PER NØRGÅRD (b.1932): Between - Cello Concerto No. 1 (BBC Philharmonic; Michael Francis), Remembering Child - Viola Concerto No. 1 (adapted for cello Jakob Kullberg [b.1975]) (Sinfonia Varsovia; Szymon Bywalec), KAIJA SAARIAHO (b.1952): Notes on Light for Cello and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 09X045
Description: Nørgård's concerti date from the mid-1980s, a tumultuous decade in which, having established the "Infinity Series" firmly in his vocabulary, and having exhaustively explored the strange, visionary, alternative universe of Adolf Wölfli, the perpetually restless composer turned toward a kind of humanistic expressionism. Hence the cello concerto possesses a narrative arc in which the alienated individual seems to achieve reconciliation with society. The soloist opens the proceedings with an extended solo passage, tense, questing, discursive; gradually four of the orchestral celli are drawn into the argument, in time for the protagonist to enter a world of increasingly forbidding complexity. As the movement title "In Between" suggests, the cello finds its way to continue its train of thought between the clashing rocks of orchestral tumult rather than being drawn into it. Eventually the orchestra reaches a climax of motor horns blaring in a chaotic, overwhelming cityscape, which sends the cello scurrying to reassert itself in its own tranquil, unspoiled environment, where it escapes into evanescent wisps of flageolet tone. After this willful lack of accord, the mysterious slow movement, "Turning Point" offers a kind of reconciliation, as the cello, predominantly in its lower register, mournfully reminisces in a beautiful, shadowy landscape of orchestral chords, blent of Bergian Romantic expressionism and Busonian harmonic ambiguity. A sudden shining tonal resolution is achieved, ending the movement with a blaze of optimism. The finale "Among" immediately capitalizes on this breakthrough, and the cello is, for the first time, in full dialogue with the orchestra in all its many moods, even engaging in jocular, playful exchanges, imitating one another in good-natured banter. The cello's extended solos now sound reflective and content, and the orchestra no longer tries to oppose and overwhelm. The work ends with what sounds like an epiphany at sunrise. "Remembering Child" is Nørgård's 1985 viola concerto, written in memory of Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl peace activist who achieved fame in the USA and the Soviet Union and who had died in a plane crash that year. This recording is of Kullberg's flawless transcription, revised in consultation with the composer, to which he also contributed a new cadenza. The booklet annotator astutely compares the work to the Berg Violin Concerto, and there are distinct similarities in the work’s atmosphere of heartbroken elegy, the aching solo lines, and the rich chromaticism, at the boundaries of tonality, of the harmonic language. Nørgård quotes two Gregorian chants, interrupted but not overcome by episodes of clangorous violence, at the beginning of the second movement, and these, together with the remarkable swirling heterophonic chaos with which the work opens, lend the concerto a clear message, of a voice of childlike (not childish) clarity in the face of the abyss, silenced too soon. Saariaho's 2006 cello concerto, in five movements lasting almost a half-hour, is explicitly concerned with the imagery of light that frequently pervades her work. The orchestration is translucent, the orchestra imaginatively divided into nuanced color-fields of chamber-like textures. The soloist's relationship with the ensemble evolves through the piece, from the opalescent transparency of the opening movement through the fiery dialogue of the second and the shimmering soundscapes of the third - 'awakening' - to be eclipsed by the orchestra in the fourth and to re-emerge from the shadows 'looking into the heart of light, the silence' as the lines from 'The Waste Land' that the composer appended to the score have it. Jakob Kullberg (cello).