SVEND HVIDTFELT NIELSEN (b.1958): Symphony No. 3, Ophelia Dances for Accordion and Sinfonietta, Toccata for Organ and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 01U010
Description: Hvidtfelt Nielsen studied with Nørgård and Abrahamsen, and acknowledges Gudmundsen-Holmgreen as a major influence, which, in differing proportions, tells you quite a lot of what you need to know about these three works. The Symphony, a single span of almost 25 minutes, is an imposing and powerful work that follows as sure and inexorable trajectory as anything in the repertoire. Beginning in the deepest registers of the orchestra, the symphony's slowly shifting tectonic masses have a stern monumentality reminiscent of Nørgård. But soon, more active currents and floes in the middle register start to dominate the texture, leading to some climactic collisions. All the while, though, zephyrs and soaring songbirds in a crisp azure empyrean increasingly become the focus of attention, and slowly, very slowly, the music separates from its earthbound roots and floats upward, finally evaporating beyond the reach of hearing. Delicate, coloured wisps of sound make up much of Ophelia Dances, its fragility reflecting that of Shakespeare's character. Abrahamsen also wrote an 'Ophelia' work - Let Me Tell You (02R047) - and this concerto could almost be a companion work to that, though its quirky unpredictability shares territory with Nielsen's mentor 'in absentia', Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Toccata is an organ concerto, and here the composer both plays with and contradicts expectations, and follows a certain but unanticipated dramatic arc. The work begins misleadingly, with strident clusters, a "Big Bang" that throws off cascading roulades of organ figuration. The organ then enters into fugal dialogue with the orchestra, though there seem to be birds in the organ loft. Another toccata section leads to a very quiet chorale, but when the orchestra tries to join in it is rudely rebuffed with a brief return to the organ clusters from the beginning. However, this combative episode is a turning point; from here until the end the music takes on an ecclesiastical air, with co-operative polyphony and warm harmony between soloist and ensemble as it ascends to the heights, much like the symphony. Bjarke Mogensen (accordion), Svend Hvidtfeltt Nielsen (organ), Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Århus Sinfonietta; Henrik Vagn Christensen, Ari Rasilainen (Toccata).