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Contemporary Danish Piano Music
Per NØRGÅRD (b. 1932)
Piano Sonata (1949) [9:01]
Toccata (1949) [9:32]
Sonate, Op. 6 (1953, rev. 1956-57) [13:23]
Finn LYKKEBO (1937-1984)
Tableaux Pour Piano (1969, rev. 1978)  [9:24]
Lars Aksel BISGAARD (b. 1947)
Stadier, Op. 1 (1973-74) [16:20]
Barcarole – Lento E Tranquillo (1986-87) [3:14]
Walking (2014) [4:59]
Carl Petersson (piano)
rec. Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, 28 June, 6 December 2014, 21 February 2015
world première recordings except Nørgård op. 6
GRAND PIANO GP717 [66:19]

This interesting disc offers music by three contemporary Danish composers, including arguably the most important of them all, Per Nørgård. Nørgård's music I know fairly well but the other two, Finn Lykkebo and Lars Aksel Bisgaard, are less known and are new to me.

I have come to know Per Nørgård mainly through his orchestral music, which has great variety and imagination, and also his vocal music. The disc of his Songs from Evening Land is a stunner (Dacapo 8.226060). Born in 1932, two of the pieces presented here date from his teenage years and receive their premiere recording. Both the Piano Sonata and the Toccata are from 1949 and show the influence of Stravinsky’s neo-classicism but also the Nordic styles of Sibelius, Nielsen and his would-be teacher Vagn Holmboe. These are both bravura three movement pieces with the Toccata especially showing the excitement of youth. For me, the Toccata also bears the influence of that other great Dane, Rued Langgard. I can hear the influence of his Insektarium (1917) in the younger man's music. Both these pieces belie Nørgård’s tender age, and show compositional skill beyond his seventeen years.

The Sonata Op. 6 (1953, revised 1956-57), is a step up in style and shows a composer coming to terms with the modernist music of the day and especially that of his then teacher, Holmboe. Although composed whilst Nørgård was still a student, it is the first piano piece that the composer himself acknowledges. It is a single movement construct containing many contrasting sections and points towards Nørgård’s mature style, which the composer described as being “wholeheartedly attached to the Northern symphonic tradition”.

Both Finn Lykkebo (1937-1984) and Lars Aksel Bisgaard (b. 1947) are linked to Nørgård through their studies. Lykkebo studied composition with the great man, whilst Bisgaard was a student of Lykkebo whilst still a schoolboy, before going on to the Academy of Music in Aarhus where Nørgård was his teacher.

Finn Lykkebo, despite his work with Nørgård, regarded himself as self-taught, and his music shows little influence of his teacher. His style is deeply rooted in the Nordic tradition but this is tempered by the western European serialism of the day, although he soon rejected this. The five short pieces that make up Tableaux (1969, revised 1978) show this influence in their concise make-up rather than anything else. Although he adopts the atonal twelve tone system in these compositions, it is not employed in the style of Schoenberg or Webern, rather they have a sense of rhythm and even melody.

Lars Aksel Bisgaard first studied musicology before theory and music history and finally composition with Nørgård at the Academy of Music in Aarhus (1975-81). His music shows more of an influence of his teacher than Lykkebo’s did, but even then, this influence is not that overtly apparent. This is most prominent in the first of his pieces presented on this disc, Stadier, which is his Op.1 (1973-1974). His Barcarole (1986-1987) is influenced by the romantic voices of Mendelssohn and Chopin, especially his Op. 60 Barcarolle. The final piece of his on this disc, although dating from 2014, is actually based upon sketches from the composer's youth, and like all the music on this disc is very approachable.

The playing of Carl Petersson is excellent throughout. His control, especially in the faster more virtuosic sections is as measured as in the slower and more meditative moments. The sound is also excellent with the acoustic of the hall being most pleasing. The booklet notes are by Lars Aksel Bisgaard himself, and are informative and helpful, especially as online searches provide you with very little information of Lykkebo and Bisgaard.

Stuart Sillitoe

 

 




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