ANDERS ELIASSON (b.1947): Quo Vadis for Tenor, Choir and Large Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 09N070
Reference: 777 495
Description: Mr. Eliasson, who seems not to be troubled by excessive modesty (unless his pronouncements lose something in translation), believes his harmonic system, a kind of modality based on spiralling progressions of fifths, unlocks a new world of music finally free of the constraints of tonality or dodecaphony. As open-ended as his method is, it can certainly be employed without needing to resort to either atonality or functional tonality for the sake of the musical argument; Eliasson's unique voice results in good part from the fact that he does thus employ it exhaustively. What is missing is resolution, in the established sense, so the music is always buoyant, in constant restless motion - or, like the opening of Tristan, constantly seeking, never finding. This, alongside the rhythmic vitality and vibrant timbres of his orchestration lends the music its peculiar sense of incandescent energy. Eliasson resists comparison with other composers, but some valid ones can certainly be made - the 20th-century Nordic symphonists - Pettersson, Rosenberg, Sallinen for instance, and Shostakovich, who seems to stand in the shadows behind much modern music of this kind - and because of the harmonic instability inherent in Eliasson's music, Busoni is also an obvious precursor. The form of the work is unusual; it is best described, perhaps, as an orchestral symphony in which some episodes happen to be scored for voices as part of the orchestral texture, when a text is a required part of the evolving argument, but there is no sense whatsoever of a choral work with orchestral accompaniment, and for long stretches the piece is purely orchestral. The texts are taken from a collection of sacred writings from various religions, including Quo vadis, Domine, which gives the work its title, and the loose overall theme is 'mankind, where are you going?' - why are we here, and to what end? The piece is thus philosophical and spiritual rather than religious, and Eliasson's unsettled, restlessly striving music fits this kind of enquiry perfectly. German-English texts. Michael Weinius (tenor), Swedish Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra; Johannes Gustavsson.