Album Title: Divertimenti - B. Britten (Simple Symphony), G. Bacewicz (Cto for string orchestra), T. Bjørklund (Carmina), B. Bartok (Divertimento for stings)
Performers: Trondheim Solistene / O. Gimse
Label and #: 2L SACD/BD 2L50SABD (also available as FLAC Stereo 24/192, FLAC Stereo 24/96 and FLAC 5.1 24/96)
Running time:
Selbu church (Norway), Nov 2007

I love record companies that take risks and not just re-re-re-release the same great recording from 50 years ago; or the usual take on Mozart's Turkish Piano Sonata by the latest 12-fingered child prodigy who plays faster and with even less soul than last year's child prodigy with only eleven fingers. 2L by this measure should be praised for promoting unknown artists, composers, ensembles worth discovering, for expanding our musical horizons toward areas none of us would probably explore unless

gently guided - and for passionately promoting great sound and great technology to achieve it. That's the mission of public interest I see major record companies should own and cherish but which they have completely abandoned in favor of big and easy hits.

2L, Fuga Libera and Linn all have taken the high road, a road I reckon isn't the easiest at times but protects a repertoire, sound and spirit they firmly believe in to refuse complacency. In their catalogues hide many jewels deservant of far more attention than they have received so far. I firmly intend to point you at those nuggets starting with 2L's Divertimenti.

The more I peruse 2L's catalog, the more impressed I get with just how cleverly their programs are constructed, marrying known pieces with novel or rarely recorded compositions always in that attempt to broaden our horizons and musical knowledge. Even on a disc of relatively more accessible music like Divertimenti, Morten Lindberg (the first L in 2L, the second being Lyd or sound in Norwegian) manages to sneak in pieces by Bacewicz and Bjørklund, two 20
th century composers I had never heard of but who deserve more than just a passing attention if their pieces included here are any indication.

As a musical genre, divertimenti are not that old and originated at some point during the 19
th century as light entertainment often cast for small string ensembles - not quite elevator music but certainly not in the same league as the more serious symphonic and operatic efforts. Yet it quickly evolved into a very condensed and concentrated form that eventually became the modern virtuoso chamber music 20th century composers have developed and refined further.

The first piece, Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony and by far the most famous work on this disc, is a brilliant orchestration of eight tunes from the composer's childhood. The music is easy to love, dynamic and plain fun. I have a special fondness for the "Playful Pizzicato" but you can just as easily fall for the "Boisterous Bourree", "Sentimental Saraband" or "Frolicsome Finale". It is almost impossible to not be hooked by this music but once you've fallen into Morten's net, he will take you to the far more intriguing part of his programme.

Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) was a Polish composer who lived through two devastating wars in Poland. In between, she refined her formal piano and violin training in Paris under Nadia Boulanger and Henri Touret but during the Second World War, she steadfastly remained in Warsaw, organizing underground concerts and premieres of her own music. After a serious car accident in 1954, Grazyna Bacewicz relinquished her solo career to focus exclusively on composition and developed a unique style and voice. Some of her influences can be traced back to Lutoslawski and in some smaller ways Nadia Boulanger as well, but her style in the Concerto for String Orchestra is quite unique and the dark, complex and deep second movement captivating without emulating any other piece I know.

The hidden gem, musically speaking, is Bjørklund's Carmina. Born in 1945, the composer had an early and fruitful career as a Jazz composer and pianist but since 1980, he's focused mainly on composing pieces in so-called more serious genres. Describing this deeply harmonic work is not easy. At times I thought I could detect a connection to Philip Glass's serial period but the impression disappeared as fast as it came. What remained was a minimalist and compelling musical texture of extreme beauty. Bjørklund is a composer to discover urgently!

Bartok's 1939 Divertimento for Strings is representative of his late compositional style marrying folkloric tunes with modern composition techniques to contrast rhythms and emotions. Even though I've never been a strong fan of Bartok's music, this piece brings the cycle to completion, demonstrating where the form had evolved to by the middle of the previous century and elegantly closing this exploration of divertimenti in the most convincing fashion.

The Trondheim Solistene are impeccable throughout the program, completely at ease in the various styles, offering beautiful orchestral hues and tonal colors with exhilarating speed and precision. Over the recent years, this young ensemble has become one of if not the most exciting chamber ensemble in Europe, similarly at ease with their release of Mozart's Violin Concerti with Marianne Thorsen as they are with Bartok or Britten.

If you search the internet, you'll find that this disc has been reviewed and lauded numerous times, probably more times than any other 2L recording, albeit in many cases not necessarily for the right reason. Divertimenti was actually the first ever 'audio-only' Blu-Ray disc (BD for short), including stereo and multichannel tracks in various resolutions in addition to a hybrid CD/SACD included in the same box. Because of that, it quickly became a favorite of hi-def gurus set to decide whether SACD bests 24/192 PCM and whether 2-channel audio had any future when compared to multi-channel. What many (but not all) missed is the very clever musical program and enlightening journey Morten Lindberg takes us on. That is the real reason to buy this disc or to download it from 2L's server. The fact that it is gorgeously recorded in a venue of great sonic virtues, with a perfect aspect of each instrument and the orchestra as a whole, just gives added pleasure especially if you can take advantage of one of the multiple hi-resolution formats this box set has to offer.

If you feel like broadening your musical scope tonight, jump to 2L's website and start with Divertimenti. It is a true ear and mind opener. You can then work your way through their 57 other titles and because they add a dozen a year, you are not about to run out of enlightening cultural experiences anytime soon...