POING: Almost Classic

On the album Almost Classic, POING pays a visit to the classical repertoire: music of Mahler and Tchaikovsky is arranged by the musicians, or recomposed by the contemporary composers Olav Anton Thommessen and Eivind Buene. In Eivind Buene’s Mahler Mixtapes, Mahler’s songs are sung by the musicians in the trio, with their ordinary voices far from the classical ideal.

In POING’s own arrangement of the scherzo movement from Mahler’s 6th symphony, the three musicians displays ingenuity and playfulness in their encounter with the greatest symphonic composer in history. Folk music inspirations in Mahler’s music come closer to folk music again, and modern playing techniques are woven into the arrangement to expand the sound world when three musicians alone perform a work written for a large orchestra.

Olav Anton Thommessen’s virtuosic work Four Tchaikovsky Sketches is composed for POING. Thommessen writes himself regarding the piece: ‘In the course of 1891 Tchaikovsky’s break with patroness Nadezha von Meck was a fact. Although he no longer needed her financial support, the break was a sign that he no longer could conceal his sexual preference and that his reputation was jeopardised. As a result, he ceased working on three larger works: the symphonic ballad Voyevoda, the third piano concerto, and the ‘seventh’ symphony in E-flat major.’

Through three fast scherzo movements Thommessen is inspired by the profound personal crisis associated with Tchaikovsky’s sexual orientation, and by the composer’s uncompleted works from the same period. In the last movement there is a remarkable change of mood: a meditation on Tchaikovsky’s two important contributions to the renewal of orthodox choir tradition: Liturgi of St. John Chrysostom, op. 41, and All-Night Vigil, op. 52.

The trio POING – Håkon Thelin (double bass), Frode Haltli (accordion) and Rolf-Erik Nystrøm (alto saxophone) – began playing together in 1999 and is this year celebrating their 25th anniversary! One of the world’s leading contemporary music ensembles with over 150 premiere performances, the trio is also unique in its genre-crossing activity.


Release details:

Released by Lawo Classics, February 9th 2024


Frode Haltli (accordion / vocals on tracks 6, 7, and 8)
Håkon Thelin (double bass / vocals on tracks 7, 8, and 9)
Rolf-Erik Nystrom (alto saxophone / vocals on tracks 7 and 10)

Eivind Buene (vocals on tracks 7 and 8)


Olav Anton Thommessen: Four Tchaikovsky Sketches (based on themes from Op. 78, Op. 72 No. 10 & Op. 41):
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV

Gustav Mahler: from Symphony No. 6 (arr. for saxophone, accordion and double bass):
5. III. Scherzo, Wuchtig

Eivind Buene: Mahler Mixtape for voice, saxophone accordion and bass:
6. I. A Beautiful Day
7. II. Welt
8. III. Crazy Weather
9. IV. Blue Eyes
10. V. The Dead of Night