Hard to describe, but once you listen, easy to understand.

“Mezzotints” = STALE KLEIBERG: String Quartet No. 2; Ruf und Nachklang (piano); Ashes (violin solo); Piano Trio No 2; Violin and Cello Sonata; Sonanze e cadenza (violin and piano) – Marianne Thorsen, violin/ Oyvind Gimse, cello/ Bard Monsen, violin/ Ole Wuttudal, viola/ Jorgen Larsen, piano – 2L multichannel Pure Audio Blu-ray + multichannel SACD + downloads 115 (2 discs), 70:08 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Stale Kleiberg is an extraordinary composer from any angle you care to look at. He is not a slave to the high modernists — far from it as his music is tonally secure, though not beholden to any traditional systems—yet one hears echoes of the most advanced of modern musings in his work, but bent to his advantage and definitely subservient to it. His style is indebted to the past in its sense of thematic sharing and dependency among each instrument. But the intimacy that comes from the quietest of linkages shines in each of these pieces, personal statements that make no waste of any note.

I wish I could be more definitive in terms of describing Kleiberg’s overall stylistic tendencies, but I’m afraid that would be more burdensome to his art than enlightening. Let’s just say that each of these works, whether solo, duo, or chamber are terrifically engaging from the start of each bar, dramatic, highly communicative, and exceptionally rewarding. Particularly intriguing are the solo pieces for violin and piano, each a marvelous summation of the energy and focus that the composer gives to the “completeness” of the individual instrument, and the possibilities of self-communication within that environs.

The surround and two-channel sound, as always with 2L, is first rate, the performances stellar. Don’t miss this one!

—Steven Ritter