Act CD review
The Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin is increasingly gaining inernational recognition, and this disc is likely to win him further admirers. The percussion concerto Das war schön! refuses to conform to the genre's stereotype of superficially impressive crashing and banging. This Mozart tribute combines a genial charm, with flair and a sometimes impish sense of humour. (...)
(...) A more classic approach to percussion is taken in Tides, for six percussionists and orchestra. The opening is essentially a study on cymbals, which might seem like an arid prospect without Wallin's sense of pace, allied to, and inspired by the superlative skills of the Kroumata Percussion Ensembe. Nonetheless, it is the orchestral writing that impresses, even if Wallin professes that this comes out of the solo parts. This impression is reinforced by Act, which starts in headlong fashion before cranking up the pace and tension. It is a star that burns briefly, but brightly, and, like all the works on this disc, is given an utterly committed and convincing performance.
From BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 issue
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at CBSO Centre
...a compassionate and totally involving creation based on footage of child soldiers in DR Congo.
Rolf Wallin's Strange News, Josse De Pauw directing the visual and textual elements, could so easily have wallowed in voyeuristic sensationalism, but it avoided that trap.
Instead its graphic, gripping musical commentary created a War Requiem for the modern day, one which ..... held the audience stunned - until the standing ovation at the end.
The commitment of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group players under Pierre-André Valade's clear, decisive conducting was an obvious factor in the success of this Integra 2008 premiere, and George Alagiah generously gave his services as the appalled newscaster.
But even more memorable was the performance of the young Ugandan actor Arthur Kisenyi, delivering a monologue of astonishing power and immediacy in this 35-minute work, and all from memory.
Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post June 9 2008
Act CD review
Powerful confirmation of a distinctive voice in Norwegian music
(...) Wallin is a figure at home across a range of genres and who also deploys complex procedures in the writing of music with a visceral immediacy. How else to explain Act (2003) - a 10-minute "study" which amply demonstrates the orchestra's potential both as individuals capable of great expressive subtlety and as a collective capable of generating an irresistible momentum.
(...) Das war schön! (2006) pays tribute to Mozart with a refreshing lack of reverence, drawing on birdsong, freemasonry and parental innuendo in a five-movement work of deft irony and understated virtuosity (would that most percussion concertos evinced much of either). Tides (1998) avoids the anecdotal, integrating its six percussionists into the very fabric of a discourse that unfolds over three large "tides" of musical activity; the orchestra emerging imperceptibly from the "engine room" of this sextet and interlocking with it in an intensifying process of tension and release.
Performances are as committed as this exhilarating music requires (...) Wallin himself is hardly likely to worry over being the next "big thing", but this disc powerfully confirms his stature.
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone e-newsletter - April 2008 issue
Concert-wise, Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in a multi-purpose venue that doubles as a gymnasium and concert hall may not to appear to have the makings of musical legend but the final concert of the Nordland Music Festival in Northern Norway this summer transcended its surroundings. Composer-in-residence Rolf Wallin's orchestral tourde force Act gave the Oslo band a chance to flex their collective muscle and gave the Bodø Spectrum the kind of acoustic onslaught it's not likely to receive agan any time soon. The capacity crowd loved it and so did I. Keep an eye for the studio recording on Ondine (it may be worth taking a home and contents insurance policy first).
Hayden Jones, Gramophone January 2008
Act - CD review
Nettopp i dette krysningspunktet, mellom det gjenkjennelige og det foranderlige, ligger en annen av nøklene til Wallins suksess. Han taler til de lærde gjennom den formidable orkestreringen som han bruker til stadig variasjon, samtidig som materialet er tilstrekkelig gjenkjennelig for at hvermannsen ikke skal miste orienteringen. Han utfordrer samtidig som han stadig er sanselig.
I "Act" trekker han dette til det ytterste. Verket er noe av det mest fysiske jeg har hørt, og det ender i en rå og brutal orgasme, i et skrik, i den fullstendige tøylesløsheten. Det er et verk man kan høre gjentatte ganger. Slik erotikken er bygget på en relasjon, er også "Act" kompleks og viker tilstrekkelig fra en kategorisk forståelse til å bli stadig forskjellig. Det er sikkert flere enn meg som ønsker å høre slutten om og om igjen, men å berøve utløsningen forspillet er å gjøre den fattigslig, det er å gjøre den pornografisk.
Exactly in this meeting between the recognizable and the changing lies another keys to Wallin's success. He speaks to the learned through the formidable orchestration with which he makes constant variation, while at the same time the material is recognizable enough that 'the man in the street' don't get lost. He challenges while at the same time being sensual.
In Act he draws this to the limit. The work is among the most physical I have heard, and it ends in a raw and brutal orgasm, in a scream, in total lack of restriction. It is a work one can hear time and again. Like eroticism is built on a relation, Act is equally complex and differs enough from a categorical understanding to be incessantly changing. Surely, it can't be only me who wants to repeatedly relisten the ending, but to
bereave the orgasm the foreplay is to belittle it, to make it pornographic.
Magnus Andersson, Morgenbladet 21 December 2007
From review of concert with Cikada String Quartet at Warsaw Autumn 2004 Boyl
"Dritter (un)erwarteter Held des diesjährigen Warschauer Herbsts war Rolf Wallin, dessen schwindelerregendes 'Phonotope I' (2000) für Streichquartett und Live-Elektronik Höhepunkt im Konzert des norwegischen Cikada-Streichquartetts war, das bewies, wie interessant und vielföltig man immer noch für diese vier Instrumente schreiben kann. Die Müglichkeiten der Klangverwandlung des Computers scheinen unbegrenzt und unerforscht, wobei die Komponisten Instrumente und Elektronik nicht für sich allein, sondern zusammen nutzen wollen."
The third (un)expected hero of this year's Warsaw Autumn was Rolf Wallin, whose "vertigo-inducing" Phonotope 1 (2000) for string quartet and live electronics was the highlight of the Cikada String Quartet concert. It proves how interesting and manyfold it still is possible to write for these four instruments. The soundchanging possibilities of the Computer seem unlimited and unexplored, when the composers want to use instruments and electronics together rather than separately.
Jan Topolski, MusikTexte nr.103, November2004
Ground, Clarinet Concerto, Boyl
Review of the CD Boyl
There's a bewildering variety of young(ish) composers active in Norway these days,(.....) To my mind, the most impressive of the under-fifties is Rolf Wallin (b. 1957), whose music has an exhilarating charge of energy, Like several composers of his vintage who have sown their serial oats - Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen and George Benjamin come to mind - Wallin blends the lessons learned from high modernism with a renewed appreciation of the directional power of 'classical' harmony. That gives him the best of both worlds: his textures bubble with furious activity, but the concerns of the moment do not preclude an over-arching sense of purpose.
The ferocious cadenza for solo cello that kick-starts Ground for cello and strings (1997) is a gesture of unmistakeable confidence - here is a composer who knows exactly what he wants. Wallin's Clarinet Concerto, written a year earlier, won the Nordic Council's music prize a year later, and with good reason: along with Jouni Kaipainen's Carpe Diem, it is one of the finest Nordic clarinet concertos since Nielsen's. Wallin cross-cuts music of uneasy lyricism with explosions of skinhead energy, reflecting, he says, the clarinet's dual nature: it is equally at home in the silky domesticity of the Mozart concerto and the 'rough, charging masculinity of Balkan folk music'. It's the Dr Hyde character that finally conquers, as Wallin sweeps the listener off his feet in a thrilling bare-back gallop.
Boyl (1995) owes its title - merely 'boil' in an early, pre-Johnsonian spelling - to a seventeenth-century alchemical text which talks of the repeated melting of base substances to produce gold; Wallin binds in a subtext with Jungian allusions to prycho-analysis. Shifting, edgy, superficial phrases in the strings are gradually answered by ever bolder gestures from winds and percussion as the orchestra are gradually wracked by increasingly forceful surges of violence until, after a display of elemental power reminiscent of Xenakis, the music drops, its power spent, into a gentle duo of xylophone and vibraphone (if my ears have it right), exchanging brief, drooping phrases from either side of the orchestra. Wallin's First Symphony will be something to look forward to.
Martin Anderson, International Record Review, July 2002
A Chamber Opera
Rolande van der Paal, Mikhael Seryshev, Ardo Ran Varres
SISU Percussion Ensemble, Per Magnus Lindborg
Conductor: Rolf Gupta
Manifest is challenging music theatre in a period where pre-produced
pieces are more the norm than the exception, and the avant-garde seems
to be a severely criticized term from the last century... it's a tour de
force through the landscape of messages but paradoxically it is in this
chaos-art that you will find the most beautiful paragraphs... as usual
you are sucked into Schokking's sensuous universe, where the
many-dimensioned computer graphic some times can be both insistent and
stifling at the viewer... the singers (...) expose the message and
redeem with an overwhelming energy the music of Rolf Wallin as a mixture
of song, shouting and recitation... Manifest will probably frighten a
lot, but exactly uncompromising pieces like Manifest has great
importance for the future of the music-theatre. The political message is
still important and the world is still just as insane and omnivorous:
Again man has decapitated the stars, and heaven is
Lilo Sørensen, Aktuelt, Copenhagen
"It's now! Right now you can experience Jacob F. Schokking's new music
theatre... Constantly we are in a bombardment of impressions, and
nothing shouts better to the texts, because almost everyone of them
belong to the manifestoes of art... The music, among these the spoken
rhythms, is composed by Norwegian Rolf Wallin, and he has done a very
fine job constantly backing up without in any way putting barriers to
the text... Both the SISU-ensemble and the conductor Schokking uses on
stage during the show with a great effect. This is not a performance you
can finish in one thought. Luckily the printed programme has both a
well-written introduction and the full libretto in both the original
languages, in English and in Danish. There are no excuses. Get on with
Knud Ketting, Jyllands Posten
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Cond.: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Wien Modern (final evening)
...das orginellste Opus, Wallins "Tides", erklang gleich zu Beginn.
Übersetzt man den Titel mit "Gezeiten", hat man auch den Schlüssel zum Werk gefunden, das im wesentlichsten auf drei minutiös geplante Wellenströmungen aufbaut. Womit ein steter Wechsel von Spannung und Entspannung garantiert ist - klanglich und dynamisch wie rytmisch. Eine Gruppe von sechs Schlagwerkern bestimmt mit ihren Einwürfen und Soli den Klangteppich. Das exzellente Perkussionsensemble Kroumata nutzte seine Chance. Gemessen an diesen wurf hatten die übrigen Werke schwer.
Walter Dobner December 2 1998
Rolf Wallin's Move profiles richly contrasting pieces written in the last
decade, kaleidoscopic in the style of leading Finnish composer Magnus
Lindberg. Solve et coagula has already been recorded by chamber ensemble
Cikada (see The Wire 169). It's a gloriously kinetic exploration of sound
masses that mimic the swing of a crazy pendulum. A similar effect is found
in Ning, performed by BIT 20 from Bergen. The percussion piece Stonewave is the most mathematical in concept. But though most pieces are derived from fractals as found in chaos theory, the results are much more immediately approachable than Xenakis' stochastic compositions. An outstanding release.
Wired, March 1999
Ensemble BIT 20 Cond.: Ingar Bergby
The Norwegian Rolf Wallin has a vision: His Boyl is a breathtakingly exciting, magnificently imaginative fantasy around boiling, strong or soft, water or lava, realized with means of expression so daring and intense that one only can compare with Xenakis, and mould into a powerfully modelled archform.
Jan Jacoby, Politiken (Copenhagen) March 1996
Avanti! Cond.: Mikko Frank
Neben Jukka Koskinens (...) "Ululation" bildete Rolf Wallins "Boyl" den kompositorischen Höhepunkt des musikalisch hochrangigen Abends. Seinen eigenen Anspruch, dass wirklich neue Musik so tue, als hätten die musikalischen Stile der Vergangenheit nicht existiert, löst Wallin hier trefflich ein. Die Einleitung des in zitternden Glissandi con sordino flirrenden Streichquartetts macht ein Drittel der Gesamtdauer des viertelstündigen "Boyl" aus und legt so den energetischen Grund für die wellenförmige Verdichtung und Entspannung des sich zwischen dunklen Bläserklängen und raschen Klavier- und Glockenspielfigurationen bewegenden Werkes. Lang wäre die Liste der Komponisten, die für einzelne Momente Vorbild gewesen sein mögen, - ihre Verschmelzung zu einem kohärenten ProzeŘ schafft tatsächlich unerhörtes Neues.
Volker Straebel , Tagestblatt(Berlin) November 25 1998
Es beginnt mit geschmeidig gleitenen Saitengeräschen, so als wehe ein Nachtgespenst vorbei. Dann kracht Schlagzeug, lärmt Bläsertremolo in die Streichquartett-Unwirklichkeit, erst jäh und vereinzelt, bald immer öfter, um schliesslich als Sieger dazustehen. Nur nach Punkten. Die leise Töne lassen sich nicht unterdrücken, die schwingenden Klänge der Metallophons behalten das letzte Wort. "Boyl" heisst soviel wie Alchemistenbräu. Ein schelmischer Titel für die phantasievolle, übersichtlige, auch spannende Komposition, die man da von dem hierzulande noch unbekannten Rolf Wallin (geb. 1957) kennengelernt.
Hans-Jorg von Jena, Die Welt(Berlin) November 25 1998
Ad hoc ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, New York. Cond.: Per Brevig
A lot of planning and execution had gone into Rolf Wallin's Mandala, too, but for an entirely different effect. With a jeweler's precision, Wallin has created a kind of Gamelan sonority with his scoring for two pianos and two percussionists. But there is more originality here than that description might imply, and more expressive sensitivity, as well. An undercurrent of mysticism pervades the work, lifting it out of the "percussive sonorities for their own sakes" category.
Allen Hughes, Musical America, March 1991
Onda di ghiaccio
Ensemble BIT 20 at St. Giles Church, London Cond.: Ingar Bergby
Arne Nordheim's Magic Island (....) was balanced by the world premiere of the revised version of Rolf Wallin's Onda di ghiaccio (Ice Wave), an exquisitely imagined piece of musical glaciology.
Hilary Finch, The Times, November 1993
Onda di ghiaccio, a premiere from the Oslo composer Rolf Wallin, was a delicate, intricate mobile featuting curlew-like sliding motifs.
Meredith Oakes, The Independent, November 1993
Solve et coagula
Cikada Ensemble at Ultima Festival, Oslo. Cond.: Christian Eggen
Rolf Wallin And Lasse Thoresen provided the best new Norwegian music. Wallin, whose 1990 Stonewave" for percussion also enjoyed a stunning outing at Ultima 1992, gave the Cikada Ensemble its finest moments in the festival with a handsome sprawl for orchestra and prepared piano. Almost brutal dynamic contrasts within a single bar, a Prokofiev-like intensity of feeling, and complete mastery of orchestral color were among the virtues of this surprising score.
Octavio Roca, The World and I (Washington Times), January 1993
The Kroumata Percussion Ensemble
As the dense lines of audience winded toward Röstrandgatan, it was everything but springlike outside, rather closer to the freeze point.
Nevertheless, the temperature rose considerably within the spaceous church, just to culminate into Rolf Wallin's Stonewave for six percussionists. What a wonderfully tight and skilfully crafted piece! At first the tension is hightened in clearly divisioned passages, juxtaposing dramatical gestures against withheld lyricism. Later the different registers are brought together to a unity with an everincreasing pressure.
Hans Wolf, Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), May 1991
The Kroumata Percussion Ensemble
Tender Is the North Festival, London
In literary contrast (to Takemitsu's Raintree), the Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin's Stonewave, for six percussionists, exploits the power of rhythm. The work takes the form of a series of assaults, subtly varied in timbre and pulse, and culminating in a thrilling final sortie.
Barry Millington, The Times, December 1992
Based on the novel by Tarjei Vesaas
Det Norske Teatret, Oslo
Can I give a better testimonial than by saying that all this appears as if signed by Vesaas himself?
Mannen som fant en hestesko
Based on texts by Osip Mandelstam.
Black Box Theatre, Oslo
"I have laid my ear under the bark of drifting timber to hear the growth rings march outwards." "Where to begin? Everything chirps and rocks.
The air quivers with comparisons. No word is better than another word."
The reason for bringing forward these very lines by Mandelstam, is that I believe them to be the base elements of Rolf Wallin's music. The sound illustrations fill the room with distant, beautiful sounds from a Russia long gone, and gives us the feeling that everything chirps and rocks. In the best moments, "the air quivers with comparisons", powerful pictures and poetic reality.
Bjørg Vindsetmo, Dagbladet (Oslo), January 1989
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Cond: Esa-Pekka Salonen
At the Oslo Philharmonic's concert wednesday, a thing happened that is just as unusual as it is positive: A new orchestral piece was on the program again in the same orchestra just a year after the premiere.
Nor will it be the last time to hear Rolf Wallin's Id; to be true, many good pieces remain unperformed, but it is also seldom that new music gets to show what it is worth like this time.
The young Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is a composer himself, and his understanding of Wallin's work gave rise to a very effective interpretation. And the orchestra goes along with him: Seldom I've heard advanced contemporary music performed with such a nerve and enthusiasm..
Id, Wallin's first orchestral piece, is a rare thing in Norwegian contemporary music - with its conscious relation to the modernist tradition. The composer takes as point of departure in the colours of the orchestra and paints with powerful strokes - but also in clear lines, from the form structure down to precise details. And he builds the musical relations with a strong expressional power. This is new music that really swings!
Magne Hegdal, Dagbladet (Oslo), 1984