Various Artists

Dag Wirén: Violin Concerto; Triptych; Wind Quintet, Op. 42; String Quartet No. 5, Op. 41

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Swedish composer Dag Wirén developed a unique style after World War II, with multimovement works featuring the cyclical use of thematic material. His music was tonal and traditional in inspiration, but its economy was modern in spirit, and he seems to have followed the example above all of Jean Sibelius, whose late works began to move in the direction of concision. All four of the works recorded here are in three movements, and although the tonal palette varies considerably between the earliest (the Violin Concerto, Op. 23, of 1946) and the late Wind Quintet, Op. 42 (from 1971), the music is immediately identifiable as having a common composer. Wirén often writes themes that circle around a central note, emphasizing the relationships of important intervals with the notes and developing those relationships over the course of the work. The result is an unusual mixture of cheerful neo-classicism and rigorous intellect. The later works -- the Wind Quintet and the only slightly older String Quartet No. 5, Op. 41 -- may be the most effective, for the chamber medium was ideal for the communication of Wirén's ideas (and indeed much of his later output was devoted to chamber music). And the recordings, made at various times and compiled in 1990, don't entirely hold together sonically. But nothing on the disc is less than absorbing, and listeners and performers looking to find a middle path between modernist systems and traditional modes of expression should absolutely get to know this fine sampling of Wirén's music.

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