestra, he effectively contrasts two rather somber slower movements with a playful ode (Les Jeux) to games and sport. The opening movement, The Dolphin’s Lament, is the musical ode to the 2006 death of two dolphins that are drowned in a fisherman’s net after wandering into the Baltic Sea. The finale, Adagio del Toro, was inspired by Brigette Bardot’s (yes, it’s her) life-long campaign against animal cruelty – in this case a fighting bull. It’s a colorful and vibrantly scored work.
Hungarian composer, conductor, and teacher Peter Eotvos is Principal Guest Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and regularly conducts major European orchestras, specializing in modern scores. He’s also composed eight operas. From 1978 to 1991 he was Principal Conductor of Ensemble InterContemporain, Pierre Boulez’s contemporary music group. It was there that he became familiar with the use of electronic music mixing and sampling. Levitation for two clarinets, accordion and strings (2007) is a 20-minute work that explores musical visions of objects floating in the air. It’s a surrealistic mix of instrumental effects (a composer dreaming of floating across a landscape) and weird scenarios (a barcarola that depicts Venetian goldolas floating on water). This is an eclectic mix of twentieth century works for clarinet and orchestra beautifully performed and recorded in SACD sound.
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered vinyl of a live duo performance by Archie Shepp.