Eclectic Is The Name Of Borisova’s Game

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

Borisova-Ollas_-Angelus_BIS_ClassicsToday_ClassicalCritic_Jens-f-Laurson

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 10

The music of Russian-born Swedish composer Victoria Borisova-Ollas (b. 1969), which is here given an outing with five short orchestral works, is, in a word, eclectic. Astoundingly eclectic, really. It’s simple music, by and large, or in any case easy to listen to. It’s consonant, wildly tonal (and even when it’s not, it hasn’t got much of a bite), and all over the map.

The title-giving work, Angelus, after a very vaguely Celtic rise-from-nothingness opening, is supposed to be a sketch of Munich and its church bells, commissioned by the Munich Philharmonic for the occasion of the city’s 850th anniversary. Familiar as I am with those bells and the occasional bird fluttering by the Viktualien food market across from St. Peters, I’d never have guessed. There are bits that sound just as much like a scene of Chinoiserie from Gilbert & Sullivan. (Although the literal incorporation of the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel probably should have given it away.)

It’s not the only time that English scents waft from Borisova-Ollas’ music. The string orchestra arrangement of the string quartet Creation of the Hymn brings to mind Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending (Tranquilo). Elsewhere, our ears, straining to make connections with something more familiar, might seek out Wagner, Malcolm Arnold, Tigran Mansurian, or any number of other German, English, Russian, even Italian composers for the comforting sense of recognition.

Open Ground, inspired by Salman Rushdie’s novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet, comes with hints of music for “Turandot–The Film” and surprisingly insistent notes of Janáček. All that–no matter how diverse it sounds when described in writing–is wrapped up in an easy-to-listen-to soundscape of swelling climaxes, orchestral grandeurs, and hushed atmospheric tones, aiming and succeeding at impressing listeners, pushing all the right buttons.

It is beautiful music, not afraid of seeming shallow, nor does it shy away from the occasional kitsch or recurrent film-music moments. It never seems quite as original as the very differently (but just as) eclectic Erkki-Sven Tüür’s music, but for those entering the pool at the shallow end, it’s pretty sweet stuff, exquisitely performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded and caught in excellent sound for SACD and CD layer alike.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Angelus
  • BORISOVA-OLLAS, VICTORIA:
    Angelus; The Kingdom of Silence; Before the Mountains Were Born; Creation of the Hymn; Open Ground

    Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrey Boreyko (Angelus; Creation of the Hymn), Martyn Brabbins (The Kingdom of Silence; Before the Mountains Were Born), Sakari Oramo (Open Ground)

  • BIS - 2288
  • SACD

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