Magazine article Gramophone

Karlsson: Seven Songs to Texts by Par Lagerqvist

Magazine article Gramophone

Karlsson: Seven Songs to Texts by Par Lagerqvist

Article excerpt

Karlsson

Seven Songs to Texts by Par Lagerqvist (a).

Clarinet Concerto (b)

(a) Gabriel Suovanen bar (b) Christoffer Sundqvist cl

Lapland Chamber Orchestra / John Storgards

BIS (F) [SACD] BIS2286 (55' * DDD/DSD * T/t)

Gabriel Suovanen suggested Lars Karlsson (b1953) write a song-cycle for him when the two men ran into one another at a Helsinki tram stop. And just as the history of Nordic music is criss-crossed with incidents relating to trams, so Karlsson's cycle is very much rooted in the song tradition of Oskar Merikanto, Leevi Madetoja and Toivo Kuula. Expressionist texts by the Swedish Nobel laureate Par Lagerkvist, filled with nature metaphors and charting a journey from the existential angst of youth to the contemplative acceptance of death, only reinforce the idea.

But there's a vital difference between being rooted in a tradition and immersing yourself in it, which is where I find Karlsson's Seven Songs troubling. There's nothing wrong with writing in a tonal idiom per se, of course, but to my ears Karlsson doesn't sufficiently add to, refract or reimagine the tonal language of the 19th and early 20th centuries or the shape and formulas of its melodies. …

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