is a delightful pair of discs, and is entitled “Norwegian
Heartland”. The Oslo Philharmonic has been out of new release
lists since Mariss Jansons left them, but it is very pleasing
to relate that they have lost nothing of their style, which
was so evident under Jansons. Simax has issued set in celebration
of Classical Norway – The 2005 Centenary.
1905 saw the beginning of Norway as a sovereign state,
and Simax have decided to commemorate the event by this
set featuring five of the Country’s principal composers
and played by the country’s premier orchestra.
The chosen works
may not appeal to general music lovers, but don’t be put
off, there is immense pleasure to be had from its contents.
In addition to the performances Simax’s SACD recording is
clear, immediate and very truthful - up there with the best.
This is the first SACD I have come across that has not been
in the curved cornered jewel case – instead we have a normal
slimline double case. I hope that this represents the start
of some consistency in the packaging of SACDs.
The Grieg Piano
Concerto is the most well known of the various works on
this issue. The performance is by a pianist previously unknown
to me. Sigurd Slatterbrekk is absolutely first rate, and
the accompaniment by Michail Jurowski and his orchestra
can hold its own with any in the catalogue. Slatterbrekk’s
touch, particularly in the slow movement is absolutely ravishing,
and the orchestra accompanies to the manner born. I was
initially sorry that more Grieg had not been not included,
although once I had listened to the rest, I was much less
is represented by two works, his Norwegian Rhapsody No.
4 and his Norwegian Artists’ Carnival, both very
tuneful and enjoyable, without the greatness of say, Sibelius’s
Much the same
can be said of the next composer, Johan Halvorsen, who is
represented by three works, one of which, The Entry of
the Boyars is very well known, and played with extreme
gusto and proper style.
is the closest one could describe as the modern element
in this compilation with six movements from his Peer
Gynt Suites. These are not nearly as well known as the
Greig music, but are none the worse for that. Sæverud
seems to concentrate on the spiky side of the tale. The
Oslo Philharmonic has recorded this repertoire before under
Miltiades Caridis on the Aurora label. This performance
is every bit as good as its predecessor, with a vastly better
recording. Isa Katharina Gericke is a beautiful sounding
is also represented by some other short pieces, beautifully
played. Canto Rivoltoso had immense meaning for its
Norwegian audience when first performed. The composer was
returning home during the war when he saw, across the Norwegian
landscape the German barracks. The piece was written for
the Norwegian Home Guard and created a tremendous stir when
performed after the war.
This collection is completed by excerpts
from Geirr Tveitt’s “A Hundred Folk-tunes from Hardanger”.
Many of these have been issued on Naxos, played by the Royal
Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Bjarte Engeset.
It was very instructive to compare the Norwegian performances
with the Scottish ones. Although the Naxos issue has been
very highly recommended, and is very good, the current performances
sweep the board, I am afraid. The Oslo orchestra has a virtuosity
and a feel for the folksy elements of this music which defies
their Scottish counterparts, good as they are. The shame
is that there are only a few of the Tunes recorded on this
newest issue, so a full comparison cannot be made.
are four folk songs proper, sung by Arve Moen Bergeset as
solo offerings, which add character to this issue. I hope
I have been able to persuade you that this release is much
more than the sum of its constituent parts, and therefore
very well worth buying.
To round off,
this set is provided with an outstanding set of notes. They
contain poetry relevant to the issue and photographs of
various Norwegian scenes which very clearly show why the
Norwegians are so proud of their country and its musical
heritage, to say nothing of its orchestra and the other
artists taking part. Indeed the only non-Norwegian appears
to be the conductor, but we need not worry about this as
he has absorbed the idiom like a native.
recommended for giving intense enjoyment to the listener
who is prepared to try something a little out of the normal
run of issues.