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Norwegian Piano Music
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
1. 25 Norwegian Folksongs and Folkdances, Op. 17, No. 12: Solfager og Ormekongen (Sun-Fair and the Snake-King) (1869) [2:01]
Klaus EGGE (1906–1979)
2. Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 21 for piano and string orchestra (Symphonic Variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune) (1944) [20:01]
3. Three Pieces, Op. 12, No. 1: Halling Fantasy (1939) [4:35]
4–7. Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 4, Draumkvaedet (The Dream Ballad) (1933) [22:29]
Sverre BERGH (1915–1980)
8. Norwegian Dance No. 2, Gamel-Holin (Old Holin) (1944) [2:41]
Alf HURUM (1882–1972)
9. Aquarelles, Op. 5, No. 2: Miniature (1912) [2:23]
Geirr TVEITT (1908–1981)
10. Brudlaups-Klokkor (Wedding Bells) (1963) [3:05]*
Håvard Gimse (piano)
Trondheim Soloists/Øyvind Gimse (tr. 2)
rec. Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK, 7-8 April 2006 (tr. 1 and 3 – 10); Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway, 27 October 2005 (tr. 2)
* World Premiere Recording
NAXOS 8.557834 [57:15]

 


Draumkvaedet (The Dream Ballad) is a 52 verses long poem, telling the story of Olav who slept from Christmas Eve to Epiphany and in his dreams visited the Kingdoms of the Dead, Hell and Heaven. It was sung to traditional tunes and was regarded as a medieval ballad but in reality it was written in the 1890s by Moltke Moe, who was the first Norwegian professor of Folklore. His pretensions were to reconstruct something from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. His sources were however much younger, actually from the 1840s and Moe altered and amended the texts to achieve a coherent narrative. It was very popular during the 20th century and many composers set the text while others used the traditional tunes associated with the ballad. Klaus Egge was one of them in his large Piano Sonata No. 1 from 1933. It is in four movements and the first has a slow introduction, where three melodies are presented, which are the basis for a fantasy on them, as well as on other folk-tunes, in the following movements. The slow movement has an improvisatory feeling, where Egge explores the harmonic possibilities of the thematic material. The short third movement, Scherzo infernale, is a devilish but still restrained interlude before the dancing finale, based on the two-beat Halling dance. This is both atmospheric and invigorating music in a mainly tonal language.

He returned to the Halling dance some years later in the Halling Fantasy, which is altogether harsher, Bartók-influenced. It is a two-part invention with one part for each hand. In the Piano Concerto from 1944 he has moved further onto the path of dissonance. Strictly speaking it isn’t a concerto at all, which also the subheading says: Symphonic variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune. Though written as one continuous piece of music one can distinguish four movements: the first four variations constitute the first movement, the next two are the slow movement and a seventh variation is the scherzo, while the motoric fugue is an insidious finale. It is rhythmic and vital music and I don’t believe many will be put off by the partly dissonant language. On the disc these three works are played in reversed order and it would have been a better idea to present them chronologically to better demonstrate the development of Egge’s art. There is a point, however, in the chosen order, where the disc opens with a short piece by Grieg, an arrangement of the folk melody Solfager og Ormekongen, since Egge uses the same melody, albeit slightly altered, for his variations.

The remaining pieces are also based on folk tunes and are attractive. Alf Hurum may not be a household name, not even in Norway. He is probably more known in Honolulu where he moved after marrying a Hawaiian woman and there he founded the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

The last piece, which is a first recording, has an amazing background story. Håvard Gimse has recorded several discs with Geirr Tveitt’s music and on hearing them Ragnhild Nordsjø, who worked with Tveitt, sent this composition to Håvard. It was composed by Tveitt in half an hour on 24 September 1963, sitting in a car outside the church where Ragnhild was to be married. A better wedding-present is hard to imagine! It is beautiful and folk song like but it is Tveitt’s own work and Håvard Gimse plays it delicately – as he does everything on this disc. Having heard him live on several occasions as well as having a number of his discs I knew what was to expect and he is up to his usual high standards, having an unerring sense for the musical phrase. In the Piano Concerto he is excellently partnered by the renowned Trondheim Soloists, directed from the cello by his younger brother Øyvind.

I suppose most readers are unfamiliar with the majority of this music but this disc only shows what many already suspected: that Norwegian music is much more than Grieg. The recording is first class and David Gallagher’s liner notes give much valuable information on the music.

Göran Forsling
 
see also Review by Patrick Waller

 

 


 


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