It seems I’ve taken the challenge to talk about music for the holidays, but perhaps it’s all about the approach. The secret, I think, is to talk about music I want to hear during the holidays and not the music everyone else wants to hear. Year after year, I find that the consistently spectacular recordings from 2L in Norway are my favorite holiday music, at least around my house, and that love affair continues deep into the winter where all this Scandinavian brilliance takes root. That’s exactly how I feel about the latest from 2L, Stale Kleiberg Concertos.
Composer Stale Kleiberg is sort of a 2L regular, and I’ve reviewed his work many times in the past. Kleiberg can be one of those adventurous, modern composers who challenges your mind, but there’s always a melodic richness to his compositions that tend to sweep you away. That’s where Stale Kleiberg Concertos comes in–these three concertos (Violin Concerto No. 2, DOPO for Violincello and String Orchestra and Concerto for Viola and Orchestra) look backwards in time and temperament, possibly back to the late Romantic period, and that’s where this album connects with me.
It seems almost like a coincidence, but there were only two classical recordings in 2021 that caught my attention and they both have a lot in common. Hilary Hahn‘s Paris has been a constant touchstone for months due to its spectacular recording of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and I hear so much of Prokofiev in Stale Kleiberg Concertos. Maybe it’s just me, but wow. I’m not saying these concertos borrow from Prokofiev explicitly, but they certainly evoke some of the same feelings. Dense, emotional and complicated, and yet always lively and listenable.
“This is contemporary music with which listeners can easily engage,” the liner notes of Stale Kleiberg Concertos explain, and that’s how I’ve always felt about Prokofiev. To be fair to Kleiberg, however, I hear other influences as well, from Rachmaninov and Shostakovich and early (19th century) Arnold Schoenberg. That sounds heavy for holiday music, I know, but this is lively and energetic just as much as it’s brooding and lurking in the shadows. This is how we spend the holidays at my house. Sit down and relax, and let the extraordinary Trondheim Symphony Orchestra sound make your holiday unique.