Boldemann; Gefors; Hillborg Vocal Works
This exemplary release finds Anne Sofie von Otter again stamping her distinctive mark on a disc. Two of these works were written for her, and with her special qualities in mind, so right from the start of Anders Hillborg’s …lontana in sonno… von Otter’s dusky voice traces a lonely line with supreme musical concentration. Hillborg’s setting of Petrarch features an orchestra including glass harmonica, which weaves other-worldly textures around the singer, and her voice soars with purity.
The musical result occasionally recalls Sibelius’s Luonnotar, but of course the subject matter is entirely different. The threads here are love and death, and Hans Gefors’s Lydia’s Songs (the second world premiere recording) is inspired by one of Sweden’s greatest and most tragic love stories, Hjalmar Söderberg’s novel The Serious Game. The unhappy affair between Lydia and the music critic Arvid is outlined in settings in Swedish, French and German, and the eclectic style is Gefors’s tribute to von Otter’s versatility: the music, which moves from slow-burning passion to sardonic cabaret, is another example of how von Otter has enriched the repertory.
She also dusts off the Four Epitaphs of Laci Boldemann (1921‑69), a fascinating figure in Swedish music. Composed in 1952, five years after his release from an American PoW camp, this cycle for mezzo and string orchestra takes poems from Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology and sets them with a simple intensity that is perhaps the key to everything here.