Rypdal: Double Concerto for two electric guitars & orchestra; Symphony No. 5

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WORKS: Double Concerto for two electric guitars & orchestra; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Terje Rypdal, Ronni Le Tekro (electric guitar); Riga Festival Orchestra/Normunds Šne
CATALOGUE NO: 559 964-2
Listeners who sample just the opening moments of Norwegian jazz/rock guitarist Terje Rypdal’s Double Concerto may be tempted to consign it to the oddities pile: barely organised aural chaos, all bells and fanfares, is swiftly followed by some full-blooded, distortion-laden guitar solos against a pseudo-Baroque backdrop. (The minimalist ‘Baroque’ slow movement, pitting squealing guitars against a delicate tapestry of strings and harpsichord, might lead to the same conclusion.) But by the end of the Concerto, there’s a feeling that something significant has been experienced: each movement is finely characterised – the third is an ever-developing wall of sound, while the fourth conjures delicate bell timbres from the orchestra with exquisite droplets of sound from the two soloists – and the hugely impressive Rypdal and Le Tekro (the latter a founder member of Norwegian heavy rock band TNT) draw a bewildering variety of often delicate sounds from their instruments. Rypdal clearly has some challenging things to say in this crossover work, and manages to reinvent heavy rock clichés in new contexts and find potent symphonic uses for them. The Symphony is an even stronger work: over a span of four powerful slow movements, themes grow through improvisation, glowing harmonies resolve in unexpected but satisfying ways, textures coalesce or dissipate into nothingness. While the Riga Festival Orchestra’s sometimes rather cold performances could play up Rypdal’s drama a little more, recorded sound is faultless. David Kettle