Hafliði Hallgrímsson: Offerto

Hafliði Hallgrímsson is regarded as Iceland’s pre-eminent composer, as well as a highly accomplished cellist. You prog rockers might have heard him, too: in 1970, he played the (uncredited) cello solo on Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd.

This new album follows a request in 2005 from violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved, who asked Hallgrímsson to provide him with a few short sketches for violin solo, which he intended to perform in a concert at an exhibition in an art gallery in Mexico City (presumably the reason that Paul Klee gets his name on them). Sheppard Skærved performed the music in Mexico City and at other venues.

Some years later, Hallgrímsson came across these sketches when he was looking for another composition and decided to take a closer look at them. He found himself revising the material and adding new pieces. There are now 15 Klee Sketches divided into two books, in case a violinist would like to include a few but not all of them in a programme.

For the performer, the pieces range in technical terms from simplicity such as in “Klee takes a line for a walk”, to a relatively complex structure as in “Klee notates birdsong in an aviary”.

For the listener it is short, bitty pieces – the shortest Klee sketch is 1.27, and even the four-movement Offerto is fragmentary. You have to accept it for what is, which is descriptive music that’s too diverting and sometimes jagged to be background music but also never really develops enough to be what you’d call a tune. It’s stimulating and makes a good accompaniment to working (at least as a non-violinist). Some sections are melodic and gentle, others more descriptive. Sheppard Skærved plays as well as ever.

This is out on Metier, MSV 28616 from here.

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