Two large compositions make up a characteristically adventurous programme from Terje Rypdal. His new album’s title piece, the 45 minute Melodic Warrior, was commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble and recorded at the Brucknerhaus Linz in 2003 with the distinguished British vocal group and the Bruckner Orchestra, under Dennis Russell Davies. The Hilliards sing texts drawn from Native American poetry, from Chippewa, Navajo, Pima, and Papago sources, and Rypdal’s sustained electric guitar lines soar melodically and dramatically above the strings’ broad planes of sound.
The poetry, powerfully echoing the natural world, called to Rypdal’s compositional imagination. It is easy to see why he was drawn to lines like these, from Papago tradition:
The morning star is up
I cross the moutains
Into the light of the sea
The other large piece on the album, And The Sky Was Coloured With Waterfalls And Angels, documents the premiere of Terje’s opus 97. Composed in 2009, inspired by the pyrotechnical displays of the Cannes’ International Fireworks Festival and recorded with the Wroclaw Philharmonic, it is a darkly-expressive piece, of concentrated, explosive power. Both pieces could only have been written by Terje Rypdal, a musician who has spent much of his creative life in the spaces between the genres.
Rypdal’s journey as a composer of works for ensembles and orchestras began in the late 1960s. Already established in Norway as a rock and pop guitarist, he was beginning to explore jazz improvisation in the company of George Russell and Jan Garbarek, when exposure to the music of Ligeti and Penderecki opened up new and compelling sound-worlds. From 1969 he studied composition under Finn Mortensen and in 1971 premiered his first big piece, Eternal Circulation, with the Oslo Philharmonic and the Jan Garbarek Group. 1973’s Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away, with members of the Südfunk Symphony Orchestra, was an early recorded instance of Terje’s combining of improvised and notated elements in a strikingly original – and influential – chamber music outside the genres. Rypdal’s work Undisonus was voted Composition of the Year by the Norwegian Society of Composers in 1984 and subsequently recorded with Terje Tønnesen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London for release on ECM. Since then, other Rypdal ECM recordings with large instrumental forces include “Q.E.D.” (recorded 1991) with the Borealis Ensemble, “Double Concerto/5th Symphony” (1998) with the Riga Festival Orchestra, “Lux Aeterna” (2000) with the Bergen Chamber Ensemble and “Crime Scene” (2009) with the Bergen Big Band. But this is just the iceberg’s tip. Rypdal is a highly-prolific writer, and the great bulk of his compositional output is undocumented on disc. His work-list can be explored at Norway’s Music Information Centre: http://mic.bibits.no/
The Hilliard Ensemble, formed 1974, is widely admired for its exemplary performances of both old and new music. The group’s extensive ECM discography includes music of Perotin, Machaut, Tallis, Lassus, Pärt, Schnittke, Kancheli, and Bryars as well as the trilogy of “Officium” recordings with Rypdal’s countryman, saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The Ensemble’s recent ECM releases include Gesualdo’s “Quinto Libro di Madrigali”.
Dennis Russell Davies has been associated with ECM for almost 40 years. In 1984 he was heard on Arvo Pärt’s epochal album “Tabula rasa”, conducting the Staatsorchester Stuttgart on Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. In the mid-1970s he led the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in US performances of Keith Jarrett’s “Arbour Zena” music, with Jan Garbarek and Charlie Haden. At home in the classical tradition, Davies has also been a tireless proponent of the works of modern composers and has had long associations with amongst others Giya Kancheli, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison and John Cage. He is currently Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Bruckner Orchester Linz and of the Linz Opera, and Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.
The Bruckner Orchester Linz is the principal symphony orchestra of Upper Austria, renowned both for its performances at its Brucknerhaus and its tours around the world. Under Davies’s direction they have recorded all the symphonies of Bruckner. The Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra has likewise toured the globe, and since 2007 has been recording the first Polish edition of the complete works of Witold Lutoslawski. Apart from Terje Rypdal, the orchestra has also enjoyed performing with other improvising musicians including John Surman and Fred Hersch in earlier editions of the Jazztopad Festival. The ensemble has made numerous recordings for Polish Radio and Television. The Jazztopad Festival is an annual jazz festival in Wroclaw, Poland organized under the umbrella of Wroclaw Philharmonic, presenting special projects and premieres of pieces composed exclusively for the festival. For the last nine years, Jazztopad has showcased Polish and international jazz artists.