A quirky and engaging collection of music by that remarkable figure Stellan Sagvik. Sagvik’s energy and range of abilities is astonishing – as a composer he has written eight operas, three symphonies, five string quartets, several song cycles, a good deal of choral music (including his Missa Maria Magdalena - see review) and electronic music. He plays several instruments and works as a conductor. He has been musical director of more than one theatre, edited a number of musical periodicals and has worked as a producer for the musical channel of Swedish Radio. Since 1989 he has been running the eclectic label Nosag.
The core of this two CD set consists of Sagvik’s sequence, 10 Swedish concertini. Each of these is based on Swedish folk tunes, the title of each indicating the region of the country from which the material comes. The booklet (in Swedish only) gives more precise sources. Each concertino is in three movements and all of them are unfailingly beguiling – tuneful, elegant, with a few acerbic touches that leave one in no doubt as to the quality of Sagvik’s musical imagination and technique. This is not cosily nostalgic or superficially pictorial music.
There is some attractive jazz-inflected writing for Jörgen Pettersson’s alto sax in the Närkisk Concertino; there’s some charming melodic writing for the flute of Kinga Práda in the Skånsk Concertino and some brilliantly brassy writing and playing in the Sörmländsk Concertino, which features Gabriel Posdarescu’s trumpet. The Trioconcertino is full of delightful instrumental interplay and the sureness of Sagvik’s knowledge and touch is evident in his thoroughly idiomatic writing for the tuba, bassoon and trombone as soloists in their miniature concertos. Everywhere the writing for strings is lucidly imaginative. A number of these concertinos deserve to enter the repertoire of other soloists.
On the CD the 10 Svenska Concertini are interwoven with some folk tunes played ‘straight’ - as it were - on the latfiol, which is, I believe, a relative of the better-known Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, with two understrings; with recordings of the sounds to be heard in various locations – birdsong, dripping water, a ringing telephone, conversation, creaking stairs, rain, footsteps, opening doors, farm noises etc. At times the concertini emerge from these sounds without pause and disappear back into them at their close. Each of the two CDs closes with an extended piece for tape. I have dutifully followed the CD sleeve in describing these as the work of a certain Konkret Buchla, but this name is presumably a joke – Buchla, of course, being one of the major manufacturers of electronic musical instruments.
I recommend this heartily – both for the quality of several of the concertinos and for the wit and imagination evident in every aspect of the presentation of the whole package.