Anders Hillborg - Eleven Gates

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ANDERS HILLBORG - Eleven Gates - Esa-Pekka Salonen (Conductor) - Royal Stockholm Philharmonic - Hybrid SACD - 7318599914060 - Released: September 2011 - BIS SACD1406

As demonstrated by the four works on this disc, anyone who enters Anders Hillborg's world of sounds is in for a surprise. Complexity rubs shoulders with directness, sensuality with humour, hypnotic meditation with pulsating rhythms, and all is combined with an original sense of form and unfaltering craftsmanship. Such qualities have brought international recognition, and Hillborg recently became the first Swedish composer to have a work premièred by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in January of 2011. Hillborg has called the symphony orchestra a 'sound animal', and he plainly delights in the effects that are possible to achieve when writing for the medium. {BIS Records}

Imagine if you may, Ligeti, Cerha, Ruders and Silvestrov collaborating on a new composition, and you would get a fairly accurate image of what the orchestral works of Anders Hillborg (b. 1954) sound like. His music is more concerned with 'textures', with 'sonic trickery', than with thematic development. A technique that seems to have become more and more common these days, but Hillborg does it extremely well. Take for example the work titled King Tide from 1999. At times you would swear that you are listening to electronically generated music, but that's because Hillborg's fascinating orchestration techniques have fooled you in believing so. Wave upon overlapping wave of orchestral swells immerse you in a constantly growing ocean of sound that gently recedes in the end. The strangely eerie final chord leaves an impression. Exquisite Corpse on the other hand, written in 2002, pulls and stretches the musical material in many different directions, from dramatic brass orations, to wild ritualistic drumming, and a fierce orchestral climax around the 3:40 mark that will have you checking over your shoulder. One of the magical moments on this CD takes place during the short opening movement of the main work Eleven Gates from 2006. As the title of the movement alludes to, Drifting into D major sounds like a huge vortex into which many different cacophonous orchestral strands drift towards the center to eventually, and seamlessly, produce a glorious D major chord that remains blissfuly static but for a brief moment, until it slowly disintegrates and gets sucked into the center of the vortex strand by strand. The magnificent musical equivalent of a black hole, expertly conceived by the orchestration skills of Anders Hillborg.

The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra players, led by conductors Sakari Oramo in King Tide, Alan Gilbert in Exquisite Corpse and Esa-Pekka Salonen in Dreaming River and Eleven Gates are clearly up to the task and capable of handling any complex musical challenges thrown at them. This BIS recording sounds great on my old system reproduced in plain old stereo, so I can imagine how impressive it must be when played on a Surround sound SACD player.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2011