AHO: Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra. Solo IX for Oboe. Sonata for Oboe and Piano
Piet Van Bockstal, oboe; Yutaka Oya, piano; Lahti Symphony Orch/Martyn Brabbins, cond.
BIS SACD 1876 TT: 71:16

SAINT-SAËNS: Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah. Orient et occident, Op. 25. Le Déluge—Die Sintflut, Op. 45
Isabelle Müller-Cant, soprano; Carolin Strecker, alto; Daniel Schreiber, tenor; Philip Niederberger, bass; Figuralchor der Gedächtnishkirche Stuttgart/Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Alexander Burda, cond.
ARS SACD 38127 TT: 62:48

VALEN: Ave Maria, Op. 4 (for soprano and orchestra). Hvad est duy dog skion, Op. 12 (for mixed choir). Kom regn fra det hoie, Op. 25 (for women's choir). Der 121. Psalm (for choir and orchestra). MESSIAEN: Cinq rechants (for 12 mixed voices a cappella). O sacrum convivium (for mixed choir). WEBERN: Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen, Op. 2 (for mixed choir). Zwei Lieder, Op. 19 (for mixed choir and instrumental ensemble). BERG: Die Nachtigall (for 16 voices a cappella).
The Norwegian Soloists' Choir/Grete Pedersen, cond. BeritNorbakken Solset, soprano. Norweigan Radio Orch/Members of the Oslo Sinfonietta
BIS SACD 1970 TT: 57:44

BIS already has 20 disks in their commendable series of music by major Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. A few months ago, this site mentioned a remarkable disk of his Symphony No. 12 played by the Lahti Symphony directed by John Storgards (REVIEW).This new issue features the oboe, three works from what Aho calls his "oboe project." In 1984, Aho wrote his Sonata for Oboe and Piano. This was a commission from the Finnish Broadcasting Company, the first major work for these instruments by a Finnish composer. This work combines the worlds of normal oboe playing and a "more impure style dominated by quarter-tones and multiphonic sounds." The piano often is used as a highly percussive instrument with Arabian sounds from the oboe. The sonata is rather long (27:50) and has four movements,ending softly. Some years later, when Aho met the Belgian oboist Piet Vam Bockstal, he was inspired to compose his oboe concerto in which he "explored fresh directions for tonality" as well as utilizing Arabian and African musical elements. This is probably the longest oboe concerto ever written (31:33) with five movements, opening and closing softly and slowly. The center movement also is an adagio, the second a quicksilver presto, the third a cadenza. It is all rather like an Arabic sultry adventure; one almost expects to see cobras coming out of baskets! Solo IX for Oboe was composed in 2010 specifically for this recordings of the other two works. It is an odd piece with many ascending and descending scales topped by discordant "multiphonic sounds." No explanation is given why this is called Solo IX. All of this music must be incredibly difficult to play, challenges brilliantly met by Piet Van Bockstal. The BIS audio is excellent, if not particularly "surround."

Camille Saint-Saëns composed his oratorio Le Déluge ("The Flood") in 1875. Already well-known for Omphale's Spinning Wheel, Danse macbre, and four piano concertos but had yet to write his most famous works, the opera Samson and Delilah and the mighty Symphony No. 3. The libretto by Louis Gallet tells of Noah and the flood. Scored for tenor, soprano, alto and bass along with chorus, Le Déluge begins with an orchestral prelude followed by three vocal sections descriptive of the sinfulness of man, God's decision to destroy the earth, the rains and flood, flights of the dove and God's final promise not to curse the earth, the latter with a choral fugue. As usual with music of Saint-Saëns, it is lovely, but in spite of the composer's interest in the subject, the result surely is not one of his better works. There is good reason why it is seldom-performed and recorded. This new release is admirable, excellent soloists, chorus and orchestra, and at least those interested in exploring Saint-Saëns output have an opportunity to experience it. The CD also contains another rarity, the march Orient et occident originally written for military band heard here in the composer's arrangement for full orchestra, plus the familiar Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah. Young conductor Alexander Burda leads fine performances and the excellent chorus and orchestra do their parts well. Audio is fine—although little use is made of surround recording techniques.

The superb Norwegian Soloists' Choir directed by Grete Pedersen already has issued three SACDs of wide-ranging repertory, from Brahms, Schubert and Grieg to contemporary composers. Their latest is another showcase for their remarkable musicianship, even in the most challenging repertory. This disk, called " Refractions," focuses on changes in music over the years just as light is altered by refraction. Some repertory standards are included (Messiaen, Webern and Berg, as well as several exquisite works of Norwegian composer Fartein Valen, beginning with Ave Maria for solo soprano and orchestra followed by one for women's choir, one for mixed choir, ending with a song for mixed choir and orchestra. Treasures all, and the rich vocal and orchestral sounds are beautifully conveyed by the BIS engineers. Complete texts are provided with original texts and English translation.

R.E.B. (March 2013)