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Harald SÆVERUD (1897-1992)
Peer Gynt Suites Op. 28 Nos 1 and 2 (1948) [38.45]
Sinfonia Dolorosa Op. 19 [12.00]
Galdreslåtten Op. 20 [8.28]
Kjempeviser-slåtten Op. 22a No. 5 [6.23]
Sveinung Sand (violin), Anna Dolezych (viola), Kjersti Dahle (ob/cor ang), Gyrid Erlandsen (cl), Bohumil Maliska (hn)
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud
rec. 1995, Stavanger, DDD
Volume 1 Bis Sæverud Series
BIS BIS-CD-762 [67.18]

The Peer Gynt music is a conflation of the thirteen movements of the two suites Sæverud drew from the incidental music he wrote in 1948. At that time there was a feeling that Grieg's music with its romantic overlay was distorting the subtle psychological dimensions of the play. At first Sæverud was reluctant to accept the commission but the music came to him and flowed quickly. It is replete with the caustic, with skirling dissent. The style is somewhere between Prokofiev at his most lyrical and Stravinsky's Pulcinella phase. In the Blandet selskap (tr.5) various national anthems and songs are treated to a brutal and rattlingly sardonic outing. The Gravsalme is as awesomely sombre as the name suggests - the single most impressive movement being a soulful cortège.

The single movement Sinfonia Dolorosa is dedicated to a close friend, a member of the Resistance who was executed by the Nazis. It has the gravitas of the Gravsalme from the Gynt music. It is not acerbic and in fact is about as tough as the Salme - i.e. not very. Its originality can be undeniably felt in the thunderous gallop at 10.35 which then rises to a Leningrad-like paean of what I can only describe as angry praise - Old Testament exultation in blood-letting rather than enlightened New Testament values. It is the second of his three so-called war symphonies.

The Galdreslåtten and Kjempevise-slåtten are two short pieces of overture-like dimensions. They are however more in the nature of symphonic studies than jeux d'esprits. The Galdres work has elements of Nielsen's later jerkily explosive writing. The Kjempevise-slåtten came to be regarded as a symbol of the Norwegian Resistance movement. It is dedicated 'to the fighters both great and small on the home front.' The work combines Sibelian cantabile (listen to the theme at 03.34), drama (Pohjola's Daughter) and Polovtsi character with occasional facets of Hovhaness. More fumingly Old Testament angry triumphalism also surfaces towards the end of the piece.

Rob Barnett

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