Contemporary composers in the classical genre rarely find noteworthy resonance among concert audiences. Widespread conservative concert programs are a sign of this. The situation is quite different in the case of the Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer, who is just 50 years old and who has managed to make his numerous works play an increasing role in everyday concert life. Far from extremely demanding new music, the content of which is only accessible to absolute experts, the works of the Swede are characterized by an appealing form and a pleasant sonority, which makes it relatively easy for the audience to comprehend what the composer wants to say through and with them. Yet these works are anything but trivially conceived. His most successful orchestral work to date, A Freak in Burbank from 2008, to which Albert Schnelzer's new album owes its name, opened the composer's doors to major concert halls such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. The list of his works published to date includes orchestral compositions, concertos, and a wide range of chamber music, as well as a full-length opera. Apart from the opera, the current album offers a cross-section of Albert Schnelzer's work.
According to Albert Schnelzer, the orchestral piece A Freak in Burbank was "a piece for chamber orchestra with a kind of Haydn twist," inspired by the life story and sometimes bizarre works of American film director Tim Burton, of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands fame. "The humor and burlesque qualities [of Tim Burton's films] were something I found interesting.... When it came to mind, it more or less took over the piece." Burn My Letters - Remembering Clara is a piece conceived for chamber orchestra that paints a highly vivid picture of the creative powers of composer and soloist Clara Schumann. The Second Violin Concerto transports the listener into a state of limbo between wakefulness and sleep. Frozen Landscape for cello and piano portrays a northern Swedish mountain landscape, Apollonian Dances for violin and piano uses Klezmer melodies to reflect episodes from the youth of the Greek god Apollo, and Dance with the Devil is actually a devil's dance on and for the piano.
The orchestral and chamber works on A Freak in Burbank are realized with precision and requisite charm by the Västeras Sinfonietta under its principal Simon Crawford-Phillips. In the violin concerto, dedicatee Ilya Gringolts provides a dazzling interpretation of the solo part that, together with the orchestral part, convincingly realizes the composer's intention of staging the limbo between sleep and wakefulness as an aural spectacle. Henrik Mawe dances the Devil's Dance on the keys of his piano in almost satanic rapture, while David Huang accompanies violinist Cecilia Zilliacus on the piano in the Dances of Apollo and cellist Jakob Koranyi with stylistic confidence.
The album A Freak in Burbank proves to be a brilliant appetizer for the thrillingly crafted work of Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer, easily accessible to a wide audience.
Henrik Måwe, piano
Cecilia Zilliacus, violin
David Huang, piano
Jakob Koranyi, cello
Ilya Gringolts, violin
Simon Crawford-Phillips, conductor