Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Kroumata Percussion Ensmble
Martin Grubinger (percussion)
Jaap van Zweden / John Axelrod / Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Act is a wonderfully tangled study in orchestral acceleration, full of scorching details and driven by a visceral force.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 11/16/2007
Powerful confirmation of a distinctive voice in Norwegian music
Although Finland has made the running in contemporary music terms, other Nordic countries have produced composers no less significant. Denmark's Anders Nordentoft comes to mind, as does Norway's Rolf Wallin. Fifty last year, Wallin is a figure at home across a range of genres and who also deploys complex procedures in the writing of music with a visceral immediacy. How else to explain Act (2003) - a 10-minute "study" which amply demonstrates the orchestra's potential both as individuals capable of great expressive subtlety and as a collective capable of generating an irresistible momentum.
The larger works emphasise the role of percussion, yet the manner of this emphasis could hardly be more different. Das war schön! (2006) pays tribute to Mozart with a refreshing lack of reverence, drawing on birdsong, freemasonry and parental innuendo in a five-movement work of deft irony and understated virtuosity (would that most percussion concertos evinced much of either). Tides (1998) avoids the anecdotal, integrating its six percussionists into the very fabric of a discourse that unfolds over three large "tides" of musical activity; the orchestra emerging imperceptibly from the "engine room" of this sextet and interlocking with it in an intensifying process of tension and release.
Performances are as committed as this exhilarating music requires, the sound lacks nothing in its impact and the composer's notes are both succinct and informative. Wallin himself is hardly likely to worry over being the next "big thing", but this disc powerfully confirms his stature.
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, 4/1/2008
The Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin is increasingly gaining international recognition, and this disc is likely to win him further admirers. The percussion concerto Das war schon refuses to conform to the genre's stereotype of superficially impressive crashing and banging. This Mozart tribute combines a genial charm, with flair and a sometimes impish sense of humour. While the meditative inner movements draw on fragmentary quotations of Mozart, the perkier outer movements, based on slowed-down birdsong (inspired by Mozart's pet starling) show that this material need not sound like Messiaen. A more classic approach to percussion is taken in Tides, for six percussionists and orchestra. The opening is essentially a study on cymbals, which might seem like an arid prospect without Wallin's sense of pace, allied to, and inspired by, the superlative skills of the Kroumata Percussion Ensemble. Nonetheless, it is the orchestral writing that impresses, even if Wallion professes that this comes out of the solo parts. This impression is reinforced by Act, which starts in headlong fashion before cranking up the pace and tension. It is a star that burns briefly, but brightly, and, like all the works on this disc, is given an utterly committed and convincing performance.
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine, 8/1/2008