Petter Sundkvist

Peter Bruun: Letters to the Ocean

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Danish composer Peter Bruun, born in 1968, has learned from many of the -isms of mid- to late 20th century composition but doesn't adhere strictly to any of them. His work is evocative, colorful, and easy to follow, but without resorting to neo-Romanticism or neo-anything; this is distinctly contemporary music. This Dacapo CD includes three multi-movement pieces for chamber ensemble, with mezzo-soprano added for one of them and accordion for another. They are all remarkable for the inventiveness and originality of their orchestration. They also seem to develop organically (if not always predictably), based on a strongly intuitive sense of purpose and direction. A Silver Bell that Chimes all Living Things Together, an unconventional song cycle, is notable not so much for lyrical vocal writing as for its dramatic and evocative accompaniments. Its stylistically varied movements (they don't seem like songs in the conventional sense) effectively convey the emotional complexity of the poetry and create a satisfying musical whole. Letters to the Ocean, for large chamber ensemble, uses the repetition of gestures, and the subtle variations of the gestures to suggest the constantly shifting character of the ocean. Perhaps it is the title that creates the mindset, but it is just about impossible to hear its three movements without imagining seascapes. Waves of Reflection, for accordion and ensemble, also inescapably conjures up oceanic imagery. For most of its length, it’s the simplest and gentlest of the pieces and its moments of serenity, particularly in the first, third and fourth movements, are simply lovely. Petter Sundkvist leads the Esbjerg Ensemble in precise, nuanced readings of the scores that enhance their poetic expressiveness. The sound is clean, atmospheric, and nicely ambient. This is a CD that should interest any fans of contemporary music. (Listeners may want to note that the track timings listed in the program booklet bear little relationship to the actual lengths of the tracks.)

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