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Geirr TVEITT (1908-1981)
Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, Op 5 (1931) [21.49]
Concerto No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra, Op 130 "Northern Lights" (1949-81) [30.04]
The Turtle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1965) [28.59]
Håkon Austbø (4) Steinway D piano; Sveinung Bjelland (1) (piano)
Ingebjørg Kosmo, mezzo-soprano
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud
Recorded at the Concert Hall, Stavanger, Norway, June 2001 - June 2003.
Steinway D piano; piano technician, Jan Inge Almås.
Notes in English, Norsk, Deutsch, and Français. Photos of artists.
Lyric text printed in original English only, no translations included.
BIS CD-1397 [81.18]

Comparison music recordings:
Tveitt, Piano Concertos #1 and #5, Gimse, Engeset, SNO Naxos 8.555077
Samuel Barber, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Steber, Strickland. Sony MPK 46727

Having enjoyed Tveittís Piano Concerto #5 very much [see review by TH], I looked forward to hearing these two concertos. They were not in any sense copies of each other, each work being unique and individual, almost as though by different composers.

The Concerto #1, variously listed as Op 1 on the Naxos disk and Op 5 on the BIS disk was (probably) first written in 1927, but extensively revised and published in 1931, perhaps with a new opus number. The work is Neo-Romantic in tone, full of consonance and melody, especially the Naxos recording, contains just the slightest of echoes of other contemporary composers ó Copland, Goldmark, Rachmaninov, Delius. It moves on to a rather identifiably Scandinavian peasant dance in the second movement. Both recordings feature excellent sound and performances and although the Naxos version is about 10% faster, it does not sound "fast" in comparison with the BIS version, yet another lesson in the difference between subjective and measured time. Naxos has the edge here in both performance and sound.

"The Turtle" was written to a prose English text from The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, for Kirsten Flagstad in the hope she would perform it and launch on the concert stages of the world. Unfortunately at this time the great soprano was suffering from her final illness, so it soon became clear there was no hurry to finish the work as she could never sing it, so it lay for unperformed for 30 years. One immediately thinks of Samuel Barberís Knoxville Summer of 1915 (to a prose excerpt from a novel by James Agee.), but the two American works are very dissimilar, particularly in the mood of the text, even though both texts are noted for their careful, detailed, non-poetic descriptions of their respective circumstances. The eponymous turtle is struggling to cross a heavily travelled paved highway without getting killed, whereas the Barber work sets out to evoke a magical, tranquil, nostalgic Summer evening mood.

The manuscript of Prokofievís Second Piano Concerto was lost. The only copy of Sir Arthur Sullivanís Concerto for Cello was burned up in a fire at the printers. In both of these cases, the scores could be reconstructed from the memory of the performers, but Geirr Tveitt suffered the loss of over 80% of his music manuscripts in a fire at his home. Fortunately, the Fourth Concerto had been performed several times and from these sets of performing parts and existing sketches, this performing edition could be assembled after the composerís death.

My impression of what the Northern Lights (Nordljos in Norwegian) ought to sound like comes from planetarium shows where they have been simulated, and accompanied by New Age meditative style music generally including moonbeam chorus. I have heard that the Northern Lights do actually have a sound of their own, not unlike what one might expect from an electrical atmospheric phenomenon, somewhat whispery and crackly. The Fourth Concerto is astringent, even clangorous, in sound, and may be an attempt to capture this kind of sound by one who has actually heard it frequently. This is certainly neither tranquil nor meditative music. To someone living in the far North the northern lights represent the cruel and mysterious power of nature, especially as they are generally only easily visible in the depths of Winter.

While I can read French and Castillian, bits of German and of Ancient Egyptian, and recognise Portuguese and even Catalá, Russian, Polish, and Sanskrit, the Scandinavian language section of the notes to this disk was beyond my perception, and I thank Peter Shore for telling me it truly is Norwegian and not Swedish as one might expect from a Swedish record company. They donít tell you what language it is because I guess if you canít read it it doesnít matter what language it is, but it might be a courtesy to reviewers.

Paul Shoemaker

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