Esa-Pekka Salonen – Violin Concerto (2009)

“Violin Concerto,” a piece by Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, has won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. “Violin Concerto,” a piece by Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (ES’-uh PEK’-uh SAHL’-oh-nen), has won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The four-movement, half-hour concerto begins with a solitary violin, moves on to embrace a series of themes ranging from a quiet heartbeat to urban pop music and ends on a chord unlike any other in the work, said award director Marc Satterwhite. [Source]

Esa-Pekka Salonen: Violin Concerto (2000)
Leila Josefowicz, violin
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Directed by Salonen himself
Théâtre du Châtelet, 6 February 2011

Igor Stravinsky – Concerto in D (1946)

Concerto in D, for string orchestra in D major (“Basel Concerto”), (1946)

I. Vivace
II. Arioso
III. Rondo

Bournemouth Sinfonietta
Richard Studt

Paul Sacher’s 1946 commission for a work to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of his Basler Kammerorchester was Stravinsky’s first European commission after moving to America. Stravinsky began the composition on the Concerto in D in early 1946 and completed it on August 8 of the same year in his home in Hollywood. The work received its first performance by Sacher and the Basler Kammerorchester on January 27, 1947, in Basel, and the work is dedicated to them. For this reason the work is sometimes referred to as the “Basle Concerto.”

Written for string orchestra, the Concerto in D was Stravinsky’s first work for string orchestra since Apollon Musagète (1927-1928). It is approximately the same length and in approximately the same form as the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto (1937-1938) and the Ebony Concerto (1945), which directly preceded the composition of the Concerto in D. All three works are in three movements in the fast-slow-fast order of the Baroque concerto grosso, and all three works feature the contrast of concertino and ripieno typical of the concerto grosso. In the Concerto in D, the movements are Vivace, Arioso: Andantino and Rondo: Allegro. The opening Vivace is roughly in sonata form; that is, the outer section functions as an exposition whose themes are repeated in approximately the same order at the movement but the central section is in a slower Moderato tempo. The central Arioso: Andantino features one of Stravinsky’s few long, lyrical melodies for violins, punctuated twice by perfect cadences in unrelated keys. The concluding Rondo: Allegro is longer than the first two movements together and is in Stravinsky’s typical middle-1940s spiky rhythm.

The Concerto in D was one of Stravinsky’s last tonal works. Only Orpheus (1947), the Mass (1944/1947)and The Rake’s Progress (1948-1951) followed it. Although at the time of its composition it seemed to be another in the series of pastiche works Stravinsky had composed since Pulcinella (1919-1920) — works that used the styles of earlier composers to furnish Stravinsky with the raw material for his compositions — the Concerto in D and Orpheus have come to be viewed retrospectively as the tired works of a composer for whom style and tonality had become a burden. []

[via Alexander Natas in Copenhagen]

Peter Bengtson performing Torsten Nilsson’s Crucifigatur (1968)

“Crucifigatur” — “Crucify him!” — is part of the suite “Seven Improvisations for Organ” by the Swedish Composer Torsten Nilsson (1920-1999), organist, composer and the choir master of Oscar’s Church in Stockholm for about 20 years, where his Good Friday oratorio “Nox Angustiae”, of which “Crucifigatur” forms the overture, received its premiere in 1968, achieving cult status during the years to come.

“Nox Angustiae” — Night of Anguish — which depicts the rage and chaos of the original Good Friday in a expressionist manner, is scored for double chorus, vocal soloists and large organ. To add to the experience, the work was always performed in a darkened church at midnight between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The performers read the music by faint blue light, but the rest of the church was in complete darkness except for the projection of a graphical leaflet on the ceiling of the church.

This recording was made in 1986 by the Swedish Radio, as part of a live broadcast performance of Nox Angustiae by the Täby Church Chamber Choir under Kerstin Ek. Organist: Peter Bengtson.

(Listening using headphones or a full frequency range speaker system is strongly recommended.)

UPDATE! Listen to the complete work here:

About Torsten Nilsson:

Torsten Nilsson studied at the State Academy of Music, Stockholm 1938-1942, graduating as a church musician and music teacher. He continued his studies with Anton Heiler in Vienna (composition and the organ, 1961 and 1965). As an organist he was also a pupil of Alf Linder. He was organist in Kšping 1943-1953, of St. Mary’s Church, Helsingborg, 1953-1962, and was appointed organist of Oscar parish, Stockholm, in 1962, resigning from this appointment in 1979. He was also the director of the Oscar Motet Choir until 1984. He was Teacher of liturgical singing at Uppsala University, 1966-1970, and at the Stockholm Theological Institute, 1964-1970. He was also teacher of music theory at the Stockholm Citizens? School 1962-1973.

Where Torsten Nilsson is concerned, music does not have any single fount, its sources of inspiration being varied and complicated. Beauty, sensualism and eroticism have their contentious antitheses in anguish, paralysis and fear of death. In character his music often comes close to the scream of desperation, and the masterly composer for the organ has also developed an abundant vocal language. His melodies also glide into elevated, sensuously warm atmospheres. His intense, orgiastic imagination is reflected by the culmination of his music in ecstatic outbursts of sound and dance-like climaxes.

[via Peter Bengtson]

Beat Furrer – Nuun for 2 pianos and ensemble (1996)

Thomas Bjørnseth from Norway just posted this piece by Swiss composer Beat Furrer on the contemporary music blog

About the composer:

Beat Furrer (born 6 December 1954) is an Austrian composer and conductor of Swiss birth. Born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Furrer relocated to Vienna in 1975 to pursue studies with Roman Haubenstock-Ramati (composition) and Otmar Suitner (conducting). In 1985 he co-founded what is now one of Europe’s leading contemporary music ensembles, Klangforum Wien, which he still conducts. Recent awards and honors include the Music Prize of the City of Vienna in 2003 and the Golden Lion, for the monodrama “FAMA,” at the 2006 Venice Biennale. Since 1991, he has served as professor of composition at the Graz University of Music and Dramatic Arts. The 25th anniversary of the Klangforum Wien was celebrated in 2010 at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik with the premiere of his Xenos-Szenen for eight voices and ensemble.

About the work:

Just as the mythical goddess “NU” (compare Robert Graves, “The White Goddess”) was able to stop time still, in nuun the apparently overwhelming impetus of flowing sounds is slowly brought to a stop; purely mechanical energy is transformed into living energy. In Beat Furrer’s work for two pianos and orchestra, the central principle is transformation, specifically on the rhythmic, harmonic and tonal planes, as a continuous process from the beginning to the end. nuun is an almost unparalleled example of Furrer’s breadth of expression. The work goes from a thoroughly concise beginning to the final, lonely sound of the piano that eventually fades away into silence. Elements are slowly filtered out of the initial complexity, layers dissolve, making structures evident that were originally embedded in repetitive models as part of an overall sound. The composer’s intention was to “make evident the energy of movements and powers which form the substance of the music and go beyond it .” Beat Furrer compares this musical intention of the work to the “fine differentiations in colours that one recognizes as a result of observing a monochrome painting for a long time.” There is no need to add the notice: “shadowlike” (schattenhaft), on one of the last pages of the score to understand the parallels to Feldman’s favourite analogies. The shadowy sound of Beat Furrer’s composition is even related to the gentle graduality of a Morton Feldman composition in its radically different conception. The relationship even goes as far as the notation: nuun starts with a tiny rest for all of the instruments – a finesse taken from Feldman’s metaphysics. [Read more].

The music:

Get the sheet music here.