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Boldemann, Gefors, Hillborg / Nagano, Von Otter, Gothenburg So

Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001098702   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Anders HillborgLaci BoldemannHans Gefors
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HILLBORG _. . . lontana in sonno . . .. BOLDEMANN Epitaphs. GEFORS Lydia’s Songs Anne Sofie von Otter (mez); Kent Nagano, cond; Gothenburg SO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 001098702 (62:53)

Anne Sofie von Otter seems to be one in a million. She is supremely talented, as her discography attests; and she is committed to the music of today. This disc is part of the Deutsche Grammophon Read more “20/21” series. Von Otter puts it clearly: “Sweden has a rich singing tradition. I wanted to do something for its contemporary vocal music, which is ripe for discovery.” The result is this miraculous disc. I have nothing but praise not only for von Otter’s intent, but for her delivery also. Two of the works (Hillborg and Gefors) are found here in world premiere recordings.

Anders Hillborg (b. 1954) is known for his orchestral music (he has written Eleven Gates for the Los Angeles PO and Salonen). It would appear he is equally at home with the voice. The rarefied, refracted textures of the 2003 piece . . . lontana in sonno . . . reflect the chosen Petrarch sonnets he sets. Hillborg takes Nos. 250 and 301 (pre- and post-mortem expressions of the poet’s love for his Laura). It is fascinating to track Hillborg’s use of the voice, which is sometimes asked to adjust itself timbrally to the instruments around it. Far from just a gimmick, this appears in Hillborg’s hands as a bona fide expressive device. Strings play vibrato-free, so that chords sound, in the words of the booklet annotator Per Broman, like “a giant synthesizer.” The melodies themselves emulate plainchant (specifically that of Hildegard von Bingen).

The opening of Laci Boldemann’s Epitaphs steals in after the post-Hillborg silence, almost imperceptibly. These four settings, in English, of Edgar Lee Masters (from the 1915 Spoon River Anthology ) are actually intended to act together as a cantata. The four songs explore different aspects of death, from the requested acceptance of an illicit affair of the first through revenge, drooping flowers as metaphor for a loveless life to, finally, blissful parting of two souls together. “Mabel Osborne,” the song with the description of the drooping flowers, is so delicate it almost feels as if it would fall apart and disintegrate if one were to listen too hard. The string scoring is masterly.

Hans Gefors wrote his Lydias Sånger (“Lydia’s Songs”) for von Otter in 1995–96, taking texts that deal with “longing, innocence, lust, desire, jealousy, ridicule, abandonment, and both bitter and sweet memories.” The inspiration was the 1912 novel by Hjalmar Söderberg, The Serious Game . Gefors uses poetry mentioned or implied in the novel and, despite being sung by a female voice, it takes a male perspective of Lydia. Gefor’s range of expression is wide, his writing demanding, particularly for the soloist. Von Otter, it almost goes without saying, is superb, riding all challenges easily. Much of the music is darkly scored. The fire music of “A flaming wall of fire” is most effective; the fantastic delicacy of “The Sphinx” is pure delight (“It is the age-old fairytale forest,” begins the text). The chosen texts are in a variety of languages, and von Otter seems equally at home in all of them. The honorary appearance of Kurt Weill in the final song is, it appears, a direct result of Gefor’s hearing von Otter’s famous disc of Weill songs, entitled “Speak Low.”

The recording is not merely exemplary, it is demonstration standard. Here detail and sense of space find the perfect marriage. Documentation is similarly of the very highest standard. A must.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke

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Works on This Recording

...lontana in sonno... by Anders Hillborg
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Epitaphs (4), Op. 10 by Laci Boldemann
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Lydia's Songs (7) by Hans Gefors
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

Sound Samples

... lontana in sonno ...
4 Epitaphs, Op.10: 1. Sarah Brown
4 Epitaphs, Op.10: 2. Ollie McGee
4 Epitaphs, Op.10: 3. Mabel Osborne
4 Epitaphs, Op.10: 4. William and Emily
Lydias sĺnger: 1. Den vackra älvan badar
Lydias sĺnger: 2. Ud vil jeg! ud!
Lydias sĺnger: 3. En flammande brunn av eld
Lydias sĺnger: 4. Glřdende Nat!
Lydias sĺnger: 5. Sfinxen
Lydias sĺnger: 6. Fri föddes hon och hon dör fri
Lydias sĺnger: 7. I nattens vĺld

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