Review of Royal Winter Music by Otto Tolonen, Alba Records, 2015
What is Henze’s “Royal Winter Music” for a guitarist? A touchstone? A goal? A chimera? A mental and mnemonic effort? Certainly it’s a masterpiece. A gem in contemporary guitar literature. The combined fruit of the efforts of two great men: Julian Bream and Hans W. Henze. Otto Tolonen addresses this complex work with great energy and creativity. His interpretation is impeccable and I greatly appreciated it, especially with the combination with the other John Dowland’s “contemporary son”: the Nocturnal by Britten. Perhaps this is the key to “read” this record: Henze and Britten, the Royal Winter Music and the Nocturnal, the past and the contemporary. I have often wondered if these two pieces could be defined as neoclassical. Potentially they have all the characteristics: both the composers looked to the past in search of new models, both didn’t seem satisfied with the solutions proposed by the dodecaphonic music’s verbum, both seeked their own style. They find it in the past, in the recovery of some stylistic elements that are very different from those of contemporaneousness that are present in them, but unlike neoclassical composites they didn’t follow them slavishly. They modify them. Changed their nature. They adapted them to an instrument that is still rarely visited by composers of their time. In practice: they rework a new language, avoiding the dryness of neoclassicism and generating a new and always different music, able to continue to interest interpreters and listeners many years after their creation. Otto Tolonen proves to be a capable and sensitive interpreter. From the sound, from his concentration, one senses that he must have greatly reflected and reworked these two scores, looking, too, for his personal interpretation, his style. The result is truly remarkable, a record of the highest quality level. Very beautiful and interesting also the essay, written by the same Tolonen, in the booklet of the cd. Five stars for the fantastic recording quality. Do not just listen to it on Spotify. This SACD deserves a purchase and a listening with better means.