JON ÖIVIND NESS (b.1968) Marmæle (Marianne Baudouin Lie, cello) ; Mørkgänga. Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Trondheim Opera Orchestra, cond. Kai Grinde Myran.
Catalogue Number: 03Y028
Label: LAWO Classics
Description: Ness has been ploughing his own eccentric and independent furrow for years now, and delighting us with energetic, thoroughly off-kilter works in a polytonal language that blends tonality of various sorts with quarter- and microtonal coloration. Titles like Fierce Kentucky Mothers of Doom, Bury my Heart at Katnosa, Bogey Thresher, Mad Cap Tootling, and Wet Blubber Soup only add to the sense of slightly demented humour inherent in the music. These two large orchestral works from the mid-2010s are less obviously zany than works of the previous decades, but they share with them a strong sense of the sinister, the menacing, of things not being at all what they seem. More "serious" and less topical in reference than the earlier pieces, they reflect one of the great passions of the composer’s life; the natural world, in which he immerses himself with more than a dilettante's taste for the challenging, if not downright uncomfortable, on long hikes through the forests and gorges of eastern Norway. These darkly brooding forests, with their sudden, inexplicable chills, the lurking presence of evil spirits and pools of utter darkness in broad daylight, are very reminiscent of those that form the landscape depicted by Sibelius, and certain of Ness' chord formations, like familiar shapes in rock formations, certainly point to an æsthetic kinship of sorts. Mørkgånga is a narrow gorge in the Ringerike area in eastern Norway. Ness' powerful depiction of this rugged landscape is vividly immersive, suggesting the sounds that natural phenomena would make if they were to find voice in the tones and timbres of the orchestra, and wished to make themselves known to human ears as anthropomorphic forest spirits. In this, he is in the company of Þorvaldsdóttir and John Luther Adams, with their surging, magmatically fluid landscapes; and the dense, microtonally supersaturated chords bring to mind what we said of Enno Poppe’s essays in hyper-dense orchestral matter: "And what chords they are! With the full resources of the orchestra, they tower up like megaliths of unimaginable forms and dimensions in an utterly alien landscape." Unique to Ness, though, are the passages of intense motoric drive, pulsating and pounding, like a glimpse of some unfathomable mechanism powering the organic processes above. A Marmæle is a kind of sea-sprite from Norse folklore, capable of helping or wreaking having on fishermen, depending on its treatment. Here the surging depths of the sea are the subject of Ness' opaque masses of swirling orchestral texture, while the solo cello, assigned a vital concertante rôle as an integral part of the aquatic textures - clearly this is the voice of the marmæle, gliding and frolicking through its natural element. An insistent throbbing pulsation, with offbeat accents very much like an urban Le sacre … so much so, indeed, as to lead one to suspect that the reference may be intentional - intrudes upon the dark, fluid currents and takes over the progress of the music at intervals, recalling the hectically energetic episodes of insistently tonal post-minimal propulsiveness that were characteristic of Ness' works of earlier decades.