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Ketil HVOSLEF (b. 1939)
Chamber Works No. V
Perpetuum Trompetuum (2009) [5:22]
Trio for Oboe, Viola & Percussion (1978) [10:56]
Trio V.C.P. per Violino, Corno e Pianoforte [15:52]
Kammerspill (1995) [15:55]
Hvoslef Chamber Music Project
rec. 2016, Gunnar Sævigs Sal, the Grieg Academy, Bergen, Norway
LAWO LWC1156 [48:08]

With this release Lawo reach the midway point in the proposed nine-disc series of the complete chamber works, 38 in all, of the Norwegian composer Ketil Hvoslef, I say proposed because the Trio V. C. P. was composed as a response to the performance of the horn player Ilene Chanon, in an earlier recording session for this series. The previous four discs in this series have all shown what a varied and interesting composer Ketil Hvoslef is, with each showing a high standard of compositional skill and great musicality on behalf of the performers, and I am glad to say that this new disc is no different. Indeed, this volume would make the perfect introduction to anyone interested in exploring the chamber music of the composer, with the four pieces being approachable and good examples of his developed style.

The opening piece, Perpetuum Trompetuum, could be seen as a piece of post-minimalism, as it is in the piano that we have a repeated eight note motif that dominates the piano line, shifts in intensity and volume serving to drive the piece along whilst the trumpet plays above and somewhat independently. The trumpet has a more agitated and frenzied line with only the occasional suggestion that the two instruments might play the same line. This is a wonderfully modern piece of writing for the trumpet and piano, one in which both performers are on fine form.

The earliest of the works presented here, Trio for Oboe, Viola & Percussion, has some nice interplay between the instruments and is based upon the medieval Icelandic melody ‘Lilja’. Hvoslef states in the notes that when it came to the melody he chose “to let the old be a contrast to something new.” The resulting piece is quite mesmeric in the way that it weaves its way around the melody taking snippets of the tune and reworking them in to something new and exciting. The piece is a kind of arch with the opening and ending music being similar whilst the melody appears only once in its entirety with the composer using it to make a sort of statement with the instruments playing it full throttle. The piece does not outstay its welcome with, for me, the conclusion arriving all too quickly.

Although no date is given for Trio V.C.P. it is safe to assume that it is the latest composition on the disc as it was composed as a response to a recording session for an earlier disc in this series. As with the previous Trio on this disc, the choice of instrumentation, although not unique, is a little strange, but as with the earlier work, this odd combination works well here. It was composed with the horn player Ilene Chanon in mind, and the music is woven around the instrument, here played peerlessly by the intended musician. That being said, it would be wrong to describe the work as a trio for horn with violin and piano, as all instruments are equal here, this gives the piece a great sense of a work for ensemble.

The final work on the disc, Kammerspill (Chamber Play) is for a larger and less intimate ensemble, with twelve musicians in total, although two members double up and play different instruments, conducted by Ricardo Odriozola, one of the catalysts behind the whole project, as well as joint author, along with Hvoslef of the booklet notes. The sound is bigger and bolder, but not without more intimate sections, with the music being more austere at times than the other works on the disc. It is quite percussive at times as it “reproduces the highly heated atmosphere that reigned … at the time”. The work, although uncompromising, does have some wonderfully melodic episodes, with the work as a whole contrasting these with the more strident and modernist elements, the result being something special.

At just over 48 minutes some might find this disc short measure, however, this disc offers excellent performances throughout, which along with the scholarly and insightful booklet notes and spacious and well recorded sound makes this disc a real winner, and as already stated makes this an ideal introduction to the chamber music of Ketil Hvoslef. This disc left me wanting to hear more, and I look forward to the next volume.

Stuart Sillitoe