The Sound of the Arctic
Arctic Philharmonic/Christian Kluxen
2L 2L-169-SABD (CD/SACD/Blu-ray audio) 64:44 mins
Conductor Christian Kluxen describes Lasse Thoresen’s Lyden av Arktis (The Sound of the Arctic) as ‘an acoustic atlas’ of that vast region of ice, sea and permafrost, so crucial to life in and beyond the unique ecosystems it supports. Subtitled ‘La Terra Meravigliosa’ (The Land of Marvels), it’s part of a broader ‘spiritual journey’ undertaken by the composer, encompassing several other pieces – and is itself several works in one.
Thoresen (b1949) is perhaps best known for his exploration of folk and indigenous musics originating in his native Norway and wider Scandinavia. Lyden av Arktis effectively evokes them through, in essence, a series of linked, atmospheric tone poems variously scored for full orchestra, string orchestra and large ensemble. Its six discrete sections and short coda, he says, ‘could be played separately or be fused into a single entity’ as they are here with verve and enthusiasm by the Arctic Philharmonic players.
It’s an ambitious work, most successful in its framing of joiks and other song-derived material within a context of elemental extremes from the wild to the surprisingly gentle. The opening ‘Only White’ throws down the gauntlet with an evocation of winds howling across ice-scapes that take shape in the second section ‘Looming Glacier’ before morphing into depictions of birds, soul journeys, ‘Fiddle Feasts’ and more, coming starkly to a halt with a warning of environmental ‘Collapse’.