Premieres from Previn and Sorensen in Norway

There were two important premieres in Norway this weekend. Or one and a half, at least. The “half” because Bent Sørensen’s ‘It is pain flowing down slowly on a white wall’ has been heard before in 2011: at the Diamanten in Copenhagen and at the Huddersfield Festival in Britain.

But The Trondheim Soloists who commissioned the work felt that it had more potential and suggested Sørensen re-write and expand it. Artistic Director of the ensemble Øyvind Gimse says that it feels now like ‘a real piece’.

It sounds like one too on Saturday night: organic, moving and recognisably from the pen of Sørensen, who was present at this “second” premiere in Trondheim Cathedral. Fragments of Renaissance and Romantic musical shapes drift tantalisingly in and out of view in the piece, as if Sørensen’s dribbles of pain are flowing over events in musical history.

The post-Sibelius idea of inducing a naturally unfolding structure is also at play. The musicians do a lot: the orchestra members hum and play melodicas while the two soloists (accordion and violin) explore the full range of their instruments. But still the piece feels entirely organic and unfolds with a gentle inevitability. These musicians have been inside the piece as it has changed, and it showed in their affectionate radiance and finesse. And in the way they knowingly used the cathedral’s space.

Sweetness and irreverence
Across town the next evening we heard the first performance of André Previn’s Second Violin Concerto. This might well be coming to a town near you in the next few weeks, as The Trondheim Soloists and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will tour the work in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland from 13 October.

Previn’s piece bears the stamp of a musician who has nothing to prove. It’s also a lot of fun, gently teasing its own baroque structure (it’s programmed alongside Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’) and playing with the conflicting ideas of sentimentality and academia. Previn’s gift for singing lines shines through as Mutter’s violin soars into its sweetest register (he knows his former wife’s playing style very well) but there is plenty of irreverence to jolt it back down to earth.

Mutter has worked extensively with the Trondheim Soloists and it feels in this piece as if she’s briefed Previn on how they like to play. The strings-only orchestral voicing is rich, making for an earthy sound in the more playful passages and a luxurious, rich one in the more heartfelt ones. Previn isn’t pushing any boundaries here, just doing what he does best. In a gregarious, emotionally open performance such as this the results are very entertaining indeed.


Photo: Lillian Birnbaum / DG

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