JON ØIVIND NESS (*1968) : Bælþræk, Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello (2016); Bælsiþ, Concerto for Oboe and Sinfonietta (2018). SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891—1953): Quintet, Op. 39 Ensemble Ernst / soloists.

Catalogue Number: 04Z029

Label: LAWO Classics

Reference: LWC1259

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Humour has long been a central ingredient in Jon Øivind Ness's music, ever since he put his perilous life as a cat owner to music in the trombone concerto Dangerous Kitten (1997). In recent years, his music has transformed significantly, from the complex irony of the 90s, via the almost—to quote the composer himself—romantic fervour of the mid-00s, to a microtonally oriented musical language and occasionally ascetic expression in the last 10 years or so. Broadly speaking, there has been a development from the anarchistic maximal to the punctuated minimal (albeit occasionally massive), but as is so often the case, a leopard doesn’t always completely change his spots. The words Bælsiþ and Bælþræk mean something akin to “Journey of the flame” and “Power of the flame” respectively. Both are old Anglo-Saxon words based on the root word “bæl”, meaning flame. The mixed vowel ‘æ’ and the fricative consonant ‘þ’ appear in both, and are symptomatic of Ness's attraction to musical and linguistic tipping points, thriving particularly in spaces ‘in between’ and in what is undefined, be it between the ‘a’ and ‘e’, or ‘E’ and ‘F’. The music that emanates from this penchant for tonal and phonetic ambiguity nevertheless appears as genuinely heartfelt and straightforward. The quintet, with its peculiar instrumentation and its tonal and rhythmic playfulness— described by some as “successfully circusy”—is a prime example of Prokofiev as an ironist and humorist, a superb craftsman who elegantly juggles his material and produces surprisingly sonorous, tonal and rhythmic kaleidoscopes


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