Fabula Suite Lugano

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble

Follow-up to the critically-lauded “The Zoo Is Far”, of which the Irish Times wrote, “Explicitly moving away from jazz with this sextet despite the presence of musicians with jazz backgrounds, including himself, Wallumrød has reduced these elements to the peripheral, seeking, above all, a through-composed ensemble music that reflects his contacts with contemporary classical, baroque, Norwegian folk and church music. It’s exquisitely performed; the permutating blend of trumpet-violin/Hardanger fiddle/viola-cello-baroque harp and piano or harmonium, with rhythm, is uniquely beautiful.”

Featured Artists Recorded

June 2009, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

Original Release Date


  • 1Solemn Mosquitoes
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 2Pling
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 3Drum
    (Per Oddvar Johansen)
  • 4Jumpa
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 5Dancing Deputies
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 6Quote Funebre
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 7Scarlatti Sonata
    (Domenico Scarlatti)
  • 8Snake
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 9Knit
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 10Duo
    (Eivind Lønning, Gjermund Larsen)
  • 11I Had A Mother Who Could Swim
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 12Blop
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 13The Gloom And The Best Man
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 14Jumpa # 2
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 15Valse Dolcissima
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 16Glissando
    (Christian Wallumrød)
  • 17Mosquito Curtain Call
    (Giovanna Pessi, Tanja Orning)
  • 18Solo
    (Christian Wallumrød)
From Swedish folk to Morton Feldman: An interview with Christian Wallumrød

In which way has “Fabula Suite” benefited from your experience with the sextet after ”The Zoo is Far” was released two and a half years ago?
That’s hard to pinpoint, but in fact we’ve been playing and rehearsing on a regular basis and I’ve constantly thought about the material for the new programme. Quite obviously, I’ve taken advantage of my knowledge of the individual players and of the possibilities this group offers with regard to sound, blend and expressiveness. Moreover it was most fascinating to observe how fantastically trumpet player Eivind Lønning (who replaced Arve Henriksen) has integrated himself into the ensemble.

Your compositions seem to allude to most diverse styles: baroque music, traditions from the North and from Asia, contemporary composition of course and many more. Nevertheless all these sounds are amalgamated in your uniquely individual tone. How do you actually compose your music?
I listen to many different things and get very attracted to music from quite heterogeneous backgrounds. Sometimes I even try to imitate a certain effect but of course I know I have to keep my distance, so things tend to take a very different direction. Very often, I start by considering ranges, timbres and playing techniques in a rather cloudy manner and then combine them with small musical cells. They might contain a certain sonority, a constellation of harmony, or a rhythmic pattern. “Quote funèbre” for instance is based on two or three isolated chords from the music of Olivier Messiaen and Morton Feldman. I developped them into small harmonic events which were then commented on by Gjermund Larsen’s improvised lines. “Jumpa” goes back to an improvised cell, however, it has reminded some of its earliest listeners of the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. My association goes more in the direction of Swedish folk music. The Scarlatti is a rather literal transcription of the first part of the famous b-minor sonata K 87. In any of these cases, my prime concern is to characterize any musical event as clearly and sharply as possible.

To which extent do the rehearsals affect your ideas?
There is no standard procedure. “Solemn mosquitoes”, the initial piece on the CD with its descending chains of trills started as a solo piano improvisation which I had recorded at home and later transcribed for the forces of our ensemble. Very often we try to play something out of a certain idea and, as the notation would be much too complicated, the piece develops into sections of rather irregular lenghts and with thoroughly modified textures. For me as a composer it’s particularly important to find out how these ideas can be elaborated to larger forms.

The titles of the individual pieces can be by turns evocative and cryptic, but very often they seem to evolve out of purely onomatopoetic associations.
I guess ‘associations’ is a key-word here… “Snake” had this look of a snake on the score, while the score for “Knit” gave me the knitting receipt association. The title for “I had a mother who could swim” goes back to our sojourn in Lugano during the recording in June. While bathing in the beautiful lake I started thinking of Nina Simone’s version of the song "Nobody's Fault but Mine" (which was first recorded by blues-gospel guitarist Blind Willie Johnson and famously covered by Led Zeppelin.); you might say it’s some sort of a greeting.

“Fabula Suite” consists of 18 tracks of quite different length. Was it difficult to find an appropriate dramaturgy?
Mandred Eicher and I always work together with the order of the pieces. In this situation parts of the suite were already in a quite fixed order when we came to Lugano – sequences that had worked very well in rehearsal and concert. But the whole opening sequence was put together by Manfred Eicher during the mix, – to quite astounding results, I think. We would never have thought of starting the record with “Solemn Mosquitoes” but this piece proved to be an ideal opener.

How did you experience the venerable Lugano radio studio?
The room is very favorable for communication in an ensemble like ours because you have this clear sound on the podium. One feels very comfortable because the space has got a certain intimacy. In order to find out how a particular blend of instruments could work best, we tried many different sitting positions. It all turned out really nicely; we are very pleased with the sound of this record…

Interview: Anselm Cybinski