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Recent CD releases


World premiere on CD: Anders Hillborg's The Strand Settings. ”Anders Hillborg gives us a vision of what classical music can be”, says the soprano Renée Fleming.

Distant Light

Renée Fleming has recorded a new CD with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and its chief conductor Sakari Oramo, released on Decca in January 2017. It contains Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Anders Hillborg's The Strand Settings (world premiere) and three songs by Björk, orchestrated by Hans Ek.

”Radiant Renée triumphs in both Barber and Björk . . . Fleming shows with this ambitious album that she is far from renouncing musical frolics . . . there’s quintessential Fleming repertoire on it -- a gorgeous performance of Samuel Barber’s ”Knoxville: Summer of 1915” . . . There’s a much more ghostly atmosphere in Hillborg’s writing, though, with especially effective use of shimmering string clusters. And he also supplies a vocal line tailor made for Fleming, with opportunities galore for her to soar above the stave like some majestic ocean liner riding the gentle swell supplied by the Royal Stockholm Orchestra . . .” Richard Morrison, The Times (London) / 06. January 2017

”In his song-cycle ”The Strand Settings”, Anders Hillborg shows how well music can enter this dream-like world where emotions and nature intertwine. At once alluring and uneasy, the songs are a gift for Renée Fleming, whose siren-like soprano draws the listener on to the unknown. The atmosphere is potently captured by Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.” Richard Fairman, Financial Times (London) / 07. January 2017

”Drawn from poet Mark Strand’s meditations on grief, The Strand Settings share a Nordic spareness with late Sibelius but use that manner in personal, candid ways that examine the pain of abandonment with resignation rather than histrionics, reaching beyond mere heartbreak and into existential crisis. Some moments have cinematic shifts in instrumental colour as the words veer between imagination and hallucination, and go from night-time darkness to bleach-out sunlight. /.../ Fleming is in her best voice for Hillborg, sometimes digging into her lower range with great effect but also resorting to breathy mannerisms to characterise awed disbelief at the visions at hand. As with later Elisabeth Schwarzkopf recordings, though, the mannerisms are undeniably effective.” David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone (London) / 01. February 2017

Roots

With Martin Fröst. Released in December 2016 (Sony Classical)

”Clarinettist Martin Fröst’s eclectic tastes are part of what makes him such an interesting artist. Roots – loosely, an exploration of how folk and dance music filter into art music – sees those tastes leading him into very persuasive performances of folk-influenced works by Brahms, Schumann, Falla and others, but they also bring a few tracks on which “ancient” music is given a quasi-mystical, new-agey patina that renders it toothless. The opening track is a mix of ancient Greek chants and Hildegard of Bingen, in which Fröst duets with a distant-sounding girls’ choir; shades of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, with less bite. Bartók’s Romanian folk dances, however, have all the teeth one could want. Piazzolla’s La Muerte del Angel, punchy and languid by turns, is another highlight, and it’s hard not to dance along to the rollicking Rolig Pers Polska, which begins with Fröst doing a spot of beatboxing.”
Erica Jeal, The Guardian

Sirens

Music by Anders Hillborg. Released in November 2015 (BIS Records). Swedish Grammy Award 2016.

”The score is unpacked with great care by Esa-Pekka Salonen, with Ida Falk Winland and Holgersson as the entwining soprano soloists. All the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic performances, under Sakari Oramo for Beast Sampler and O Dessa Ögon and David Zinman for Cold Heat, are first-rate; there seems to be no doubt that orchestras enjoy playing Hillborg’s music.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

”Oramo, who rarely disappoints, keeps it all on track; the recording is a stunner, surpassing Eleven Gates for sheer thrust, intensity and detail. /.../ There’s a strange majesty to Hillborg’s writing here, with unexpected rhythmic irruptions from time to time. It’s all strongly characterised and powerfully projected; incidentally, the marvellous trombone players and the various drummers must be mentioned in dispatches. In short, Cold Heat is incredibly fertile and engaging music; indeed, I found myself reaching for the Repeat button several times during the course of this review. /.../ Sirens opens with a series of sea-surging glissandi, and it’s not long before we hear the voices that drew those ancient mariners towards a treacherous shore. The scoring is understated and transparent; as for the two sopranos, Ida Falk Winland and Hannah Holgersson, they sustain their impossibly long and often stratospheric lines with a poise and precision that’s just astonishing. The two choirs acquit themselves well, too. More important, especially in this epic context, Sirens has a compelling narrative that both enthrals and enchants. The orchestral underpinnings are modest, the effects profound, and it all has a quiet beauty – an ineffable sadness, too – that’s deeply affecting.
Dan Morgan, MusicWeb International

Carl Nielsen Symphonies 1–6

3 CDs released 2013–2015 (BIS Records). The CD with Symphonies 1 and 3 received the BBC Music Magazine Award for best orchestral recording in 2016.

”On the basis of this first instalment with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, he [Oramo] does not disappoint... Oramo's accounts are now the likely first choice among recent versions.”
International Record Review (on Symphonies 4 and 5)

”Goodness, this is a Nielsen First to sweep listeners off their feet and blow old favourites into the proverbial weeds. [...] Punishing dynamics and a wide, deep sound-stage make this the most immersive and exciting version of this symphony that I know.”
Dan Morgan, Musicweb International (on Symphonies 1 and 3)

”Playing with dynamite. Sakari Oramo is spot on in early Nielsen” 
Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine (on Symphonies 1 and 3)

”There are many fine versions of the Sinfonia Semplice [Symfoni nr 6] in the catalogue, but in the face of Oramo’s overwhelming account there’s little point in trotting them out for comparison. To put it bluntly, this the most penetrating, the most complete, account of Nielsen’s last symphony that I have ever encountered. Oramo’s Four Temperaments, which has all the variety and character one could possibly want, isn’t far behind. Both performances seem so unassailably right, and the committed – nay, audacious – playing of the Stockholm Philharmonic is a wonder to behold. A feisty, unfettered Second and a benchmark Sixth; a triumph for all concerned.”
Dan Morgan, Musicweb International (on Symphonies 2 and 6)