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Eivind GROVEN (1901-1977)
Hjalarljod, overture, Op.38 (1950) [6:05]
Symphony No.1, Op.26 Innover viddene (Towards the Mountains) (1938, 1951) [28:39]
Symfoniske slåttar nr.1, Op.43 (Norwegian Symphonic Dances No.1) (1956) (I. Brureslått [3:45]; II. Springar [3:31]; III. Gangar [7:40])
Faldafeykir (Symfoniske slåttar nr.2), Op.53 (Norwegian Symphonic Dances No.2) (1965) (I. Gibø-springar [3:51]; II. Taug gangar [5:10]; III. Sevlien (halling) [3:51])
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Eivind Aadland
rec. Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway, October 2001. DDD
BIS-CD-1312 [63:55]

 


The voice of folk music, the impress of the landscape and of its people can be felt in the music of the Norwegian composer Eivind Groven. His unfeigned love for the Telemark area, his prowess as a fiddler and his self-taught composing skills all fed this autochthonous talent. Unlike Valen or Egge or Saeverud his was not the sort of voice that would easily travel at least not in the last three decades of his life. His music had no place for academic-friendly serialism or the wilder reaches of the avant-garde. Yet it has a distinctive tang. He is not a Bartók subjecting his folk influences to alien transformations. He does not approach the skill of Kodaly as orchestrator. His imaginative use of the orchestra is more four-square, less suave but no less attractive. I would liken him to another composer, who in fact seems to have had two manners: immersion in dodecaphony on one hand and the warm and raw village engagement of the dance and the song. Skalkottas is the person I have in mind and it is his numerous Greek Dances - also superbly recorded by Bis – that I thought of when I was listening to the two sets of Symfoniske slåttar.

The Hjalar-ljod overture was written in celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of Oslo. It is unrefined, revels in bawling and brawling brass fanfares but is dignified and contemplative in the woodwind solo at 4:33. RVW meets Moeran meets Kodaly meets Alan Bush. The Symphony is in four movements in a style that at times touches on Sibelius, at others on the spirituality of trumpet solos of Alan Hovhaness. Plainchant is suggested in the third movement while the finale has that uproarious celebration one finds in the finale of Alan Bush’s Symphony No. 2 The Nottingham. Throughout this score there are occasional hints of Tippett’s rich polyphonic string writing as in the Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The two sets of Norwegian symphonic dances are tangy, bold, surgingly confident, bustling, folksy of course, tricked out with the occasional wheezy villageoise instrumental solo and even toe-tappingly syncopated. Without being in any way a facsimile you can think of these pieces as a Nordic counterpart to the Skalkottas dances. Arthur Benjamin’s American dances pieces such as the Red River Jig and the North American Square Dance suite also come to mind – the latter soon out on Lyrita.

The invaluable notes are by Wolfgang Plagge who was the pianist in the Groven piano concerto recorded on Simax PSC 3111.

Adventurers from the days of the LP might well also recall an all-Groven Philips vinyl 6529 139 from circa 1972 that included the Hjalarljod Overture as well as the major cantata from 1965, Draumkvaedet. Per Dreier conducted the RPO and the choir was the Brighton Festival Chorus.

Blow away the cobwebs with this open air Nationalist music with a strong dance theme all presented in a tangy yet approachable manner.

Rob Barnett 

Review of Simax CD: Groven Symphony 2 and Piano Concerto

 


 

 


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