Bøhmerlands Dronning, by Kristian Blak, is inspired by a folk ballad about the Queen of Denmark. From the stillness of the opening, with its long-bowed notes interspersed with isolated pizzicatos, the work develops organically, sustained drone-notes and gently undulating dynamics contrasted with snatches of folk-like melody and with more agitated passages of tremolando and spiky arpeggios. In its more turbulent central section, rushing figurations with lightning-like accents give way to a gently dancing phrase; this is, however, quickly interrupted by a return of the agitated scalic figures and by phrases whose attempts at development are truncated by splintering dynamic changes. The work ends mournfully, the final phrase heard as if a song is disappearing into the distance.
Álvarann is Kristian Blak’s second work for solo violin and, like Bøhmerlands Dronning, is inspired by a folk legend, the melodic material being taken from the Faroese ballad Ólavur Riddararós. The work begins with melodic phrases of quietly-held drone notes which impart something of a sense of foreboding; fragments of fleeting shorter notes, heard briefly, as if in a dream, begin to break up the long-breathed phrases, and these shorter notes rapidly dominate with the advent of a dance of inexorable energy. After a brief recollection of the opening material, the dance-like figure returns, but with its character now transformed into one of fierce anger, savagely-thrusting arpeggios metamorphosing the line’s energy into a relentless drive. The work ends with a cry of protest and anguish.
These five works for solo violin, while all remaining true to the inherent qualities of the instrument, nevertheless emphasize and exploit very different aspects of its character. The most wide-ranging of the five, in terms of coloristic effect and technical complexity, is Sunleif Rasmussen’s Echoes of the Past. Beginning with music of driving, almost relentless, energy, in which most effective use is made of the resonance of the violin’s open strings, the movement develops into a series of highly contrasted episodes that are linked by motif and by gesture. Emotionally volatile cadenza-like passages are set against contrasting sections: a quirky, slightly whimsical waltz; a bucolically vigorous section, with seesawing arpeggios vying for supremacy with harshly-punched double-stops; phrases of playfully skittering arpeggios and contemplative harmonics. The final statement is heavy with foreboding, but the work ends in undisturbed tranquillity.
Edvard Nyholm Debess’s Variations for Solo Violin focuses on harmonic exploration: the theme, a traditional Faroese hymn-tune, undergoes constant transformations through overall tonal structure and chromatic sidesteppings. Complex polyphonic textures are largely avoided but the writing is richly varied, with chordal writing, exploiting the characteristic voicing of the violin’s four strings, being judiciously used to add a three-dimensional quality to the writing, and pizzicato (plucked notes)– often placed in close juxtaposition with arco (bowed notes) – being used for extra vividness of colour. Particularly striking are the long, wailing glissandos heard about half-way through the piece, upon which the composer directs vibrato to be superimposed, creating a particularly eerie effect.
Afturundirgerð, by Kári Bæk, is a pictorial representation of a seascape: in particular, the area of unpredictable turbulence that occurs when cross-currents meet. Although the work’s opening is outwardly calm, inner tensions are quickly felt as a melodic line strains against a pedal (drone) note; and this tension is soon increased to an urgent driving as the phrase surges forward to a passage of aggressively-hammered double-stops. Slow and fast tempos alternate throughout the work, but the music is never tranquil: angular melodic lines in the slow sections create internal conflicts in their unexpected twists and turns, and, when the line does become more linear, it is generally set against a sustained pedal note, thus generating harmonic tensions. The faster passages are more overtly turbulent, with fast-rising, lashing arpeggio figures, stabbing accents, and wide leaps.
Recorded at Studio Bloch, Tórshavn, 2nd & 3rd April 2019
Recording director Rupert Marshall-Luck
Recording engineer Theodor Kapnas
Editing, mixing and mastering Oscar Torres
Cover layout by Uni Árting
Artwork by William Heinesen
Cover image from William Heinesen: Tað søgdu honum villini fuglar, uppi sótu í eik
Produced by Rupert Marshall-Luck and Kristian Blak
This recording was made possible by support from Koda-Føroyar grunnurin
1. Echoes of the Past – Sunleif Rasmussen
2. Variations for Solo Violin – Edvard Nyholm Debess
3. Afturundirgerð – Kári Bæk
4. Bøhmerlands Dronning – Kristian Blak
5. Álvarann – Kristian Blak
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