Henning Kraggerud: Equinox with the Arctic Philharmonic

Equinox: 24 Postludes in all keys

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COMPOSERS: Kraggerud
LABELS: Simax
ALBUM TITLE: Equinox
WORKS: Equinox: 24 Postludes in all keys
PERFORMER: Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Henning Kraggerud (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1348

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Violinist-composer Henning Kraggerud’s booklet biography describes him as ‘an artist of exquisite musicianship’, and that’s not hyperbole. Hearing him play as a Prom encore the tenth of his 24 ‘Postludes in All Keys’, following fellow Norwegian Jostein ‘Sophie’s World’ Gaarder’s texts for Equinox, opened a window on a magical world. The ambition might seem pretentious: a man awaiting a possible diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in Greenwich embarks on a fantasy journey through all 24 time zones, meeting strange characters twice on opposite sides of the globe. But Gaarder’s text avoids whimsy – we need it included, read by a British actor, in a second CD version – while Kraggerud’s music, divided into four six-movement concertos for the times of day, is endlessly resourceful and surprising.

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Key characteristics are sometimes exploited, sometimes not: E major star-gazing in Santa Barbara lives up to its 18th-century definition as ‘the highest to which beautiful nature climbs’, but his treatment of F sharp major is unexpected. Sometimes places are evoked: A flat major’s melody glides below pizzicato pentatonics, evoking the wonder of the Hangzhou Palace, an essential pairing with B flat minor’s Kyoto, one of two laments for beauties of civilisation lost (horribly timely, of course). The Arctic Philharmonic strings of Tromsö are as evocative as their leader – Norway now has a great school of string-teaching – and while there’s nothing radical here, the music is also never backgroundy and the variety, from meditation to lopsided dance, is extraordinary. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing in action. David Nice