Boldemann; Hillborg; Gefors

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boldemann; Hillborg; Gefors
ALBUM TITLE: Boldemann; Hillborg; Gefors
WORKS: Four Epitaphs – Boldemann; … Iontana in sonna … – Hillborg; Lydias sånger – Gefors
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano); Gothenburg SO/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 477 7439


For me the clear winner here is Anders Hillborg’s …lontana in sonna…. Granted, the framing dots in the title are a bit of a cliché; still more off-putting is the composer’s admission that the vocal part was conceived instrumentally (too often a problem in contemporary solo vocal music). But the long-breathed, slow-moving lines that emerge from the opening quiet orchestral unison are strongly compelling, while the gorgeous orchestral texture manages to support the voice’s melodic intensity without falling over into neo-Romantic corniness. Anne Sofie von Otter is at her focused best here – her vibrato-less pitch perfect throughout. Oddly I didn’t find her singing in Laci Boldemann’s Four Epitaphs anywhere near as involving – oddly, because von Otter tells us she finds them ‘incredibly moving’. There are beautiful things here, but it tends to be stray phrases that grab the attention rather than sustained lines as in the Hillborg. The same is also true of Hans Gefors’s Lydias sånger. This may to some extent be a calculated effect, as Gefors’s orchestral writing swings spectacularly between styles. But too often it’s just bewildering: why the Kurt Weill pastiche in the final song? The orchestral playing is very fine, and beautifully recorded. Worth exploring, but be prepared for mixed reactions. Stephen Johnson