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Norwegian Classical Favourites
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Peer Gynt Suite Op. 46
Morning mood
In the Hall of the Mountain King
Norwegian Dance No. 2 Op. 35
Two Elegiac Melodies Op. 34; No. 2 Last spring
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)

Six Pieces for Piano Op. 32; Rustle of Spring
Agathe BACKER-GRØNDAHL (1847-1907)

Fantasy pieces Op. 45; Summer Song
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911)

The Wedding at Dovre
Norwegian Artist’s Carnival Op. 14
Festive Polonaise Op. 12
Johannes HAMSSEN (1874–1967)

Valdres-Marsch
Johan HALVORSEN (1864-1935)

Entry of the Boyars
Ole OLSEN (1850-1927)

Funeral March Op. 41
Rikard NORDRAAK (1842-1866)

Maria Stuart (arr. Halvorsen)
Purpose
Valse Caprice
Sigurd ISLANDSMOEN (1881-1964)

Forest Clearing Op. 15
Arne EGGEN (1881-1955)

Liti Kersti Suite
Bjørgulv the Fiddler
Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Bjarte Engeset
Recorded in the Concert Hall of the ISO, Reykjavik, June 2002
NAXOS 8.557017 [68.04]


There are some old favourites here but there are also some little known works that will catch the eye and ear. Many are rooted in the Leipzig tradition though some are more nationalist in outlook but most are light – in the best sense – and immediately appealing. The orchestral version of Sinding’s Rustle of Spring – wasn’t this as obligatory for pianists as The Harmonious Blacksmith? – becomes turbulently romantic in this guise and flows with effortless ease. I’d forgotten that Sinding was a Nazi sympathiser. Agathe Backer-Grøndahl studied with von Bülow and also with Liszt in Weimar. She cultivated an interest in folk music but her compositions for orchestra were tiny – only two pieces of which Summer Song was, like the Sinding, originally written for piano. It’s a charmer. Svendsen achieved a degree of celebrity in his lifetime both as a composer (all violinists played his Romance) but also as a composer. Grieg went so far as to reckon him the best conductor in Europe (which of course meant the World at the time, but also meant competing with Nikisch and Mahler amongst others). The Wedding at Dovre is a bit foursquare but has a nice lyrical B section and a good ceremonial cast. Fine playing from the lower strings and brass of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. The Norwegian Artist’s Carnival is a delightfully bouncy affair written in 1874.

We have Halvorsen’s famous Entry of the Boyars, written in a day, and mentioned by Strindberg in The Dance of Death and Ole Olsen’s Funeral Music, written for his brother-in-law but that became the royal funeral music. Nordraak’s music from Maria Stuart impresses, especially Purpose, the first of the two extracts here though he seems reluctant to let the tune go (understandable as it’s a good tune, though one we hear a bit too often). Sigurd Islandsmoen’s Forest Clearing is a 1902 song, arranged by the composer for string orchestra – chaste and cool. The well-known Grieg pieces are idiomatically played – and not overplayed with too much vibrato – and they begin and end this attractive programme with real charm.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 



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