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Rolf Wallin

Publisher: Chester Music

Under City Skin (2009)
Under City Skin was commissioned by the Risør Festival of Chamber Music with funding from Det Norske Komponistfond and premiered by Lars Anders Tomter and the Risør Festival Strings conducted by Christian Eggen in Risør Church on 24 June 2009.
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
30 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Alternate Orchestration
Violin; 5vn.4vn.3va.2vc.db/Electronics, Pre-recorded
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Programme Note
Rolf Wallin Under City Skin (2009)
Under City Skin
for solo viola (or violin), string orchestra and surround sound

The bestiaries of the middle ages, the zoological dictionaries of the time, are astonishing reading. The Dragon, the Unicorn and the Mermaid appear effortlessly alongside the Lion, the Horse and the Cat, and the real animals are given very odd characteristics:

– The pelican mother kills her offspring. After three days she revives them by letting blood from her own chest fall on them.
– A dog that crosses a hyena's shadow will lose its voice.
– A snake that tastes the spit of a fasting man will die.
– The blood of a he-goat can dissolve a diamond

In our time we know better. Or do we? Maybe we still hold an unconsciously mythological relation to the world around us, in spite of its modernisation and urbanisation? Perhaps many of the things we see and hear in the urban jungle contain hidden meanings for us, perhaps they carry strong histories of power, fear, yearning and bliss?

The Mercedes. The High-heeled Shoes. The Park at Night. The Cash Register. The Bus. The City Hall Bells.

In Berlioz's famous viola concerto, young Harold goes to Italy to broaden his mind. Here our protagonist goes under the skin of the city sounds, in a quest to find out what forces are hiding within.

Programme note © 2009 Rolf Wallin

Score preview:

  • 01 APR 2011
    Norges Musikkogkole
  • 01 DEC 2010
    Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
    Risor Festival Strings
    Leif Ove Andsnes, piano; Martin Frost, clarinet; Henning Kraggerud, violin; Lars Anders Tomter, viola; Torleif Thedeen, cello
  • 20 NOV 2010
    Oslo Concert Hall, Lille Sal, Oslo, Norway
    Risor Festival Strings
    Lars Anders Tomter (viola); Per Kristian Skalstad, conductor

    Other Dates:
    24 November - Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
    28 November - Wigmore Hall, London, UK
    1 December - Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, New York, USA
  • 02 OCT 2010
    Kokkla, Finland
    Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra
    Lars Anders Tomter (viola)
  • 09 SEP 2010
    Sundsvall, Sweden
    Sundsvall Kammarorkester
    Lars Anders Tomter (viola)

    Other Dates:
    10,11 September - Sundsvall, Sweden
  • 11 FEB 2010
    Tromso, Norway
    Tromso Kammerorkester
    Lars Anders Tomter, conductor
  • 05 OCT 2009
    Under City Skin Country Premiere
    Ständchen Country Premiere
    Rovaniemi Church, Finland
    Chamber Orchestra of Lapland
  • 05 OCT 2009
    Rovaniemen Kirkko, Finland
    Lapin kamariorkesteri
    John Storgårds, conductor
  • 24 JUN 2009
    Risør Festival of Chamber Music
    Risør Festival of Chamber Music, Risør, Norway
    Risor Festival Ensemble
    Lars Anders Tomter; Christoper Eggen, Lars Anders Tomter, conductor

The centrepiece of the evening was Rolf Wallin's Under City which the viola solos and the propulsive orchestral rhythms emerged from disembodied city sounds, mythologising the mundane. The viola soars but always returns to earth; the work might be a Lark Descending.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian,02/12/2010
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