WHIRLD

The 25-minute score speaks for itself with absorbing beauty. … The four movements are connected by narrow channels of sound that hold the listener in suspense, and even what sounds like being a dazzlingly rumbustious finale eventually settles wistfully.

John Allison, The Daily Telegraph
23rd August 2018

Virtuosity and substance: The four linked movements come with their own extra-musical trappings; fractal geometry was used to create the melodic lines that thread through the often dense textures, while alchemical imagery and the associated colours provide the titles of the movements. But even without such associations, the music makes complete, involving sense: its intensely demanding writing for the solo violin – likened by Wallin to an alchemist’s dove “flying up and down in the fuming laboratory retort” – is overlaid on orchestral writing that threatens but never overwhelms it.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian
23rd August 2018

Wallin’s music had only previously been played in chamber-music Proms, not at the Royal Albert Hall. His Whirld (as in “world” and “whirl”) is effectively a violin concerto, which draws inspiration from mystical texts and quantum physics. Wallin’s description of the piece talks about projecting fractal mathematics on to music and the philosopher’s stone. The way all this comes out in performance is as a succession of contrasting elements — clouds of strings, a bubbling sphere of woodwinds, a distant azure of harmonics, none of them lasting long. Alina Ibragimova was the engaging violinist who acted as guide through these alternative worlds. Whirld does not outstay its welcome, mainly because Wallin is skilful at the art of transition, drawing the listener on from one ambience to the next.

Richard Fairman, Financial Times
22nd August 2018

The title of the latter, Whirld, refers to the swirling recursive patterns of fractal mathematics, patterns that explain cloud formations, flocks of birds and other natural phenomena. … Wallin’s processes are not, for all their hyperactivity, mindlessly minimalist. Indeed, there’s also an element of ecstatic mysticism, with references to the four vessels of blackening, whitening, yellowing and reddening. … the colourful scoring was an additional virtue of this intriguing work.

Barry Millington, The Evening Standard
22nd August 2018

ELYSIUM

Wallin’s music is quite stunning…. Earthy, eerie, elegant, the score sharpens and shapes the imagination effortlessly. The pacing is impressive (this is his first opera) and the climax nothing short of breath-taking…. The meshing of electronic and acoustic sources is beautifully managed, as are the chewed-up snatches of the Quartet and Prisoners’ Chorus from Fidelio.

Guy Dammann, Times Literary Supplement
25th March 2016

The evening’s greatest success is Wallin’s musical language. You hear both humanity (arching, lyrical vocal lines) and the encroaching digital world (wonderfully visceral bodies of electronically enhanced sound and arsenals of percussion). Transhumans no longer need words, since they can transfer data via their implanted chips, so unless they are communicating with humans, they sing in short bursts of coloratura. Wallin’s orchestral and electronic sound-world is emotional and engaging without ever lapsing into kitsch, even when he is quoting Beethoven. Very few composers can manage musical nostalgia without a significant cringe factor, but Wallin retains his own quirky language throughout, both original and highly communicative.

Shirley Apthorp, Financial Times
14th March 2016

FISHER KING

…a weighty piece mystical in content, patiently structured, and assiduously avoiding the military imagery associated with the solo instrument. Hakan Hardenberger was the impeccable soloist, his virtuosity so demurely devoted to the demands of the music…

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
18th November 2011

The concerto is a striking, single-movement piece, clearly laid out, yet still mysterious. …a menacing climax in the orchestra is blown away by the soloist in a flurry of piccolo-trumpet virtuosity. The ideas seem more crisply defined, their trajectory more coherent.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian
16th November 2011

There was plenty to keep the ear busy…a Trumpet Concerto by the gifted Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin. …dizzyingly fast repeated notes and quick-changing colours.

Geoff Brown, The Times
15th November 2011

STRANGE NEWS

Goodness is central to Wallin and De Pauw’s multimedia work. …a blizzard of horrific documentary footage from Uganda and the Congo. Helicopters thunder overhead, with the crack of gunfire and the tight, blistered, glaring report of hard-bitten strings. What surprises, almost guiltily, is the beauty of some of Wallin’s music: the sweetness of oboe, flute and muted trumpet, the dissolving delicacy of the electroacoustic landscape, the affectless balm of the African rain.

Anna Picard, The Independent
10th October 2010

This 35-minute piece of performance art for instruments, film and actor shifted uneasily between shocking and sentimental, moving and melodramatic. .. Wallin’s score, a virtuoso collage of reimagined sound effects.

Hilary Finch, The Times
5th October 2010
[The concert] culminated in Rolf Wallin’s extraordinary work Strange News, which manages to tackle the horrific plight of child soldiers in Africa without resorting to polemic.

…Wallin’s music, which judders and screams the sound of war whilst also carrying the calmer sections with washes of sound studded with tiny ravishing details.

Andrew Morris, www.classicalsource.com
3rd October 2010

…a creative use of means and effects. The work’s opening…explicit videos of violence and atrocity and masculine posture in war torn areas of Africa with thumping minimalist musical backing, creatively smears the real and the virtual. [Later] a musically twisting evocation of the therapeutic projects former child soldiers undergo upon repatriation to traditional tribal society. [T]he narrator turns to the crowd and pleads, simply, for a ‘life like yours’….the delivery made for a moving valediction.

Stephen Graham, Musicalcriticism.com
3rd October 2010

The awe-inspiring work which ended Integra 2008 on Saturday night was a compassionate and totally involving creation based on footage of child soldiers in DR Congo.

Rolf Wallin’s Strange News, Josse De Pauw directing the visual and textual elements, could so easily have wallowed in voyeuristic sensationalism, but it avoided that trap.

Instead its graphic, gripping musical commentary created a War Requiem for the modern day, one which held the audience stunned – until the standing ovation at the end.

The commitment of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group players under Pierre-Andre Valade’s clear, decisive conducting was an obvious factor in the success of this Integra 2008 premiere, and George Alagiah generously gave his services as the appalled newscaster.

But even more memorable was the performance of the young Ugandan actor Arthur Kisenyi, delivering a monologue of astonishing power and immediacy in this 35-minute work, and all from memory.

Plaudits too to Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Jonathan Green, masterminding the important electronics contribution.

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
9th June 2008

MANYWORLDS

We’re back to vintage Wallin: a composer whose handling of a large orchestra can have the same pinhead acuity of his ensemble works, and who isn’t afraid to alight on something simple and attempt to unlock its poetry through enforced repetition.

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone
1st September 2015

On the Manyworlds 3D premiere:

In Manyworlds Boya Bøckman offers planet-like circles and barren landscapes. ”This is how the world is”, the video tells us. This is how the world is that we cannot see, with distances we cannot fathom. Skeleton structures and tubes meander infinitely. We don’t know exactly what we are experiencing; what could be the surface of an unknown planet could also be the skin of a small animal.

The orchestra sparkled in the meeting with Rolf Wallin’s effective material. Wallin knows the medium and conjures the structures: sometimes with intense pulsation, sometimes in thundering blocks of sound with military tight percussion. Then gliding in melodic movements, in the context they sounded weightless.

Ida Habbestad, Aftenposten
16th February 2012

CLARINET CONCERTO

Wallin’s Clarinet Concerto [written in 1996,] won the Nordic Music Council’s music prize a year later. And with good reason: along with Jouni Kaipainen’s Carpe Diem, it is one of the finest Nordic clarinet concertos since Nielsen’s. Wallin cross-cuts music of uneasy lyricism with explosions of skinhead energy, reflecting, he says, the clarinet’s dual nature: it is equally at home in the silky domesticity of the Mozart concerto and the ‘rough, charging masculinity of Balkan folk music’. It’s the Dr Hyde character that finally conquers, as Wallin sweeps the listener of his feet ion a thrilling bare-back gallop.

Martin Anderson, International Record Review
7th January 2002

The solo instrument ventures into every corner of its psyche, trilling dulcetly in the lower range and shooting to the skies in penetrating tones. Wallin places contrasting materials in seamless juxtaposition, with the orchestra often taking over where the clarinet leaves off [as] Wallin engages in myriad intriguing combinations along the way.

Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer
June 2003

DAS WAR SCHÖN!

The Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin is increasingly gaining international recognition, and this disc is likely to win him further admirers. 

The percussion concerto Das war schön! refuses to conform to the genre’s stereotype of superficially impressive crashing and banging. This Mozart tribute combines a genial charm, with flair and a sometimes impish sense of humour.

Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine

GROUND

The ferocious cadenza for solo cello that kick-starts Ground for cello and strings (1997) is a gestrure of unmistakable confidence – here is a composer who knows exactly what he wants.

Martin Anderson, International Record Review
7th January 2002

APPEARANCES

Appearances (2003), heard in the version for 15 solo instruments, arguably leaves an even stronger impression as its motifs – simple in themselves – are metamorphosed via a process quixotic in its continuity but also memorable in its rhythmic shapes and glistening textures.

Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone
1st July 2018

The half-hour kaleidoscope of Appearances [was] richly coloured and fetchingly inventive.

Geoff Brown, The Times
30th November 2010

REALISMOS MAGICOS

The highlight… was Rolf Wallin’s Realismos Mágicos. The eleven short pieces of this collection from 2014 evoke the titles of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short stories. The sound world Wallin creates is thoroughly colorful and resembles that of Debussy’s Preludes. To conjure the image of water, the composer spins a thread of churning phrases that bubble to the music’s surface. In “El verano feliz de la señora” and “Un señor muy Viejo con unas alas enormas,” rumbling chords low in the instrument’s register create a halo effect of harmonics. Other movements have passages of spinning minimalist passages and are humorous for their brevity. “El cuento más corto del mundo” (“The shortest story in the world”) is little more than a flourish.

Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review
8th December 2016

The glory of the evening was the world premiere of a piece for marimba by Rolf Wallin. Realismos Mágicos (11 short stories) was a co-commission by Wigmore Hall with Bergen Festival and Scotland’s Sound Festival. It wasn’t the stories of Gabriel García Márquez that inspired the Norwegian composer, but their titles alone. They are, indeed, irresistible. Eyes of a Blue Dog drew forth crystals of sound-cluster, flashing from the beaters as they twirled tight and close. A tiny, fleeting heat-haze of harmony of Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness; repeated notes reverberating full fathom five for The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World; and a thrumming, poised for lift-off, for a Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. [A] marvellous new edition to the repertoire..

Hilary Finch, The Times
9th April 2014

Rolf Wallin’s Realismos mágicos, a Wigmore co-commission, is a collection of 11 short stories recounted in the subtlest tones on the marimba, each highly poetic…

Richard Fairman, Financial Times
8th April 2014

THE AGE OF WIRE OF STRING

Wallin’s music is put together with a jeweller’s precision…

Andrew Clements, The Guardian
18th January 2007

“Exquisitely surreal miniatures”

Hilary Finch, The Times
17th January 2007

LARGE BIRD MASK 

What convinces me, is how everything turns into formal elements of a naturally flowing performance that makes me feel and think differently. Even the graphs and texts become elements in a composition, a concert and theatre staging where internal and external experience is put into play in a playful and questioning way. Vulnerable as the birds themselves. …Rolf Wallin and Kjetil Skøien have made a thoughtful, beautiful and humoristic performance about an alarming theme. The score is based on the structures of birdsong, but stretched and bent in time and space, pinned down by Wallin’s great experience in computer-assisted composing. Does the piece have a satisfying form? Are the transitions smooth? Yes. Christian Eggen conducts the music with precision and authority.

Erling Gulbrandsen, Morgenbladet (Oslo)
19th September 2019

BOYL

Boyl (1995) owes its title – merely ‘boil’ in an early, pre-Johnsonian spelling – to a seventeenth-century alchemical text which talks of the repeated melting base substances in the process intended to produce gold; Wallin binds in a subtext with Jungian allusions to psychoanalysis. Shifting, edgy, superficial phrases in the strings are gradually answered by ever bolder gestures from winds and percussion as the orchestra are gradually wracked by increasingly forceful elemental power reminiscent of Xenakis, the music drops, its power spent, into a gentle duo of xylophone and vibraphone (if my ears have it right), exchanging brief, drooping phrases from either side of the orchestra. Wallin’s First Symphony will be something to look forward to.

Martin Anderson, International Record Review
7th January 2002

SEVEN IMPERATIVES

The pianist Håkon Austbø sank into hyperconcentration in playing that seeks and finds points of support within a limited harmonic palette; the music swarmed, echoed and dripped its way to a singular beauty. 

Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm
15 January 2001