Johan HALVORSEN (1864 - 1935)
Orchestral Works - Volume 1
Entry March of the Boyars [4:30]
Andante religioso* [5:57]
Suite from Mascarade [27:54]
La Mélancolie [2:28]
Symphony No. 1 [35:25]
Marianne Thorsen (violin)*
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. Greighallen, Bergan, Norway, 24 August-2 September 2009. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10584 [76:48]
Johan Halvorsen was one of my discoveries of 2010, based on Volume 2 of this Chandos series, which absolutely delighted me (see review) and became one of my Recordings of the Year. If Halvorsen is the unknown to you that he was to me last year, then I refer you to my review of Volume 2, which provides some background.
Backtracking to Volume 1 yields perhaps not quite the same amount of pleasure, but no doubt this is in part due to the surprise factor being absent. It is certainly still a very enjoyable disc, a phrase which I now find my colleague Arthur Baker used in his review as well.
If any piece by Halvorsen can be said to have a presence in the repertoire, then it would be Entry March of the Boyars, an early effort, and one which caught the attention of Grieg. It is noisy and great fun. The next work - Andante religioso - is, as the title implies, a substantial contrast and could be the slow movement for a lost Bruch violin concerto. Like the Nielsen work of the same name, the Mascarade suite was written as incidental music for the Holberg play, but any similarities stop there. Despite being written sixteen years after the Nielsen, this is music of the previous century, and probably best described as light music, and none the worse for being so. At one point, I thought Chandos had accidentally inserted one of the Henry Wood sea shanty fantasies, another had Offenbach in the wings. La Mélancolie is one of Halvorsen’s many arrangements of others’ work, this being a violin piece by the Norwegian virtuoso Ole Bull.
The major work is the First Symphony, written by the 60 year old Halvorsen - and Brahms is considered to have been slow in writing his first symphony! From the first bar, the influence of Tchaikovsky is unmistakeable, to the point where someone with a good musical knowledge walking into the room whilst this was playing would imagine they were listening to a recently discovered work by the great Russian.
A check of Halvorsen’s list of works on Wikipedia indicates that Chandos have quite a few works to go in this series, including a third symphony. I certainly look forward to future releases.
David J Barker
see also review by Arthur Baker
Some amusing light music, and more serious works which channel Bruch and Tchaikovsky.