Failles (Phono Suecia)

"Without any doubt this is a unique CD; who else has thought to compose a trio for recorder, trombone and cello? She has lived in France since 1988 and cites a number of composer influences picked up on her studies and travels, including Sandström, Nunes, Ferneyhough and Scelsi, together with visual art and literature - and "life". She is interesting in the relationships within ensembles and each voice finds itself in 'intimate, counterpointal contact with others'. Lower instruments are favoured and here quiet, unassertive voice certainly relates to Scelsi '(at last getting wider exposure in this his centenary year) and to Feldman, though her sound world is different from either's.There is an apperent flexibility, underpinned by unobstrusive control; 'minutely composed but les calculated'. If you find it in a record shop, I'd recommend listening to Andelek - the most intimate and lyrical saxophone quartet you're ever likely to encounter - and the very beautyful track of Å svävare for 3 voices used instrumentally, viola and cello.

Musical Pointers © Peter Grahame Woolf


A well presented, superbly played portrait of a leading light in Sweden

Nordic music is well served for women composers, several of whom – such as Kaija Saariaho, Cecilie Øre and Karin Rehnqvist – have attained international eminence. Madeleine Isaksson (b1956) is one of many following in their wake as this excellently produced disc, featuring some of the most virtuoso instrumentalists in Sweden, reveals.

Her teachers include eminent Swedish composers – Gunnar Bucht, Sven-David Sandström, Pär Lindgren and the late Arne Mellnäs – and Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam. Her aesthetic has been further refined through French culture (she lives in France) and the music of Scelsi, Ferneyhough, Feldman and Xenakis, so her music has a fairly cosmopolitan voice with few overtly personal traits. This is audible in the works in this collection, all of which give testimony to her ear for sonority (vividly so in her 2003 diptych for recorder, trombone and cello, Gaps) and refined argument.

Not all the pieces are uniformly successful: the string quartet String Wave (1990), while full of interesting ideas and developments, expires just when it should be delving deeper, and I did not take to the saxophone quartet Spirit Game (1997). Isaksson seems more comfortable in larger designs, such as the sextet Innate or quartet Rooms (1999). The largest work is the concluding seven-span cantata O Hoverer (‘Å svävare’; 1993-95), which delicately combines texts by Celan, Juan de la Cruz, Rilke, Susanne Marten and Katarina Frostenson with gossamer-thin textures for three voices, viola and cello.

© Guy Rickards, Grammophone