Sunleif Rasmussen: Motion/Emotion
17 January 2014
The music of Sunleif Rasmussen (b1961) has been attracting sustained attention in recent years, especially following the award of the 2002 Nordic Council’s Music Prize to his First Symphony Oceanic Days (1995–97; Dacapo). His musical roots encompass much of the cultural world of the Northern countries: Faroese folksong - which suffuses many of the works on this disc - jazz, studies in Copenhagen, and domestic and other connections to Norway and Finland (only Sweden seems to have eluded him).
The title-track of this wind quintet-based disc, Motion/Emotion (2011), is a fine example of his latest manner, a punchy, five-movement suite in which the instrumental textures typical of the form (think Reicha or Nielsen) are reimagined in a very personal way. This is true of earlier works such as Cantus borealis (‘Song of the North Wind’, 1995), in which the players at points blow pitchlessly through their instruments as if depicting the wind buffeting the landscape.
Rasmussen’s harmonic style has become less astringent over time. Winter Pictures, for quintet with piano (1990), is a good example of his older, harsher idiom but again it is the image of a craggily vibrant landscape that communicates itself. It is another suite, though, Four Gardens (2003)—along with the selection of duos from his ongoing series Andalag (literally ‘Breath’)—that provides the most appealing music here: four movements for varying combinations of piano solo, string trio and wind quintet, the whole ensemble united only in the finale. Superb performances throughout from the funding-threatened Lapland Chamber Orchestra players, with Dacapo’s standard excellent sound. © 2014 Gramophone