Klas Torstensson: Intermezzo & Epilogue from the Expedition; Self-Portrait with Percussion

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins

Swedish composer Klas Torstensson (born 1951) settled in the Netherlands and established an international career. He is best known for his orchestral music and for his opera The Expedition, which was premiered at the 1999 Holland Festival. This CD includes two substantial excerpts from his opera and his concerto Self-portrait with percussion. The concerto is not a traditional virtuoso powerhouse whose main intent is to showcase the soloist, but more of a multi-movement symphonic poem in which the percussion contributes significant coloristic elements. Torstensson's writing is raw and elemental sounding, governed not so much by traditional compositional procedures as a persuasive attempt to capture both the patterns and unpredictability of natural processes. Each of the movements (except for the ninth, which relies on some hackneyed jazz elements) is memorably colorful and gesturally unique; overall, this is an exceptionally attractive and powerful piece. Percussionist Peppie Wiersma and the ASKO Ensemble, led by Hans Leenders, deliver a performance that's by turns poetic and harrowing. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alan Gilbert, and soprano Charlotte Riedijk perform Intermezzo & Epilogue. The Intermezzo, for orchestra alone, inhabits much the same sound world as the concerto (and features the percussion just about as prominently), except for occasional outbursts of post-Romantic passion that force themselves, somewhat tortuously, out of the craggy landscape. The effect is remarkably fresh and emotionally charged. The Epilogue includes a soprano, with a text by the fiancée of one of the explorers lost in the expedition. It's a little too explicitly Andriessen-esque to be fully satisfactory, but it still carries a dramatic punch. These two pieces reveal Torstensson as a composer of real substance and vision whose work deserves to be better known.

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