Ørjan Matre (b. 1979) composed his violin concerto very much with the violinist Peter Herresthal in mind: it is a piece in which Herresthal’s particular virtuosity in the violin’s sonic stratosphere – those gossamer harmonics, those long, floating melodic lines – is an essential part of the concerto’s musical dynamic. This is clear right from the solo violin’s first entry, in which a long-held ultra-high B develops into a slow song, establishing one of the key dramatic contrasts in the music: the violin seems to be teaching the orchestra to sing. The individual form of the concerto – a much longer opening movement followed by a shorter, faster, second – wasn’t the original plan for the piece; Matre’s aim was a single very long movement. But having finished this, he discovered that the music contained faster material trying to get through a slower surface: ‘The second movement presents the material of the first movement again, but in a faster tempo … In a sense, the concerto represents two ways of seeing exactly the same thing.’
On this digital album, the Violin Concerto is preceded by the brief orchestral piece preSage, which has become something of a signature piece for the composer. (During the 2015 BBC Proms, it was performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.) A commission from the Oslo Philharmonic, it was planned as an opening piece for a concert featuring Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. As his point of departure, Matre took the brief section from Stravinsky’s ballet called The Sage, but his preSage is something distinctively, memorably his own. The work’s full range of wildness and unpredictability, from filigree string writing to full-on orchestral assault, is here realised by the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta, the same team that support Herresthal in the violin concerto, as well as on the pendant to this digital release, In memoriam (BIS-8004), with music by Henrik Hellstenius.