* Under the Wing of the Rock – Music by BRITTEN, BEAMISH, KRAGGERUD, NORDHEIM AND THOMMESSEN – Soon-Mi Chung, viola/ Henning Kraggerud, violin/ Oslo Camerata, ch. orch. /Øyvind Bjorå, ensemble leader – 2L 5.1 SACD 2L-119-SACD (11/1/15) 59:00 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

This lovely disc from 2L features music from Norway and the British Isles, all of it pretty contemporary and composed within the last seventy years. The composers included – Benjamin Britten, Sally Beamish, Arne Nordheim, Olav Anton Thommessen and Henning Kraggerud – all find inspiration in earlier musical styles and traditions. These composers are very diverse, and the pieces played here by viola soloist Soon-Mi Chung are of contrasting moods.

The first work, Under the Wing of the Rock, by Sally Beamish takes it title from a 19th Century Gaelic poem. The piece is lyrical and superbly recorded.

The next track is Voyage Doulouqreux by Henning Kraggerud written for two violas in 1997. It starts off melancholy, but soon becomes, in the composer’s words, joyful and almost manic. It’s an interesting piece, well-played and with much to recommend repeated listens.

Kraggerud returns with Til Sara, for violin and viola, composed in 1996. Here again, the music is expressive and filled with emotion. Another Norwegian composer gives us Brudd. It’s written by Arne Nordheim. Brudd roughly translated means ‘break’ or ‘fracture’. It’s the most dissonant track on the disc, but it’s a fascinating listen.

Portrait and Chaconne by Olav Thommessen is a musical portrait of violinist Soon-Mi, who performs the work. Finally, we hear Britten’s Lachrymae, a work from 1950, originally written for viola and piano. Here it’s rendered by solo violin and viola, and a small chamber orchestra.

As usual, 2L mixes fine performances with reference quality sound. This SACD was recorded at the Jar Church in Norway, and the sound is, as expected, superb. The rear channels are subtle, and the sound of the strings is as realistic as the electronic medium can provide. The low end is solid, and the placement of instruments is very realistic and not over-highlighted.

While much of the music is unfamiliar, it’s a disc I will return to frequently. The performances are first rate, both from the soloists and the ensemble, and the recording, as mentioned, is reference quality for its wonderfully realistic string sounds. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin