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Ludvig NIELSEN (1906-2001)
Church Bells [1'20]
Fantasi over To Gamle Olsokmelodier op. 4 (1941) [9'34]
Tre Salmer for solo voice and organ (1980, 1963, 1973) [9'10]
from 150 Enkle og lette Orgelkoraler til Norsk Koralbok op. 67 (1988): Eg ser deg, Gud, i kvar den blom som tirer [2'24]; Brod for verden lot du voske [1'24]
To Salmer for solo voice and organ (1977, 1976) [5'42]
Veni Redemptor Gentium et Dies Irae for organ op. 52 (1981) [20'35]
Church Bells [2'05]
Variasjoner over den Norske Folketone 'Ingen Vinner frem til den Evige Ro' for organ op. 2 (1941) [10'23]
Bjorn Kare Moe, organ
Mona Julsred, soprano
rec. Trondheim Cathedral, Norway, 13-18 September 2004. DDD
BIS-CD-1494 [76'23]



Ludvig Nielsen is a new name to me. He was organist of Trondheim Cathedral, Norway's National Shrine, for 41 years, between 1935 and 1976. He was a student of Arild Sandvold, a pupil of Straube, and also studied with Straube himself. His music is characterised by an intensely contrapuntal, though not overly chromatic language, sometimes with a modal twist. Perhaps not always as succinct as one would like, his music nevertheless displays a formidable invention and feeling for atmosphere. 

I enjoyed this disc a lot. Bjorn Kare Moe is a former assistant to Ludvig Nielsen, as well as being a former student of Gaston Litaize, and plays this music with verve and dedication. Trondheim Cathedral is best known in the organ world of course, as the home of the famous 18th century Wagner organ, perhaps one of the finest Bach instruments in the world. The instrument featured here however is the instrument built for the church, upon completion of its restoration in 1930 by the German builder Steinmeyer. Originally containing a monstrous 139 stops, the organ was unfortunately rebuilt and reduced in size to a mere 133 stops including transmissions, although part of it was moved to the east end to make a choir organ. Apparently there are now plans to restore it to its original situation. The booklet notes that the current organ is in poor condition. Despite this it sounds splendidly symphonic on this recording, especially in such sound hands, and playing music written specifically for it.

Among Nielsen's organ works, I found the shorter works to be the most successful. The two short chorale preludes are especially effective, 'Brod for verden..' sounds curiously like Hyfrydol incidentally! The larger works hang less well together; the 20 minute 'Veni Redemptor' is a remarkable piece with some brilliant writing, but as a whole fails to convince. In fact, I can't help feeling that Nielsen's real compositional talent was in the writing of vocal music. The sacred songs here, all set strophically, are wonderful miniatures with haunting melodies, and highly inventive use of the organ as an accompanying instrument. Congratulations to Mona Julsrud for some beautifully understated singing.

The music is of uneven quality then, but this is unusual, very interesting, and very well performed. The inclusion of the Cathedral bells at two points in the programme is a nice touch. Warmly recommended.

Chris Bragg




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