Klas Torstensson
Triptych Licks & Brains

The composer Klas Torstensson (b.1951) studied composition at the Ingesunds Musikhögskola, musicology at the University of Gothenburg and electronic music at the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht. His compositions are performed by orchestras, ensembles and soloists worldwide.

Urban Songs for   soprano Charlotte Riedijk, Ensemble Intercontemporain and computers - commissioned by Ircam, Paris -, was premiered in 1992, and was to be programmed for another two seasons by the same ensemble, as well as by many other European ensembles, such as Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), Asko Ensemble (Amsterdam) and KammarensembleN (Stockholm).

In 1994 Torstensson composed The Last Diary for speaking voice and large ensemble, based on the diaries of S.A.Andrées, leader of the tragic Arctic balloon expedition of 1897. The Last Diary has in the past decade also been translated into German - for performances in Vienna and Graz with H.K.Gruber in the role of Andrée - and Icelandic.  

The same material served as a basic for his opera The Expedition (1994-1999) for soloists, orchestra and (live) electronics, to a libretto written by the composer.

The opera was premiered in concert form during the 1999 Holland Festival in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, in a performance conducted by Peter Eötvös. Performances followed in Germany, Sweden and Norway.

1999-2002 Torstensson wrote a full-length cycle entitled Lantern Lectures . The cycle was a joint commission by Le Nouvel Ensemble Modern (Montréal), Asko Ensemble (Amsterdam), KammarensembleN (Stockholm), Klangforum Wien and Oslo Sinfonietta. Over the years2000-2004 Lantern Lectures was performed twenty-seven times, by seven ensembles in thirteen countries.

In October 2004 the song cycle In großer Sehnsucht (with texts by five 'tragic' women: Camille Claudel, Frida Kahlo, Cristina di Svezia, Rosa Luxemburg   and Louise Michel) received its first performance in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, by Charlotte Riedijk and the Osiris Piano Trio.

Torstenssons music has been presented on most major European new music festivals. He was also featured composer at festivals such as Stockholm New Music 1999 (together with Mauricio Kagel and György Kurtág), Time of Music 2001, Viitasaari, Finland, and Montréal-Nouvelles-Musiques 2003.

In 1991 Torstensson received the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize - the most prestigious composition prize in The Netherlands, followed by the 'Stora Christ Johnson Priset', the major Swedish composition prize awarded to him by the Swedish Royal Music Academy in 1999.

Most of Torstensson's music is available on CD.

Triptych Licks & Brains (1987-1988)
Solo for bass saxophone
Licks & Brains I (for saxophone quartet)
Licks & Brains II (for saxophone quartet an large ensemble)

In the course of the triptych as a whole, shifts occur in the degree of closensess and in the listeners' sense of proximity to the music.

In the first (solo) piece, the inside of the instrument is of primary importance. Both tone production and mechanism (action) are amplified out of all proportion, evoking the sensation of an extremely heavy and complex piece of machinery being revved into motion - the musical development comes off the ground with a great deal of struggle.

Solo has over the years been employed in several dance performan-ces, most recently by the Swedish choreographer Efva Lilja/E.L.D. Solo was written for Leo van Oostrom.

With the second piece, Licks & Brains I , we find ourselves, as it were, within the music itself - music that develops a high level of virtuoso activity. The quartet, as the sax section in a big band, plays as a solid unit, striving to keep together and to build up to a continually more extended and refined repertoire of pitch, articulation and ways of playing.

Licks & Brains I was written for the Netherlands Saxophone Quartet.

In the third piece, Licks & Brains II , the music of the quartet is presented in a new setting. The music now appears in relation to a large entity built up of several layers. The orchestra furnishes a new musical context, at times enforcing a re-interpretation of the saxophone music.

Licks & Brains II was written for the Netherlands Saxophone Quartet and the Asko Ensemble.

Since the first performance in 1988, Licks & Brains has been performed in a number of European countries and in Canada, by Leo van Oostrom, Simone Otto, Jörgen Pettersson, Jean-Marc Bouchard, Netherlands Saxophone Quartet, Stockholms Saxofonkvartett, Quasar Quartet, Asko Ensemble, Oslo Sinfonietta, and the ensemble of SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec), Montréal.

The first complete performance of the triptych Licks & Brains took place on March 7, 2003, during the festival 'Montréal Nouvelles Musiques', in a performance by Jean-Marc Bouchard, the Quasar Saxophone Quartet, and the ensemble of SMCQ, conducted by Walter Boudreau.

Discography: Composers' Voice CV13 (Donemus Amsterdam)


Licks & Brains I