Niels Marthinsen: Snapshot Symphony
01 May 2012
Orchestral canvases from Denmark's pop-art symphonist. Niels Marthinsen's Snapshot Symphony (2009) follows its predecessor, Monster (1995, 10/06), by 14 years and equal blithe disregard for Classical norms. A topsy-turvy Fiesta Mexicana is succeeded by an Arabian Nights in which Disneyan pastiche gets over-familiar with the score of 'The Mummy'. The finale, Fireworks in China, is a stop-start orchestral toccata, noisy with lots of rudimentary 'local colour' (though at one point sounding like Gershwin!). This is picture-postcard symphonism, conceived in the film studio and drawn in poster paints and broad strokes. On its own terms it is undeniably effective but the shades of Bruckner, Nielsen and Holmboe can rest easy.
Marthinsen's style has its subtleties and the dark, single-span Concerto for three trombones In the Shadow of the Bat (2009) inhabits a very different expressiveworld. His idiom is better suited to concerto-writing than the symphonic (the result here is more convincing) and full of fascinating passages, such as the Villa-Lobos-on-speed dialogue for the solo choir and orchestral brass starting a little after 4'00".
The 'Opera Trailers', Snow White's Mirror (2010) and The King of Utopiaville (2009), if nothing else show what a busy composer he is. As with the previous issue, these are Marthinsen at his most approachable and would make likeable concert openers. Christian Lindberg relishes their sound worlds and the various challenges provided by music that is not as easy to play as it sounds. The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra respond with élan once more and Dacapo's sound is as terrific as ever. I fail to understand how their superb catalogue has managed to remain under the critical radar so much.