Johannes Jansson

composes with a strong sensibility





Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Con.: Shi-Yeon Sung
Soloist: Martin Sturfält, piano
Malmö Concert Hall, 26.4.2012

Johannes Jansson is a composer with his roots both on Österlen in the south of Sweden and the foot hills of Himalaya. His portfolio is extensive containing almost 80 works in different genres. Most of his music has been performed in concert halls around Sweden and much of it has been recorded. In spite of this, his music is strangely neglected. One reason can be that he has preferred to create his own musical aesthetics. Among other things, he has said that he wants to “create music which is disarmingly beautiful” and that “some of my compositions have been means to reconsider concepts and attitudes given by the modes of the time”. This is a secure way to be neglected by the trend-conscious music establishment.

About seven years ago, Malmö Symphony Orchestra premiered his “Hymn to the Mystic Fire”, an almost hour long piece for an enlarged orchestra. The composition had clear Eastern influences, including a long cadenza for solo percussion, as well as soft lyrical parts and violent orchestral tutti. April 26th Johannes Jansson’s Piano Concerto No 2 is premiered with Martin Sturfält as soloist and Shi-Yeon Sung conducting.

It is difficult to critique a work after only hearing it once. Purely descriptive, the work has clear features of late romanticism and moments of impressionism. The music language is strikingly European, with only hints of the Orient. The solo part is very pianistic, clear and consistent and the orchestral section is dynamic with occasional bursts of colour. The impression testifies to deep knowledge and great practical skill.

As a whole the piece is very beautiful and accessible, maybe even too easy to comprehend. I must confess I did miss some strokes of bitter resistance that could catch the listeners attention. It was maybe there, but it would need a second listen to be discovered. Thankfully the Swedish Radio recorded the performance.

Lars-Erik Larsson




Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Soloist: Martin Sturfält
Con.: Shi-Yeon Sung
Music: Johannes Jansson, Piano Concerto Nr 2 (2010)
Malmö Concert Hall 26.4.2012

Johannes Jansson’s second piano concerto, commissioned by Malmö Symphony Orchestra, premiered April 26th at the Malmö Concert Hall. It was broadcast by Swedish Radio with Martin Sturfält as the soloist. Lets hope that the piece will be performed again and also become available on cd. It deserves that. Swedish piano concertos are not abundance and Johannes Jansson’s mature contribution (37 min) is an important addition.

The basic attitude is introverted and restful. From the depth of the strings a line from the flute is liberated, a veiled melodic call. Changes of scenes are incorporated with different intensities and orchestral storms. Jansson’s music reflects meditations: the mysticism of Wagner tends to arrive in the romantic expressionism, Debussy like sound figurations sometimes colour the delightful piano part. But the composer has also the courage to make music out of the silence. One really listens.
Sturfält handles his long tranquil cadenza in a mild and delicate way, as if it was a nocturne by Chopin. In other parts the roll of the soloist blends with the orchestra, as if a symphony with piano, and the fully charged orchestral gestures almost become grandiose and impenetrable. But in the swarm itself there might be an essence, a sense of life’s incomprehensibility, that needs the contrast of peace and reflection as a life orientation. As Johannes Jansson is known to have his eyes turned towards India, the interpretation is natural
and it can be mentioned that both Wagner and Debussy were walking on similar roads.

Carlhåkan Larsé


DN / DAILY NEWS November 20th 2010


The first phrases of the violin have a warm attack full of emotion, as if composed by the romantic Johannes Brahms. But the orchestra responds with a forceful carpet of strings and wind, that minute after minute refill with sound after sound and refuse to breath. Here there is not even a break and Sara Trobäck Hesselink’s violin almost capers about, not always in front, as in an unknown sea. But suddenly there arises a stillness and an air to breath. A peculiar shimmering light where the lonely violin and an equally lonely bassoon mirror each other’s reflections.

And from this moment on one understands that Johannes Jansson’s “Violin Concerto”, which was premièred on Thursday at the Gothenburg Concert Hall, shows itself to be in a world of its own and a totally original work, with a fervent battling zest which inspires an impulse to rise up, and with a delivering beauty that one hopes will never end.

Johannes Jansson was born in 1950 and had his début already in the early 1970s after a shorter career as improviser on guitar and student of composition under Sten Broman and Ingvar Lidholm. However, he is somewhat hidden from the public eye in the world of Swedish art music, perhaps because a few years after he made his début, he moved to Southern India where he lived for several years. In his review of Jansson’s portrait cd some years ago, Thomas Anderberg (DN) hoped there would be more recordings of Jansson’s work, which would provide a fairer picture of his music. In particular the large orchestral pieces where Jansson, whilst working within the references and traditions of Western music, reveals how deeply he has been influenced by classical music from Southern India.

The “Violin Concerto” reveals the tensions between two different words, and the wonderful Sara Trobäck Hesselink, the concert master of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra makes a fabulous musical journey filled with tense friction, rendezvous and transforming passages. Music that will never stop glowing.

Martin Nyström


GOTHENBURG-POST November 20th 2010


There is a long uninterrupted vocal line all the way through Johannes Jansson’s violin concert, composed for and premiered by Sara Trobäck Hesselink, concert master of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. The lyrical elegiac mood makes the sense of time suspended and indefinable, circular rather than linear, and the music suggests a very particular beauty, fragile and sharp.

There is much that impresses, both the piece itself and the extraordinary violin playing. The combination of intimacy and virtuosity make the tones really sing, and unlike most of the colleagues of his generation, Johannes Jansson, born 1950, never ends up in the pastiche-like, when the music approaches the sound-realm of the late romanticism.

Instead there appears a personal and distinctive sound-minimalism with the initial material being successively shifted and built up layer upon layer. The attitude is restrained and to the point and therefore the sounds unfold. Sara Trobäck Hesselink’s playing is extraordinary refined, with an intense glowing tone, so very rich in nuances.

Magnus Haglund


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DN / KRITIK SCEN 20.11.2010


Första fraserna från violinen har en pastoralfylld attack som vore de komponerade av romantikern Johannes Brahms. Men orkestern svarar med en konturlöst krängande klangmatta av stråkar och blås som minut efter minut fyller på med sound efter sound och vägrar att andas. Här finns inte en paus och Sara Trobäck Hesselinks violinstämma liksom sprattlar, inte alltid helt hörbar, som i ett främmande hav. Men plötsligt uppstår en stillhet och en luft att andas i. En sällsamt skimrande dager där den ensamma violinen och en lika ensam fagott gör sig till varandras speglingar.
Och från den stunden förstår man att Johannes Janssons ”Violinkonsert”, som fick sitt uruppförande i Göteborgs konserthus i torsdags, är ett alldeles eget och oförutsägbart verk, med en kämpande iver som får en att vilja ställa sig upp och en förlösande skönhet som man aldrig vill skall ta slut.

Johannes Jansson är född 1950 och debuterade redan under 1970-talet efter en kortare karriär som gitarrimprovisatör och kompositionsstudier för Sten Broman och Ingvar Lidholm. Han är ändå något av en doldis inom den svenska konstmusiken. Kanske för att han redan några år efter debuten lämnade Sverige för södra Indien där han bodde i flera år. I sin recension av en porträtt-cd med Janssons musik för en del år sedan efterlyste DN:s Thomas Anderberg inspelningar som gjorde bilden av honom mera rättvisa. Framför allt av den större orkestermusiken där Jansson inom den västerländska konstmusikens ramar och traditioner prövar sitt djupa inflytande av sydindisk klassisk musik.
Även i denna ”Violinkonsert” finns denna spänning mellan olika världar. Något som den helt fantastiska Sara Trobäck Hesselink, som till vardags är Göteborgssymfonikernas konsertmästare, gör till en rent sagolik musikalisk resa full av friktionsframkallande motstånd, öppnande möten och förvandlande passager. En musik som aldrig vill sluta glöda.

Martin Nyström




Det går en lång och obruten linje av sångbarhet rätt igenom Johannes Janssons violinkonsert, tillägnad och framförd av Göteborgssymfonikernas konsertmästare Sara Trobäck Hesselink. Det lyriskt elegiska tonläget gör tidskänslan svävande och obestämbar, cirkulär snarare än linjär, och musiken frammanar en alldeles speciell skönhet, skör och skarp.

Det är mycket som imponerar, både i själva stycket och i det extraordinära violinspelet. Kombinationen av innerlighet och virtuositet får tonerna att sjunga på riktigt och till skillnad från många av sina generationskollegor hamnar Johannes Jansson, född 1950, aldrig i det pastischartade när tonspråket närmar sig en senromantisk klangvärld.

I stället uppstår en personlig och särpräglad klangminimalism, med successiva förskjutningar och överlagringar i ett begränsat utgångsmaterial. Hållningen är återhållsam och saklig, och just därför öppnar sig klangerna. Och Sara Trobäck Hesselink spelar exceptionellt fint här, med en intensivt glödande ton, oerhört rik i nyanserna.

Magnus Haglund


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