Missa da Tromba = Five works by Kjell Mørk Karlsen (2), Jon Laukvik, Ketil Vea and Egil Hovland – Jan Fredrik Christiansen (trumpet)/ Terje Winge (organ) – 2L Multichannel SACD, 2L52SACD, 60:53; Performance: ***** Sound: ***** [Distr. by Qualiton]:

Kjell Mørk Karlsen (b. 1947) is a well known organist and composer with an ample trajectory as a church musician mostly with the Church of Norway and the cathedrals of Tønsberg and Stavanger. His treatment of tonality and dissonaces both in the trumpet and organ combination in the Choralsonate nr.3 (T-1) and the Missa da Tromba (T-3/6) he authored in this disc shows adherence to contemporary musical currents albeit hinting to medieval, renaissance and baroque influences. His Missa da Tromba in four movements follows, or is inspired by the sequence in mass liturgy of the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus rather than the standard Baroque mass which bases its musical fundaments on Gregorian chant. The frequent use of ostinato in the bass (organ) when contrasted to the trumpet themes characterized by shifting rhythmic variations elevates this work to unusual harmonic environments. This is new music for the organ as is his Choralsonate in T-1, much reminiscent in the surface to organ music such as that composed by Jean Langlais and Jéhan Alain. In character Karlsen is very creative and his music is conducive to contemplative mood alterations. The Choralsonate is based on the Lutheran hymn tune Nun freut euch, liebe Christen g’mein.

Jan Laukvik (b. 1952) is a former student of Marie-Claire Alain (Jéhan Alain’s youngest sister) who has dedicated most of his musical output to works for solo organ and organ with other instruments. His Lamento (T-2) was obviously inspired by the new French organ school exemplified by Olivier Messiaen where we can hear both elements from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde as well as a jazz/blues classical trumpet lament and also a funeral march rising above long sustained organ chords within a somewhat ambivalent implementation of harmonic devices.  

Ketil Vea (b. 1932) has done most of his work as a composer within the environments of northern Norway far away from the cultural centers of the south. In the process he created his own musical style which focuses on the Lappish culture of Norway itself as well as Sweden, Finland and Russia. It should be noted that Lapps are by tradition nomadic caribou herders and travel across the northern reaches freely. The first two movements (T-8/9) Andante and Adagio are characterized by a certain resignation and are much contemplative in their attitude while the third movement (T-9) Allegro is happy, joyful and brilliant in its transparency.

Egil Hovland (b. 1924) is one of Norway’s better known and most prolific and performed contemporary composers. His musical roots were firmly cemented in modernism during his student years with Aaron Copland and Luigi Dallapiccola. His Cantus X for trompet og orgel (T-10) exhibits a highly simplified romantic style with tinges of many other stylistic influences. A “tonal” twelve-note row forms the musical basis for the initial exposition’s solo trumpet that allows for sound modulation and variation. That is followed by the organ incorporating some of the motifs in the trumpet part growing to the end within a flexible melodic line by creating a dialog between the trumpet and the organ. Hovland incorporates in the toccata-like midsection a Norwegian traditional religious tune Med Jesus vil eg fara as a sentiment of his Christian faith.

The soloists Jan Fredrik Christiansen on trumpet and Terje Winge on organ make the perfect two instrument ensemble one would desire under most circumstances. Their mastering of both instruments’ phrasing and balancing is outstanding and in the process they produce sounds and music that is highly listenable and a pleasure to experience. Christiansen on the trumpet, with his mastery of this particular church’s acoustics never exceeds the limits of ambient reverberation times to produce any echoes at all – his control of the trumpet’s center is highly commendable.

This is laudable work on the part of 2L’s engineers and producers. The sound focus and stage dimensionality of this recording is outstanding at all levels for an SACD. In my experience, as a rule, SACD recordings suffer from poor focusing and little dimensionality with pronounced diffused sound on the output stage. On this SACD disc with all six active discrete channels including the subwoofer working, the sound is highly focused in the front speakers including the subwoofer while the rear speakers provide just the right amount of ambience that perfectly reflects the slightly reverberant acoustics of the church where the organ resides. It should be also noted the sound never reaches the echo spectrum, producing on the other hand a very pleasant and warm sound both from trumpet and organ. It is very obvious that the 2L sound engineers have mastered the use and location of their very capable DPA microphones and all concomitant downlink electronics and final mixing into this 24 bit 96 kHz resolution DXD disc. For once they deny the usual characterization that SACD sound is for the most part diffused even with solo instruments. This is a highly commendable disc both from the artistic and sound engineering point of view and a real pleasure to listen due to its vivid sound.  

— John Nemaric