Performances

Click the links for more information.

2017-11-04 Hong Kong
Double Bass Concerto No. 1

2017-11-23 Melbourne
Ich denke Dein...

2017-11-25 Melbourne
Ich denke Dein...

2017-11-28 Stockholm
Suite Fantastique

2017-12-10 Amsterdam
Carillon

2017-12-17 Vienna 1:2
Garden of Devotion

2017-12-17 Vienna 2:2
Garden of Devotion

2018-01-18 Kristiansand
Poem for Orchestra No. 1

2018-02-01 Katowice
Bridge - Trumpet Concerto No. 1

2018-02-01 Polish Radio Live Broadcasting
Bridge - Trumpet Concerto No. 1

2018-02-14 Malmö
Shimmering Islands

2018-02-15 Malmö
Shimmering Islands

2018-02-15 Palma de Mallorca
Ich denke Dein...

2018-02-24 Giresta
Suite Fantastique

2018-03-02 Växjö
Airy Flight

2018-03-03 Tingsryd
Airy Flight

2018-03-04 Hultsfred
Airy Flight

2018-03-11 Dalby
Lukaspassionen

2018-04-04 Arboga
Tidig gryning

2018-04-05 Västerås
Tidig gryning

2018-04-07 Södertälje
Tidig gryning

2018-04-08 Örebro
Tidig gryning

2018-04-13 Vänersborg
Suite Fantastique

2018-05-23 Stockholm
Ich denke Dein...

2018-05-24 Stockholm
Ich denke Dein...

2018-06-18 Amsterdam
Garden of Devotion
CD recording, Challenge Classics

2018-06-18 Amsterdam
To the Shadow of Reality
CD recording, Challenge Classics

2018-06-18 Amsterdam
Kalliope
CD recording, Challenge Classics

2018-06-18 Amsterdam
A. S. in Memoriam
CD recording, Challenge Classics

2018-06-21 Kaiserslauten (10.00)
Double Bass Concerto No. 1

2018-06-21 Kaiserslauten (13.00)
Double Bass Concerto No. 1

2018-06-22 Dillingen
Double Bass Concerto No. 1

2018-06-30 Zürich
Arrangement on Songs by Alexander von Zemlinsky

2018-07-03 Zürich
Arrangement on Songs by Alexander von Zemlinsky

2018-09-16 Lerum
Tidig gryning

2018-09-23 Växjö
Tidig gryning

2018-11-28 Zürich
Arrangement on Songs by Franz Berwald

2018-11-29 Zürich
Arrangement on Songs by Franz Berwald

2018-11-30 Zürich
Arrangement on Songs by Franz Berwald

2018-12-16 Helsingborg
Arrangement on Songs by Franz Berwald

2019-01-17 Malmö
Opening Sounds

2019-01-19 Malmö
Opening Sounds

2019-02-05 Malmö
To the Shadow of Reality

2019-05-10 Estonia
Ich denke Dein...

2019-05-11 Estonia
Ich denke Dein...

2019-05-12 Estonia
Ich denke Dein...

2019-06-13/14? Winterthur
A. S. in Memoriam

2019-06-13/14? Winterthur
Arrangement on Songs by Alexander von Zemlinsky

2019-09-05 Malmö
New piece (semi staged)

2019-09-06 Malmö
New piece (semi staged)

2019-09-07 Malmö
New piece (semi staged)

2019-10-25 Växjö
Till skuggan av en verklighet

2019-10-25 Växjö
Arrangement on Infelice by Felix Mendelssohn

2019-10-26 ??
Till skuggan av en verklighet

2019-10-26 ??
Arrangement on Infelice by Felix Mendelssohn

2019-10-27 ??
Till skuggan av en verklighet

2019-10-27 ??
Arrangement on Infelice by Felix Mendelssohn

2020-09 Stockholm
Amy Foster


Ongoing Work

A concert opener - HSO co-commission. World premiere 2017-05-18 with the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Stefan Solyom at Helsingborg concert hall.


Dreams
and "The Art of Painting in Tones"

Dreams - detailed information
Article by Björn Tryggve Johansson /Nutida Musik No 4, October 1995
(English translation by Tryggve Emond)

The art of "painting in tones", i.e. the compositional idiom that starts off from a non-musical image or event and tries to depict it in tones, has always interested composers. "Tone painting" has in the course of time appeared on a sliding scale, from vague suggestion to parodic explicitness.

In spite of the fact that an exact transformation from drama or visual art into music/tonal art is by definition impossible, this "translatory work" has been regarded by composers as a challenge that stirs the imagination.

If the music is combined with a text (as in a song) or is intended to enhance scenic action (as in an opera, a ballet or a film), the non-musical aim becomes, for obvious reasons, more explicit than if the composer tries to depict an image or event solely by tones/tonal objects. In these cases, the composer is faced, one way or the other, with the problem of joining together musical, dramatical, visual and literary forms into a convincing unity.

In our century, the film industry has entered into competition with musical drama (and other kinds of theatrical art) and in its wake a new musical genre, film music, has seen the light of day. The power of music to convey the emotional content of a film scene was discovered by film directors at an early stage.

Today the "industry of film music" is as global as the film industry itself and part of the repertory of film music has begun to be performed in concerts (as an example may be mentioned the music to Star Wars by John Williams).

To perform in concert the kind of music that was originally intended to function as "acoustic colouring of a scene on the screen" may in certain cases seem suspect. This is, by the way, true also of part of the opera repertoire, where the "transport distances" at concert performances sometimes seem rather flat. In both cases the scenic action is missing and it is the composer's "musical translation" that determines if the work has any validity beyond its dramaturgical, visual or literary function.

Having given this background I proceed to what this article is really about.

 

On August 24, 1995, I attended an interesting premiere in Malmö's Concert Hall, where Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu performed the Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson's orchestral work Dreams. The work was commissioned by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. The work is inspired throughout by Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams. What is unusual about it is the fact that a film has stirred the composer's imagination and led him to make compositional choices that are not principally intended to represent or depict the course of events in the film but rather to mirror moods and emotional states borne by the encounter between the composer's imagination and the film.

Thus, this music is no film music in the strict sense. The events of the film instead constitute a kind of palette that Rolf Martinsson uses in order to "spin musical connections".

The composer compares his work to "a walk where the walker casually stops in front of things that invite a closer look". For that reason the form is not built symphonically with contrast and recognition as formal building blocks. A key word to be work could rather be changeability.

Tradition and craftsmanship as basis

Rolf Martinsson's work as a composer combines naturally with his role as a teacher at the Academy of Music in Malmö, where he serves as professor in arrangement and composition. The continuous conversation, the dialogue about and around music is an important creative incentive for him. To be valid, ideas and aesthetics must be transformed into a satisfactory concept of sound, where attention is paid to everything, down to the last detail.

To Martinsson it goes without saying that you must not exploit a philosophical idea or a program if this harms the logic of musical sound. The point of a piece of music is first and foremost purely musical, even if the piece, as is often the case with Martinsson himself, originated in a non-musical idea, image or event.

Technical skill and musical craftsmanship, old as well as new, give the ideas structure and form. To quote the composer: "On the whole, I believe tradition and musical craftsmanship to be an excellent basis for a composer. It then rests upon the individual to transform his knowledge of tradition into personal and functioning compositional tools so that the traditional outlook does not freeze into norm. The nature of problem solution can be studied and explored on all levels. Broad experience of that kind must provide a better basis for the composer than concentration on merely a few approaches or a delimited time or style."

Technical range

Rolf Martinsson's border-defying view of material and style naturally affects his choice of compositional technique. His orchestral work Dreams bears witness to a far-reaching technical skill that puts old and new techniques side by side in his treatment of the material.

Just as the composer avoids collage technique in the musical material he also fights shy of parodic over explicitness when moving between different compositional techniques. He describes it like this:

"Sometimes an old honest fugue-like or imitative passage may be the best way to solve a compositional problem, though the technique must not be conspicuous. A reflecting procedure may give unity of motif to a passage; allusion to the Romantic cantilena may give the right modulation to the solo part without making it sound super structurally romantic; box notation under a short passage may give the musician a better notion of the passage to be played than an effort to note down the music exactly. What I am after is a way of thinking that allows a given technique, traditionally associated with a particular musical material, to be employed in a new context."

Timbre range

The orchestral work Dreams requires the following parts: 3 flutes (piccolo alternating with alto), 2 oboes + English horn, 2 clarinets in Bb (the second one alternating on an E flat clarinet) + bass clarinet, 2 bassoons (the second one alternating on contrabassoon); brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, kettledrums, 3 percussionists, 2 harps, piano, (alternating on celesta) and strings.

However fascinating the material and the technical skill may be, a work like Dreams would fall flat if the instrumentation was not up to standard. Rolf Martinsson has accepted the challenge to move between two instrumentational idioms, which in their purest forms might be described like this:

  1. Instrumentation/colouring of a texture whose perceptional meaning can be largely perceived already by "playing a keyboard extract", though it gets an enhanced effect and a greater richness of sound from the instrumentation.
  2. Instrumentation/formation. The material is formed by the instrumentation itself and is inseparable from it.

The first idiom may be called classical. The second idiom was created during the Romantic period (the 19th century) and further developed by Impressionist composers (above all Debussy) getting more and more important the closer we come to our own time.

Rolf Martinsson's free treatment of material requires the ability to make "a transformation of the instrumentational technique with no intermediary steps" from one extreme to the other and to all the levels in between.

In the composer's own words: "The open attitude has been important to me for my choice of material and technique. I have tried to apply this to instrumentation/timbre as well. The orchestra gives infinite possibilities for timbre combinations. I would like to compare the variety to a round palette, where, depending on the context, every colour is just as possible, rather than to a ranking order of possibilities where variants "below the line" are unthinkable. If, for example, I believe octaves and unisono to be the optimum solution for a minor passage, I simply use it.
The starting points described above do not encroach upon a natural aspiration to create music, which is strongly personal and consequently unique. To me, it is a question of not restricting oneself by adopting a fixed point of departure, of maintaining a feeling that "everything is possible" rather than being checked by the feeling that "everything has already been written". The difference is of vital importance to me in my work as a composer."

Stylistic range

The form of the composition requires a flexible method. Rolf Martinsson has met this requirement by striving towards a broad stylistic spectrum in order to have full freedom in his work instead of restricting his tonal language to uniformity in material and expression.

To aim at stylistic unity in every work has historically, almost without exception, been the only conceivable way, an attitude that, according to Martinsson, can be a limitation as well as a merit. The composer makes his point in the following way:

"I have tried to work out subtle stylistic transformations, to establish border lands, and to create a basic material/tonal material that can, without intermediary stages, transform tonality into non-tonality and vice versa, but not a stylistic collage where in the course of the music you can hear the history of music march past."

An important starting point for the composer has been to link together the interval minor third + minor third + pure forth. Different ways of piling, reflecting and inverting these intervals (vertically and horizontally) have brought about a wide range of material, both stylistically and expressively.

If this may be regarded as the norm, then may such which deviates from the norm be regarded as free improvisations. It may be said that, during the compositional process, the composer has alternated between two methods, one related to the material and another that is free and improvising. When, where and how these two "attitudes" replace one another was only in a few cases determined beforehand. The musical direction has, as it were, been determined as the composition proceeded.

Notation

The composer has worked hard to make the notation in Dreams function perfectly. By updating mutes, manner of playing etc. in the first bar of every score spread he has tried to reduce the number of sheet turns that the conductor would otherwise have had to make in order to be able to give correct information to the musicians.

Rolf Martinsson has also, where this has been possible, assembled all the key changes at the end of the last bar of every score sheet, so that the conductor can get all this information at a glance.

The kind of information that changes the sound of the instruments by means of additions (arco, mallets, mute etc.) has been given a special typeface in order quickly to be distinguished from information that affects the sound of the instruments without additions (sul ponticello, sul tasto, tremolo etc.).

This kind of detailed notational work is time-consuming but makes it so much easier for the musicians to comprehend the composition and, consequently, to perform it successfully.

Summary

The orchestral work Dreams is an important contribution to the Swedish symphonic repertory and to the international repertory as well. The work represents a happy combination of great artistic ability and impressive craftsmanship and deserves many performances and listeners.