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