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Lars Anders Tomter studied both violin and viola at the Oslo Music Conservatory and Norwegian State Academy with Leif Jørgensen, giving his debut performance on both instruments at seventeen. He continued his studies with Max Rostal and Sándor Végh and won a special price for his Bartók Viola Concerto at the 1984 Budapest International Viola Competition. He then won the Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition in 1986, which marked the beginning of his international solo career.

Tomter has appeared as a viola soloist throughout Europe and the US performing with orchestras from the UK, Germany, Hungary, Scandinavia and the USA. Although his repertoire is broad, Tomter is known as an advocate of contemporary Scandinavian music and has had several viola concertos written for him. He is also music director of the Risør Festival of Chamber Music in Norway and a professor at the State Academy, Oslo. His viola is a rare 1590 Gasparo da Salò.

Tomter’s playing is distinguished by depth of tone and strong attack, garnished by a quite wide and pronounced vibrato which works well for him because of the underlying largesse of his tone. The result is heard in an outstanding Vieuxtemps Sonata in B flat (1997), which begins with a dark and rich reading of the opening Maestoso and opens out into a well-paced Allegro, a measured but considered Barcarolla slow movement, and well-judged finale. Equally effective is Steven Gerber’s Viola Concerto (premiere recording, 1996). This brooding but accessible contemporary work is well- suited to Tomter’s sound-world. From the same year, his Walton Viola Concerto under Paul Daniel is a contrast, light in mood—excessively so perhaps in the second and third movements—whilst his trademark vibrato here becomes rather intrusive. Nonetheless, there is discipline and tidiness here that are commendable and these are features that apply equally to his Mozart Sinfonia concertante with Iona Brown (1995), which is distinguished mainly by a lively slow movement that avoids the common temptation to become rather maudlin.

Tomter makes a strong contribution to Mozart’s E flat Divertimento (2008), but the 1802 Clarinet Concerto transcription (recorded 2007) is perhaps controversial. Many will admire Tomter’s vibrant and active tone, but others may fi nd it dry and harsh, with a rather nagging vibrato in the slow movement especially. Nonetheless, in an era of string playing when many players sound superfi cially alike, Tomter’s repertoire and playing give him a distinctive personality.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Box Set Release Catalogue Number
20th Century British Orchestral Masterpieces Naxos 8.505077

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