Johan HALVORSEN (1864-1935)
Orchestral Works - Volume 4
Rhapsodie norvégienne No.1 (1920) [10:41]
Rhapsodie norvégienne No.2 (1920) [11:49]
Norwegian Bridal Procession (1903) [3:29]
Passacaglia Op.20 No.2 [7:10] ¹
Dance Scene from Queen Tamara (1904) [4:21]
Symphonic Intermezzo from The King (1902) [8:27]
Norwegian Festival Overture Op.16 (1899) [7:59]
Norwegian Fairy Tale Pictures Op.37 (1922) [18:10]
Melina Mandozzi (violin); Ilze Klava (viola) ¹
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. September 2010 (Dance Scene) and August 2011 (remainder), Grieghallen, Bergen
CHANDOS CHAN 10710 [72:53]
Chandos’s Halvorsen series continues genially on its way. We’re up to volume four (see below for links to the first three volumes). He’s not a composer one could ever charge with the crime of pretentiousness, and his folk-based, evocative compositions generally have the merit of brevity and wit.
There are two Rhapsodie norvégienne dating from 1920. The brisk, avuncular threading together of folk fiddle and more meditative ‘mediaeval’ panels works surprisingly well in the first of the two. There’s much ripe romanticism ending with the opening material now transformed into a halling. Halvorsen was an adept orchestrator but not one to be lavish for its own sake, which is what ensures that the second Rhapsodie shares a similarly structurally sound basis, and the hardanger fiddle imitations are well integrated; fresh air verve is the name of the game. Felicitous appreciation of source material means also that his orchestration of Grieg’s Norwegian Bridal Procession comes off well.
To provide variety, we have the famous Passacaglia from Handel’s Keyboard Suite No.7. This violin and viola duo favourite was dedicated to Adolf Brodsky, Halvorsen’s violin teacher in Leipzig, It gets a respectable, though slightly odd reading from the Bergen Philharmonic’s principals Melina Mandozzi (violin) and Ilze Klava (viola). It’s very daringly spun out in places and at only just past seven minutes in length still falls a bit flat. A suitable corrective comes from old school fiddlers unafraid of bravado - Heifetz and Primrose, for instance, or Sammons and Tertis.
The Dance Scene from Queen Tamara is a bit Borodinesque, and its oriental or exotic cast comes as something of a shock given the orthodox folkloric influences normally exerted on Halvorsen in the first decade of the twentieth century. But then there is also the strange case of the Symphonic Intermezzo from The King, composed in 1902. This is deeply chromatic and very obviously Wagnerian opus, dramatic and intense, which stands at a strong remove from the light-hearted music that surrounds it.
The Norwegian Festival Overture is not especially solemn; in fact it’s quietly amusing. Grieg is known to have liked it. More Hardanger fiddle appears in the Norwegian Fairy Tale Pictures of 1922, in which Halvorsen mines the tropes - can you mine a trope? - of Norwegian folk tales: antique atmosphere, troll dances, forests.
Neeme Järvi throughout directs with rich and romantic warmth but no little rhythmic snap too, and the Bergen Philharmonic has been excellently recorded. Most enjoyable.
Jonathan Woolf
Folk-based, evocative compositions sporting brevity and wit. 

Reviews of other volumes in this series
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3