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Fredrik Hagstedt: Sinfonia Per Due Violini / Duo Gelland

Hagstedt / Duo Gelland
Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Nosag Records   Catalog #: 192   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Fredrik Hagstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Duo Gelland
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HAGSTEDT Sinfonia per due violini. Depurazione Duo Gelland NOSAG 192 (73:19)

Here is music that is tonal, fragmented, complete, fascinating, moving, and complex. It is music that sounds like bits and pieces of other composers you’ve heard, but five minutes into the first movement of Sinfonia for two violins you realize that it doesn’t sound like anybody else. Parts of it sound as if the composer was crying out or freaking out, but always in a musical Read more way, like the remarkable scores of Leif Segerstam. Then, sometimes immediately after, we hear passages that sound like songs, and others that sound like dance music (old-style dances, country polkas, and such, not hip-hop). Welcome to the sound world of Fredrik Hagstedt, a young (b. 1975) composer who takes a rather Zen attitude towards composing. He writes music, he says, not because he “wants” to but because he must, because he needs to express himself. Initially, he wanted to keep his music simple, to omit “repetitions, bridges, segues,” but inevitably came to accept that it all had a function within the whole; that, as he put it, you had to accept the bits to get to the finished picture, something like a jigsaw puzzle.

And that is how the music strikes the listener. On the very first page of the liner notes, the question is asked, “Instead of an orchestra, why not two violins?” Why not, indeed? Hagstedt uses the full range of effects that violins are capable of producing to play, as he says, like “individual orchestras.” Using your imagination, you can hear the structure of the music and recognize it as a symphony in miniature. Imagination can replace the sound of the violins, at times, with winds or brass. Largely tonal, Hagstedt’s music breathes a rarified air of its own. And the man definitely has a sense of humor. In the liner notes, he describes what people think is a typical composer’s day: “eat, compose, shit, compose, take care of children, compose, shop, compose, think, walk, compose,” then a typical composer’s day in reality: “eat, write e-mails, shit, write applications, take care of children, make phone calls, shop, meetings, think, walk, hopefully compose.”

There are traces of this humor in the music, too. Sinfonia, he tells us, was based on a film script by Johannes Nyholm that “deals with grandiose visions and unattainable dreams.” Wryly, he adds his hope that this film will soon be “realized”, meaning that he wrote music for a phantom film—a script not acted out or acted upon: A series of absurd, surreal scenes of “grandiose visions and unattainable dreams” where “desire itself is depicted as a thing of magnificent beauty,” at the same time “absurd and crazy, like life itself.” The music reflects all these moods and more. And yes, there are times when you almost think to yourself, “eat, compose, shit, compose, take care of children, compose, shop, compose, think, walk, compose,” That’s just the way this music falls together, and the way it falls on the ear. Pieces that seem at first-listen to be a bit jumbled up actually fit together to make a happy little crazy quilt. The last movement, quixotically, has an entirely different sound to it: more rhapsodic and lyrical, less busy in texture, minimal in its gestures although not “minimalist” in structure. The “monkey mind” of the opening three movements has dissolved into repetitions on the note G—quiet and widely spaced, repeated in rhythmic patterns, before the music takes off in another direction entirely. Yet it keeps returning to quietude.

Depurazione is described as a “piece about cleansing, about achieving a higher level of consciousness, but also about being aware of different levels.” It’s a lyrical piece, lacking the frenetic interludes and occasional chaos of the Sinfonia. As Hagstedt puts it in the notes, “How does one portray ‘divine inspiration’? Is anything other than a clumsy attempt possible?” Perhaps not, but this piece does effectively convey a bit of Zen meditation. Despite occasional side-trips, both the composer’s mind and the listener’s stay effectively focused on the continuing lyric progression. One really cannot call it a melody, though it is “melodic.” Perhaps “almost a melody” will do.

One almost need not add that Duo Gelland, consisting of Martin and Cecilia Gelland, plays this music splendidly. They are reaching into it, and almost get there except for the fact that their arms are too short. They are restricted from reaching completely into it, but they get partway there and you are taken along for the ride. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Sinfonia for 2 violins by Fredrik Hagstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Duo Gelland
Written: 2011 
Date of Recording: 07/2011 
Venue:  Church of Laxsjö (Jämtland, Sweden) 
Length: 44 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Depurazione, for 2 violins by Fredrik Hagstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Duo Gelland
Written: 2002 
Date of Recording: 07/2011 
Venue:  Church of Laxsjö (Jämtland, Sweden) 
Length: 28 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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