Hjalar-Ljod Overture, Op.38
Symphony No.1, Op.26 (Towards the Mountains)
Norwegian Symphonic Dances No.1, Op.43
Faldafeykir, Op.53 (Norwegian Symphonic Dances No.2)
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in October 2001 in the Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: February 2007
CD No: BIS
Duration: 64 minutes
The celebratory outgoing beginning of Hjalar-Ljod augurs well. And so it proves. This is music of description and nationalism, specifically the Norwegian province of Telemark. That Eivind Groven (1901-77) was a Scandinavian composer is unmistakable; his music is of customary translucence and a burgeoning illustration that celebrates Groven’s homeland. The overture is colourfully scored for a large orchestra and stirs the soul.
The Symphony lives up to its picturesque title. Beginning with a lyrical trumpet solo, the score is brimful of image-suggesting ideas, many with a popular inclination (Groven collected over one-thousand folk-tunes, and he was also a fiddler, as opposed to a violinist, of distinction). This symphony, in four movements, is not though a collection of ‘legends’, for Groven was an acoustician and fascinated by scales, harmony and overtones and sought to extend them. Not that this need trouble the listener – unless similarly minded – for Groven’s music is not experimental, although it is personal. It is also recognisably ‘Norwegian’ and, as a musical guide, is rooted to Grieg. Groven’s is thoroughly melodious and tonal music that doesn’t ‘ape’ folk-music; rather its characteristics are evident but absorbed into the fabric of this engaging four-movement, 30-minute symphony, pastoral, rustic and vital, and something rather more.
The two sets of Norwegian Dances (three pieces in each) follow a similar stratagem and, indeed, re-use material from the symphony. The music is engaging, colourful and successfully manages to combine the fibre of the original sources within the civility of the concert-hall symphony orchestra.
There’s no doubting the sympathy displayed by the Stavanger musicians and Eivind Aadland, and also that the recording is natural-sounding and explicitly revealing of Groven’s vivid scoring.