Mikkola Plays Hundsnes

HUNDSNES: Piano Sonata No. 2. Vinterdanser. Nuances de Lumière / Laura Mikkola, pno / Grand Piano GP843

Svein Hundsnes (b. 1951) is a Norwegian composer who, he admits, normally starts out “from a tiny core motif; a small musical cell, and then make it form the basis of a broadly laid out movement.” This, then, makes his music driven by rhythm and not necessarily by melodic lines or harmony, though as the music progresses it does not lack either. Hundsnes also likes to “layer” chords in his music, which gives it a tonal bias but makes it sound a bit odd to the untrained ear.

Nonetheless, I found his music fascinating, at least as played by Mikkola, an attractive young woman with a big smile and a dynamic keyboard style. She does not gloss over the soft, mysterious passages, but she also does not shy away from vigorous attacks when the music calls for it. At certain times his music sounds as if it were built on minimalism, but it isn’t; it always moves forward eventually, sooner rather than later. At other times, such as in the third movement of the piano sonata, it sounds somewhat fractured, as if Hundsnes were breaking up his now-developed structure into little bits of glass that shatter on the ground. It’s an unusual method of composition, to be sure; sometimes easy to follow and sometimes not.

The Vinterdanser (Winter Dances), by their very nature, are somewhat more fractured and less structured pieces, more like little vignettes made up of bits of musical cells. There almost seems to be an improvisatory feel to this music, as if the pianist were making it up as she went along, but of course it is all through-composed. The fourth of these “dances,” simply titled “Con moto,” has a boogie-woogie feel to it whereas the fifth, “Moderato con anima,” has such fractured meter than one can scarcely figure out where one is in about half of the piece.

To be honest, however, I didn’t care much for Nuances de Lumière. To me, this was just drippy music that went in one ear and out the other.

Overall, then, a somewhat uneven program with several interesting moments, but worth investigating for the Piano Sonata and some of the Vinterdanser.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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