PEHR HENRIK NORDGREN (1944-2008): Concerto No. 2 for Piano, Strings and Percussion, Op. 112, Concerto for Piano Left Hand and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 129, Song cycle to poems by Edith Södergran for Mezzo-Soprano, Strings and Harp, Op. 123.

Catalogue Number: 01S010

Label: Alba

Reference: ABCD 399

Format: SACD hybrid

Price: $18.98

Description: One of the great originals of twentieth century music, Nordgren forged an endlessly fascinating, unfailingly compelling, personal idiom from an unlikely combination of freely applied dodecaphonic techniques, tonal post-Sibelian Nordic symphonic landscapes, quasi-sonorist textures in clustered timbres and folk music from Finland and Japan. The Piano Concerto No. 2 is a dark, brooding work in a single span, almost pointedly anti-virtuosic, the difficult piano part incorporated into the almost symphonic argument. The piece begins with ominous blows of fate like harsh bells, and the mood of foreboding persists throughout, relieved by shafts of glorious tonal illumination penetrating the looming stormclouds of the multiply divided strings in what amounts to a slow movement in the middle of the piece. Nordgren's characteristic repeating patterned episodes suggest tolling bells or the refrain of some tragic folk song. If the second concerto is a darkly dramatic work, the left hand concerto, based on the horrifying, and frankly thoroughly unpleasant, 'Corpse Rider' from Lafcadio Hearn's collected Japanese ghost stories, is a twenty-minute horror movie in sound. Beginning with ghostly groanings, the piece depicts the protagonist's mounting agitation and apprehension in the piano part, against the atmospheric gloom of the strings' oppressive, shadowy harmonies. A sudden clustered shriek heralds the beginning of the demonic ride in obsessive pounding. A tragic cadenza prefaces the nightmare ride as it climaxes and fades into the consoling light of dawn, portrayed in gentle tonal chord progressions. The song cycle sets four poems by Edith Södergran, tracing a narrative arc from human uncertainty in the face of the mysteries of life, through a stormy transformation, into eternity. Divided string textures provide a beautifully textured, harmonically rich sonorous backdrop to the clear, eloquent, vocal line, which stands out in glowing relief against the dense background. No texts. Henri Sigfridsson (piano), Monica Groop (mezzo), Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra; Juha Kangas.

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