Oddvar Lönner - String Quartet no. 3 (2005)
(b. august 24th 1954)
Oddvar Lönner was born in Tønsberg. Between 1972 and 1975 he studied piano at the Barratt Due Music Institute in Oslo. From 1976 to 1983 he studied composition with Professor Andrzej Dobrowolski at Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. He also graduated as a conductor at the same institution in 1982 after studies with Prof. Dr. Milan Horvat.
Lönner has given several lectures on his own music in connection with performances of his works in Graz and Vienna. He also was a deputy lecturer in composition for Prof. Robert Boury at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA in 1985. Towards the end of the 1980s he alternated living as a freelance composer in Vienna and various states in the USA studying Indian music, shamanism and mysticism with a number of Indian shamans through the American Indian Centre of Arkansas.
In order to develop an alternative style of composition, he studied Greek philosophy and religious philosophy for one year with professors Torstein Tollefsen and Finngeir Hiorth at the University of Oslo. His main helper, friend and advisor was the hermit Oscar Hansen, who lived in a self-built cottage in a forest outside Tønsberg. ”He lived like the gods”, says the composer..
Lönner has been active as a conductor in Graz, Maribor, Vienna and Hamburg (1995-98). His works have been performed in Europe, as well as in Japan and Australia. Between 1998 and 2017 he worked in the municipal cultural school of Porsgrunn, outside Tønsberg.
Since 2019 he has been living in Bucharest as a freelance composer.
Lönner has written chamber music for virtually every thinkable ensemble, as well as for orchestra. He has composed music theatre pieces, operas, sacred works, ritualistic pieces, organ music, song cycles, songs, sonatas and more. He considers Josquin Des Préz, Johannes Ockeghem, Jakob Obrecht og Heinrich Isaac as "the background carpet without which my style would not exist" (email to R.O. 27.12.2020), also naming Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Bruckner and Scriabin as masters whose music have accompanied him throughout his life. Lönner calls his music "non thematic" as a direct influence from the Flemish masters and writes most often in a polyphonic style.
In addition to composing, Oddvar Lønner is a published author of novels, short stories, plays and librettos.
(The above biographical information is taken from the MIC – listen to Norway and Komponist.no websites, complemented by comments from the composer)
Strykekvartett nr. 3 (String Quartet no. 3) was written in 2005. It has, however, not yet received its first performance.
The score of this work is so austere that it can aptly be described as a recipe for music-making. Or, perhaps, a music-making kit. Aside from indications for the use of the mute, pizzicato or arco and ponticello, and a few helpful tempo relationships (quarter-note = eighth-note for instance, and one single "poco più mosso") every musical choice is left to the interpreters. A close examination of the score will reveal that the music consists of gestures whose emotional implications will be recognized by any experienced player. That the way they relate to one another, both horizontally and vertically, may seem illogical brings to mind cubist painting: externally everything looks out of place but we recognize the expression therein.
In this work (and many others by Lönner, who cites Das Wohltemperierte Klavier as an example of an extended work where tempo is not specified) any musical decision taken by one player can cause the music to move in a different, unexpected direction. Provided the eventual players are willing to and capable of making such decisions in the spur of the moment, the work will never sound the same twice, even if the pitches, durations and ways of playing (pizz, arco, etc.) remain the same.
The first movement, Partita, is a theme (of sorts) with variations played without interruption. The seven opening measures contain twelve pizzicato cello notes interspersed with silences. The only pitches used are F and C. Of the fourteen ensuing variations, the only ones with a somewhat obvious relation to the opening measures are nos. 6 and 9. Otherwise, each variation adheres, largely, to a different scale or pitch collection, giving each section its particular colour.
The ascetic chorale that opens the second movement gives way to a more playful intermezzo dominated by the cello and viola, before repeating the entire chorale. A simple ABA form.
The last movement, Notturno, opens with another chorale, this time a very short one (seven measures, like the opening statement of the first movement) before the music again seems to become more playful and continues in that vein until, unexpectedly (or not?) the viola is left to hold a 54 measure-long (55, if one includes the empty bar that follows it) soliloquy that includes 30 seconds of improvisation around six given pitches. This startling event (which had been hinted at in measures 45-49 of the second movement) begins in measure 64, with only one perfunctory intervention from the violins
(mm. 74-75). The cello joins for the last five measures of the solo and the quartet contributes with five single bars at the very end, outlining an open E-B harmony that seems to suggest that the entire work has been a long and somewhat complicated journey from F to its immediate neighbour E. This might be an archetypal representation of our frequent, all too human inability to see what is right in front of us.
The very strength of this work lies in the fact that it depends almost entirely on the performers to make any sense out of it. Any number of approaches can be used in bringing it to life. Although playing it in an objective manner (i.e. doing nothing other than choosing a tempo and playing the notes without inflection) is one possible approach, it is not what the composer expects or wants. He wishes for the performers to interpret "the dots". The objective approach can, by all means, be part of the expressive palette (it may, for instance, work well for the chorale that opens and closes the second movement) but the music invites and, indeed, demands a much broader repertoire of tone colours, articulations and expressive means.
Ricardo Odriozola - Drammen 28.12.2020