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
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
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
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.