Open Mind; Orchestral Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson; A.S. in Memoriam; Concerto for Orchestra*
Lisa Larsson (soprano); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Manze, *Sakari Oramo
BIS BIS-2133 (hybrid CD/SACD) 73:17 mins
Rolf Martinsson, graduate-turned-professor of composition at the Malmö Academy of Music, creates colourful orchestral works which reside in the hinterland between tonality and abstract sound, frequently crossing the border within the same work. This collection of his output over the last two decades is a carefully crafted CV of recent achievements, aptly recorded by the Swedish label BIS. A third of the disc is taken up with Martinsson’s evocative Orchestral Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson (2009/11), a cycle of ten songs divided into three themes; love, nature and life. Don’t be fooled by the twee façade: the harp, celesta and vibraphone details mask darker insight into the human condition and our place within the natural world. Swedish soprano Lisa Larsson sparkles as she delivers Dickinson’s detailed descriptions of summer slipping into autumn and the shadows on the lawn.
Open Mind (2005) and Concerto for Orchestra (2008) swing from almost Disney-esque expansive melodies to complex textures and hidden ideas; both works contain cryptograms to their dedicatees. The latter work was premiered at the Stockholm International Composer Festival, which included 23 of Martinsson’s pieces; the composer uses the opportunity to explore thematic associations with those works ‘as a perambulation between the various quotations’. On paper this sounds disastrous, but the freeform approach is surprisingly effective. More formally structured is A.S. In Memoriam (1999/2001), which was written in memory of Arnold Schoenberg and Verklärte Nacht (1899), its tighter rein on orchestration adds interesting variety.