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Serenata per fagotto e archi, Op 113


What first caught my interest when Kjell Mørk Karlsen introduced me to his Serenata per fagotto e archi, was the slow middle section. It sounded as though it should have been sung, preferably in a church. I became fascinated by the vocality of his instrumental composition, and by the strong sense of becoming absorbed in a piece of sacred music while I was working on this seemingly secular concerto.

Mørk Karlsen later told me that this theme in fact originally came from a liturgical vocal composition: his St. John’s Vesper for choir, string quartet and organ. He said that this is something he often does: to transpose elements and content from church music into instrumental music, and not necessarily for liturgical use. He also spoke of his strong relationship to Russian Orthodox sacred music, with its 'warm authenticity, romantic without being sentimental.' Nor does he shy away from borrowing elements in music that has meant much to him.

In this particular work he aims to 'present the great span of the bassoon, also its lyrical qualities, and to challenge the bassoon as an instrument, in the same way, and on the same level, as other instruments are challenged.' The final section, therefore, evokes the mood of Mørk Karlsen’s compositions for strings. Here you can feel the influence from Shostakovich, and the 'playful musicality' that appeals so much to him.

At the same time there is a simple, harmonic landscape, with what he calls 'stationary movement'. The inspiration for this comes from the vocal polyphony of the Renaissance, where numerous moving voices create variations over the same chords. This simplicity runs like a contemplative undercurrent throughout the composition and it has become a work, in my opinion, of great emotional force.

With elements from different periods and genres, Kjell Mørk Karlsen has created music with its own specific character. He uses his own human and musical experience to seek new understanding, and demonstrates that within a traditional framework, new forms of expression can emerge.

from notes by Sigyn Birkeland © 2011


Frost & Karlsen: Bassoon Concertos
SIGCD258Download only

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