Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: Fabula Suite Lugano (ECM 2118)


Christian Wallumrød Ensemble
Fabula Suite Lugano

Christian Wallumrød piano, harmonium, toy piano
Eivind Lønning trumpet
Gjermund Larsen violin, Hardanger fiddle, viola
Tanja Orning cello
Giovanna Pessi baroque harp
Per Oddvar Johansen drums, percussion, glockenspiel
Recorded June 2009, Auditorio Radio Svizzera, Lugano
Engineer: Markus Heiland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Christian Wallumrød is a court composer of our time, and we are his servants. His distinctly crafted chamber pieces on The Zoo Is Far ushered in a certain specificity and microcosmic style. Replacing trumpeter Arve Henriksen from that previous session is newcomer Eivind Lønning, whose lungs brighten the patina of Giovanna Pessi’s Baroque harp in “Scarlatti Sonata” and lend rounded contrast to the violin of Gjermund Larsen in the modestly titled “Duo.” Regulars Tanja Orning on cello and drummer-percussionist Per Oddvar Johansen flesh out the palette with insight and exactitude.


This time, as Wallumrød’s sound-world paints through a new galactic stencil, he and his bandmates show a deeper commitment to the integrity and possibilities of atmospheric improvisation. Reference points are as varied as the album’s 18 tracks. “Quote Funebre” takes its inspiration from the music of Olivier Messiaen and Morton Feldman, which Wallumrød spins into what he calls “small harmonic events,” each a stepping stone for Larsen’s commenting fiddle, while the Swedish folk-inspired “Jumpa” (in two versions) lifts off agile feet into the future. For the most part, however, the core of each piece is a solar system unto itself, blown to dust and melted down into a rough gem. Here an emerald, there a ruby.

Pessi’s harping constitutes a defining voice within this modest choir. Her affinity for description infuses pieces like “Dancing Deputies” and “Blop” with tactility, foiling percussive undercurrents like staples across the skin of time, while her pathways light the way through the barely-touched instruments of “Snake.” Johansen is another, catching wind with wings in the descending trills of “Solemn Mosquitoes” and pulsing through the veins of “I Had A Mother Who Could Swim.” Through all of this mimesis, Wallumrød himself shines like a broken firefly, its light turned to liquid. The effect is somehow otherworldly. Even his toy piano in “Valse Dolcissima” feels less like the remnant of a human childhood and more like the language of an alien race who anthem is his concluding “Solo”—the benediction of an artist at play in his telescopic wanderings.

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