On Record – Anders Paulsson, Christian Lindberg – Anders Eliasson: Symphonies 3 & 4, Trombone Concerto (BIS)

Anders Eliasson
Symphony no.3 (1989/2010) (a)
Symphony no.4 (2005) (b)
Trombone Concerto (2000) (c)

Anders Paulsson (soprano saxophone) (a), Christian Lindberg (trombone) (c), Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra / Johannes Gustavsson (a), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra / Sakari Oramo (b) and (c)

BIS 2368SACD [77’03”]

Producers Thore Brinkmann (a) Hans Kipfer and Mats Engström (b) and (c) Engineers Andreas Ruge (a), Fabian Frank (b), Mathias Spitzbarth (c)
Dates: (a) – 8-10 November 2017, Concert Hall, Gothenburg; (b) 23 September 2011, (c) 11 January 2020, Konserthuset, Stockholm

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

BIS issues a follow-up to its ‘4 X Anders Eliasson’ (BIS2270) in this no less fine collection of his Third and Fourth Symphonies – together with a first recorded outing for the Trombone Concerto and featuring musicians who have long been associated with the Swedish composer.

What’s the music like?

Anders Eliasson (1947-2013) enjoyed an ambivalent relationship with the symphony. Among the most notable debuts in the genre of the post-war era, his First Symphony (1986, recorded on Caprice under CAP 21381) prompted a successor as failed to progress beyond sketches, with the Fourth intended as initial part of a trilogy that never materialized due to his untimely death, though the Fifth was commissioned with a date set for its premiere. There are also two chamber symphonies, with the violin concerto Solitary Journey (2010) arguably a symphony in all but designation.

Written for and frequently performed by American-born saxophonist John-Edward Kelly, the Third Symphony was written for alto (Neos NEOS11301) but later revised for soprano sax. Despite Kelly’s objections, this latter instrument undeniably merges even more effectively within its orchestral context. Anders Paulson has its measure as he traverses its five continuous sections – from an agitatedly expectant Quest, via the guardedly expressive Solitude and assaultive Shudders, to a plaintively affecting Sad before dissolving into the postlude that is Mists.

A decade on and the Trombone Concerto continues this integrative and inherently symphonic approach. As with Eliasson’s earlier concertos there are three continuous movements, though here a slow-fast-slow sequence opens with a ruminative Adagio that acts as ‘prologue’ to an extensive Allegro moderato whose frequent restraint yet requires a dexterity and incisiveness such as dedicatee Christian Lindberg typically meets head-on. A keen momentum is no less evident across its eventful course, prior to the ruminative Lento that duly serves as ‘epilogue’.

One of Eliasson’s most often heard works since its Munich premiere, the Fourth Symphony is among his most characteristic in its formal and expressive aims. Here a powerfully wrought Allegro summons up some of this composer’s most uninhibited music; evolving with no little motivic ingenuity to an Adagio whose concertante role for flugelhorn, eloquently rendered by Joakim Agnas, exudes a wistfully evocative tone. A scherzo-like section marked ‘threatening’ then builds to a climax, from where a brief Adagio returns the flugelhorn for a subdued envoi.

Does it all work?

Yes. Although his music could never be mistaken for that of his predecessor Allan Pettersson, Eliasson was similarly unequivocal in a musical language whose seriousness of purpose does not preclude lightness of touch or barbed humour. The latter two pieces here find his idiom at its most refined, unfolding with a cumulative inevitability that could be thought Nordic in its ethos. Performances are uniformly committed, and hopefully Sakari Oramo might yet take the Fourth Symphony to London in his ongoing association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. The sound is on a par with BIS’s numerous other recordings from its Gothenburg and Stockholm venues, with Peter Kislinger’s annotations as informed and insightful as expected given his long-time advocacy of Eliasson’s music. Further such releases would be welcome.

For further information and purchasing options, visit the BIS website For more information on Anders Eliasson, click here, while you can click on the artist names for the websites of Anders Paulsson, Christian Lindberg, Johannes Gustavsson and Sakari Oramo, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

On Record: Håkan Hardenberger – Dean: Dramatis Personae; Francesconi: Hard Pace (BIS)

Dean Dramatis Personae (2013), Francesconi Hard Pace (2007)

Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet), Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra / John Storgårds


What’s it all about?

Håkan Hardenberger returns with a further two concertos to add to the sizable number he has commissioned over these past three decades, as written by two leading composers from the middle generation whose musical aesthetics complement each other in almost every respect.

What’s the music like?

Well established as a violist before turning successfully to composition, Brett Dean (b1961) has several concertos among his output. As its title attests, Dramatis Personae evinces overtly dramatic connotations – not least those of Hamlet, an opera on which Shakespeare play Dean began writing immediately after the present work. Not that this concerto is about existential angst; rather it favours a distinctly sardonic take on the heroic concept – its initial movement, Fall of a Superhero, building from an anticipatory crescendo to an animated if increasingly fatigued interplay as subsides into enervated calm. Soliloquy proceeds as reflective dialogue whose elegiac quality takes on a renewed impetus in The Accidental Revolutionary, whose Chaplinesque humour reaches its apogee in the knockabout recessional which acts as coda.

A composer whose formative years were focussed on electronics, jazz and production, Luca Francesconi (b1956) has amassed a comparably diverse output where instrumental virtuosity is everywhere apparent. Not least in Hard Pace, a trumpet concerto that takes its cue from one of the instrument’s great practitioners. Although he never wrote or commissioned a concerto, Miles Davis delved extensively into those possibilities of varied accompaniment and sound diffusion everywhere audible in the Francesconi. This falls into two parts, the first building from eventful stasis to hectic activity before it suddenly ceases. The second part consists of three increasingly shorter sections – a taciturn Adagio whose emotional intensity spills over into the semi-cadenza of Miles, before the brief Finale brings matters to a decisive close.

Does it all work?

Yes. Neither of these concertos takes the all-round possibilities of the trumpet forward to the same degree as Peter Eötvös’s Jet Stream or Olga Neuwirth’s …miramondo multiplo… (both of which have been recorded by Hardenberger), but there can be no doubt as to their success in terms of demonstrating the instrument’s essential demeanour. That this is Hardenberger’s fourth disc of works for trumpet and orchestra on this label, moreover, wholly confirms his dedication to expanding what was once a genre proscribed both temporally and expressively.

The time has long gone when trumpeters searching for concertos outside of the Baroque or Classical eras had little more than that by Alexander Arutunian to draw on, for which sea-change Hardenberger can take no mean credit. His stentorian playing in both these pieces is further enhanced by an excellent contribution from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Storgårds with sure understanding of that expressive ebb-and-flow between soloist and orchestra. Both the SACD sound and booklet notes are well up to BIS’s customary standards.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. A welcome and impressive addition to a discography which, formerly on Philips and latterly on BIS, has no equals when it comes to defining a repertoire for the trumpet such as younger practitioners can take forward in the knowledge its potential is far from exhausted.

Richard Whitehouse

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