Audiophile Audition -
A gripping new work for our time served with excellent sonics
Ståle Kleiberg is one of Norway’s most distinguished composers. He has written a good deal of music, much of it as the result of a commission, and performances are given around the world.
Kleiberg’s music seems to me to have the flavor of the post-Impressionist, post-Duruflé, for example, an extension of very late Romanticism, included with his own distinctive use of more modern and highly effective aspects of tonality. As with Kleiberg’s earlier Requiem, and, for example, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the juxtaposition of familiar and traditional texts with the new, is both effective, each raising the value of the other.
The two fine soloists, soprano, Mari Eriksmoen, and baritone, Johannes Weisser communicate Jessica Gordon’s words with great sensitivity. The excellent Trondheim Choir and Trondheim Orchestra are on top form conducted by the very able Eivind Gullberg-Jensen.
Morten Lindberg’s fine sound is up to the usual 2L house standard, in other words, it continues to set the bar for sonic quality. The sense of realism without hi-fi gimmicks can only enhance listening pleasure.
This new work written for our time has impressed me greatly.
The Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg, born in 1958, is a major figure of contemporary music in his country. His repertory includes all the musical genres, and to cite a few, he is the author of a Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (1999), a Sonata for Flute and Piano (1987), a String Quartet (1985), an opera “David and Bathsheba” (2008), and a Requiem “For the victims of Nazi persecution” (2002).
With this recording, 2L brings us his latest composition of sacred music, “Mass for a Modern Man,” for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, dating from 2015. The score is composed of eight parts in which we find “classic” elements (Kyrie Eleison, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei), while parts 2, 4, and 6 are passages dedicated to the soloists singing in English in texts by Jessica Gordon, a British writer.
The work of Kleiberg, a proud neo-classicist, displays sincere emotion played by remarkable interpreters. With truly inspired creativity, this modern composition only asks to be listened to in order to savor its colors and its beauty.
(...) There are plenty of stunning harmonic progressions and moments of ecstasy throughout this work, and the Sanctus is a good case in point. This is music that goes straight to the heart, without pretension or overt sentimentality, though these are of course subjective responses - I'm sure there are those that will find this rather on the sweet side, while on the other it might even prove a bit too meaty for fans of John Rutter. To my mind it's best to drop preconceptions and just enjoy such a musical feast for what it is.
As ever, 2L’s recording is excellent. The booklet illustrates the microphone set-up and position of the musicians, and the realism is quite uncanny. The Olavshallen venue is warm rather than acoustically resonant, but with this there is no blurring of harmonies. I’ve listened in standard stereo and enjoyed every moment, but the difference in SACD surround makes all the difference in this case. The microphone array is set centrally with the musicians in a tight horseshoe around it, so surround-sound effect is really the intended final result. There are both stereo/SACD hybrid and Blu-ray discs in this package. Alas, my current system lacks Blu-ray but this is the sort of recording that would encourage me to explore such an option.
People talk of ‘musician’s musicians’ and ‘composer’s composers’, but I would consider Ståle Kleiberg a ‘listener’s composer.’ His ear for juicy orchestration, tight melodic direction and harmonic flow are superbly crafted and at times inspired, and if you are looking for works that will endure in years to come both for their musical content and depth of message this is one such place.