Esa-Pekka Salonen / Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Anders Hillborg: Sirens; Cold Heat; Beast Sampler

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The Scandinavian countries, with well-funded symphony orchestras, have been producing a new generation of composers who write for them. The best of these, a group that undoubtedly includes Anders Hillborg, have begun to attract attention and commissions from outside the region. Three of this group of four works from between 2010 and 2014 (Hillborg has been at it for decades) had commissioners from outside Sweden, and the mighty centerpiece, Sirens, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic (whose former music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducts it) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Sirens involved are those of Homer's Odyssey, and their words (in English) are drawn from various translations of that book, augmented by the words "we'd love to turn you on." The swirling opening passage, depicting the treacherous seas navigated by Ulysses, is worth the price of admission by itself, and the rest of the 33-minute work is packed with similarly vivid programmatic moments, seemingly hewn out of solid orchestral rock. The pair of sopranos representing the Sirens are are impressive indeed, sailing high above the variegated orchestral tumult. The shorter pieces that lead up to Sirens are all led by the conductors (except for the soprano aria O dessa ögon) who played a role in their commissioning. All have strong, accessible structures unmediated by any reference to tonality. BIS' engineering work at the Stockholm concert hall exceeds even the label's usual high standard. Strongly recommended.

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