Arvid KLEVEN (1899-1929)
Symfonisk fantasi (Symphonic Fantasy), Op.15 (1926) [19:31]
Skogens søvn (The Sleeping Forest), Op.9 (1923) [11:23]
Lotusland (Lotus Land), Op.5 (1921-22) [14:26]
Sinfonia Libera in due parte, Op.16 (1927) [18:55]
Symphonic Fantasy and Sinfonia Libera reconstructed by Robert Rønnes
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Susanna Mälkki
rec. May-August 2005, Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway
BIS-CD-1542 [64:53] 

My ignorance again - but I had never heard of Arvid Kleven before this disc. There is in fact a similar collection available on a Norwegian label. Kleven died aged only 30. He was born in Trondheim, became a flautist and was a member of what is now the Oslo Philharmonic from 1919 until his death.

The Symphonic Fantasy is a work of some concentration. The music appears absorbed in self-reflection and is unafraid of atonality. The style is rushingly acerbic and protest is woven in. At times the music takes on a Scriabin-like romantic grandeur as at 6:12. It ends almost self-effacingly with the same solo viola which played such a key role in the work’s opening pages. When premiered the critics were far from welcoming except fellow composer David Monrad Johansen. The Sleeping Forest is voluptuously inclined, taking on the whooping exultant and glowingly dreamy tendencies of Scriabin, Schmitt, Bax and early Schoenberg. It’s definitely a piece to try on your innocent-eared friends. Lotusland was composed while Kleven was studying in Paris in 1921-22. It is just as Øyvin Dybsand says in his essential programme notes - the music inhabits the same world as Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. The dissonance we know from the Symphonic Fantasy is entirely absent. In its place there is a misty impressionistic ecstasy which should appeal strongly to those who enjoy their RVW, Delius and Cyril Scott. Kleven went to Berlin to pursue his self-regulated study programme in 1926-27. There amid the éclat a round Berg's Wozzeck he composed the Sinfonia libera which although having some dissonant material has a more lyrical face than the Symphonic Fantasy. Though intended as a work in two parts there is no record of Kleven having completed the second segment. In any event it stands pretty cogently as a single movement structure. Even that falls into two sections - a strong Largo and an energetic, rushing and bubbling Allegro. That we can enjoy the Sinfonia and the Fantasy is down to the reverse engineering reconstruction by Robert Rønnes from the orchestral parts.

The Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and their conductor present these hardly known works with conviction and every appearance of attention to both detail, arch and broad sweep. The recorded sound is well up to Bis standards.

Just for the record the other Kleven CD is on the Norwegian Simax label: PSC3106: Skogens søvn and Lotusland Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra conducted by Christian Eggen and Violin Sonata Ole Bohn (violin) and Geir Henning Braaten (piano). It’s one I would certainly want to review if Simax is prepared to assist.

There we have it: from ecstatic impressionism to dissonance. Here is a Norwegian pioneer who suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and did not live to see celebrated the works for which he is now eulogised.

Rob Barnett