The NyNorsk Brass Quintet (Nynorsk Messingkvintett) conducted by Christian Eggen are joined by a host of guest musicians on the new release Hornflowers. The album features performances of the music of composer Nils Henrik Asheim.
In our time, the poet Keats’ famous adage “beauty is truth, truth beauty” might sound like a lost dream, but Nils Henrik Asheim’s collection Hornflowers, reimagines this relationship and brings hope to contemporary ears. Asheim is not a beauty-worshipping esthetician in the same way as Keats, but he examines the idea of beauty through poetic compositions.
Today, beauty and truth appear as opposites truths are disputed and dismantled, while reality can come across as anything but beautiful. The works on this release, performed by the NyNorsk Brass Quintet, are also full of contradictions. Collected fragments, sounds, patterns, words, and dichotomies are utilized as building blocks, freed from their original context, and strung together in surprising and powerful constellations.
Asheim has also given several of the piece’s oxymoronic titles, like “Burning Ice”, “Singing Stones”, and “Scream Soft”, and by this invites the listener to reflect upon differences of opinion and improbable compilations.
The brass instruments occupy and explore spaces we do not normally hear them occupy undressed and playful and their obvious natural place and inclusion in these constructions is both astonishing and liberating. It is precisely in the surprises, in the contrasts, in the distance between the building blocks and the grout that holds them together, that the uniqueness and tactility of this music is revealed.
In this way, Asheim creates his own musical lyricism where beauty and truth are exposed through contradictions and improbabilities.
NyNorsk Brass Quintet (Nynorsk Messingkvintett)
Erlend Aagaard-Nilsen – Trumpet
Jørgen Arnesen – Trumpet
Daniel Weiseth Kjellesvik – Horn
Ingebjørg Bruket – Trombone
Berger Iver Færder – Tuba
Anders Eidsten Dahl – Organ
Jennifer Torrence – Percussion
Sunniva Rodland – Harp
Guro Bjørnstad Kraft, Sebastian Haukås – Trumpet
Marie Solum Gran, Lena Wik, Benedicte Elnes – Horn
Simen Rudi Solbakken – Trombone
Anders Dalhaug – Bass Trombone
Total time: 01:02:42
Anders Dalhaug, Anders Eidsten Dahl, Benedicte Elnes, Christian Eggen, Guro Bjørnstad Kraft, Jennifer Torrence, Lena Wik, Marie Solum Gran, NyNorsk Brass Quintet, Sebastian Haukås, Simen Rudi Solbakken, Sunniva Rodland
Arts Council Norway, Fund for Performing Artists, Norwegian Society of Composers
|Original Recording Format|
Bragernes Church in Drammen on April 29, 2019, May 1, 2019, September 20, 2019 and November 18, 2019 and Sofienberg Church in Oslo in March 4, 2020
|Release Date||August 19, 2021|
Klassisk Musikk (Classical Music)
I really like this album. Lawo has collected five works by Nils Henrik Asheim (b. 1960) that involve brass instruments – from solo tuba, a duo with a percussionist, to an ensemble with twelve performers (plus harp) – for a lively and varied program.
The core element is the Nynorsk Brass Quintet, where a member – Berger Iver Færder – plays solo tuba in the convincing duo Scream Soft (2002). The quintet alone can only be heard in the two versions of the title track, Hornflowers (2019), a mosaic of 22 short vignettes, all named after a Norwegian mountain flower. The names can be recited by the musicians as the title of each vignette; the whole work lasts less than twelve minutes when played this way, as it is done on track 2. Without the spoken element, as on track 6, the final track, the duration will be one minute less. Both versions work very well, and the effect is, as the album booklet’s program author Nina Nielsen aptly describes, “a kind of musical sketchbook in botany“.
The album opens with Singing Stones (2017), a sextet for brass and organ (performed live by Anders Eidsten Dahl) based on the 16th century version of Luther’s Our God he is so firm a castle. Asheim’s treatment of the old hymn is not reverent in the ordinary sense, but the devotion to the melody shows great respect. As an opening track, it is exciting and drew me into the record.
The other tracks do not disappoint. Most exciting is the aforementioned duo, Scream Soft, with Færder and Jennifer Torrence who form an impressive community in the navigation through a musical landscape with thematic escape and special effects – including electronics and Færder’s singing through the tuba. Torrence also plays in Burning Ice (1999), the album’s earliest work. Asheim explains that the idea was «the notion of the movement in the frozen». The brass instruments in this context are the ice, which slowly melts – or burns – from the percussion.
The smallest work requires the largest crew: Grieg’s Chord (1993, rev 2007) is also the only work with a Norwegian title. It is written for quartets with trumpets and horns, three trombones, tuba and harp, and the melodic material is taken from “Solveig’s Song” in Grieg’s Peer Gynt music. It was composed for the Grieg anniversary in 1993 and gives an imaginative treatment of the material and a nice tribute to Norway’s foremost composer, even though the harpist Sunniva Rødland sounds a bit lost in all the brass. (A lesson in how to write for the combination harp and brass is to listen to Hindemith’s Concert Music for piano, brass and harps, Op 49.) Still incredibly great performances, and great sound from Lawo.
Classical Music Blog
Nils Henrik Asheim is one of our truly productive composers. On this album, the NyNorsk Brass Quintet conveys new and slightly older works that really enrich the music literature.
Two of the works have been commissioned by the NyNorsk Brass Quintet – and only since the establishment of the quintet in 2016 have they commissioned and premiered no less than 26 works. To put it mildly, impressive!
The two new works presented here both have a concrete backdrop. “Singing Stones” (2017) uses fragments from the choral “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” by Stephane Mahus (d. 1541) – and Asheim creates from this a very concrete soundscape, where he imagines cathedral stones, colliding cars and broken iron. Suitable background carpet for an adult and appealing brass sound, with a touch of a good portion of imagination and spiced with a beautiful organ sound.
“Hornflower” from 2019 is also of the very specific kind. 22 small miniatures make an exciting bouquet of named flowers. Hornflower is of course no flower, but in my head Asheim combines fantasies and thoughts about the plant kingdom and the mineral kingdom in his application to create an exciting brass sound. And it succeeds!
And when you as a composer are careful in your planning, you often get a musical result that is both descriptive and fascinating to listen to.
Plata’s three other works are older musical writings. It’s fun to get a rehearsal with “Burning Ice” from 1999 which was previously recorded by Arctic Brass, and then we get an exciting meeting with the quintet’s tuba player Berger Iver Færder and the percussionist Jennifer Torrence in “Scream Soft”. Here, tuba games of the highest brand are presented.
On the album’s latest work “Grieg’s Chord”, the quintet is visited by a good team of extra musicians, so that the instrumentation consists of 12 brass players and harp – led by Christian Eggen. Here is a small phrase from Grieg’s “Solveig’s song” that Asheim has used to create a soundtrack that is more than appealing.
Musicians in the quintet, as well as the recording’s 10 extra musicians – have created a record that is exciting to listen to. The music is simply impressive!
The compositions on this album revolve around the question of what is considered beautiful in today’s world. From all kinds of components, which also develop only from fragments or sounds, but also take up language, like the newly created Hornflowers, Nils-Henrik Asheim develops a lively and varied language. Corresponding to the short structure of the initial elements, this often has a staccato or percussive form and only hesitantly develops longer lines. Nevertheless, he shapes his music in a narratively poetic way.
Based on the collaboration between composer Asheim and the NyNorsk Brass Quintet, this release features two new compositions, Hornflowers and Singing Stones. The three other earlier brass works complete the program, with additional players added to the instrumentation for brass quintet. Organ, Harp, and Percussion along with conductors and seven additional wind players, for example, give Grieg’s chord almost symphonic grandeur.
The NyNorsk Brass Quintet, consisting of trumpeters Erlend Aagaard-Nilsen and Jørgen Arnesen, horn player Daniel Weiseth Kjellesvik, trombonist Ingebjørg Bruket and tuba player Berger Iver Færder, specializes in new Norwegian music and has already premiered 26 works in its five years of existence. Here they develop from their intensive collaboration with Nils-Henrik Asheim a diversely mixed view of his oeuvre, from which they extract all the charms with their metallic and yet always well-formed sound.
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