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Remembering (Jakob Kullberg)

Jakob Kullberg (cello); BBC Philharmonic/Michael Francis; John Storgårds; Sinfonia Varsovia/Szymon Bywalec (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Per Nørgård: Cello Concerto No. 1 ‘Between’; Remembering Child?; Kaija Saariaho: Notes on Light*
Jakob Kullberg (cello); BBC Philharmonic/Michael Francis; *John Storgårds; †Sinfonia Varsovia/Szymon Bywalec
BIS BIS-2602   83:28 mins


Over 20 years, fellow Danes Jakob Kullberg and Per Nørgård have developed a singular collaboration, extending the cellist’s role far beyond usual interpretative bounds into active co-creation. As this enthralling album of cello concertos attests, their partnership reflects an intensity of vision on both sides, and a sense of creative adventure that’s mirrored by Kullberg’s further pairing with Finnish composer, Kaija Saariaho.

Both Nørgård concertos date from the 1980s. But Kullberg re-creates each anew from the soloist’s chair; in one case quite literally with his own, superb adaptation for cello of the composer’s viola concerto, Remembering Child. A homage to child-activists following the death of peace campaigner Samantha Smith aged 13, its extraordinary dark radiance seems freshly significant as new generations fight ‘the global lunacy of grown-ups’ as Nørgård once put it.

However seemingly abstract their sounds, textures and processes – spinning lines and colours in infinite directions through a plethora of extended techniques – this and the opening Between (Cello Concerto No. 1) have a directness of expression that’s wonderfully complemented by Saariaho’s otherworldly yet supremely tactile Notes on Light (2006). In its myriad reflections, light is often key to Saariaho’s distinctive spectral imaging of sound. Here Kullberg adds to a pulsating journey through it into silence with his own seamlessly expressive cadenza at mid-point in the third movement ‘Awakening’.

Throughout, the orchestral support is sterling: the Nørgård with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Michael Francis/John Storgårds; the Saariaho with Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Szymon Bywalec.


Steph Power