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Ståle Kleiberg is an award-winning Norwegian composer with a very productive career in numerous music genres. Mezzotints is a collection of works written for solo and chamber ensembles over the past decade and a half.
As the program listed below readily demonstrates, Kleiberg exploits a number of musical styles. The composer also pays homage to some of his musical forbears such as Bela Bartok and possibly Claude Debussy. The players on this program are Marianne Thorsen (violin), Bard Monsen (second violin in the String Quartet), Ole Wuttudal (viola), Oyvind Gimse (cello), and Jorgen Larsen (piano) and they surely give this often-challenging music its due.
String Quartet No.2 (16:00)
Ruf und Nachklang (Reputation and Resonance) (14:45)
Piano Trio No. 2 (14:19)
Sonata for Violin and Cello (11:47)
Sonanza e Cadenza (9:42)
String Quartet No. 2 is a probing piece with its three movements having an Adagio-Allegro-Adagio, rubato form like Bartok’s second string quartet. Its third movement quotes from the finale of the Berg Violin Concerto. Ruf und Nachklang explores the sonorities of the piano, particularly its unique resonances, and while it occasionally sounds as improvised as a jazz solo, it is as deliberately structured as is a Debussy prelude.
Ashes, inspired by the Edvard Munch painting of the same title, depicts two characters, one introverted resignation, and the other, extroverted despair. There is a meditative nature to this piece and it certainly turns more inward than outward. The single-movement Piano Trio No.2 seems to be Debussy-inspired with its impressionistic piano melodies supported by sympathetic strings.
There are not many works for a violin and cello duo and this three-movement Sonata begins with a dissonant conversation between the two stringed instruments and concludes with a rapid-fire tarantella with many shades of Bartok. The last work on this program, Sonanza e cadenza, is for violin and piano and is also the earliest. As this is not a sonata, the two instruments do play separately and not in unison and ends with a bravura violin solo that seems unfinished.
This album was recorded at the Sofienberg Church in Oslo, Norway. This church seems to be a nearly ideal venue for chamber recordings.
By definition, a mezzotint is an ancient method of making prints that is noteworthy for its ability to make images of graduated shades out of black and white. In the case of Mezzotints, we get music for chamber ensemble and soloists that will continually pique your interest.
Each work presents an amalgam of interesting concepts that are well executed by these fine players. This is an album that is quite worthy of your attention and one that will make you anxious to hear more of Kleiberg’s compositions.
Attractive Chamber Music from Norway
The Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg, born in 1958, belongs to the other modernity, that is not to say, who pretends to be writing contemporary music, but to the one that is more traditional, more concise, less abstract. The neo-romanticist Kleiberg belongs to this modern age.
His Second String Quartet opens with a grim adagio that Shostakovich could have written. This is followed by a rhythmic Allegro, which in turn leads to another Adagio, but not as dark as the first and passionately increases.
Two solo pieces, 'Ashes' for violin (very virtuoso) and 'Ruf und Nachklang for piano' (slightly melancholic) complete a program that gives a good insight into the composer's chamber music work.
The piano trio is rhythmically urgent, giving the piano a priority position.
The Neo-romantic Violin Sonata is characterized by a passionate singing, while the following Adagio with his dreamy gesture slowly leads to the final movement, which attains a nervous character through a spiraling theme. The last work, 'Sonanza e cadenza', is particularly original. In a somewhat snappy dialogue, the piano and violin face each other.
So here we are dealing with a thoroughly stimulating program that does not leave the listener without a trace. Stale Kleiberg's music is interesting, sounds good and has something to say. The interpreters deserve as much praise as the sound engineers, who have provided a very good and natural-looking recording.
Stale Kleiberg’s neo-romantic chamber music has a lot to tell, as one can hear in these excellent and passionate performances. The recorded sound is outstanding.
Opus Haute Definition
On Mezzotints, Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg is honored with six chamber music pieces. Music that is not, of course, the only source of inspiration for this musician, born in 1958, who also composed for the symphonic and religious genre with a Requiem in particular.
The program of this album offers the String Quartet No. 2, in three movements, "Ruf und Nachklang", in two movements, "Ashes", a small piece of less than four minutes, the Piano Trio No. 2, in one movement, the Sonata for violin and cello, in three movements, and finally, "Sonanza e cadenza" a piece of ten minutes.
The musicians performing these works are Marianne Thorsen on violin, Oyvind Gimse on cello, Bard Monsen on violin, Ole Wuttudal on viola and Jorgen Larsen on piano. In a sound recording that is, as expected, an exemplary one by Morten Lindberg, this album will enchant many music lovers with the chamber music of an endearing composer.
Ståle Kleiberg is a contemporary Norwegian composer who should command major international attention. His sound-world is conventionally tonal, influenced perhaps by Barber and Debussy, and also (according to the very pretentiously written booklet essay) Berg and Bartók. The booklet describes an emotionally reticent composer, whose chamber music is private and whose meanings are hidden. That may be so, but in Kleiberg’s sense of harmony, I also sense a physical openness: the outdoors, or even an open window with cool air coming in under the sash. I found a lot to enjoy here and will be exploring more of this composer’s music.
The String Quartet No. 2 (2012) is two slow movements with a faster one in the center; the first movement has an insistence and tension which suggest that it is building up to some heart-rending climax, which, however, never arrives. The finale, by contrast, is a leave-taking, in which the first violinist has a prominent, almost concertante role.
Piano Trio No. 2 (2002) demonstrates Kleiberg’s typical knack for dramatic, memorable opening gestures, this time string instruments plunging downward over repeated high piano chords. This idea is developed and contemplated in various ways; the instruments change roles, and sometimes the downward figure turns upside-down, ascending into a major key. In lyrical central passages, I am reminded of how little Kleiberg’s sound-world fits our stereotypes about “Nordic” composers; instead, it seems indebted to Americans most of all, and in this piece, there is even a bittersweet hint of Brahms or Fauré. These comparisons are merely to help the reader judge whether (s)he wants to hear the disc: Kleiberg’s voice is very much his own, and not derivative or imitative.
The Sonata for Violin and Cello (2001) starts out calm, almost prosaic, but builds to dramatic things, and here I am reminded of Martin?. After a big first-movement climax, the cello is briefly allowed an impassioned solo. The finale is especially passionate. It strikes me, here, that none of the music on this album is necessarily “happy”. And Sonanza e cadenza (1998) confirms that pattern. I’m not sure what “sonanza” means, but the piece opens with alternating solos for violin and piano, advancing their own variations on a theme; eventually, the violinist rounds things out with the promised cadenza.
The album has two solo pieces in addition to the chamber music. Ruf und Nachklang (Call and Echo, 2013) starts with a declaratory, somewhat dissonant statement by the pianist, then develops that idea in softer, subtler ways. The adagio finale is touching; I think of the pulse of Ravel, the harmonies of Barber or Griffes. Ashes (2010) is a very short work for solo violin, highly melodic and full of double-stopping and other virtuoso effects. It seems to end arbitrarily, on a few pizzicato notes, as if the soloist has grown tired.
2L’s notes make us understand that the composer and performers worked closely together, and we can assume that the excellent performances here, by some of Norway’s leading soloists and chamber players, represent Kleiberg’s ideal or something very close to it. Surely Kleiberg will be flattered by the overall production from the 2L label. The booklet essayist places him directly in a line stretching back to Haydn.
This is excellent music, and especially for those who are “afraid” of contemporary music, a fascinating prospect. I will seek out 2L’s other recordings of Kleiberg immediately.