Jan Erik Mikalsen, one of the hot new names in contemporary music, presents three impressive orchestral works on here. The release depicts Mikalsen with orchestral music characterized by rich textures and that Nordic timbre. A unified musical vision with an almost maximalist utilization of big climaxes, and harmonic structures distorted by Mikalsen’s masterful touch.
Saan = Mountain
The album title track perfectly illustrates Mikalsen’s urge to challenge conventions. Here, the composer has placed the trio POING in front of the Oslo Philharmonic, a move which creates a fascinating dynamic between orchestra and ‘band’, in which both incorporate moods and instruments that convey associations to folk music. ‘Saan’ means ‘mountain’ in Korean, a symbol that according to Mikalsen befits the album well. The Korean influence is not only limited to the album title: A selection of Korean percussion instruments are used throughout, and the second movement even begins and ends with references to Korean court music. Commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic, ‘Saan’ was premiered on January 12th, 2017, conducted by Han-Na Chang, and recorded the next day.
‘Songr for Orchestra’ was commissioned and premiered by The Norwegian Radio Orchestra in 2014. The work was awarded the prestigious Rostrum of Composers in 2015, which in turn led to it being broadcast in more than 30 countries. A strong influence from Norwegian folk music shines through, as Mikalsen moves from the ominous and grotesque, to the sensitive and beautiful. The last piece, ‘Parts II for Orchestra’, achieved a Toru Takemitsu Composition Award in Tokyo in 2011, the Grieg Prize the year after, and is considered Mikalsen’s breakthrough.
New voices championed by Norwegian orchestras
This release arrives as a result of a trend where Norwegian orchestras acknowledge the value of cooperating with composers, resulting in a constant advancement of contemporary music. When the Oslo Philharmonic invites emerging international conductors both to perform and record new Norwegian music, they award the work and the composer a unique and entirely necessary opportunity for exposure – which in turn will lead to more performances. With the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, the chief conductor grants new music both breadth and possibilities. This commitment provides better conditions – both for musicians and audience.