Various Artists

Rolf Wallin: Act

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Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin (born 1957) belongs to that school of Scandinavian composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries who are grounded in the techniques of modernism, but who employ those techniques in music that's immensely and immediately appealing to broad audiences in the directness of its emotional reach and the attractiveness of its sound. The three pieces recorded here, an orchestral work, a percussion concerto and a concerto for six percussionists, reveal a composer with an extraordinarily colorful orchestrational palette, fine sense of large musical structure, and an elemental rhythmic vitality. Some pieces that are rhythmically motivated can sound mechanical and driven purely by a propulsive sense of momentum, but Wallin's pieces seem charged by a complex and genuinely organic sense of development that's engaging both viscerally and emotionally, and that makes for a fully satisfying musical experience. Despite having these characteristics in common, the three pieces here are fully differentiated and distinctive. Das war schön!, a solo percussion concerto based on elements of Mozart's music and biography, is in five hauntingly evocative and varied movements, with a kaleidoscopic expressive and sonic range, and Martin Grubinger plays it with huge energy and mesmerizing delicacy. The outstanding Kroumata Percussion Ensemble brings a comparable virtuosity to the large, single-movement concerto Tides. The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jaap van Zweden, John Axelrod, and Jukka-Pekka Sarasate, plays with precision, but also with the abandon and wildness that this music requires. The CD should be of special interest to fans of percussion music, and also of fresh new orchestral works.

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