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Contemporary music from Sweden

A very attractive and varied batch of new CDs was received for Christmas holidays listening.

The Swedish music scene is as vibrant as any in the world and I commend three of them for particular attention in UK and abroad. The artists' and composers' websites will give background information about those that intrigue you.


Duo Gelland makes a persuasive bid for a violin duo to be reckoned a viable medium for adventurous composers, and music for two violins must have enormous potential for advanced performance opportunities.

One of my most enduring memories from the Huddersfield Festivals was a late night recital in 1995 when Irvine Arditti and Mieko Kanno played James Dillon's Dreamwork; often afterwards I thought about how they had seemed to open up limitless possibilities for double violin music. I have never heard those beautiful pieces again am pleased to note that Dreamwork is in the Gellands' repertoire; might they consider recording it? *

This second disc of violin duos [nosag 121] has works by six composer compatriots (5 of them shown top R with Cecilia and Martin Gelland) each displaying enormous imagination and consummate achievement in their realisations; my favourites were by Forare and Schuback - not to belittle any of the others.

The booklet is fully informative, and includes photos of the duo's involvement in staged presentations. Its covers are the most illegible and unflattering I have seen in many months - but don't let that put you off!

Keen violinists and all college violin departments should acquire this disc, and too the scores from STIM (Swedish Music Information Centre).

Stockholm's Royal College of Music is fortunate to have Johannes Johansson as Director. A composer with interest in tape and computers with live instruments and voices, his disc shows an acute sensibility in that genre [dBPCD17].

Johansson's music is generally gentle and eschews abrasive violence, but he makes the most of unusual instrumental combinations. There is an attractive work for flute, viola, guitar and computer and a unique piece for organ with chamber ensemble. Johansson thinks of the organ as 'the first syntheziser in history', with its sound spectra built by emphasising or leaving out overtones; 'like filters on an electronic device'. There is nothing remotely like his Wooden Waves and Cymbal Stops which exploits extreme tessituras and sound combinations in the most seductive textures. Delicious!

(SPNM's New Notes this month introduces Trinity College of Music's Wired up festival in London with a persuasive argument for the integration of acoustic and electronic studies as standard in classical composition education.)

The string quartets 4, 5 & 6 of the late Jan Carlstedt (1926-2004) won my interest with well wrought chamber music which, if not wildly innovative, would bring pleasure to music clubs or, say, to R£ listeners and the dedicated audiences at South Place Sunday Concerts as a change from the usual canonic fare. ( - - distinct harmonic foundations which both generate tensions and impart unshakeable stability - - elements of 20th-century Soviet modernism and contemporary English music (Britten) enlarged his expressive range - - ). Well played by Sweden's The Lysell Quartet [Acoustica ACCD-1015].

Of the others, I cannot forbear from reproducing the enticing cover photo of the youthful Musica Vitae Chamber Orchestra (c.p. Duo Gelland's !) which belies the description inside of Allan Petterssen as "eccentric, embittered, reserved, choleric, easily hurt, inflexible, morose - - a misunderstood genius - - "! **

Petterssen became better known with the seventh of his seventeen symphonies, but this disc of his music [Caprice CAP 21739] disqualifies itself for English speaking collectors by the absence of words (in any language) for the 11 Barefoot Songs.

Peter Grahame Woolf


* P.S. I have had a response from Duo Gelland (pictured R performing Dante) who tell me they agree with me about the booklet covers and that, by extraordinary coincidence, they have just been recording/filming Dillon's Dreamwork for a forthcoming DVD !

An excerpt can be heard on their website at http://www.duogelland.com/sound/Dillon5.mp3

** But strongly recomended, see Duo Gelland in Pettersson Sonatas for Two Violins