On record – Rupert Marshall-Luck: Soul (TUTL)

Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin)

Baek Afturundirgero
Blak Alvarann; Bohmerlands Dronning
Debess Variations
Rasmussen Echoes of the Past

TUTL FHR90 [52’25”]

Producer Rupert Marshall-Luck
Engineer Theodor Kapnas

Recorded 2-3 April 2019

Written by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck takes time out from his extensive commitment to British music (and no less extensive schedule for the EM Records label) for this revealing collection of unaccompanied pieces by composers who were born or are resident in the Faroe Islands.

What’s the music like?

Although a self-governing region of Denmark across more than seven decades, classical or art music was slow in taking root in the Faroes, its music-making almost entirely vocal until the 1960s. As with its northerly neighbour Iceland, the creative scene has subsequently been transformed to the extent that these islands currently enjoy a profile out of all proportion to their population in terms of its range and diversity. Soul may only scratch the surface of this musical wealth, but it also underlines the potential of what might appear a restricted medium.

This disc sets off unequivocally with Echoes of the Past by Sunleif Rasmussen (b1961), an eventful sequence of episodes such as makes full use of the violin’s potential for heightened expression and meaningful display; all the while given focus by a trajectory as unfolds from combative unease towards a searching if tenuous repose. Quite a contrast with Variations for Solo Violin by Edvard Nyholm Debess (b1960), its traditional Faroese hymn-tune providing the basis for six variations which draw on a range of textural and emotional shading, without losing sight of the intrinsic character of the theme before its affecting return. More discursive in its content is Afturundirgero by Kari Baek (b1950), evoking a seascape in which turbulent cross-currents are vividly conveyed through harmonic clashes by turns soulful and astringent.

The remaining two pieces are both by Kristian Black (b1947), born in Denmark but resident over many years in Torshavn where he has been a prime mover in the emergence as well as dissemination of Faroese classical music – not least via his enterprising label TUTL Records. Inspired by a ballad about the Danish queen, Bohmerlands Dronning unfolds as a rhapsody in which various aspects of the ballad can be heard to permeate the content and influence the direction of what is eloquent and ultimately fatalistic music. Blak’s Alvarann also takes its cue from a Faroese ballad, though here progress is audibly more quixotic as the violin charts a course from subdued anticipation, via the steady accumulation of energy, to an impetuous culmination whose unbridled virtuosity leaves no mean drama and even anguish in its wake.

Does it all work?

Yes, not least in that these five pieces amount to a programme the sum of which is greater than its parts and which – given the relatively short playing-time – is best experienced as a whole. A tribute, then, to the resourcefulness of the composers as well as to Marshall-Luck, who renders each work with that combination of interpretative insight and technical finesse familiar from his performances and recordings of British music. More pieces for violin solo, or with piano accompaniment, would be worth encountering – maybe as a follow-up disc?

Is it recommended?

Indeed. The Faroes are a nexus of creativity within the European cultural framework, as this disc makes plain.

Readers can check out the Summartonar Festival of Contemporary Music here, and the TUTL website by clicking here

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For more information on Rupert Marshall-Luck and on this release, visit his artist website

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