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Odes and Elegies

Marcus Paus (born 1979) is one of the most sought after Norwegian composers. His catalogue includes numerous chamber, solo, choral and orchestral works, along with several operas, and music for stage and screen. He is noted for having re-embraced tradition, tonality and melody, and has been lauded by critics in Norway and abroad. Paus was named Composer of the Year 2017 by the Norwegian Music Publishers Association.

On 3 November 2017 Sheva Contemporary will release a recording (SH 174) presenting a diverse cross-section of Paus' output, from the darkly coloured to the resolutely joyful. Perhaps a particular highlight is Love's Last Rites for solo violin and strings played with sumptuous beauty by the great Henning Kraggerud.

Marble Songs was composed in response to an exhibition by Norwegian sculptor Håkon Anton Fagerås, whose luminous works continue to be a great source of inspiration to Paus. Knowing that Fagerås spends much of the year working in Pietrasanta, Tuscany, an area with an important relation to art history through its connection with marble, Paus wanted to write a piece in celebration of that lineage, and the oboe d'amore seemed ideally suited to the task. In these songs, Paus has aimed to reflect the beautiful paradox of stillness and plasticity in Håkon Anton Fagerås' sculptures. Jan Bertelsen, one of Norway's most active and versatile oboists, is the soloist on this recording.

Shostakovich in Memoriam initially formed the first movement of Paus' Symphony No 1, written in celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) in 2006. The symphony is a memorial to this great composer and, as such, Paus chose to base the symphony on Shostakovich's signature motto DSCH, the notes D, E flat (S), C and B natural (H) (from the German spelling of Dmitri Schostakowitsch). This motto pervades the entire work motivically, harmonically and structurally. This level of harmonic concentration is unique in Paus' output, and lends a distinctive austerity to the music. The piece was inspired by the composer's tombstone, which bears the signature motto. As such, the music is both monumental and funereal. It is performed here by cellist Ole Eirik Ree with the Oslo Camerata.

In spring 2012, Paus provided the music for Norwegian dance company Frikar's «8», a show featuring four of the company's folk dancers, as well as four young Kung Fu monks from China's Wudang province. The youngest of these was Zhou, a boy of about ten, who seemed to inhabit a world halfway between reality and myth; at four, he'd had a vision that he was destined to become a Kung Fu master, and so off he went to the temple to begin his training.

When asked to assemble and orchestrate some of the music for a TV ballet based on the show (originally scored for string trio and percussion), it occurred to Paus that he could re-cast parts of it in the form of a concertino for flute and orchestra, with the soloist playing the part of Zhou and so A Portrait of Zhou was written.

Having grown up in the 1980s, Paus was also channeling some of his own childhood fantasies, informed by the many martial arts films that were so popular at the time. In this work he has tried to capture the feeling of such a 'hero's quest', as well as the awe and energy of young Zhou's real-life journey towards mastery. Tom Ottar Andreassen (co-flautist of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra) is the soloist on this recording, performing with The Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

In summer 2014, Paus received a private commission for a solo violin work, which was to be recorded at the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum in Oslo. Emanuel Vigeland made it his life's work to turn his studio into a planned mausoleum, covering its walls with the mural that he titled Vita, a darkly sensual depiction of the cycle of life through love, passion, death and rebirth. Paus wrote Vita as a lyrical tribute to Emanuel Vigeland's art, and as a token of friendship and admiration for violinist Bjarne Magnus Jensen who performs on this CD.

Love's Last Rites was written for violinist Henning Kraggerud who is the soloist on this recording with The Arctic Chamber Orchestra. Paus wanted to give Kraggerud a piece that could showcase his wonderful expressivity and phenomenal cantabile, his ability to make the violin truly sing. Almost all of the material is derived from the theme intoned by the solo violin after a short, lilting chordal introduction. The theme itself is one of tenderness and tension, restraint and regret. Paus says that it has become one of his most personal and confessional works.


Posted: 1 November 2017

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