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NORWAY IN MUSIC - Catalogue Supplement April 2006

CHRISTIAN SINDING (1856-1941): Der Heilige Berg, Op. 111. Dating from 1912, Sinding's first completed opera will surprise those who know him from his songs which are generally in the style of the German lied or tinted with Norwegian folk material. This 79-minute work, in a prelude and two acts, is about as close to Wagner as any composer of the period cared to come. The orchestra carries the weight of motif development and the voices tend towards a recitative-parlando style with only a few sections rising to aria-type. The richness of the motifs and the orchestration make it thoroughly enjoyable though, for all that it is an unicum in Sinding's uvre. German libretto. Toril Carlsen, Kjersti Ekeberg (sopranos), Tone Kruse (alto), Caj Ehrstedt (tenor), Oddbjørn Tennfjord (bass), Norwegian Opera Chorus and Orchestra; Heinz Fricke. Simax PSC 3102 (Norway) NIM001 $18.98

PAULINE HALL (1890-1969): Verlaine Suite, Suite from the Play Julius Caesar (Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra; Christian Eggen), Suite for Wind Quintet (Bergen Wind Quintet), 4 tosserier for Soprano and Winds (Solveig Kringleborn [soprano], Lars Kristian Brynildsen[clarinet], Per Hannevold [bassoon], Lasse Rossing [trumpet], Vidar Olsen [horn]), Little Dance Suite for Winds (S. Hannevold [oboe], Brynildsen [clarinet], P. Hannevold [bassoon]). Hall was an important figure in Norwegian music not only because she was a woman but because she didn't follow the prevalent German Romantic and Norwegian Nationalist schools of composition. France was her greatest influence and both of its effects on her can be heard here - the Verlaine Suite of 1929 being quite Impressionistic (each of its four sections suggested by a poem's title) while the suite for winds shows her further development toward linear, neo-classical style. The incidental music (Little Dance Suite comes from music for As You Like It) is clear, direct and straight-forward while one of her last works, the 1961 Tosserier ("Fooleries") shows her still progressing, this time into an austere dissonant language. Norwegian-English texts. Simax PSC 3105 (Norway) NIM002 $18.98

ARVID KLEVEN (1899-1929): Lotus Land, The Sleeping Forest (Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra; Christian Eggen), Violin Sonata (Ole Bøhn [violin], Geir Henning Braaten [piano]). Dead of rheumatic fever six days before turning 30, Kleven was obviously a huge loss to not only Norwegian music. These two symphonic poems (1922 and 1923) breathe the exotic, impressionistic atmosphere of Debussy, Bax and Szymanowski - yes, a decade or so later than they, but Norway was a very conservative musical culture at the time (see above). The sonata, from 1925, is the biggest work here at just over 33 minutes and it shows Kleven pushing further into European contemporary music with even more "up-to-date" harmony and an intensity of expression which really makes one lament his early death. Simax PSC 3106 (Norway) NIM003 $18.98

SVERRE JORDAN (1889-1972): Fever Poems, Op. 13 for Narrator and Orchestra (Toralv Maurstad [narrator], Holberg Silhouettes for Orchestra, Op. 39, For Soprano and Orchestra: Towards the Peaks, Op. 11/1, No Birds Sing, Op. 33/3, Spring Song, Op. 21/4, Young Aslaug, Op. 21/2, Morning, Op. 21/1, Thirteen Years Old, Op. 54/1, Wiegenlied, Op. 7/2 (Kari Løvaas [soprano]), Concerto picccolo in F for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 77 (Jens Harald Bratlie [piano]). For those not completely averse to melodrama, the 1915 Fever Poems will provide a guilty pleasure - 23 minutes of nightmarish poetry with creepy and horrifying images that jibe well with European Expressionism set to film-score like music which is lurid, vivid, threatening, doing whatever it needs to do to suggest the feverish mentality of its narrator (the Roger Corman Poe films of the early 60s came to mind). Then, suddenly, we're into Jordan's own "Holberg Suite" from 1938, a sharply characterized suite in six short movements "in the old style" while the selection of orchestral songs offer much grateful work for a dramatic soprano (Flagstad and Streich were among their performers in the good old days). The little piano concerto (15 minutes, in one movement), from 1962, is like a highly-concentrated dose of late Romanticism - richly scored and with lovely melodies but not a note too many (perhaps many notes too few!). Norwegian-English texts. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Karsten Andersen. Simax PSC 3107 (Norway) NIM004 $18.98

LUDVIG IRGENS-JENSEN (1894-1969): Heimferd. Premiered in 1930, this "dramatic symphony" (really an oratorio) celebrated the 900th anniversary of St. Olaf's winning the final victory for Christianity in Norway and, since then, has become the "national oratorio". The texts, though in New Norse, use ancient forms of names, alliteration and assonance which create an aura reminiscent of the old sagas (quotes from Snorri Sturluson are used also). Needless to say, the music is most interesting, evoking a wild, pagan, old world, before the Christian king makes his appearance. Leitmotifs are used and the textures are usually homophonic but Irgens-Jensen also uses a more "national" style than one would expect if you had previously heard only his Japanischer Frühling. 2 CDs. Norwegian-English texts. Anne Bolstad (soprano), Ivar Gilhuus (tenor), Per Vollestad (baritone), Carsten Stabell (bass), Nidaros Cathedral Choir and Boys' Choir, Trondheim Symphony Choir and Orchestra; Ole Kristiaan Ruud. Simax PSC 3109 (Norway) NIM005 $25.98

EIVIND GROVEN (1901-1977): Piano Concerto, Symphony No. 2. Like Holmboe and Niels Viggo Bentzon, Groven was a champion of "extended variation" or "metamorphosis" compositional techniques. Groven, however, derived much of his theory from the Norwegian folk music (slåtter) he grew up with in his little village in Telemark. He never uses real folk motifs in his large-scale symphonic works so all of the folk-like material you will hear in both these works is original (a springar in the concerto's first movement, a laling in its second and a halling in the third). Premiered in 1946, four years before the concerto, the symphony has a subtitle "The Midnight Hour", referring to its composition during the dark years of 1939-43, and adds polyphonic complexity in its slow movement to Groven's metamorphosis technique. Wolfgang Plagge (piano), Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Ole Kristiaan Ruud. Simax PSC 3111 (Norway) NIM006 $18.98

FARTEIN VALEN (1887-1952): Pastorale, Op. 11, Le cimetière Marin, Op. 20, Sonetto di Michelangelo, Op. 17/1, Nenia, Op. 18/1, Cantico di Ringraziamento, Op. 17/2, La Isla de las Calmas, Op. 21, Ode to Solitude, Op. 35, For Soprano and Orchestra: 2 Chinesische Gedichte, Op. 8, Darest Thou now, O Soul, Op. 9, Die dunkle Nacht der Seele, Op. 32. Valen stands alone in Norwegian music for his mostly self-taught version of atonality which can best be described as dissonant polyphony. Already writing such music as early as 1917, when Schoenberg was only beginning to codify serialism, Valen was aware of the German composer's experiments but was not greatly influenced by them. The seven tone poems recorded here, ranging in length from four to ten minutes, were all (except Ode to Solitude of 1939) written between 1930-34 and are impressive for the depth of emotion and what, paradoxically, is an almost Romantic or Expressionist feeling. You can feel the sea in Le cimtière Marin and in La Isla de las Calmas and two contemporaries separately described Pastorale as "like strolling through a magic rose garden in the South" and "an exotic rose garden" with "a hectic, fantastic atmosphere". The Cantico is a five-part fugue which rises to a majestic climax and Nenia a four-minute dirge of amazing intensity and no pathos at all. The orchestral songs have even more and different riches to unfold. Suffice it to say that any 20th century collector unfamiliar with Valen's orchestral music (or even familiar only with his four symphonies), doesn't have the full historical picture until he's heard it. German texts. Dorothy Dorow (soprano), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Miltiades Caridis. Simax PSC 3115 (Norway) NIM007 $18.98

FARTEIN VALEN (1887-1952): Violin Concerto, Op. 37 (Arve Tellefsen [violin], Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Karsten Andersen), Epithalamion, Op. 19 (Bergen PO; Andersen), An die Hoffnung, Op. 18/2 (Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Miltiades Caridis), Piano Concerto, Op. 44 (Geir Henning Braaten [piano], Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra; Christian Eggen), Piano Trio, Op. 5 (Stig Nilsson [violin], Hege Waldeland [cello], Eva Knardahl [piano]), Serenade for 5 Wind Instruments, Op. 42 (Norwegian Wind Quintet). The violin concerto, from 1940 (three years after Berg's and a year before Schoenberg's), is one of Valen's most perfect examples of his densely polyphonic, dissonant style and of the deep emotion which is always present. Here, as in Berg's concerto, it is the death of a close relative which inspired the work and Valen's deep religious faith is apparent in its progression to a culminating quotation of the Lutheran hymn Zesu meine Zuversicht, for which a solo trumpet is added, to moving effect. Two more remarkable tone poems (see above), a brief wind serenade and a piano concerto from the year before his death underline the special qualities of this music even more while the early piano trio, composed between 1917 and 1924, is the first work in what was to become Valen's mature style (and, at almost 20 minutes, a sign that plenty of distillation was in store!). Simax PSC 3116 (Norway) NIM008 $18.98

EDVARD FLIFLET BRÆIN (1924-1976): Ouverture, Op. 2 (Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Sverre Bruland), Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 9 (Eva Knardahl [piano], Bergen PO; Bruland), Concertino for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 10 (Ørnulf Gulbransen [flute], Bergen PO; Karsten Andersen), Serenade, Op. 5 (Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Øivin Fjeldstad), The Merry Musicians, Op. 1 (Richard Kjelstrup [clarinet], Leif Jørgensen [violin], Johs. Hindar [viola], Levi Hindar [cello]), Seaward (Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra; Øivind Bergh). Bræin and Valen form the opposite ends of the Norwegian musical spectrum. Bræin's music, fully in the 20th century line from the Romantic tradition, seems to pour elegantly and easily from his pen, full of singable diatonic melodies. Neo-classicism, a bit of late Romanticism and a dash of Norwegian folk music combine in music which is often spiced with dissonances (for effect - as in the Shostakovichian grotesqueries of the Serenade) and some Prokofievian motoric traits (as in the Capriccio). The notes mention serious and weighty works such as the Symphony No. 2 and the opera Anne Pettersdotter (the latter was part of this series but is either out-of-stock or out-of print - we'll find out which in the near future). Simax PSC 3117 (Norway) NIM009 $18.98

DAVID MONRAD JOHANSEN (1888-1974): Pan, Op. 22, Symphonic Variations and Fugue, Op. 23 (Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Karsten Andersen), Scenes from Nordland, Op. 5, 2 Portraits from the Middle Ages, Op. 8, From Gudbrandsdalen, Op. 9, Prillar-Guri, Op. 12 (Jens Harald Bratlie [piano]). A period of study in France was Johansen's most important influence and led to his earliest mature style, as represented in Scenes and Portraits with their use of pentatonic and whole-tone scales and other reminiscences of Debussy. Gudbransdalen and Prillar-Guri, however, from 1922 and 1924, are adaptations of Norwegian folk music, using a rich harmonic pallette and an advanced piano style. Although from 1939, the 13-minute tone poem Pan returns somewhat to Impressionist ideals in its depiction of the mysterious and brooding northern forests while the Variations are a bracing and characterful 16-minute work-out with a bit of Reger in the fugal finale. Simax PSC 3119 (Norway) NIM010 $18.98

OLAV KIELLAND (1901-1985): Sinfonia I, Op. 3 (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Olaf Kielland), Villarkorn, Op. 13 (Eva Knardahl [piano]). He made his living primarily as a conductor and builder of orchestras (three in Norway, one in Iceland) but Kielland also composed four symphonies, of which the first (1935) is a single-movement piece lasting almost half an hour. Falling into three sections, it is in a neo-classical style with a double fugue in its first section and a slow central section which touches on the Romantic in places while a recapitulation of the primary material prepares for the chorale-like conclusion. At the other end of the spectrum is the set of twenty short piano pieces, published in 1951, meant for the composer's daughter as both entertainment and a pedagogical tool, increasing in complexity as the cycle moves on. Villarkorn are magic charms which trolls give in drinks to humans and Kielland has created his own folk-like pieces, using the Lydian, Dorian and Phrygian modes characteristic of Norwegian folksong. Simax PSC 3120 (Norway) NIM011 $18.98