If all contemporary violin concertos were as accessible as this, concert promoters would have an easier time of it. Norwegian composer Ståle Kleiberg doesn’t necessarily push any boundaries, but his crowd-pleasing style of Romanticism overlaid with a bleak, Nordic edge is complex and rich enough to excite and yet is surprisingly easy on the ear. The ever-excellent Marianne Thorsen warms to her compatriot’s soulful, singing melodies, soaring over some beautifully coloured and intricate orchestral textures in the first movement and throwing herself into a flying-fingered cadenza in the more dreamlike second. The tripping Stravinskian Finale bowls along with irresistible flair and energy, climaxing in another tautly driven solo from Thorsen.
A delicately shaded double bass concerto follows, and here Kleiberg underlines his mastery at allowing the solo instrument space to speak above the orchestra, at times caught up in fleeting romances with solo wind instruments; at others piercing through the texture with bell-like, dancing, folk-like themes on high harmonics; and, in the final movement, retreating to a bustling theme in its deepest register underneath lush string pizzicato. Swedish soloist Göran Sjölin rises to the challenges with commitment and finds the haunting beauty in Kleiberg’s melancholy phrases. The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra is elegantly directed by Daniel Reuss, and the ensemble is enriched by a rosy, bright recorded sound.
From the September 2009 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.