Ralphus | Goyang, Gynggi-Do Korea (South) | 09/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lars-Erik Larsson is probably best known for his Pastoral Suite which has been recorded many times. These Twelve Concertinos, Op.45, were written while Larsson was in charge of amateur orchestras in Sweden. The writing for ensemble is mindful of the limitations of amateur strings while the solo parts were perhaps intended for instrumental teachers or gifted amateurs.
The writing is lyrical, Romantic, and musically unchallenging. Larsson's talent, however, is such that not one of them is dull and there is real variety from piece to piece. Larsson captures the individual characteristics of each instrument wonderfully well and it is really quite pleasurable to listen from start to finish as each concertino is only around 12 minutes long (the briefest, for trumpet, is just over 6 minutes, the longest, for piano, is just over 14).
Five ensembles are featured in this collection: Musica Vitae, Musica Sveciae, Umea Sinfonietta, New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra, and Stockholm Chamber Ensemble. The playing, though, is uniformly fine.
These pieces were recorded at various times from 1975 to 1990. The sound quality is excellent: warm, rich, devoid of tape hiss, not unduly reverberant but with great presence. I actually prefer the sound of the earlier recordings, but Bis have admirably managed a reasonable consistency of sound across the recording dates. The biggest difference can be heard between the first, for flute (1975) and the second for oboe (1990). The former is warmer, the latter with a touch more reverb.
The soloists acquit themselves ably. The most famous is no doubt trombone 'legend' Christian Lindberg. The others are: Gunilla von Bahr (flute); Helen Jahren (oboe); Michel Lethiec (clarinet); Knut Sonstevold (bassoon); Soren Hermansson (horn); Urban Agnas (trumpet); Anton Kontra (violin); Bengt Andersson (viola); Frans Helmersson (cello); Hakan Ehren (double bass); and Hans Palsson (piano). Special mention should be made of bassist, Hakan Ehren, who makes the instrument sound like the most natural soloist--devoid of the awkwardness that double bass can sometimes exhibit.
As the other reviewer noted, there are affinities with the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto, but also with works such as Ibert's "Concertino da camera" for saxophone (though much less technically demanding and nowhere near as quirkily 'spiky') or other slight French works in a similar vein. If you like unpretentious music of this kind, particularly for winds, then you will enjoy this disc that verges on easy-listening (without the negative connotations).
It is, however, far too expensive. I suspect that Bis hasn't exactly been selling a bunch of these. For such marginal repertory it may be hard to justify the expense. But if you REALLY love this kind of music, it may well be worth it. I find myself playing these little concertinos with surprising regularity and you might too."
Lars-Erik Larsson's Twelve Concertinos
Russ | Richmond, VA | 07/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986), along with Kurt Atterberg, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Hugo Alfven, was a Swedish composer who shunned modern trends in music and wrote in an approachable style throughout the twentieth century. His works contain some similarities with the string compositions of Vaughan Williams, and if you enjoy that composer's Oboe Concerto you'll probably enjoy Larsson's concertinos.
Each concertino is scored for string orchestra and one solo instrument. These works were written for amateur orchestras in Sweden, so the string accompaniment is not demanding. Likewise, the solo part is not meant to be a virtuosic tour de force. These are pleasant, if not highly enjoyable, compositions which I would consider pastoral in quality. Each concertino has three movements and lasts about 12 minutes (certainly not epic works). The concertinos follow a similar formula, where contrast is provided by alternations between separated/pizzicato passages and legato string writing. The concertinos are scored as follows:
No. 1 for Flute
No. 2 for Oboe
No. 3 for Clarinet
No. 4 for Bassoon
No. 5 for Horn
No. 6 for Trumpet
No. 7 for Trombone
No. 8 for Violin
No. 9 for Viola
No. 10 for Cello
No. 11 for Double Bass
No. 12 for Piano
I enjoy the flute, cello, horn, violin, oboe and trombone concertinos the most. The exotic sounding second movement of the flute concertino (Disk 1 - Track 2) is especially lovely, while the third movement of the trombone concertino (Disk 1 - Track 21) really is exciting. You really are a grouchy person if you don't smile during this movement, with its jovial, leaping double-tonguing trombone line.
Most of the solo playing is quite lyrical. You'll realize that Concertino No. 5 is not typical French horn concerto, given that you really won't hear any tonguing until the second theme of the first movement (Disk 1 - Track 13). While some movements are marked by arching legato lines, others have a folkdance-like quality. Listen to the swaying theme of the third movement of the viola concertino (Disk 2 - Track 6), for instance. While each of these pieces stands on its own, it is interesting to note that in the final concertino (for piano) Larsson weaves in some of the themes of the other concertinos over top of the piano part (Disk 2 - Track 15). Pretty cool.
I find these compositions very enjoyable and I return to them often. Such a collection of concertante works is quite unique in the twentieth century, with the exception of the slightly less conventional, but more extended, Holmboe concertinos (also worth exploring).
In conclusion, buy this CD if you enjoy the pastoral music of Vaughan Williams or any of the Swedish composers I mentioned above. My largest reservation is the price, which is really too high for two CD's.