Ever since his first release on the label, Ist gefallen in den Schnee (Another Timbre, 2012), Swedish composer, leader & performer Magnus Granberg and Another Timbre have been intertwined. Even though Granberg released albums on other labels, such as Skogen (Bombax Bombax, 2008) and two versions of Come Down to Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth (Meenna, 2020), his Another Timbre releases have to be regarded as his main body of work over this period, to the extent that a new Granberg release on the label can be enough to trigger a frisson of anticipation in his devotees.
One of the characteristics of Granberg's compositions is that they have often been inspired by (but not copied or borrowed from) older compositions; for example, his 2015 piece "How Deep is the Ocean, How High is the Sky" derived its title from Irving Berlin's 1932 song "How Deep is the Ocean" while much of its rhythmic material was inspired by Erik Satie's "Deuxième Préludes du Nazaréen." In a similar fashion, Granberg has alluded to others' past compositions as sources for some of the music here, notably a recurring melody played by the flugelhorn in Stravinsky's Threni (1958). As ever, any such source material is used so subtly as to be undetectable even by the most ardent Stravinsky trainspotter.
Although the current piece was initially requested of Granberg in September 2019 by cellist Leo Svensson Sander and harpist Stina Hellberg Agback, when work on it was about to start, the arrival of Covid and the lockdown led to a rethink. The piece that initially emerged was for a quartet comprising violinist Eva Lindal, Sander on cello, Agback on harp and Granberg himself on piano; however, as he wanted to do something during lockdown with his group Skogen, Granberg wrote additional parts to expand the piece to seven players — two violins, harp, prepared piano, vibraphone or glockenspiel, objects, and percussion. Recorded in Stockholm in June 2021, this is the fifty-four-minute title recording which comprises this album. If the title "How Lonely Sits the City?" sounds somewhat melancholy, particularly given the Covid situation at the time, Granberg is keen to dispel any such notion; he says that the act of playing and the playfulness involved in collective music making is essentially a very joyful experience. His view is supported by the music itself (the current piece and his past releases on Another Timbre); throughout its duration, the music positively radiates the musicians' positivity and enjoyment, a feeling which listeners cannot fail to share and relish. In a nutshell, yet another Granberg triumph. Highly recommended.
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