Ensemble Allegria presents here a combination of works as an invitation to enjoyment as well as reflection. We are offered variations, metamorphoses and fragments, three different artistic working concepts. Variation and metamorphosis are similar artistic tools inasmuch as the material to be used is workable and encourages modification. At the same time, the basic material is recognizable or, in any case, reconstructible. Music cannot be created out of nothing. Whether deliberate or not, we find metamorphosis and variation in all compositions of a certain scope. Of course in the works heard here the motif of transformation is intended. And whereas musical variations — as with Benjamin Britten — typically retain a theme’s form and length more or less unaltered, a metamorphosis — as Richard Strauss calls his work — can by contrast pertain to everything from the shortest motifs to entire movements. A fragment — a form often associated with Romanticism — is on the other hand an idea that has not reached a final form and remains an intimation of something more. Lars Petter Hagen’s Strauss Fragments were commissioned by Ensemble Allegria.
Metamorphosis is a Greek expression simply meaning transformation. We find the motif of transformation in other art forms of course. Especially well known is the Roman Ovid’s sweeping narrative poem Metamorphoses from the beginning of the Christian era, and Franz Kafka’s story “Die Verwandlung”, published in 1915, about Gregor Samsa, who one morning awakens in the body of a huge and hideous insect.
All three composers on this album stand in debt to an older colleague. Britten had a close association with his teacher Frank Bridge and reveals this through his variations. Strauss explicitly cites Ludwig van Beethoven’s third symphony in his Metamorphoses, and Hagen’s composition is based on this latter work. Composing on the basis of music one does not hold in high regard often results in a caricature. This is by no means the case here.
Ensemble Allegria ranks among Norway’s finest music ensembles and is known for combining its high artistic standard with spontaneity and flexibility. The orchestra consists of 25 permanent musicians and has from the beginning been managed by the musicians themselves under the artistic direction of Maria Angelika Carlsen. In addition to its own concert series “NÅ” in Oslo, Ensemble Allegria has performed at large music festivals in Norway and appeared with some of the world’s leading soloists, including Tine Thing Helseth, Martin Fröst, Truls Mørk, Lawrence Power, Kathryn Stott and Benjamin Schmid. The ensemble has released four recordings on the LAWO Classics label, two of which were nominated for Spellemannprisen, Norway’s Grammy. In recent years the ensemble has worked closely together with the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir on a number of concert projects and recordings. In 2018 the orchestra received the prestigious Diapason d’or de l’année award for its recording of Bach’s motets.
This album is available exclusively in DSD 512, 256, 128, 64 and DXD. It is not available on SACD.
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:03:47
|Original Recording Format
|October 21, 2022
Opening with the always welcome Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge by Benjamin Britten, the Ensemble Allegria shows themselves to be a very capable and enjoyable string ensemble. The reverberant acoustics of Sofienberg Church, Oslo, prove nicely suited for their atmospheric performance of this piece. As I listen, I am fondly reminded of the William Boughton, English String Orchestra recording on Nimbus from many years ago, but now in much better sound quality. And this is no slight compliment to this performance and recording. A very welcome addition to the music library here!
…The album closes with Richard Strauss’ complete Metamorphoses—24 minutes of sublime music exceptionally well performed. This work is a total immersion exercise. Twenty-three solo strings create surges and streams of sound that are at times most bewildering. Ten violins, five violas, five cellos and three double basses—what delightful excess!
Overall, highly recommended.
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