Review by Edvin January 13, 2006 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
|A brilliant set.
The aim is to present the Norwegian heritage, it´s national birth and growth among certain composers. The two sacd´s are not chronologically laid out, something I find very clever.
The earliest composer is Johan Svendsen, 1840-1911, and he is represented by two pieces. The music is very elegant and expertly written for orchestra. The Norwegian Rhapsody No 4 starts off in a melancholy mood, but it soon takes wing and envisages the happy peasants during the few summer months of light and dance. Incredibly charming and, slightly, naive music. Like a hand coloured picture postcard. In the most positive way, of course.
Most familiar is Edvard Grieg, 1843-1907, and this recording of his piano concerto is really something else. It ranks very high on my list, maybe even to the top. The pianist, Sigurd Slåttebrekk, is a virtuoso and he plays with such enthusiasm and verve that one wonders if the piece was written for him in mind. I have never heard Grainger in this concerto, but with his personality in mind I gather it would have sounded like this. My first thought was, oh no, not another recording of this old war horse. It only took me about ten seconds to realize that this was something special. The second movement is poetical and nocturnal, the last vivacous - and the roots in Norwegian dance is evident. By the way, this was Grieg´s first orchestral score.
Another Johan, of Boyar fame, enters. Johan Halvorsen, 1864-1935. His most famous piece is Entry of the Boyars, a very catching stück. His Norwegian Rhapsody No 2 is a developement of his earlier college´s. More emphasis on the melancholic side of folk music from the Nordic countries. Also a bit more substance and tightness in the shaping of the piece. The finger nails aren´t all clean anymore. Lovely music with more than a hint of longing. Absolutely wonderful is his Rococo Variations on an Old Tune from Bergen. It was written as an interlude in a theatre piece and depicts a man from Bergen who takes off into the world. Each variation is supposed to be a specific country and I regret sleeping through geography lessons. Some surprising choices of instrumentation and a piece of great charm. It leaves you with a smile.
Harald Saeverud, 1897-1992, is another kettle of fish all together. He was a prolific man, just like his Swedish contemporary Hilding Rosenberg, with whom he shared some ideals. Forms are getting more important, the intellectual side taking over. But not here, not at all. His most famous piece is the lovely Rondo Amoroso, and it is really a jewel of a piece, a once in a lifetime tune. If you are lucky. Originally written for piano and maybe still heard to it´s advantage in that form. This orchestration is slightly less elegant and clear. But the tune, many would kill for it.
Saeverud also wrote music to Ibsen´s play Peer Gynt and his version is much more earthbound than Grieg´s. We get the first suite here and it is absolutely excellent. So much fantasy and rhythmic freedom. What can I say, maybe Bartok´s Dance suite, Kodaly´s Galanta dances but with both feet firmly in the northern soil. The play itself has far more in common with Saeverud´s music than Grieg´s elegant and slightly held back style. Young Mr Gynt is not a very pleasant fellow at all times and Saeverud depicts this in a very frothy way. The musical language may not be so personal, but the message comes across perfectly.
The Canto Rivoltoso came out of the second world war and created a sensation when it was played after it had ended. It is a strong and sincere piece, a sort of Norwegians Finlandia. No musical connotations though. Deeply stirring for those who know their history.
So to Geirr Tveitt, 1908-81. Perhaps the greatest genius on this album. He is represented by a few of his stunning arrangements of folk-music from Hardanger. Well, these are not arrangements as such. He was an expert orchestrator and I thought of Malcolm Arnold more than once upon hearing these wonderful pieces. Tveitt´s pieces are spread out over the two sacd´s. In fact it starts with what must be one of the most lovely tunes ever, Welcome with Honour. A few of these re-compositions are preceded by a folk-singer who performs the original version. A welcome initiative indeed on an intelligently planned couple of sacd´s from Simax.
Oslo Philharmonic plays with all the sensitivity needed, it is a fabulous orchestra. The conductor Michail Jurowski, relation to Vladimir of Pentatone fame?, is totally in tune with all these composers. This is marvellous music making from the first note to the last and Simax has captured it in brilliant surround sound where the rears are very discreet. As you might have understood by now, I love this set and I urge you all to buy it. I have played it over and over again and will do so for many years to come.
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