Terje Rypdal: Undisonus (ECM 1389)

Terje Rypdal
Undisonus

Terje Tønnesen violin
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London
Christian Eggen conductor
Grex Vocalis
The Rainbow Orchestra

Carl Høgset
director

Recorded September 1986, St. Peter’s Church, Morden, London (Undisonus) and November 1987, Rainbow Studio, Oslo (Ineo)
Engineers: Arne Akselberg (Undisonus) and Jan Erik Konghaug (Ineo)
Produced by Arne-Peter Rognan

For as long as I’ve been listening to Terje Rypdal, I’ve known him to skirt idiomatic borders without presumption. I can only admire him for his dedication to jump headlong into such projects as this pairing of two classical pieces. As one who is so often present in the realization of his works, allowing the music to take on its own life isn’t always easy. Rypal, however, takes this step gracefully and with melodic integrity intact.

Undisonus, op. 23 is set for violin and orchestra, but it’s the brass section that first catches our attention with its subterranean rumblings. First seeded in 1979, the present version represents years of additions and fine-tuning, which one can hear throughout Terje Tønnesen’s fine playing. His tone is declamatory without being overbearing, lyrical yet more acrobatic than romantic, but always with the feel of a sketch running off the page. This puts the orchestra in a precarious position, taking on the role of caretaker at its haunts the aura of the soloist’s imagination. Silences are always heavy and felt like a remembered drone, ending on a shadowy slide in which double basses and violin circumscribe the entire musical space in a beautiful gesture of completion.

Where Undisonus skirts a dichotomy of call and response, Ineo, op. 29 (composed 1983) transcends that dichotomy into a more noticeably unified sound. Originally featuring Rypdal on guitar for its Danish Radio premier, here it has been reworked for choir and chamber orchestra. Lush writing for woodwinds and brass lends deeper poignancy to the choir’s memorial intonations. Constructed in gorgeous little cells drawn by near-silent threads, every utterance spreads into an overarching whole. A lyrical oboe solo recalls Rypdal’s formative meditations in his self-titled debut and in What Comes After, foreshadowing a glorious Alleluja that is as close to the spirit of Giya Kancheli’s Prayers cycle as I have ever experienced in another’s work.

Averaging 20 minutes each, these pieces make for a modest album in length that is anything but in scope. Rypdal clearly has nothing to prove, as the music drapes a blanket of sonic comfort over our prog rock expectations. It is best appreciated in half-slumber, where judgment is but a stepping-stone toward broader skies.

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