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Ludvig IRGENS-JENSEN (1894-1969)
Symphonic Works
Tema con Variazioni (1925) [25:10]
Partita Sinfonica [17:21]
Air (1959) [3:06]
Suite Kong Baldvines Armring [13:16]
Sinfonia in d (1942) [28:20]
Rondo marziale [15:14]
Passacaglia (1927) [20:24]
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra/Eivind Aadland
rec. Trondheim, Olavshallen, Aug 2009. DDD
CPO 7773472 [59:03 + 63:58]

Experience Classicsonline

The fortunes of Norwegian traditionalist composer Ludvig Irgens-Jensen have been undergoing a mini-revival recently. Nick Barnard reviewed and welcomed the almost contemporary release on Naxos of his Symphony - the same Sinfonia as here. In fact, what Naxos offer is the original three-movement version of the Symphony; Irgens-Jensen later removed the third movement and it was eventually performed, after his death, as Rondo marziale, which CPO include here as a separate item. John Quinn greeted a Simax CD of the Japanischer Frühling - also conducted by Eivind Aadland. Before that there were Simax CDs of the Symphony and Japanischer Frühling conducted by Oivind Fjeldstad and the composer’s friend Odd Gruner-Hegge (PSC3118).Ole Christian Ruud directed Trondheim forces on a Simax double (PSC3109) of the Dramatic Symphony for soli, choir and orchestra, Heimferd (1930). This composer will soon have an English language study in the form of Ludvig Irgens-Jensen: The Life and Music of a Norwegian Composer by Arvid O. Vollsnes from Toccata Press, 2013 on which I hope to report.
Irgens-Jensen’s music stands at the confluence of Brahms and Grieg with an accent on light-filled textures and adroitly calculated orchestration. In the inventive, dignified, peace-saturated and spry Tema con Variazioni there are moments that nod respect to Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Delius. Norwegian pastoral atmosphere is immanent. The four movement Partita Sinfonica is drawn from Irgens-Jensen’s music for the play Driftekaren. Its little Lento (II), complete with honeyed violin solo, slowly smiles its way through a warm Norwegian evening. That radiance returns for the finale. The Air touchingly inhabits the same Delian westering sun territory as the Lento. The Suite Kong Baldvines Armring is rustic. It features open-air echoes of Holst and Grieg, a noticeable role for piano and some Middle-Eastern references.
The two-movement 1942 Symphony breaks away from rustic pictures no matter how ecstatic. Instead it embraces the surgingly violent spirit of the times though not to the same epic degree as the Benjamin symphony. The music is troubled yet finds time to turn to the solace of a Copland-like peace. At the end we encounter a Sibelian triumph. This is redolent of the Finnish composer’s Fifth Symphony, written in the midst of another world war. The Rondo marziale was the original finale of the Symphony. It’s at first introspectively elegiac and sour. The music centres around Bergian gloom and lichen-draped Baxian regret. It then sloughs this off for a more grimly martial style before sinking back into those mangroves. It is typical of Irgens-Jensen that the final pages muse resignedly around one of those idyllic Norwegian folk-tunes. Lastly the 1927 Passacaglia is a grand set of variations in the viscous grandeur established by Bach through Reger and Stokowski.
The performances seem totally dedicated and exciting. The documentation is good and pretty extensive. The recording quality is good. No obstacles here to discovering how a pastoral nationalist produced music that remained vibrant well into the twentieth century.
Rob Barnett 

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