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Harald SAEVERUD (1897 – 1992)
Symphony No. 5 "Quasi una fantasia" Op. 16 (1941)
Oboe Concerto, Op. 15 (1939)
Entrata regale Op. 41 (1960)
Sonata Giubilata Op. 47 (1969)
Gordon Hunt, (oboe)
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud.
Recorded June 2000 (Symphony No.5 and Oboe Concerto); August 2000 remainder in the Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway. DDD Orchestral Music volume 6
BIS BIS-CD-1162 [59.11]

 

BIS are currently recording a series of CDs by Saeverud, Norway’s pre-eminent composer, who died in 1995. He had a long and musically active life, writing easily assimilated modern works which have competed for popularity with works by Sallinen, Kokkonen, Vagn Holmboe and Leif Segerstam. Five discs in this series have already been issued and all have been welcomed. This disc is certainly no exception.

Saeverud is the composer of nine symphonies. BIS is in the process of committing them to CD and thereby earn our gratitude. Some of the symphonies have been available previously, but the current series outclasses the earlier recordings. As couplings, BIS is also including other Saeverud works, so that we gain a rounded picture of his output.

This disc features the Fifth Symphony, written in Norway during the Nazi occupation. This is counted as the first in Saeverud’s war trilogy (Symphonies 5 – 7). The composer freely admitted that their content was influenced by the conditions then prevailing in Norway. This work was received by the audience at its first performance as a statement about the occupation but influenced by the title "Quasi una fantasia". After the war the composer admitted that the symphony was a ‘resistance symphony’. Its first performance in Bergen on the 6th March 1941, with the composer conducting, was an exclusively Saeverud affair.

The Fifth made a great impression at the first performance, and was greeted in the press as follows: "It has a national appeal unequalled in Norwegian music. It will be of historical consequence to the extent that our young people are able to experience art and feel national values. It will inspire faith, perseverance, gentle deeds and bold actions." The symphony is like some of Saeverud’s other symphonies, i.e. in one movement, although four sections are clearly discernible within the whole. The development section consists of a series of 26 variations, each of them lasting four bars, and taking the initial themes as the starting point. The powerful emotional content of the work is clearly evident, and it was this that made such an impression in 1941 in Bergen.

The Symphony was dedicated to the Slovak painter Bozidar Jakac, a close friend of Saeverud since their student days in Berlin. When Saeverud heard that Jakac’s native country had been similarly occupied by the Germans, he resolutely wrote the dedication on the title page.

The Oboe Concerto was written in the 1930s - happier times. Saeverud had Swedish oboist Rolf Lannerholm in mind when writing this work which was intended for performance at the third music fair in Gothenburg. The event was sponsored and performed by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted at that stage by Tor Mann. The concerto was not written around traditional structures, although it was in the usual three movements. The composer said: "It was my intention not to fill a given form with tunes and suitable figures for an oboe, but to let the oboe itself determine the form by letting its characteristic voice choose its themes and by then letting these themes grow freely through their own strength and their own possibilities of development." This is not strictly true as the theme for the lovely Adagio was inspired by the composer’s then to be wife, Marie.

The two short pieces, Entrada Regale in the style of this composer’s Peer Gynt, and Sonata Giubilata, characteristic works which enhance the more substantial pieces, but do not substantially alter my very positive reception to this disc.

Superb recordings in the normal BIS manner, with similarly excellent performances from the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. More please!

John Phillips

 



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