> Niels Viggo Bentzon - Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Niels Viggo BENTZON (1919-2001)
Symphony No. 3 (1947) [36.07]
Symphony No. 4 Metamorphosis (1948-49) [31.08]
Aarhus SO/Ole Schmidt
rec. Aarhus, 1981, ADD
DACAPO DCCD 9102 [68.32]


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Bentzon's prolifically creative drive is evidenced by more than twenty symphonies, fifteen piano concertos, four violin concertos, three cello concertos, countless sonatas, quartets, suites; not to mention the oratorio Torquilla (not something I have yet heard) and the grandly conceived and executed piano structure Det Tempererede Klaver.

The Third and Fourth symphonies commanded airtime on the BBC Third Programme in the 1950s, no doubt under the benevolence and acute judgement of Robert Layton and Robert Simpson. They were taken up by BBC Radio 3 again in the early 1980s when Ole Schmidt was more of a presence than he is now. Remember that he also conducted the 1980 revival at the Royal Albert Hall of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony.

As Anker Blyme's notes say, the Third Symphony uses a language that is clear and straightforward, accessible in a genuine and inviting manner. The derivation is clearly from Nielsen both in the pounding rhythmic material and in the sunlit glow (Helios). Bentzon's jumping-off point is more closely related to the Espansiva than to the enigmatic Sixth Symphony. There is a saxophone in the andante. The finale has a rasping, rippling, strenuously heroic quality again with some decidedly Nielsen-like twists and turns - though fewer than you might expect. There is about the finale something of Hindemith's symphonic manner as in Harmonie der Welt. Just the next year came the Fourth Symphony. This is in three movements played without pause but separately tracked here. Influences include Kodaly's Hary Janos and Shostakovich (I, 10.13; II 6.48). Bentzon now makes more use of solo instrumental colour. This is a more transparently orchestrated work than its suave grand-toned predecessor. The writing has the fantastical character of a 'concerto for orchestra'. In the Tempo di largamente middle movement the harp conjures raptly glistening textures in a way totally liberated from anything Nielsen ever wrote. There is something delicately balletic about this writing and this carries over into the Allegro ma non troppo which ends in triumphantly confident understatement.

Surely the time has come for a complete cycle of the Bentzon symphonies. Who will be the first to embark on this Odyssey? While we wait, do snap up this disc and the other Dacapo which couples symphonies 5 and 7 (8.224111).

These are two significant symphonies - one in transition; the other in which Bentzon's originality and invention is fully developed and asserted.

Rob Barnett

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