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Nordic composers: Duo Gelland Violin Duos Vol. 4

Sanna Ahvenjärvi: Fingers To The Bone

Aron Hidman: Chaconne

Alexander Keuk: Bagatelle 

Johan Samskog: Al Cielo

Tapio Lappalainen: Violin Duo

Jonas Asplund: Forms Of The Floating Fragments


Duo Gelland (Martin and Cecilia Gelland, Violin )


I was first introduced to this fantastic ensemble “audio-visually”, when I watched their DVD film of James Dillon’s Traumwerk.

I was immediately fascinated by their playing, their commitment to this music, the high level of musicianship and the naturalness of their ensemble playing.

I have also recently reviewed the predecessor to this CD, Volume 3, a CD of the highest quality.


I was, therefore, eagerly anticipating the release of their new CD, a collection of works from composers that the ensemble has been working closely with over the years and who were all born in the 1970s, have a Nordic connection and composed these works in the new millennium. The connections stop there, however, as all the works have very different approaches and aesthetic identities, but they do share a common approach to lyricism and means of expression, creating a smooth chain of work progressions.

Sanna Ahvenjärvi’s Fingers To The Bone is a well thought out work that makes very good use of several traditional string techniques with a good sense for drama and lyricism. It is a very elegant composition, oscillating between fragile and more powerful soundscapes and delivered by the duo with confidence and finesse.  

Chaconne by Aron Hidman follows. I was curious to see the connection of its title to a 21st century composition. It was hard to hear a direct connection to this form, but one could always sense an approach to texture, form and, most importantly, phrasing that reminded me of baroque-classical syntax. It is a very straightforward but equally imaginative work with clear separation of techniques to articulate contrasting sections, a varied cyclic recurrence of material and an almost meditative quality at parts as a result of the textural and formal unity.


Alexander Keuk’s Bagatelle followed and distanced itself from the previous two compositions from the very beginning with its aggressive imitative sounds. Again, before I listened to this work, I could not help myself from thinking about the choice of title and of its possible connection to past centuries; simultaneously, one can again sense here that this connection is not on a literal level but refers to the general outline of the composition. This is an excellent work where one can almost feel a sense of heterophony between the two parts; this is not in the traditional and strict sense of the term but in the notion that both instruments essentially “sing” as one. The control of pitch and rhythm development is captivating throughout.

With Al Cielo by Johan Samskog we move into a different sound world yet again. The work consists mainly of two gestures: an initial percussive (short, detached jetes) and a subsequent lyrical one (longer, sustained tones). These are further separated by very different tone developments: one being of consonant and the other of slightly more dissonant qualities. In a way, the initial gesture serves as frame for the more floating, meditative parts that characterize this composition.  It is a work very economic in its use of means and one that is executed with the utmost immediacy.

Tapio Lappalainen’s Violin Duo comes next, and its title distances the composer from any extra musical associations. Remarkably, the work indeed does just that; it is a composition in which one truly experiences as “absolute music”, from its coherent direction and structure to the sensitive and well planned shifts of texture and intensity. 

Forms Of The Floating Fragments, by Jonas Asplund, is the last work on this disc. This is the only work in multiple movements, four in total. Each is characterized by a different use of technique and musical scope, but the composer goes further than that in creating small links between all four. He starts with very contrasting sounds and textures in all four; for instance, mutes, pizzicato and glissandi, but these gradually reconcile with other elements that appear in all four movements. A captivating work, one that keeps the listener’s interest throughout, where every gesture has a place and a space. It is a powerful work to close the program indeed.


Martin and Cecilia Gelland are very much responsible for reviving interest in new compositions for violin duos and demonstrate in the best possible way the plethora of possibilities that exist even with just two violins. Their precision, sensitive approach to colour detail, their unparalleled coordination, faultless ensemble playing and their mastery of all techniques old and new are evident in this recording too, and they can truly be considered as the world’s leading violin duos.

Evis Sammoutis





nosag cd 192 [73 mins]

Another special recording from the Gellands to treasure. The notes, by the composer, are emotive and poetic, not analytic.

The longest work is Depurazione (2002, 29 mins). The idiom is original, euphonious, never abrasive.

Music to bask in and enjoy. A must for collectors of the Gellands, which we are; firmly committed to their every next offering.

Sample Hagstedt's music at http://www.medvetenhetsverkstad.se/kinna.html

Peter Grahame Woolf

Also from nosag (cd 304) is Rauk, an interesting, haunting selection of "music", part improvised, meditative and strange, from Karin Hogheilm - music which will appeal to e.g people who in decades past were captivated by, say, Stockhausen's Stimmung...

The presentation (in a DVD case to accommodate the art work) is however not easy for English speakers, so I have reservations to recommend it.