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CD Review

Anders Hillborg

  • Violin Concerto
  • Clarinet Concerto (Peacock Tales)
  • Liquid Marble for Orchestra
Anna Lindal, violin
Martin Fröst, clarinet
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Ondine ODE1006-2 65m
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Anders Hillborg (b. 1954) is an experimental, omnivorous Swedish composer, very open minded and given to revisions – (an eight minute slow middle section was added after the first performance of the violin concerto in 1992 and the clarinet concerto went through numerous changes). Hillborg was suspicious of ordinary, virtuoso concertos but he compromised pragmatically to make his music playable by those who would perform it; and there is no shortage of virtuoso demands upon soloist and orchestra too. The violin concerto starts sounding fairly normal, then after five minutes goes wild; at twelve minutes there is a bird chorus with the violin accompanying. There are exquisitely beautiful passages of singing melody (at around 15') and 'banally brutal' passages, 'surreal – almost never sentimental', the sudden shifts and juxtapositions welcomed by the conductor, who has been closely associated with this composer.At c.20' there is a strange passage for strings alone, sounding aleoteric, then something a little like V-W's lark, savagely pushed aside by playful grotesqueries, Soon a moto perpetuo with Berio-like tremolo, dizzy slithering glissandi, petering out at the end over sustained chords for the strings – a fine, unpredictable invigorating mix which somehow works, and certainly keeps you wondering what's next for its 25 minutes unbroken span.

Liquid Marble is a powerful study drawing on thoughts of 'eruptions, flowing magma and lava' which, at its London Proms première on a night embedded in the nation's collective memory, fortuitously became for the audience a moving memorial meditation. The Swedish Orchestra's concert that evening was the only entertainment in the capital not cancelled, only because their plane was already on the way when the news broke of Princess Diana's death.

No programme notes are supplied with this otherwise excellent CD, just a rather indulgent interview between composer and conductor, with mutually congratulatory reminiscences, 'the doorbell rang and I was standing in my underwear' (ES) – that sort of thing. We are told nothing about the clarinet concerto except for its several versions, and a 'scream' which is 'reserved to Leif Segerstram'. So I will leave it for the music to work on you in its own terms, mentioning only that it makes use of the dedicatee's skills as a mime artist and dancer, but not in his recording here! Recording is up to Ondine's high standards; recommended to explorers.

Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf