Wallin is a distinctively Swedish name, but Rolf Wallin was born in Oslo in 1957 and has continued to work in Norway, with Norwegian orchestras, for most of his career. There have been Wallins active in Scandinavian music persistently since the 1700s; Johan Olof Wallin (1779-1839) was a Lutheran hymnist, Per Henrik Wallin was Sweden's most accomplished jazz pianist, and violinist Ulf Wallin is a prominent advocate of contemporary classical music. The Scandinavian "music scene" is vibrant and well supported; thus a 'small town' orchestra like the BodÝ Sinfonietta heard on this CD can be of the highest caliber of musicianship.
Rolf Wallin's compositional methods are considerably more structured and mathematical than you may detect on first hearing. His sources of 'melody' include birdsong, computerized analyses of human speech, and fractal mathematical formulae. At the same time, however, he eschews classical tonality and development, and classical notation, in favor of 'aleatoric' procedures wherein the performer is given a set of musical figures that she or he can employ at will. Wallin's music has been associated with that of Iannis Xenakis and Luciano Berio, but to my ears his affective personality is closest to Anton Webern, evn though Wallin is not a serial 'twelve-tone' disciple. The title composition on this CD -- The Age of Wire and String -- is a set of eight miniatures for piano and orchestra, which reminds me very much of Webern in its precise but fleeting abstraction; the longest piece is three minutes and the shortest a mere 29 seconds. Yes, it's enigmatic, but it's also quite evocative and -- dare I say? -- beautiful.
The longest composition at 21 minutes, Imella, is an aleatoric concert for "fele" (fiddle/violin) and orchestra. The violinist is the Norwegian fiddler Susanne Lundeng, noted for her commitment both to traditional and "up-dated" traditional folk music. Imella was composed on commission for Lundeng. If you have any background in Norwegian traditional music, you certainly hear its role in this concerto. If not, what you'll hear is a brooding evocation of the forests and fjords, dark and stark but not at all depressive.
The third composition is Wallin's orchestral setting of three poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, sung in German by soprano Siri Torjesen. Once agin, these are extremely terse Webernesque miniatures, highly emotive on first hearing yet formidably dense in musical ideas.
Rolf Wallin is well known and much appreciated in Norway, as you'll discover from the number of his compositions available on CDs. It's high time that North Americans and Britons discover him also.