The Tempest – Suite
Beate Mordal (soprano), Jeremy Carpenter (baritone); Bergen Philharmonic/Edward Gardner
Lawo Classics LWC1250 48:16 mins
Preoccupied with sound as an expression of ‘philosophy, silence, speed, rhythm, everything’, and devoted to literature and language, Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) was fascinated by Shakespeare’s ‘isle of noises’. More than a vehicle for sonic exploration, the Norwegian’s 1979 ballet The Tempest gave form to the idea that, as in Prospero’s fantastical universe and driven by love, music is a ‘time machine’ which ‘propels forward both men and action’.
The ensuing multilevel drama is echoed in the 50-minute orchestral suite Nordheim derived from the ballet. As Beate Mordal, Jeremy Carpenter and the Bergen Philharmonic reveal in this vivid performance conducted by Edward Gardner, the score is a whirlwind of colour and invention. Combining orchestra with pre-recorded tape and an often wordless vocalise from soprano and baritone, Nordheim does not always resist the temptation to be literal in portraying the text or setting. The opening ‘Calm Sea’ recalls surf on shingle, for instance, while ‘Storm with Lightning and Thunder’ is just that in a chaos of strings, brass and percussion – and ‘noise’ begets noise in electronic whoops and swirls. Yet the ardency and textural ‘glow’ described by Gardner proves beguiling over eight sections through which Caliban emerges via rasping trombone as a visionary guide.