STALE KLEIBERG: David and Bathsheba – Anna Einarsson, (Bathsheba)/ Johannes Weisser (David)/ Nils Harald Sødal (Joab)/ Fredrik Akselberg (Uriah)/ Lars Johansson Brissman (Nathan)/ Trondheim Sym. Vocal Ens. / Trondheim Sym. Orch./ Tõnu Kaljuste – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray DTS HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.0 + multichannel SACD MCH 5.0 DSD 2L-084 (2 discs), 75:25 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Kleiberg is Professor of Music at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, a highly successful composer who works mainly off of commissions, and has been performed worldwide by noted ensembles. The notes characterize his music as a “distinctive form of extended tonality” and “meticulous attention to coloristic details.” Very true, each word, though I don’t find the extended tonality especially distinctive, as it is too redolent of typical post-romantic harmony from the turn of the last century. This is no slight, as he does it very well, quite expressively, and with a great deal of passion in the writing that seems much more attuned to the drama than even the greats of yesteryear. While there are no “greatest hits” in this music, the peppering of post-Debussyian harmony into the mix allows for a huge amount of expressive possibilities, and he does compose almost as if he has the orchestration in mind from the very beginning—no afterthoughts here.
The piece is called an opera/oratorio, the genre confusion embraced and engendered rather than failing for lack of descriptive prowess because the work is considered by the composer as a “story presented” as opposed to a “drama enacted”. Nevertheless drama there is aplenty, and even if one disagrees—as I do—with Kleiberg’s emphasis on the idea of personal distraction and ambition as it influences wars and conflicts as being central to this old biblical story (it’s about lust and its overriding ability to conflict rational common sense and lead someone to activities not normally anticipated) one still marvels at the beauteous sounds coming forth from the orchestra in a piece that is timed just about right and never loses interest.
Anna Einarsson, Johannes Weisser, Nils Harald Sødal, and Fredrik Akselberg are all spectacular in the well-rehearsed roles, and the sound is what we have come to expect from 2L—the best on the market. This is a new work well worth your time and money.