THOMAS AGERFELDT OLESEN (b.1969): Cello Concerto, Der Wind bläset wo er will for Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 01W057
Description: "The Wind Blows Where It Will", as St John's Gospel tells us; and Thomas Agerfeldt Olesen writes what music he will, in a dizzying, thrilling kaleidoscope of colliding idioms - and never more so than in this bewildering, intoxicating piece. As we said of his extraordinary opera after Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey (09S073), references, allusions and stylistic borrowings come at the listener from all over the compass, but underlying it all is the strongest gravitational pull toward late-romantic Straussian opulence. The opening of this work gives no hint of this, exploding onto the scene and ushering in sonoristic orchestral wind effects and snatches of unconnected gestures. Underneath, though, the double basses set up a kind of walking bass, while various representations of the storm swirl and thunder above it. Eventually a stable, and tonal-ish ground bass appears, which ushers in a remarkable passage of orchestral "loops" which settle onto a rich, ominous repeated motif over which waves crash in the dark, and an ominous rattling haunts the scene. The "slow movement" that follows begins in glacial immobility, turns into a dissonant, but still basically tonal cataclysmic climax which then devolves into a hallucinatory episode of strange instrumental effects (including a musical saw, a lion's roar and wah-wah trumpets) from which the thudding heartbeat of the dreamer emerges, only to turn into a recapitulation of the walking bass from the beginning. Finally, dawn breaks in resplendent, sumptuous Romantic colours - just a little too saturated to be authentic Richard Strauss, and with the constant, unsettling reminder that we may not have escaped dreamland after all. What does it all mean? Who knows? Just buckle up and enjoy the ride. The cello concerto is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother, and its autobiographical content is very clear, as is its heartfelt celebration of life and sorrow at parting. The cellist-composer introduces himself at the start, with a theme made up of playful scales, that returns, transformed, again and again throughout the concerto's large rondo structure. The soloist gets caught up in a series of episodes, lively, sometimes combative, traumatic, or, sentimental, but always returning to the opening music as though reinforcing the idea that the mother-figure is the one constant throughout all life’s storms, doubts and joys. The third large section of the work is increasingly troubled by dissonant harmonic accretions circling around the cello's attempt to continue singing, which becomes more and more anguished. The music becomes increasingly caught up in obsessively looping gestures, leading to a strident, cataclysmic climax, the cello protesting all the way. The final "movement" is more of an epilogue than a finale, the soloist ruminating endlessly on a forlorn little fragment of melody, while the orchestra enfolds it in gentle loops, gradually joining in, offering the soloist strength to find a kind of resolve. In a final coda, the opening, lighthearted scampering scales form an ethereal background while the cello continues its heartfelt song of farewell. Johannes Moser (cello), Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Otto Tausk.