Else Bø, piano, Marianne Baudouin Lie, cello, Sigrid Elisabeth Stang, violin.

For Alpaca Ensemble, Norway, Karin Rehnqvist has written the work In Orbit – a moving quartet. For violin, clarinet, cello and piano.

The musicians also play bass violin, bass and double bass clarinet (performed by Rolf Borch) and toy piano.

Alpaca Ensemble gave a “pre-premiere” in Stangvik, Norway, already on July 23 2016. On 16 September 2016, the official premiere took place in Trondheim.

In Orbit / I banor – a moving quartet consists of four movements: Outer Space – Planet Play – Laud – Epilogue.

The English music critic Guy Rickards has listened to the album and gives his review here:

Recorded in Oslo in mid-December 2019, before the coronaviral lockdowns, this disc has nonetheless had to wait until the gradual thaw in restrictions to be released. The wait has been worth it, undoubtedly, in bringing these splendid performances to public attention.            

The disc is split slightly unevenly between the Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist (b1957), with about 55% of the duration, and Ellen Lindquist (b1970), American born with Dutch antecedents (and a Swedish name), with 45%.

… …

The musicians respond with enthusiasm, and commitment but when they step into Rehnqvist’s ‘moving quartet’ In Orbit/I banor (2017), we move into a different world. Rehnqvist—with her close contemporaries, Kaija Saariaho, Marie Samuelsson and Cecilie Ore—is one of a brilliant generation of Nordic women composers.

Much of her earlier music was derived from the rural chanting known as kulning, and at its best possessed a visceral shock value that few composers achieve. Her later works have moved on while losing nothing of their radical approach, and In OrbitI banor is one such.

Yes, there is much dissonance when heard within a tonal perspective, but Rehnqvist creates her own harmonic language such that, on its own terms, the music is quite consonant. The quartet’s seven movements comprise the major item on the disc in length and musical quality, exploring a wide range of sonorities—even including the bright, distinctive tone of a toy piano.

Contrast and texture, as well as the unsettling of her audiences, are features Rehnqvist cultivates in the clarinet solo, Far and near / Långt borta och nära, to be played ideally in a darkened room, and “from an unexpected place in the room”. The music, however, was derived from her chamber clarinet concerto, On a Distant Shore (2002).

The performances in all six works are beautifully prepared and executed, and Lawo’s recording is splendid, clear, and natural. For lovers of new music, this is a winner.

Illustration by Jenny Soep

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