When Swedish composer and musician Magnus Granberg's first release on Another Timbre (AT), Ist Gefallen in den Schnee, was released in 2012, it was not immediately obvious that Granberg would become the composer who appeared most often on the label. Yet, with the release of his tenth AT album, Evening Star, Vesper Bell, that is exactly what has happened. The writing was on the wall when that first Granberg release and Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long (AT, 2014) both sold out, prompting the label to the unprecedented step of re-releasing them together on a double CD, in 2017. Those two albums each featured Granberg's ensemble Skogen, in which he played piano and/or clarinet, although on later albums he has used other groupings. Evening Star, Vesper Bell is the first album on which he has used Apartment House which has practically become the AT house band, here comprising violin, viola, cello, clarinet, vibraphone and percussion alongside Granberg himself on prepared piano.
As with several of his past compositions — for which Granberg used ideas from classical works, religious music, show tunes, etc, without copying note for note — for the piece "Evening Star, Vesper Bell" some musical materials were derived from the very different "Abendbilder" by Franz Schubert and "So in Love" by Cole Porter. Granberg originally formed Skogen to try and develop a way to combine the openness and flexibility of improv with the structure and control of composition. To that end, instead of giving musicians a fixed score of a piece, Granberg gives them various musical materials which they are free to play at a time of their choosing, depending on the ensemble sound at the time. This methodology has proved successful with past Granberg compositions, performed by different ensembles, giving the music a mood and atmosphere which is easily recognisable as Granberg.
The fifty-four-minute piece was recorded by Simon Reynell, at Goldsmith's Music Studio, in November 2022.The music created by Apartment House and Granberg is a testament to the experience they all have of improvising. The soundscape is never overcrowded or cluttered as all concerned display respect for their fellow musicians and for the composition itself. Throughout, every instrument can be heard clearly and every musician is a paradigm of good taste and judgement. The success of this performance is due to all concerned. Granberg afficionados can be assured that this album maintains his winning streak. For the uninitiated, this album is an excellent place to begin appreciating Granberg's beautiful music.
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